Nothing can be more excited than getting an opportunity to visit North Korea, the so call most isolated and mysterious country in the world. So many questions came to my mind immediately – Is it safe there? Can I have enough food to eat? Where can I exchange my money before I go? I was confused, curious and a bit worried.
We, a group of journalism students, took the Pyongyang airline in the Beijing airport. Each of us had a North Korea style hamburger on the plane. Seriously, it tasted really terrible and that is why I decided to head to the grocery store for some cup noodle once we arrived the hotel (but this is a stupid decision).
We were not allowed to take any pictures at the Pyongyang airport, but some of my classmates did. Unfortunate, the tour guide saw that asked them to delete the photos right away. In fact, the customs officer even checked some of our iPhones very carefully when we crossed enter boarder. But anyway, we all got into the city!
Every photograph we wanted to take needed permission from the tour guide because we was not allowed to capture certain aspects of life in North Korea, like the local people, soldiers, workers and construction sites. But since we were a group of people, sometimes we just took it anyway when the guide busy introducing the attractions. Two cameramen followed us for the whole journey, filming almost every moment. They said they would make a CD for us at the end and we could choose to buy it or not (it was damn expensive as I remember).
We could not wander around freely, which was a completely different experience of travelling. We have little opportunity to interact with locals and in turn, the locals were too afraid to interact with the foreign visitors. The tour guide told us if the citizens have talked to tourist, they would get into trouble.
We stayed in a five-starts hostel where electricity was cut off from time to time. No Internet of course and no phone call could be made, but we could still “enjoy” some local and Chinese TV channels in our room. I have never seen their currency during the whole trip. However, RMB was accepted in all souvenir stores. I was very curious how they exchange the money back?
In our five-days trip, we checked out a lot of statues and monuments where we needed to offer flowers and bow to show the respect of their president and revolutionary martyrs. We also went to the DMZ, the most fortified border between North Korea and South Korea. It was fun to visit one of their kindergartens and primary school and watch the performance by local kids.
Everything that they showed in us in Pyongyang City looks great but don’t forget many North Korea people are still suffering starvation and struggling with their life. People here are not able to enjoy the freedom that we have. After I came back, I checked out a lot of videos and books that disclose the real life of people in North Korea. I felt extremely complicated and upset.