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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

NORTH KOREA | Tuesday, 17 November 2015 | Views [786] | Comments [1]

The adventure began before I even got on the plane. Upon checking in for my flight I was handed a boarding pass for Air Koryo 152. As the DPRK’s state-owned airline it operates a fleet of Tupolevs and other Soviet-built aircraft dating back decades. It’s ironic that I’m a bit of a nervous flier and I’d get on an old plane like that! Joining us on our flight was a group of North Korean students returning from a football tournament in China, many of them adorned with the pin picturing the Great Leader and the Dear Leader (Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, respectively). As the plane powered into the sky over the Chinese landscape I could immediately tell this was going to be a bumpy and wobbly ride. What do you expect from Soviet-made aircraft? The beer on board was surprisingly tasty; the only thing available to calm my nerves. Lunch was a hamburger (surprisingly) and the in-flight entertainment consisted of violin girls glorifying Kim Jong-un. A young lady gave me a 200 won note from the DPRK! Most visitors to the country don’t usually get one. The currency that visitors use are either Euros, Chinese yuan, or occasionally US dollars. The plane wobbled back and forth until we touched down safely in Pyongyang.

I forgot to mention that some of the overhead compartments don't latch properly. The airport is surprisingly modern and the customs officials are very meticulous. They checked out my mobile phone and camera and even took my hard drive into one of the offices, which made me nervous. How do I not know if he deleted all of my data? For a few minutes I felt like “I’m all ready to get on another Air Koryo flight and go back to China” but those thoughts quickly disappeared. There are 65 of us and we are split into three groups. Incredibly, a man named Nick whom I met years ago in NZ is with me on the tour, and I didn’t know until only about a week ago. It was already dark but the first stop of the evening would be the Mansudae Grand Monument, which are two giant bronze statues of the two leaders. Our guide, Lim, speaks absolutely perfect English and he explained the guidelines: keep your hands out of your pockets, bow once to the statue, and take respectful photos getting the entire statue in the photo. I appreciate Lim reminding us of these customs as these cultural rules should apply to anywhere, not just in the DPRK. Through the bus windows I could note that at first glance it doesn’t seem nearly as bad as the media portrays. There are a lot more vehicles than I expected and I noticed various shops and market stalls on the way to Mansudae, so there’s at least some sort of free enterprise activity. Dinner tonight was better than expected but being the DPRK you can’t expect savoir fare. The starter was cold fish and the main course was chicken with this really tasty rice. Already tonight I can sense this is going to be a great trip! The main guide is extremely knowledgeable and seems to trust us well enough to allow to walk a fair distance for photos, though still within his sight. Jessica, our Western guide, told us that most groups don’t get to visit Mansudae at night and the statues are beautifully lit at night.

Tomorrow we’ll be taking a ride on the Pyongyang Metro and visiting the Tower of the Juche Idea. What’s most interesting about my group is that it’s mostly backpacker-type travellers. Margo is a beautiful young lady from the US who has been to many different countries. She’s lived in Australia previously. Nick is a mate whom I met in New Zealand back in '09 and in an unbelievable coincidence we're on the same tour. It calmed my mother's nerves a bit when I told her there's some one on the tour whom I've met before. It's the first night but I can tell this is going to be a great trip! The group vibe alone is awesome. We're going to see a lot and this is going to be five action-packed days of museums, bronze statues, and glorification of the leaders rather than Facebook, YouTube, and mobile phones.




When's the next blog mate?

  Roland Horne Nov 26, 2015 5:17 PM

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