Friday, 20 July 2012

Journal - Arriving in North Korea 23 June 2012

We flew from Beijing to Pyongyang on a very old plane, that was dreadfully noisy, packed to the gills, with steam pouring out through the ventilation ducts!   But other than that, the flight was uneventful.  I was dreading arriving at Immigration, after all the stories I had been told, but it was an anti-climax. They didn't search my luggage, and I didn't see them searching anyone else's luggage.  After some deliberation, I did list all my electronic equipment on the customs form, but I don't think they even looked at it seriously.   We had to hand in our mobile phones and that was it.   The most exciting moment in the airport was seeing our first portraits of the Dear Leaders.

We met our two Korean guides and coach driver and headed straight off for a bit of sightseeing!   As expected the roads were very quiet, but as I found out that petrol costs US$20 per gallon, I am not surprised.   First stop was the Arch of Triumph, an exact replica of the Arc d'Triomf, except that it is 10 meters higher.   It was an appropriate introduction to North Korea, where everything has to be bigger and better than anywhere else in the world.

We drove past the Chollima horse statue.  There is a Korean myth about a horse that can ride 400 kilometers a day.  This myth inspires Koreans to work harder and faster than anyone else, even if they die in the attempt.

Our education started straight away with the question: 'What is the difference between a crowd and collectivism?'   The answer is leadership.  And no prizes for guessing who provides the best leadership!!
The birth place of the first person who provided this excellent leadership is very reminiscent of Bethlehem.  The Mangyongdae Native House only needed a few wise men to complete the picture.
A good description for our hotel was 'adequate', but don't forget we were travelling on a budget.  I made the mistake of looking behind the bed, and under the desk, to try and find an electrical outlet for the kettle.  And that was rather horrifying!!  But otherwise it was clean enough, and there was plenty of hot water and the electricity stayed on most of the night.    Oh, and the kettle plug fitted into the shaving outlet!

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