2/3: North Korea Day 2 - AM (4/5/2013)
3/3: North Korea Day 2 - PM (4/5/2013)
|Me with Pyongyang in the background|
|Mocha at Tigris Coffee in Beijing|
Things started to become real when I entered the plane. As I tried to take a picture, I was told by the flight attendant to put my camera away and that no pictures were allowed for the duration of the flight. Then the television screens dropped down and we were greeted with North Korean war propaganda the entire flight, complete with patriotic music. With all of this though, I don't think Air Koryo deserves to be ranked 1 star, the lowest of any airline in the world. Their service and plane quality was actually quite nice, and minus the differences listed above, it was a rather normal flight, complete with in-flight meal. We were even given reading materials ;)
|I managed to sneak this photo|
|Exiting the plane|
|Me with Air Koryo plane|
The bus ride into town was a 30 minute ride with lots to be seen. We were allowed to take video and pictures, so I shot some good footage. There was a lot of tree planting and farming taking place, with the occasional bicycle and propaganda sign. However, there were almost no cars, other than military trucks hauling army workers.
Our first and only stop of the day was Kim Il-Sung Square, where we were able to pose for pictures with both the square and the Juche Tower. This was our first experience off of the bus, but it was a memorable one. There were many kids rollerblading in the square, and it was strange to think that just one week prior, this had been the location of an anti-US rally. It was a strange feeling, that's for sure!
Our next stop was our last for the evening, which was the Yanggakdo Hotel. Also called the "Alcatraz of Pyongyang, as it is on an island and foreigners are not allowed to leave, it was a nice hotel, but certainly not the 5-stars it was ranked. We were given an hour to get settled in before we met for a group dinner at Rainbow Restaurant, which is in the hotel. It was a nice meal and provided more time to get to know other group members.
Following dinner, I went with new friends from the tour group to explore the hotel and find out what made it a "pleasure palace", as it had been described earlier in the day. We quickly found why. It had billiards, bowling, massage, casino, restaurants, ping pong, and a bar that served great beer. After gambling for about 30 minutes, I left the casino area down 100 RMB ($16) and went to the bar area. There, I got to drink with our guides, Mr. Lim and Ms. Pang, as well as other foreigners and Koreans. Against my plan, I ended up getting rather drunk, along with most people there. It was here where I got to have a bit of "real" discussion with Ms. Pang about the politics of our country and how it would be great if there could be peace. It was a cool experience that I did not expect to have. It also put me at a bit more ease for the rest of the trip. Looking forward to sharing more about Day 2 later this week. Will also be doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) about my trip and posting the report to the blog.
|One of the hotel bars|
|Nick, Mr. Lim, Ms. Pang, Rich (Koryo Tours), and I|
|Night view from my room|