Pictures of North Korea, part I: starting at the hotel

October 13, 2011 by Joshua
in Freedom, NorthKorea

Continuing writing about my North Korea trip

Now let’s see some pictures. Click on them for larger views.

Pyongyang from our hotel

The view from our hotel window. The sky was bluer than this picture shows, contrasting with the overcast and polluted skies of Beijing and Shanghai, the other two places I visited on this trip. Nearly all the pictures I’ve seen online of Pyongyang include something about our hotel. It seems all visitors stay there.

Pyongyang from our hotel

They built our hotel on an island. You can see a nine-hole golf course below, but you couldn’t see it from the ground level. I’m not sure if it worked. The golf course seemed incongruous with my expectation of North Korea.

Pyongyang from our hotel

Every morning we were there I heard industrial dredging-like sound coming from a boat on the river. Someone was working very slowly, every few minutes bringing up another steam shovel full of silt.

The interior of our hotel room

Our rooms were spacious, though we didn’t use this other room. The air conditioner broke the second or third day we were there and never worked again on our trip. Though it was August, the heat wasn’t too bad. There was no semblance of customer service, such as telling us they had a problem or suggesting any time it might be fixed.

The interior of our hotel room

We bunked two to a room. My roommate, Alex, was a great guy. Everyone in the group got to know each other over the course of the trip.

The interior of our hotel room

Another view of the room. It reminds me of the last day, when I found an orange I had brought from Beijing. Ingrid, one of our group, had complained about the monotony of the food (and she ate meat). I offered her some orange, which she eagerly accepted. Maybe the orange had something special, but I think it was the lack of fresh fruit otherwise — that orange tasted amazing!

View from our hotel

Another view from our hotel. Alex and my room was on the 43rd floor, I think the top room with rooms. The top floor had a revolving restaurant. The elevators were slow, so the top floor didn’t offer any advantages.

View from our hotel

Another view from our hotel. The hotel being on an island isolated us. We were not permitted to leave the hotel at night or go anywhere unescorted by our guides.

View from our hotel

Another view from our hotel. You can see the dredger in the river. I wish I had taken a picture at night. The city didn’t get as dark as I expected, given picture like this one showing North Korea dark at night. Still, the first night I looked out I could count the number of cars on the road: two.

View from our hotel

The view of our hotel. Everyone who has visited North Korea knows this view. Your tour bus pulls up and parks in this lot. You go in. The next morning you wait in the lot after breakfast for your group to form while all the other groups do the same. Our group was mostly American (one Mexican and a British guide). Koryo, the excellent Beijing-based company that organized our tour and that I recommend using if you want to go, brought about ten groups of about a dozen people each at the same time. We kept running into each other as each group visited the same sites, just in different orders.

View from our hotel

Another view of the hotel. We weren’t permitted on the guides floors and vice versa. Our rooms had televisions showing BBC, while in the rest of the country televisions are broken to allow only one station, and sealed to prevent changing that restriction. I understand breaking that seal is a serious offense. One guide told us they get plenty of outside news — BBC is translated twice a week on the publicly posted newspapers. We believe he felt they got adequate news of the outside world, but we couldn’t believe how little they knew what we considered basic knowledge of the world both inside and outside North Korea. Our guides had no meaningful understanding of the internet.

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