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

The Great Leader!

NORTH KOREA | Thursday, 19 November 2015 | Views [491]

Kumsusan Palace of the Sun

Kumsusan Palace of the Sun

You’ll quickly learn in the DPRK that days are long as a visitor! You’ll rise early, get home rather late in the evening and there’s no stopping back at the hotel if you forget your memory card. If you forget something you’re stuck. Today would be a very special and privileged day for all of us. We visited Kumsusan Palace of the Sun: the final resting place of both the Great Leader and the Dear Leader. It was almost like a work day; we all had to rise early and dress fancily: a collared shirt, tie, and trousers for men and respectable dress for women. The mausoleum is only open on Thursdays and Sundays so very few tour groups get to visit. Rules are strict and as we descended upon the palace we had to leave our jackets, phones, and cameras in a cloakroom. We’re then patted down and searched airport-style and we had to stand, not walk, on these long travelators. Some of them are so long you're standing on them for more than 10 minutes. Visitors, both Korean and foreign don’t enter through the main entrance of the palace, but underground. You’re not allowed to talk loudly and hats must be removed. In groups of four we bowed at statues of the two leaders before we made our day into airport-style blowers. Upon entering a room with red lights, before us lay the Eternal President of the DPRK. In groups of four we had to bow at the feet and at each side but not at the head. Soldiers stand so still the only movement you see from them is the blinking of their eyes. It’s almost holy being here. The Great Leader is to Koreans what the pope is to Catholics or what Muhammad is to Muslims. There would be no hanging around for awhile to check out the glass sarcophagus, but instead were ushered into a room with photos of the Great Leader with other leaders from around the world. Through a series of travelators we went and then it was time to bow at the feet and sides of the Dear Leader. As with Kim Il-sung, soldiers stood perfectly still in each corner as we paid our respects. In an adjacent room, the train carriage that the Dear Leader died in is on display, left just as it was when he died complete with a Apple laptop. It's so moving being here, I think nearly everybody walked out with a tear in their eye. On completion of paying our respects we were able to retrieve our cameras and take photos in front of the palace.

Of the four world leaders that lie in state, Kim Il-sung is the only one in which his mausoleum wasn't purpose-built. The palace was his home during his tenure as Eternal President. After seeing the Great Leader lying in state, it was time to visit the cemetery where the Great Leader's wife Kim Jong-suk, is interred. The view of the city is rather remarkable from the top of the long flight of stairs to the cemetery. Jessica had a boquet of flowers to present at Kim Jong-suk's tomb before we all bowed in unison. At the cemetery I was able to snap the perfect photo of a group of Korean soldiers, from behind.


For lunch today we'd have the option of trying one of Pyongyang's best-known delicacies: cold noodles. I'll admit they're rather vile-looking!

I tried them but I didn't really care for them. We would take our first trip outside Pyongyang this afternoon to the port town of Nampo. Leaving Pyongyang behind we’d drive through fields growing primarily cabbage and rice. Upon reaching a checkpoint I found the female guard very cute and this is where my high-powered lens became handy.


I hung out the window to snap a photo and Mr. Kim told me to get inside. I thought he was telling me not to hang out the window but he was telling me not to take photos because it’s a checkpoint. Eventually they didn’t allow us into the port but we drove to a large dam where we watched a short video about it. On the second story of the building I dropped my lens cap. Thankfully Lim was able to retrieve it for me but I’ve nearly lost it many times. Earlier this year at Lake Hayes I dropped it in the lake but thankfully it floats. One of these days I won’t be so lucky. Statues of the leaders would await us in Nampo where we would pay our respects and bow. We are the first group of visitors to get out and explore Nampo! Locals respect the statues so much they even get off their bicycles when going past them. During a short stroll around Nampo we couldn’t take photos as liberally as in Pyongyang since locals aren’t used to visitors. We would then visit the glass factory in Nampo. Certainly an interesting experience, that’s for sure! We got to see how the glass is processed and then got a few photos of guys packing the glass.

As a means of demonstration there’s a steel ball to drop on a piece of glass to show how strong it is. Glass hasn’t been kind to me of late as I stepped on a bit in Busan and didn’t get it out of my foot for several days, ouch! The original itinerary was for us to go to Pyongsong, a small town about an hour north of Pyongyang, and visit a school and a textile plant. Both places stopped allowing visitors so we had Nampo, the dam, and the glass factory as replacements. As we boarded the bus to head back toward Pyongyang, Jessica told us there’d be another special treat tonight: an opportunity to have pizza at one of only three pizza restaurants in the DPRK. Immediately I opted for it because not many people can say they had pizza in the DPRK. Whilst I tried to get everyone to participate a few decided to have dinner at the hotel. Tonight on the bus as I did my comedy I recognized the importance of our driver, Mr. Choe to our group. Our three guides have received all the attention but our driver’s job is just as important as theirs, so we all gave Mr. Choe a big shout-out tonight. In another surprise we got to have a glimpse of a Korean wedding reception! The drummer in the band is absolutely spot on with his drumming; far better than most drummers I’ve seen. Pizza tonight was divine! Far better than I expected, especially since the pizza in Busan was rather uninspiring. The chef at the restaurant was trained in Italy! Wow, what a day it was today! We’d do the usual round this evening of drinking, chatting, laughing, drinking, and chatting some more. I’d have a few vodkas and sojus (mixed with orange juice). I’m not brave enough to drink hard liquor on its own, and nor would I want to. What another fantastic day it was today, and in a way it’s making me not want to leave the DPRK. 

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