Welcome to part 7 of my journey into North Korea series, if you’ve been reading this series from the start then I hope you’ve been enjoying it, 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, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6 I hope you enjoy it Today’s segment is going to be on an area of North Hamgyong province called Mount Chilbo, it was one of the most beautiful rural areas I have visited in Asia. This segment is going to be a pretty laid back one with plenty of photographs.
Above is Mr Sou explaining how mount Chilbo is divided into three distinct regions: inner Chilbo, outer Chilbo and sea Chilbo, our group travelled around all three.
Travelling around the Mount Chilbo area was one of the highlights of the trip, the scenery was amazing, there was plenty of wildlife and hardly any people for miles around. We saw some great sights, drank plenty of beer, and had a lot of laughs, mainly with the three guys in the right hand side of the above photograph. Tommy and Taylor were my friends and roommates from Shanghai, we also worked for the same company, Tommy is the dark haired guy in the grey top closest to the camera and Taylor is the ginger haired guy to the far right. The guy in the blue with the backwards cap is Phil, a guy we met on the trip, he’s seen a lot of the DPRK and has travelled to different parts of the country a number of times, we’re still in touch and he has a blog with plenty of DPRK related posts www.vagabondtraveltales.com. As I previously mentioned in another segment, a few people lost their mind after a few days and started to believe everything they were told, these three were some of the few who stayed firmly grounded the entire time we were there.
This segment is mainly focussed on the natural environment and the amazing scenery the North Hamgyong had to offer. I have put a lot of the images into slideshows to keep you from scrolling for eternity.
The image below shows salt beds near sea Chilbo. From what I understand the salt water comes in, floods the beds and after the tide has gone out the sun will evaporate the water leaving sea salt behind which can then be gathered.
The bears in the shot below marked the trail all the way through Chilbo, I thought they looked pretty cool and had a kind of Soviet era communist vibe to them.
It was hard to capture the perspective of the writing in this photo, those letters carved into the cliff face were about two metres each in height. The fact that they had been carved by hand many years ago was a feat in itself, but what made it more impressive is that this was just one example of many huge carvings into cliff faces in the Chilbo mountainous region.
I can’t remember the name of this natural rock formation, but I remember being shit scared of falling off and dying in North Korea. I can be seen on the far left on top of the natural bridge, I think Mr Sou took this photo.
We soon arrived at sea Chilbo where we would spend the night. We did quite a lot of activities there, and it was probably my favourite day and night of the whole trip, we went swimming in the sea of Japan (it was freezing), we played volleyball with the Koreans and a few of us had Korean wresting matches with some of the fellas, we ate some good food and at the end of the night went outside and gathered around a fire while the Koreans played some traditional songs for us and we drank a fair amount of beer.
At sea Chilbo there was a small settlement, tucked away in a beautiful secluded spot; the houses were nice, the gardens were lush and the views surrounding it were awe inspiring. In all honesty I think the reason we were taken here was to show us how ‘normal’ North Koreans live, however, it is more likely that certain lucky individuals have been selected to live in what is a relative paradise. Perhaps these individuals were selected for doing something good for the government. There is absolutely no way this is how normal citizens live, we had even seen now normal citizens lived for the most part and it was a very different life to this. Regardless of the setup, we had a good time.
I’d say if you get the chance to visit North Hamgyong province you should, despite the fact a lot of things will be set up (this is unavoidable in the DPRK) you will get glimpses of what reality is like in the DPRK, you will also see many beautiful sights.
Catch you in the next segment. The series is coming to a close now and I’m thinking about what to write about next, thanks for the follows and I hope you’ve been enjoying this blog.