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Thread: South Korea, DPRK & China (April 2010)

  1. #1

    Default South Korea, DPRK & China (April 2010)

    South Korea, DPRK & China

    Photo's from my last vacation, april this year. First a couple of days in South Korea, one night in Beijing, then 8 days in the DPRK, and finally from Beijing back home. At least, that's how we planned it. Because of the volcanic eruption in Iceland, we had to stay another week in China. But you won't hear me complaining about that, I can imagine worse places in the world to get stuck...
    Last edited by WizardOfOss; June 27th, 2010 at 12:13 PM.

  2. #2


    Monday April 5th 2010: Seoul

    Along Jongo (“Bell Street”), Jongno Tower and Bosingak belfry:

    Around Insadong, the Jogyesa-temple:

    Gyeongbokgung palace:

    Statues of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun-sin, Cheonggyecheon stream:

    Near our hotel, dinner at a BBQ-restaurant:

    In the Gangnam area across the Han River:

    Last edited by WizardOfOss; June 27th, 2010 at 12:00 PM.

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    Tuesday April 6th 2010: Seoul

    Walking the wrong way, to Ingwangsan (a mountain) instead of Inwangsa (a temple).
    (I did practice to read Korean, but did miss that 'n'...)

    Seoul city wall, on Inwangsan:

    Walking back to the city, microwave-lunch in a park:

    Near City Hall:

    Last edited by WizardOfOss; June 27th, 2010 at 12:19 PM.

  4. #4


    Wednesday April 7th 2010: Suwon

    Paldalmun, a Korean bakery:

    Hwaseong fortress, a 5,7km long fortified wall around the city centre:

    A market in the city centre, diner at a BBQ-restaurant:

    Back in Seoul, around Dongdaemun area, Starcraft on television:

    Last edited by WizardOfOss; June 27th, 2010 at 12:24 PM.

  5. #5


    Thursday April 8th 2010: Seoul

    Gyeonghuigung palace:

    Some views on the streets, I don't know what the protests are about, only that the massive police force didn't want me to take any more pictures:

    Deoksugung palace:

    N Seoul Tower at Namsan mountain. Seems like they haven't cleaned the windows since the last time I visited it, three years ago:

    COEX Convention & Exhibition Center, across the Han river:

    Last edited by WizardOfOss; June 27th, 2010 at 12:34 PM.

  6. #6


    Friday April 9th 2010: flight to Beijing

    Train station at Beijing Capital Airport:

    The A.Hotel underneath the Workers Stadium, lunch at the food court of Yashow market:

    Hard Rock Cafe Beijing:

    (there's a story behind this, in 2006 when I visited Beijing for the first time, we didn't exactly know where the HRC was, neither did any cab driver or anyone else we tried to ask. After over three hours of searching, we finally gave up. Only to find out later at Google Earth we were only 50 meters away...)
    Last edited by WizardOfOss; June 27th, 2010 at 12:35 PM.

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    Next will be the most interesting part of the trip, my visit to the DPRK. However, that will take me some more time, I still have to sort some thousands of pictures. I just hope you guys have a little patience...

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    Great! Nice work. I look forward to seeing your images from the Stalinist Monarchy.

    Did you hear about the "North Korean" (Chinese actors) cheering on their team at the World Cup?:

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    Those are the stories that make it such a fascinating place. A bit weird, a bit scary, definitely very wrong, but nevertheless fascinating. Makes me think, I haven't heard a thing about those four missing players...

    I'm however a bit surprised that they sent those Chinese people, and not some "real" DPRK-fans. It would have been a great opportunity to show the world how open the DPRK "really" is. Seems like the propaganda-department had an off-day...
    Last edited by WizardOfOss; June 20th, 2010 at 07:16 PM.

  10. #10
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Just think if those loyal comrades decided to defect while in South Africa ...

  11. #11


    Saturday April 10th 2010: flight to Pyongyang

    First a short introduction about this tour. As you might know, it simply isn't allowed to travel on your own in the DPRK. Everywhere you go, you'll be accompanied by two guides. It is possible to book an individual tour, but since you have to pay for those two guides, it's a pricey option. We booked a group tour at Koryo Tours, a Beijing based English company.

    Our group consisted of people from all over the world: from the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, England, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Until last year, Americans were only allowed to travel to the DPRK during the Arirang Mass Games, but now they can go all year round. Only weird thing is they aren't allowed to return to Beijing by train, they have to fly out instead.

    Our plane, an Iljushin Il-62 from Air Koryo, at Beijing Capital Airport. Built in the late seventies, definitely not up to modern standards. But when it comes to actual accidents, Air Koryo might be the safest airline in the world. The food they serve is actually pretty good by airplane standards, the beer however is truly horrible.

    After one and a half hour flight we arrived at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport. No problems at passport control with our visa, but customs seems not up to the task of handling about 180 passengers at a time. Not that they really make a fuzz of it, with their X-ray machines they only seem to be looking for cellphones, which you aren't allowed to keep during your stay.

    Directly outside of the arrival hall is the parking lot, with apart from mostly crappy cars a lot of Mercedeses, and also a North-Korean built Pyeonghwa Jadongcha Ppeokkugi. And of course our bus for the whole tour. Here we also meet our two guides, the very charming miss Kim and the quite mysterious mister Oh.

    The route from the airport to our hotel leads along lots of monuments and huge buildings, Pyongyang is obviously built to impress. But even more impressive is the traffic, or more specifically, the lack of it.

    We stay in the Yanggakdo International Hotel, the largest hotel in Pyongyang., 170 meters and 47 stories tall, with 1.000 rooms of which most of the time only a few are being used. And of course with a revolving restaurant on top, let them know you're coming, they might start it up. You won't be short on amenities: several shops and restaurants, brewpub, swimming pool, bowling lanes, pool room and of course karaoke. There's also a basement run by Chinese, with a casino, and a sauna that supposedly isn't a sauna, but a “massage with happy end”. Outside there's a nine-hole golf course, and a driving range where you can directly hit the balls into the river. The hotel is on the Yanggak island in the middle of the Taedong river, and of course you aren't allowed to leave the premises on your own, hence the nickname “the Alcatraz of fun”...

    The room is quite OK, a bit dated, but not that different from what you would get in a tourist class hotel anywhere in the world. To our surprise we didn't just get Korean and Chinese stations on the TV, but even BBC World. The view from the 26th floor doesn't disappoint either.

    After some rest we go to the big dining hall for our first DPRK dinner. It's basically something in between Asian and Western food, not good, not bad, and you definitely won't die of starvation.

    When we return to our room it's dark outside, which is quite surreal in Pyongyang: you're in the middle of a city with three million inhabitants, but yet outside it's total darkness. Maybe a single car somewhere, but that's it. Probably another blackout, those are quite common. As a tourist, you're not supposed to notice, so the hotel has it's own power supply.

    We end our first day in the DPRK in the bar, where they serve a great locally brewed beer. They can keep the Heineken(!) in the fridge. The beer isn't that expensive either, at € 1,40 a pint. Or because they're always short of small change, for two beers you pay 3 euros and get a bottle of water in return...
    Last edited by WizardOfOss; July 10th, 2010 at 09:26 PM.

  12. #12
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Great report.

    Any chance you'll get to see the Ryugyong Hotel up close?

  13. #13


    This is probably the closest we got, according to Google Earth about half a mile away, from the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War:

    I did ask if there was an opportunity to get near the construction site, but we were short on time for a detour. At least that's what the guides told me. Could be, since our schedule was already extremely packed, but it might also be an excuse to keep people at a distance, or just away from that part of town. We'll never know...

  14. #14
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Top part looks ready for blast-off.

  15. #15


    Like a warhead?

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