Before visiting Pyongyang, you might expect a dismal, dreary place. Below I’ll show some views that met my expectations (click for bigger views, email if you want higher resolution)
The city also has many monuments and sites — monuments, stadiums, statues, victory arches, grand libraries, grand boulevards, etc. I’m not sure, but I suspect whoever is leading the planners envisioned creating a Paris of the East. They had a lot of money during the cold war, much more than South Korea at the time. Combined with a powerful central authority, they could do a lot.
Today everything comes out different than they must have planned. You can’t go anywhere on your own so you lose sense of place. The grandness of the boulevards highlights the streets’ emptiness, further underscored by people slowly and tirelessly walking the very long distances between buildings. The unfinished (and likely impossibility of finishing) construction the colossal pyramidal hotel shows you they have major problems they can’t fix.
Still, I have to admit some things impressed me. Not the scale of things since I don’t see much taste in just making things bigger. I guess just that it surpassed my expectations so much.
Anyway, I took most of the pictures below from the top of the Juche Tower. The last one I took from a boat ride on the Taedong River. They show some dreary parts of the city, which doesn’t fairly show what we saw there (which nobody believes fairly represents the country or even city). You can also see some of their newer buildings. Even so, one day our bus had to take a detour through some decrepit parts of town — very different from the “other sides of the track” America has, but in many ways not nearly as bad.
We respected our guides’ request not to take pictures of those areas, though we really wanted to record it. There was no way the government intended for us to see there, but while celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth traffic confusion happens. Sorry to whet your appetite and not satisfy it, but we understood the guides could be held responsible for our actions outside the country and we didn’t want problems for them.
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