Archive for November, 2011

Why North Korea Is Better Than Vegas

Jordan Harbinger explains why North Korea is better than Vegas!

Mass Game Sexy Soldiers - North Korea

Does Vegas have high kicking sexy soldier girls with swords?

Guns, Girls, and Beer in North Korea

Does Vegas have all you can drink shooting ranges with sexy attendants?

Pyongyang Pop Gun

Back in the old days, North Korean citizens could vent their hate, frustrations, and propaganda whipped national fervor, by heading down to the local fun fair and testing their aim with a pop gun against posters and painting of the US boogieman soldiers and servicemen.   These days the anti US propaganda posters and paintings have all been taken down (at least where foreign tourists venture), but North Korean locals still enjoy going out to practice their aim at their local fun fair.

Pyongyang Pop Gun

Pyongyang Pop Gun

Tourism in North Korea: A Special Feature

A North Korea tourism podcast by Korean Kontext

Ever wondered why someone might be motivated to spend their summer vacation in the DPRK, or interested to learn about the guides that accompany visitors during a stay in North Korea? Perhaps you’d like to know more about the legalities of visiting Mount Kumgang, a resort originally developed by South Korea’s Hyundai Asan, expropriated by DPRK authorities earlier this year. If so, then this special-length podcast is definitely for you!

Children of North Korea

Young children wave hello from North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

More Sexy North Korean Sailor Girls

If you plan to kick the American capitalist devils and their lackey running dogs in the ass, than you might as will do it with style, grace, and with a great pair of legs! The sexy sailor girls of North Korea marching in the rain at Arirang Mass Games, Pyongyang, DPRK.

Sexy Sailor Girls


How Propaganda Works

By Contributing Writer Gabriel Mizrahi

Kim II Sung Statue

The Great Leader Kim Il Sung – Photo by Joseph A Ferris III

There was a point in my trip to North Korea when the gravitas and decorum of the country devolved into madness and hilarity. That point was the Train Museum.

Walk with me through a massive warehouse of Kim-family paraphernalia (the trains were just the opening attraction). Gaze at the cornucopia of paintings of the Great Leader providing crucial “on-the-spot guidance”—lots of smiling and pointing at things—for the construction of railways and bridges. Marvel at the orgy of industrial manufacturing that the Dear Leader thoroughly understands, and possibly invented, for the benefit of his people. Take note of the staples of everyday life that the father-son dream team bestowed upon its country, down to the Adidas running shoes graciously gifted—but then why are they here, in mint condition?—to the country’s grateful athletes.

In a corner room of the Train Museum, we happened upon a painting of the Dear Leader’s mother in a snowy battlefield clutching a baby Kim Jong Il and wielding a gun, which she is presumably pointing at a Japanese imperialist. That is the patriotic multi-tasking of a founding mother in North Korea. No battlefield is too dangerous to bring one’s infant along………….Continue reading this post at The North Korea Blog.

On the Streets of Kaesong, North Korea

A busy morning street scene – photos all taken from the gate of the Folk Hotel (with no freedom to explore further), Kaesong, North Korea.

On the Street in Kaesong, North Korea

On the Streets of Kaesong, North Korea

On the Street in Kaesong, North Korea

On the Street in Kaesong, North Korea

On the Street in Kaesong, North Korea

Pyongyang Portrait

Woman at Mass Dance

Simple portrait of a woman in Pyongyang, DPRK, North Korea.

Sexy Sailor Girls

Sexy Sailor Girls

The sexy sailor girls of North Korea marching in the rain at Arirang Mass Games, Pyongyang, DPRK – posted for no other reason except that I love sexy sailor girls!

North Korean River Traffic

We made arrival in Durban, South Africa this morning after three weeks spent studying the Agulhas Current. I expect to be busy for the next few weeks as our ship goes to half crew and prepares for a shipyard and dry docking period, but I will continue to try to get at least something up daily – look for an original picture with a little commentary at a minimum.

In honor of our arrival from a three week voyage, I’m posting a selection of photos of the North Korean maritime industry on the Taedong River – all taken from out of my window at the Yanggakdo Hotel.

Boat and river dredge operations on the Taedong River, DPRK, North Korea.

Taedong River Traffic, Pyongyang

North Korean River Dredge

North Korean River Dredge

North Korean River Dredge

Pyongyang Traffic Girls Fall From the Sky


Thanks for my first 1,000 hits! Above is a satire clip of the Pyongyang traffic girls.

Traffic Girls of Pyongyang, North Korea

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK

Just a tiny hint of a smile…………before being told “no more pictures!”

It’s sad to say but I can confirm the rumors – electric traffic lights have been recently installed in Pyongyang, and with this bold step into advanced technology, regrettably the era of the famous Pyongyang traffic girls is coming to an end. Legions of cute traffic girls have been retired; who will man the intersections of desolate streets? Who will perform a robotic dance of traffic instruction while ignoring the fact there is no traffic to actually instruct? Is this march of progress a worthy substitute for cute girls with pouty expressions and sexy uniforms?

But all is not lost! Some of the traffic girls have been retained to render emergency services during frequent power outages. Others can still be seen directing traffic at construction sites, manning cross walks at busy areas, and some manually control traffic lights near the tourist hotels.

The Porters of the Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

Yanggakdo Hotel Porters

With the philosophy that it’s best to cultivate a little good will, even in the lowest of places, because you never know when you might need a friend or a little help, and even though we carried our own bags, we always greeted the Yanggakdo Hotel porters and bell hops with bright smiles, handshakes, and a few packs of Marlboro Red cigarettes discreetly slipped into their palms.

Not that we ever needed their assistance, but the porters made us proud when on the last morning of our trip, while tossing and playing Frisbee with us in the hotel parking lot, several government agent types – black shades, slick suits, BMW ride, angrily asked the porters “what are you doing, don’t you know you are playing with Americans?”

It was later told to us that they replied with the Korean equivalent of “f*** you, they are our friends!”


The Pyongyang Subway and North Korean Stand-up

By Contributing Writer Gabriel Mizrahi

On the escalator into Pyongyang’s mass-transit underworld, I asked one of our guides why the subway is built so deep.

“Loose soil,” she responded, gripping my elbow.

“Cool in the summer, warm in the winter,” said another guide.

Structural requirements aside, the subway was clearly designed with war in mind. The tunnels double as a massive bomb shelter or vast storage space when the inevitable occurs. We inquired until one of our guides relented.

“Anti-bombing,” she conceded, though I later learned that this is a well-known and openly admitted fact………….Continue reading this post at The North Korea Blog.

Pyongyang Metro

Pyongyang Metro – Photo by Joseph Ferris

Pyongyang Cleaning Stations

“What do you think of Pyongyang?” asked one of our guides. As we carefully considered our responses our guide answered for us, “foreigners think Pyongyang is a clean city!” Well I can’t argue with that. While Pyongyang is a little rough and scruffy around the edges, the proud residents do work hard to keep the streets, parks, and public spaces swept and clean. If you do visit Pyongyang and happen to see some garbage, don’t take pictures, concerned citizens will complain to authorities, and the guides require you to delete the photos off your memory card.

Cleaning Stations North Korea

A boy in Pyongyang at his morning cleaning station.

Children of North Korea

Children of North Korea

Girls walking home after a performance at the Children’s Palace, Pyongyang, North Korea.

I’m going to be busy for the next few days as I get my ship ready for arrival in port and the shift to the shipyard period in Durban, South Africa.  I’m also busy saving and transferring over some old writing pieces, and deleting old blogs and photo hosting sites.  Best I will probably do here for the next week or two is post a daily picture.

A Jealous Girlfriend in Taiwan

My girlfriend has had enough with North Korea.  She is sick of all the photos and blog posts, and I haven’t even told her about the spring 2012 North Korea trip I’m planning.  To get her off my back and to buy a little time I’m going to dedicate this blog post to Taiwan, her native country, and a pretty fantastic place.

Time to give Taiwan a little love!

The ship I have been working on as Chief Mate has been based out of Taiwan for the last two years.  We do visit other countries, but the currents and internal wave fronts of the Luzon Strait are some of the most interesting in the world from a scientific/oceanographic viewpoint, so we keep on returning to this funding rich region to conduct our scientific expeditions and research projects.  The ship normally ports in and out of Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s 2nd largest city.

“Kaohsiung is changing!” proclaims the billboard outside the highrise apartment that I had leased for six months this year.  I would often tease my girlfriend by using that phrase, but honestly Kaohsiung has changed – and changed for the better.  Years ago it used to be a forgettable port city, but a lot of effort and investment has gone into revitalizing the waterfront districts in the run up and for the hosting of the 2009 World Games.

You can easily rent a bike from an automatic vending machine and enjoy the large network of paths throughout the harbor district. Excellent public art is to be found at the Pier #2 Art Center.  Further down the harbor front you can relax with a drink or enjoy dinner at the Fisherman’s Wharf while watching cargo ships pass by.

A short ferry ride across the harbor will take you Cijin Island, there you can enjoy fresh seafood and relax at the beach.  In the city you can visit the popular Liuhe Tourist Night Market, but for a better deal and a more local experience get an oyster pancake at the night market tucked several blocks behind Grand Hi-Lai Hotel.  Other city attractions include Monkey Mountain, and the “Little Japan” shopping district located in the alleys by the Central Park MRT station.  If you do happen to pass through Kaohsiung, make sure to stop by and say hi to the girls at the Night Owl Bar – tell them Joseph sent you!

I have mostly focused on Kaohsiung as it’s the place I know the best, but it’s highly worth while to head south and check out the tropical beaches and nightlife located in Kending.  Taiwan is also blessed with an abundance of hot springs (one of my favorite activities), high mountain peaks, and steep gorges for the outdoor enthusiast.

Taiwanese people are generous, friendly, and outgoing –  no matter where you explore you will be welcomed as family!

Chinese Buddhist Festival

Captain Wes Hill dances with the gods in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Checkout my Taiwan photo set on Flickr


Colors in North Korea

Who says communism has to be drab?  In North Korea your eyes will be assaulted by the dark green fields of the countryside, the intense reds of the ever present propaganda posters and billboards, and by women wearing the Korean traditional dress, the hanbok – also called chosŏn-ot, in every color imaginable.  Of course I visited during the summer, I’m guessing in the winter you will just see a lot of white.

North Korean Pohyon Temple Guide

Local guide in a yellow chosŏn-ot at the Pohyon Temple, Mount Myohyang, North Korea.

The Arirang Festival Mass Games

By Contributing Writer Gabriel Mizrahi

Imagine the sight of one-hundred thousand humans executing the world’s most impeccable live performance.  This is the Arirang Festival, also known as the Mass Games, dubbed the greatest acrobatic spectacle on earth.

Sexy Soldiers Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games – photo by Joseph Ferris

To the haunting chants of Korean folk music, an orgy of color and music explodes on the field.  Baton-wielding military jackets parade in honor of the Dear Leader.  Tiny gymnasts in blue uniforms uniforms flip and twirl with cautious grace. Tae Kwon Do athletes perform a complex series of kicks and punches.  In the other half of the stadium seats, 20,000 students manipulate colored flipboards that magically shape-shift into pictures of the mythical countryside and portraits of the Great Leader in mind-blowing detail.  All the while, the haunting tones of “Arirang” echo in the May Day Stadium, telling the story of a Romeo and Juliet tragedy that doubles as an allegory for the separation of North and South Korea…………Continue reading Arirang Festival Mass Games at The North Korea Blog

North Korean Document Check

North Koreans cannot go anywhere without the proper documentation and travel passes.  During the famine years these rules were overlooked as unstoppable mass migrations of people searched for food across the country – often near the Chinese border.  Now the rules and restrictions have tightened back up again.  A Swiss diplomat stationed in Pyongyang (he claimed there are only around 40 full time expats living in North Korea at any given time, excluding the Chinese) told us that his team North Korean contacts spent one full week running around Pyongyang, gathering signatures and filing papers, just to arrange the travel permissions to make a visit and tour of the DMZ.  As tourists with Koryo Tours we buzzed around everywhere hassle free with nothing more than a flash of a paper at a random checkpoint or two – makes me wonder about all the work that had to have gone on behind the scenes to make our tour appear so damn normal.

Document Check

Teachers have their documents checked on a school group outing to the Ryongmun Caves.

Links to pictures of our North Korean Visas and tourist cards:

My North Korea visa picture #1

My North Korea visa picture #2

Jordan Harbinger and Gabriel Mizrahi show off their North Korea visa

Jordan Harbinger shows off his North Korea visa

North Korean tourist card against my passport


Jordan Harbinger Looking at Kim Jong-il Look at Things

Kim Jong-il loves to look at things!  Here is a website with an incredible archive of pictures of Kim Jong-il checking stuff out.

Jordan Harbinger Looking at Kim Jong Il Look at Things

Of course we couldn’t let Kim Jong-il have all the fun, above is Jordan Harbinger looking at kim Jong-il, along with his father the Eternal President, Kim ll-sung, look at a vase.

North Korean Mass Dance in Sepia and in Black and White

North Korean Mass Dance

Ladies dancing with ladies in Pyongyang, North Korea.  Sources informed us that all the men were out building houses in the countryside to help meet some grand initiative deadline that the government had set and was woefully behind on.

A North Korean mass dance is staged to provide wholesome fun and traditional entertainment for it’s citizens. If your housing political network has arranged a mass dance than attendance is mandatory – unless of course you are out building houses in the countryside.  We were the only men in attendance and to the quiet amusement/embarrassment of the North Korean ladies we actually partnered up and participated.

More pics from a Pyongyang mass dance.

Black and white mass dancing pictures below.

Woman at Mass Dance

Woman at Mass Dance

Woman at Mass Dance

North Korea in Blank and White

Woman at Mass Dance

North Korean Mass Dance

More pics from a Pyongyang mass dance.

Pyongyang, North Korea

By Contributing Writer Gabriel Mizrahi

“Good-a evening lay-deez and a-gentlemen,” said our government guide in a vague pastiche of American talk shows. Through the cold eyes of a James Bond villain, he stared at me. “Welcome to Pyongyang.”

My journey to the least-visited country on earth began with a 1980s Soviet jet that carried us—a group of travel junkies hungry for the most epic cultural fix of our lives—from the bustling streets of Beijing to the empty squares of North Korea……Continue reading Pyongyang at The North Korea Blog

Pyongyang Skyline

Pyongyang Skyline – Photo by Joseph Ferris

North Korean Mass Dance

Yesterday’s most viewed North Korea pic from my Flickr account – ladies dancing with ladies at a mass dance in Pyongyang, North Korea.  Sources informed us that all the men were out building houses in the countryside to help meet some grand initiative deadline that the government had set and was woefully behind on.  We were also told that this same initiative was requiring all the university students to work instead of attending classes for the year.

North Korean Mass Dance

A North Korean mass dance is staged to provide wholesome fun and traditional entertainment for it’s citizens.  If your  housing political network has arranged a mass dance than attendance is mandatory – unless of course you are out building houses in the countryside.  We were the only men in attendance and to the quiet amusement/embarrassment of the North Korean ladies we actually partnered up and participated .  More mass dancing pictures below.

North Korean Mass Dance

Mass Dancing in Pyongyang

North Korean Mass Dance

Mass Dancing in Pyongyang

Girl at Mass Dance

Mass Dancing in Pyongyang

How to travel to North Korea

Do any of posts and pictures make you want to plan your own trip to North Korea?  Its not for everybody, but its a strange and unique travel and cultural experience unlike any other in the world.  Get there now before it changes – it could open further or could suddenly close, who knows.  Setting up a trip to the DPRK is actually quite easy, you will need a double entry Chinese visa and to get yourself to Beijing to make the orientation brief, from there my friends at Koryo Tours will do all the rest – make sure to ask for Hannah!

There is some fine print involved:  Professional journalists and photographers will need to sign an agreement to not publish unauthorized news stories about the DPRK – posting to Flickr, Facebook, and to blogs by normal people is fine as long as they don’t go overboard with criticism.  Americans can easily arrange a tour to North Kora at all times of the year but we are restricted to a stay of just 7days/6nights, and while other nationalities normally fly in and depart by train, we are required to fly both in and out.

North Korean Guide

The lovely Jr. guide Miss Choe would love to show you her country.