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Location - North East Asia; Capital - Pyongyang; Population - 24 million; Currency - North Korean Won MORE NORTH KOREA

Since finding out about the Arirang mass games the lure of North Korea became too strong to resist and I took the plunge in September 2009, flying to Beijing before taking a train to Pyongyang.

Banned for tourists - mobile phones (sealed at the point of entry, though a local network has recently been set up for locals and foreigners); the internet; independent travel (in other words, guides are mandatory; no leaving your hotel grounds unescorted)


dprknote5The face of Kim Il Sung on the 1000 Won note.
Foreigners can't use the local currency, instead relying on a mix of Euros, Chinese Yuan, US$ and chewing gum/sweets.








UPDATE - On 30 November 2009 the government revalued the Won. See The Times, Wikipedia & North Korean Economy Watch. New currency images here and here.


dprk1The Beijing to Pyongyang train is ready to leave - Beijing train station


dprk3After Chinese border formailties at Dandong we cross the Yalu (Amnok) River to Sinuiju, North Korea. Opposite the main bridge is an older one destroyed in the Korean War - China rebuilt their half but North Korea did not, leaving it as a monument to the war.


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dprk3bArriving with friend Christina at Pyongyang train station, 24 hours after leaving Beijing







dprk4bUSS Pueblo is a US navy ship captured in 1968 after North Korea allege that it strayed into territorial waters. The US insist otherwise - Pyongyang









dprk6The guide shows us around the radios and encryption machines - USS Pueblo, Pyongyang



dprk11The American 'confession' which led to the captured crew being released. The original photo has legible writing! USS Pueblo, Pyongyang



dprk5The USS Pueblo was brought to the Taedong River to serve as a tourist attraction - Pyongyang















dprk15Next to the USS Pueblo is the General Sherman monument, an armed US merchant ship that sailed to Pyongyang in 1866.
The crew were killed and the ship set alight - Pyongyang













Wikipedia account of the General Sherman incident



dprk14The promenade that passes the USS Pueblo and General Sherman monument, Pyongyang



dprk18The electronics industry hall is a museum at the Three Revolutions Exhibition, Pyongyang



dprk19The hall's centrepiece is a planetarium. Amongst other things it runs a video of the 1998 Bright Star 1 satellite launch (widely believed to have failed) - Pyongyang















dprk21The Great Leader, Kim Il Sung, smiles at us on the way to the airport - Pyongyang










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dprk22The majority of our tour group arrived by an Air Koryo flight from Beijing to Pyongyang



dprk29The Arch of Triumph is larger than its Paris namesake. It marks the point where Kim Il Sung addressed the populace following the end of Japanese occupation in 1945 - Pyongyang



dprk28Liberation - a closer look at the Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang




















dprk35The Grand People's Study House is the country's largest library - Pyongyang















dprk37Artificial lakes and fountains abound near the Grand People's Study House (approach the library from the opposite direction and you'll be in Kim Il Sung Square) - Pyongyang



dprk39You get an idea of the size of the Mansudae Grand Monument, towering above the trees on Mansu Hill, Pyongyang















dprk50Mansudae Grand Monument is a 20 metre high bronze statue of Kim Il Sung, built in 1972 to celebrate his 60th birthday - Pyongyang















dprk52Behind the statue is a mural of Mt Paektu on the wall of the Korean Revolution Museum, Pyongyang



dprk42Flowers adorn the base of the statue. As a group we also had to lay wreaths and then bow to the Great Leader - Pyongyang




dprk41An unrelenting propaganda campaign elevated Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994, to godlike status - Pyongyang
















dprk53Flanking Kim Il Sung are 2 sculptures depicting revolutionary struggle and revolution - Pyongyang



















dprk Mansu Hill 1Our (rather big) group of 21st century revolutionaries, Pyongyang



dprk55Close to the Mansudae Grand Monument is the Chollima Statue, a legendary winged horse that could cover 400kms a day - Pyongyang



dprk402Our home in Pyongyang was the 1001-room Yanggakdo Hotel, where all foreigners seemed to be rounded up on the 17th floor - Pyongyang




















dprk404Workers arrive at the Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang
















dprk393On a clear day there's brilliant views of the city and the Taedong River from Yanggakdo Hotel's 17th floor - Pyongyang



dprk394You can't escape the massive hulk that is the Ryugyong Hotel. Like it or loathe it, it's an amazing sight - Pyongyang




dprk396Work began on the 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel in 1987 but came to a halt in 1992.
In 2008 work resumed - our guide said that it will be finished by 2012, the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth - Pyongyang














dprk397Another great view from the Yanggakdo Hotel - the Tower of Juche Idea stands over the Taedong River, Pyongyang















dprk398Here's a better look of the Tower complete with flame and, to the left, the May Day Stadium, Pyongyang



dprk405It's difficult to find the time to enjoy a tranquil moment like this. The tour is an exercise in stamina, starting at 7 or 8am and finishing between 7 and 10.30pm every day, leaving little free time. I guess that's the whole idea! Pyongyang



dprk399In the foreground is Yanggakdo Hotel's golf course, followed by the Pyongyang International Cinema - Pyongyang















dprk401The hotel is on Yanggak island, perfect for keeping an eye on us foreigners - Pyongyang
















dprk629The striking May Day Stadium is the venue for the incredible Arirang Mass Games - Pyongyang



dprk386Locals on their way to see the Mass Games, Pyongyang



dprk387..And more - Pyongyang
















dprk56There's lots of activity outside the stadium. And a lot of queueing (for the locals anyway) - Pyongyang
















dprk58The May Day Stadium can seat 150,000 - Pyongyang



dprk60For 150 Euros this is the view you get. At the back of the stadium 20,000 students are warming up, turning the pages of their coloured 'books' to create an everchanging mosaic which forms the backdrop to the show. It's truly amazing. The line of light-blue and white comprises hundreds of men with flags aloft - Pyongyang

My YouTube video of the warm up here



Website and content Copyright © 2008-2012 Mark Wilkinson. All rights reserved.


LINKS - Korea Konsult is a Swedish based company that I booked my tour with. For me it offered the best itinerary and was flexible enough to cater for travelling by train to Pyongyang. The group size, at 23, was rather large however (but a great bunch of people!) - Koryo Tours is the market leader - Chosun Ilbo is a South Korean newspaper with lots of coverage of North Korea - plenty of independent news stories and analysis of North Korea - news portal on behalf of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (ie. North Korea) - news from the 'Korean Central News Agency' - definitely not an official DPRK site - the Random Insult Generator

Other tour agencies - - USA/Dandong, China - USA - Netherlands - UK - Germany - USA - Hong Kong - UK - Singapore - Netherlands - China


I am not responsible for the content of external websites.


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