Impressions of North Korea: A Chinese Tourist’s Photo Diary – Part 2 (of 3)
October 31, 2010Chiafu Chen 陳家福4 CommentsGovernment of North Korea, Hospitality/Recreation, Kim Il-sung, Korea, Korean language, North Korea, North Korean culture, Politics, Pyongyang, Ryugyong Hotel, tourism, travel
Before dinner, our tour guide decided to take us to Kim Il Sung’s former residence, which was not far away from our hotel. One of our tour guide’s name is Li Jun, and we call him Li Dao [Dao is short for tour guide]. He was 30 years old, and worked for North Korea Third International Travel Agency. He studied Chinese for for four years in Korea, and seemed like a very kind young man.
There were 24 of us in total on the coach. All tourists are Chinese except one person who was from Belgium. As soon as [Li Dao] boarded the coach we requested him to sing “Flower Girl” in Chinese and Korean revolutionary
songs. He had a good voice, and was very pleasant to listen to.
Li Dao told us beside the driver, there is Cui Dao[Tour Guide Cui] in the crew with us on the coach. In fact, we had long noticed the mentioned “Cui Dao” sitting at the end of the bus. Furthermore, we were very aware that for every single tourist group visiting North Korea, there is bound to be a “tour guide” who stays quiet and follows the group the entire time.
16. With Unlimited respect to President Kim Il Sung, the Korean people hailed Mangyongdae as “Holy Land of the Sun”.
17. This is the before mentioned “Cui Dao”. Vigilant eyes never left his face. His job every day was basically doing head counts. His Chinese was very good, and sometimes asked us some basic information, but it sounded like doing some kind of investigation. We always gave him frank answers.
Soon we became acquainted with him. We offered cigarettes and chatted with him, but whenever we asks questions about whether he worked for the military, he blushed and shook his head hard. We Chinese tourist understood the difficulty of his job, and consciously abides by the rules. However, our teammate from Belgium gave him headaches all the time.
19. At many places of our visit, we ran into other tourist groups with the double-tour guide configuration just like ours. The only difference is that they generally had two Korean girls as their guides, one of which, needless to say, had the same status as our “Cui Dao”. They spoke good Chinese and were good looking too. They never refused our taking photos of them. Our fellow male group mates kept complaining in private that the agency did not arrange two females tour guides for our group.
Back to the hotel. We had our first meal in North Korea. While there were chicken and fish, the meal was meager in quantity. This was one of the worse meals we had in North Korea.
Before coming here, we head that there was an ongoing food crisis in North Korea. Basic food was a huge concern in their country. Therefore, we were mentally prepared and even brought some of our own food from home. After the meal, perhaps due to psychological effect or just us being greedy eater, we went to a small grill restaurant behind the hotel and had an additional meal. It cost the four of us 60 yuan to have two plates of roast beef, two dishes of kimchi and a bowl of Pyongyang cold noodles. I heard that a meal like this would cost a significant portion of a local’s monthly income.
21. The Tall Pyongyang Arc de Triomphe stood above the road, the front engraved in gold color with Baekdu Mountain, “Song of General Kim Il Sung” and “1925″, “1945″, during which period Kim Il Sung joined the revolution and made a victorious return. The structure strikes a remarkable resemblance with to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France. Because there were very few vehicles on the road, we were at ease to stand in the middle of the the road and took panoramic photos of the Arc.
Here stood the Monument of the Liberation War of the Motherland. We noticed the building pointing to the blue sky behind the monument. This was what we had long heard about: the Ryugyong Hotel of Pyongyang. Standing 105 stories tall, it was built to compete with the United States [for the tallest hotel in the world]. However, due to lack of funding the construction had suspended. It remained standing alone there for a good 20 years, and ended up becoming the world’s tallest “shabby tail”[unfinished] project.
31A. Upon getting onto the platform, despite a wave of humidity that came at us, our eyes were lit up: this was a perfect underground palace, with arched high ceiling supported by marble pillars, the ceiling decorated with beautiful chandelier, creating an atmosphere of warmth and softness. Huge mosaic murals depicted the great and difficult history of the founding of North Korea.
35, “Arirang” is an ethnic song with a long history and a beautiful legend. Sitting across us are tens of thousands of middle and elementary school students, with flip boards with beautiful, complex, brilliant patterns. Their flipping motions were without a single trace of errors.
36. Such ambitious scene completely entranced us: the choreography and overall lighting design are absolutely of world class! Extraordinary ethnic colors, music, dance, gymnastics, acrobatics, and perfect rotating background sets. Electro-optic devices, laser lighting, and many other image effects make the show unbeatable.