First of all I’d like to give a shout out to the people who’ve started following me after posting this series, and also the people who’ve followed me in the past, it’s appreciated and I take great satisfaction knowing people are enjoying what I write. If you’re new to this series then welcome and you can find all of the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Entering North Korea as a tourist is something which has only come about in recent years; 20 years ago it would have been near impossible, and even 10 years ago it would have been pretty rare. At present it’s not too difficult to enter North Korea as part of a group; however it takes a while to have your visas granted, you must use an approved travel agent and you will pretty much never get any freedom to explore or walk 10 metres away from your group without your supervisors arsehole clenching so tight it almost forms a new sun.
One thing is for certain about North Korea, if you are fortunate enough to go there are plenty of amazing photography opportunities; be it the things we find most odd, the blasts from the cold war past or the amazing scenery. The photo below I found pretty cool, it seems to be a power plant or a chemical refinery, either wayI love the backdrop. The rest of the photos in this chapter will be mostly of natural landscapes.
There are a few bits of information I found I found to be myths about North Korea such as it becoming mandatory to have the same haircut as Kim Jong Un, that they believe they won the world cup, etc; that was all propaganda on our part. Some things that are true about the country are things that you might expect from the hermit kingdom, the main thing is that they are paranoid, an example of this is being out of the guides sight, they pretty much won’t let it happen at all. One night, I popped out of our ‘hotel’ which was a very basic guesthouse with no running water in the middle of a mountainous area. I had stepped out for a cigarette and to take some photographs of the stars only to find that all access in and out of the hotel had been blocked off, high gates had been closed over and a guard dog came running over to me barking which alerted the gatekeeper who came over to find out what I was doing; each place we stayed had a similar setup and the constant supervision started to mess with my mind a few days into the trip, it took a few days back in China for me to feel like I wasn’t being watched anymore.
Anyway, I got to take my photos of the stars after I explained to the gatekeeper what I was doing. Something that I found really amazing about North Korea is that due to its underdevelopment there was no light pollution at all, I had only really ever seen the stars like this one other time, I was so used to just seeing the brightest stars and when I was greeted by this blanket of twinkles I was awestruck.
What we mostly see of North Korea on TV, in magazines or on the internet is of Pyongyang, the nation’s capital. Outside of Pyongyang there is not much in terms of big cities and towns, most of what you will find are small villages, either inland or dotted around the coast like this one. Again, this was something that we were told not to photograph, they seemed ashamed of primitive villages, almost like us seeing it and photographing them would somehow make NK look weak as a country, but me being me, I loved seeing villages like this, I find it amazing how people can live so simply and so sustainably – you may be able to see a couple of guys on the closest house; they were drying squid in the sun probably for the whole village.
We had the opportunity to spend the night at a homestay on the beach which was gorgeous, the weather was a bit chilly by that didn’t stop us from getting in the water, I mean how many people can say they’ve swam in the sea in North Korea?
And for a bit of a bonus, how many people can say they’ve swam in the sea in North Korea only to look back on their photos and see a boat in the distance with scuba divers about 100m away…I’m not sure what this was for but scuba divers that were barely visible seemed like they were there to make sure none of us tried to swim off or maybe plant some surveillance…a bit far fetched? Probably, but still it makes for a cool photo.
If you want true unspoilt beauty check out North Korea! Look at that view, it is hard in this day and age to discover a place of natural beauty that has not been blemished with shops, McDonalds, hoards of rowdy tourists or littered. I can safely say that North Korea is one of the most beautiful counties I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.
The photo below is looking out across the shore of North Hamgyong province, with the Sea of Japan (Korean Sea to the North Koreans, and maybe the south Koreans? I’m not sure) to the east. If you were to look at this photo you could mistake it for British Colombia. This is kind of what a lot of northern Asia would have looked like if not for the massive industrial development it has seen over the last 50 or so years. Once again North Korea takes you back in time, this time in a good sense.
The photo below shows the Chilbo mountain range, we spent the day hiking trails and it was possibly my favourite day of the trip, the views were incredible, but I can let the picture do it justice.
Something I did find a little disconcerting is the picture below. This is known as ‘missile rock’, Mr Sou explained that the reason for its name is that it looks like a missile launcher pointed in the direction of Washington
If you do happen to go to North Korea, you are guaranteed to see many buildings proudly displaying pictures of the great leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and they will always be described as having sunshine smiles 😀
Also, there is weed growing absolutely everywhere and I saw some guys in a town rolling it up in newspaper and smoking it as possibly the worst joint I’ve ever seen in my life…and yes, we did take some for the road.
I’ve been pretty haphazard with the structuring of this series and if I’m honest, I am just going to continue that way. I’m not really sure what my next chapter will be, I think it might just be some generally odd things that happened while I was there.
Anyway, here’s Wonderwall…
Goodnight, hope you’ll be joining me in the next part of this series, and once again thanks to all the people who’ve just started following me through this series and all those who’ve started following me in the past, much love 🙂