An overnight at the Mt. Chibo Homestay is a highlight of any trip to the remote North East of North Korea. On a pristine beach with the Chilbo mountains soaring behind, the home stay affords visitors unique interactions with locals, and ample leisure time to enjoy activities like village volleyball tournaments, traditional Korean wrestling, beach side campfires with sing-alongs, and traditional fishing boat rides.
More pics from the Mt. Chilbo Homestay below:
Tour of the homes; typical living room.
Fishing boat ride on the East Korean Sea.
Campfire with locals.
I won the traditional Korean wrestling tournament!
No visit to Rason, North Korea would be complete (at least for those interested in business or entertainment) without a stop at the Hong Kong investor owned Emperor Hotel and Casino. The second casino in North Korea (the original being a small dodgy room in the Yanggakdo International Hotel basement), the Emperor Hotel and Casino is located on a lonely stretch of coast with farmers and oxen tilling fields right up to the empty parking lots.
The lobby is spotless, the restaurant promising (but empty), and the signs politely remind Chinese gamblers not to spit. Visitors can only gamble if they exchange a minimum of 500 dollars into chips – we didn’t, so we couldn’t visit the gaming floor. Neither did we visit the dodgy Chinese massage parlor, but as per our guide’s proud recommendation, we did use the county’s only 5 star bathroom.
The casino has a fleet of Humvee vehicles reportedly confiscated from Chinese mafia gamblers who lost millions of dollars and refused to pay their debt. They left the Humvees instead, which are now used to shuttle patrons down from the Chinese border – they must have been on a run, we searched for the Humvees but the casino motor pool was empty.
And if this wasn’t all surreal enough, there is even an associated pawn shop for unlucky gamblers located on the road leading to the casino!
More pics of the Emperor Hotel and Casino:
Dodgy Chinese massage!
North Korean Hotel of Doom - photo by Joseph A Ferris III
CNN fluff web article on the world’s ugliest buildings:
This 330-meter pyramid/spaceship/sci-fi villain’s lair-themed concrete edifice is a prime example of the regime’s hubris. Erected, apparently, as a riposte to South Korea winning the right to host the 1988 Olympic Games, the impoverished North ran out of cash for the project in the early 1990s.
After a 16-year hiatus, construction began again in 2008 at the behest of an Egyptian investment group and the hotel is slated to open next year in time for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sun, the country’s late “Eternal” President.
A busy morning street scene – photos all taken from the gate of the Folk Hotel (with no freedom to explore further), Kaesong, North Korea.
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!”
Dominating the Pyongyang skyline, the North Korean Ryugyong Hotel finally nears completion after 20 years of on and off again construction. I’m not going to badmouth the Ryugyong Hotel any further – I will leave that to this Esquire.com article.
- North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel Exterior Completed (PHOTOS) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Pyongyang Pyramid: The Ryugyong Hotel, located in the… (curbed.com)
- World’s Most Notoriously Unfinished Hotel Finally Opening (Supposedly) [Hotels] (gawker.com)
- Top 10 spookiest buildings around the world (cnn.com)
- One Of The World’s Largest Hotels Is About To Open In North Korea (businessinsider.com)
Welcome to basement floor #1 of the Yanggakdo International Hotel of Pyongyang, the one and only red light district open to foreigners in all of North Korea. Don’t expect to find any North Koreans in this shady area, this floor is forbidden to residents and staffed only by Chinese workers. Here the adventurous can party at the Egypt Palace Karaoke and Nightclub, try their luck at the Casino Pyongyang, and get a naughty Chinese massage in the VIP room of the Golden Spring Island Sauna. While this all sounds like a Hangover movie in the making, in reality don’t expect too much. During my visit to basement floor #1 I found the nightclub closed, the casino empty and depressing, and the naughty massage parlor simply intimidating.
On a side note – my father runs a video game company and in the past was involved with casinos, so I took a close look at the serial number tags on a handful of the slot machines that sat unpowered in the Pyongyang Casino. All of the slots were registered and had come from the United States! I wish cameras were allowed so I could have recorded some of the tags – would have been fun to track these machines down.
Check out all my North Korea pics at my Flickr Photostream
- S Korea to send medicine to North (bbc.co.uk)
- Massive Human Billboard Mosaics of the North Korean Arirang Festival (laughingsquid.com)
- North Korea in Autumn – David Guttenfelder (oxfordschoolofphotography.wordpress.com)