Part 1: Building An Asian Experience Around A(nother) Mistake Fare
Part 2: First Stop – Japan
Part 3: Off To The Chaos of China and North Korea
Part 4: Air Koryo Flight 252, PEK – FNJ
Part 5: DPRK The Arrival
Part 6: Statues And Souvenirs
Part 7: Homeward Bound
Part 8: Xi’an and Terra Cotta Warriors
Part 9: Myanmar, Land Of A Thousand Pagodas
When driving around, one immediately notices that there are no store fronts – anywhere. Nor was there much traffic (yet lots of ‘traffic girls’.) There are also minivans with huge speakers loaded in them driving around endlessly. What are they blasting? Propaganda, silly! It’s everywhere; posters, murals, movies, videos, newspapers, magazines, and as we saw in just about every room we entered, on televisions ‘gifted’ to citizens broadcasting either propaganda, state sanctioned news, or messages from The Great Leader.
Our itinerary was completely planned out in advance and the timing of our visits were strictly adhered to. Our guides never let us out of their sight, and even stayed in the same hotel (though on a different floor – presumably without access to BBC or any other non state sanctioned channels.)
A ride in the extremely deep subway (deep subway stations make for nice bomb shelters…) allowed us our first chance to mingle with the locals -though interaction was difficult with the language barrier and constant propaganda playing from loudspeakers everywhere.
As the day progressed, and our minders became less guarded, we were feeling more comfortable about asking questions. Which isn’t to say we ever got straight or even truthful answers, just answers. Eventually someone delicately posed the question as to where residents go to buy food – we hadn’t seen any markets. Miss Pang told us that her work compensation is partially paid in rice and other things like vegetables are purchased in the basement of her apartment building once every two weeks. (NOTE: There is apparently one ‘supermarket’ in Pyongyang, but its mostly for show.)
We also made several stops to purchase souvenirs, mostly books, stamps, postcards, pins, cook books, posters and other exorbitantly priced trinkets. This is a postcard I picked up in one of the shops!
For dinner, we were taken to a restaurant for an authentic Korean barbecue dinner of kimchi, squid and duck, followed by a visit to a western type bar pretty clearly existing for the sole purpose of entertaining foreign tourists.
We ended the day with a trip to a bowling alley – which was the only real chance we’d get to truly mingle with the locals, so we thought. No one really talked to us, and after we left, we wondered if those that did were specifically told to do so…hmmm…..