A May 1997 trip
to North Korea by jorgejuan
Quote: North Korea is a bizarre country that will surprise you more than any other in the world, even more than Bhutan.
I was in Beijing just enjoying the city with my hired bicycle when I saw the North Korean Embassy and went inside for curiosity to have information about this hermetic country. I was introduced to the chief of the travel agency RYOHAENGSA, who had his office in the same Embassy. I expressed to him my interest in visiting this country and then he offered me an individual tour for only $450! I accepted at once.
The tour included airplane to Pyongyang, 3 days and 3 nights single room in the colossal PYONGYANG KORYO HOTEL, food, car with driver, plus a guide in any language I liked and a railway ticket the last day to the border with China. In Pyongyang airport, the car with driver and guide, both called Kim, were waiting for me and brought me to my splendid hotel. I think it was the best and most luxurious one I have ever been during my travels, with about 45 floors. I asked for a high room and was given one with a number as long as a telephone number. The excursions I had included were: circus, mausoleum of former President Kim II Sung, palaces, and factories.
In the mausoleum they asked me money to buy flowers to put in the tomb of Kim II Sung, which I refused (the cost was about $10, but I was travelling cheaply and had only $50 left to get to Russia and back to Spain). They became angry with me and offered me another excursion. I asked for a Buddhist temple, and was brought to a beautiful monastery (empty) from the 15th century, outside of Pyongyang. During the nights when I used to walk alone, without the driver and the guide, I saw how the people were cutting grass in the parks for preparing soup. Yes, people are suffering from hunger in North Korea, and that made me feel guilty. I was there in an excellent hotel, and the local people were dying from starvation. The last day, when I left the country, the emigration officials did not want to stamp my passport.After visiting North Korea I felt that I have been to a special place, in a retro country. One day when the political situation changes I will feel proud of having been there like I was about visiting the old Soviet Union, or in Nicaragua during the times of the sandinistas, or having crossed the Check Point Charly between the two Berlins during the Cold War period.