Today was long and packed with activities but fairly relaxed as everything we saw was in Pyongyang so there wasn’t as much travelling. When I woke up the daily mist had finally lifted and there were clear views all the way across Pyongyang which gave me a chance to take some good photos.
The first stop of the day was the Pyongyang Film Studios which is where the majority of North Korea’s films are made. We were shown around the main square containing several murals of Kim il-Sung and a speaker playing the National Anthem before being taken to the sets where the films themselves are usually set. They had sets depicting Korea, America, Japan during the 1940s and also rural Europe which we were able to tour and, in the case of the Korean set, get into costume and depict a battle scene if we wanted.
After a fairly relaxed visit to the studio we paid a brief visit to the Embroidery Institute where we toured the facility and bought some embroidery in the gift shop which ranged in price from 5 Euros to over 200 Euros depending on what we wanted. Then it was on to the Juche Tower which is a monument to the Juche ideal of self-reliance penned by President Kim il-Sung. Usually you are able to pay a small fee to take an elevator to the top for a panoramic view of the city but unfortunately we were informed the tower was closed for repairs today so we would only be able to walk around outside. Considering how good the weather and visibility are today this is a shame but we were still able to take some good photos of the tower from the ground.
We had one more stop this morning and that was the Party Foundation Monument which is the Hammer and Sickle construction you see in all of the photos. After being given a tour by one of the wardens, who gave us lots of facts about the monument which I can’t remember right now, we were told it was time for lunch.
Lunch today was on board a boat on the Taedong River and consisted of most of the usual dishes plus some sort of sweet and sour beef dish. Most of the people on my table didn’t like the taste of the beef but I did so stuffed myself ready for the long day tomorrow. When lunch was finished we were asked if we would like to walk to Moran Hill Park which was our next stop or take the coach and we decided to walk to give ourselves a chance to take in more of the sights of Pyongyang.
Moran Hill Park is a tranquil retreat in the middle of Pyongyang which is where locals go to relax, have a picnic and take part in recreational activities such as painting, playing music or just catching up with friends. It is also a popular place for wedding photos and kids playing as we found out during our time here. The walk up to the summer of Moran Hill Park was fairly steep but the views we were provided were worth it to make up for not being able to ascend the Juche Tower earlier.
We spent some time relaxing, enjoying the views and taking photos before making a slow descent down the hill to an open green where we congratulated a couple who had got married that day and took some group photos. Apparently it was not time for our next visit yet so our guides took us on a bit of a walk around the local area where we saw, among other things, the Chollima Statue which depicts a legendary winged horse. Overall we probably spent just over an hour just relaxing and taking in the scenery of Moran Hill Park before being told it was time for us to visit a local Secondary School (High School).
The school was to be our last proper visit of week in North Korea and was quite an experience. We met some of the teachers and were shown around a few classrooms including those dedicated to science, maths and the study of Kim il-Sung and Kim Jong-il before being shown into the school hall where we met up with some of the other tours currently in North Korea to be shown a song and dance performance that the kids had prepared for us. The performance was on a small scale compared to the one we saw at the Schoolchildren’s Palace the other day but you could tell they were doing their best to put on a show for us. Near the end of the performance several of our group, including me, were picked by some of the girls to join them up front for a dance. I’m not a good dancer or familiar with any Korean dances so let her lead, including deciding we were going to be the bridge when a conga-style line started forming among the students and people from our group. I wasn’t sure what was going on for most of the time I was dancing but I had fun, as it looked like the kids did, although I was surprised by how cold their hands felt considering it has been quite warm today.
There was time for one final souvenir hunt before our final evening meal in North Korea, this time at the Craft Shop. The shop was fairly large and contained most things you could want to buy in the country so I stocked up on a few last minute souvenirs and a few gifts for our guides before heading to the checkout. If you do visit North Korea make sure you take plenty of Euro coins with you in addition to notes – the price of everything is low compared to the west and they will be glad of the change as I found out while in this particular shop when the lady behind the counter asked for all of my coins (I had about 40 Euros worth of coins still remaining) and exchanged them for notes from the till.
Dinner was a traditional Korean meal at one of Pyongyang’s finest restaurants and consisted of a lovely mean of various meats that were cooked for us by waitresses in little barbecue grills in the middle of the table. We took our time over the meal as it was our final chance to sit down with our guides and also to reflect on the week we had spent in this unique country before returning to the hotel. Although the ride back to the hotel was memorable as the guides sang us some traditional Korean folk songs and we reciprocated by singing “The wheels on the bus go round and round” which made the guides laugh.
A few of us and two of our guides didn’t want things to end so decided to finish the night off with a few games of ten-pin bowling and pool. It was a great opportunity to socialise with our guides as I’ve really got on well with them over the past week, and I wish I was still down there with the last few survivors, but I’m starting to get tired so am back in my room about to pack my bag ready for our journey back to Beijing in the morning.
Here is a panorama of Pyongyang I made after returning home from photos I took in my room this morning with the great visibility.
Also finally a couple of videos that I took while in Pyongyang today. The first shows the view from my room this morning, similar to the above panorama photo, and the second is a 360 degree view of the area near the Juche Tower overlooking the Taedong River and Kim il-Sung Square.
(Please note – I have been given permission to include details of my trip on my blog by the tour company but the names of my guides as well as photos of them have left out to respect their privacy. It is forbidden for journalists to visit The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on a tourist visa and it is forbidden for us to publish information about our trip in any capacity without permission. As a result I do NOT give permission for anything I write about North Korea in this blog, or any photos I upload of North Korea, to be used anywhere for any purpose other than reading directly on my blog if you are considering travelling to North Korea as a tourist. In addition I do NOT give permission for my name, my blog’s address, or any photos of me to be used or quoted anywhere for any purpose related to The DPRK. If you breach this notice you will be subject to legal action from the tour company. Thank you for your understanding.
If you feel that the post / page containing this notice breaches any regulations or if it contains any information or photos which should be changed or removed to respect the rules of the tour company or the traditions of The DPRK please let me know ASAP so I can fix the problem.)