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IMPORTANT: Philippines Relief Effort

Dear friends, family and fellow travelers – Young Pioneer Tours is sending Chris White & Captain Joseph Ferris to the Philippines to help our friends in the disaster relief effort. They will be on the ground helping rebuild destroyed homes and distribute well needed supplies. We are asking that anyone that is capable please donate to our efforts. If you are interested in helping with this monumental task or join our crew please contact Chris White at chris@youngpioneertours.com. We thank you for all your support! We will keep you posted on our efforts as they unfold.

Donations can be made to Paypal account: # R4T36NB338KZW email: chris@youngpioneertours.com

Thanks from the YPT family.

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Update: Within 5 hours of posting the Young Pioneer Tours Philippines Relief Mission, we have had 5 YPT pioneers volunteer to join our team and several donors commit money to our efforts. Thank you to everyone that has shared our link or contacted us. We need to keep it going. We are looking for more donations to help us buy supplies in China before we head over. If you can help let us know. email chris@youngpioneertours.com for more information and ways to donate. Thanks guys you are the best!!!!


Renovated Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum And Pueblo

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Downed American aircraft at the new Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

In 2012 Marshall Kim Jong Un declared the need to renovate the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, as well as overhaul and move the American spy ship Pueblo for the 2013 commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Victory Day. Over this last year both sites were closed to tourism, and although I missed the grand opening and festivities for the 60th anniversary of Victory Day, I was able to visit both sites on my October 2013 DPRK trip.

Visitors now start their museum experience with a walk through the Monument to Victorious War statue park. Flanking these statues is a mock trench system leading the way to an outside gallery showcasing old American hardware: all the captured/destroyed tanks and downed airplanes which had been previously housed in the old museum basement.

Fresh from a dry dock overhaul, the Pueblo has been moved from the Taedong River into a dedicated basin adjacent the captured American hardware. The Pueblo visit includes a ship tour and a viewing of the standard propaganda video about the capture.

From the Pueblo visitors are taken to the new war museum; unfortunately no interior photos allowed. On entering visitors pay their respects and bow to a wax statue of Eternal President Kim Il Sung. The statue so remarkably resembles his grandson, Marshal Kim Jong Un, that local guides explain to visitors the distinction. The new museum is world class (although through a North Korean historical viewpoint) with modern galleries, displays, dioramas, and walkthrough environments of urban and countryside battle sites. After touring the new museum and a break at a modern cafe, visitors pass through a walkway gallery leading to the refurbished 360 degree revolving battlefield diorama. The diorama has been outfitted with a new light and video/lazer show overlay, effectively bringing the Battle of Taejon to life. The 360 degree battle diorama ends the visit.

Always an impressive site, the newly renovated Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum is now a true highlight to any visit to Pyongyang!

Pics of the new Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and Pueblo:

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Teletubbies in North Korea

Teletubby Cup on the North Korean DMZ

Teletubby coffee mug on the North side of the DMZ – you never know what you will find in North Korea!


Moranbong Band

The Moranbong Band – Kim Jong-un’s hand picked all female band is currently all the rage in the DPRK. Check out the song Donsume starting 30:57 for the sexiest destruction of the USA imaginable.


New Instagram Pics

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Pyongyang traffic girl via Instagram.

For a quick look at my latest pics check out my Instagram feed.

Update: I’m here with CNN going on video in a few minutes.


Back From North Korea

DMZ North Korea

A North Korean Army Captain and myself three days ago on the North Korean side of the DMZ at Panmunjeom.

I just returned from North Korea on another amazing trip! I understand the world is freaking out, but from what I witnessed I believe war is NOT imminent. We saw the army planting trees and building houses, while the people of Pyongyang were busy overhauling the city sidewalks.

The Kim Il-sung birthday holiday season is coming up and I expect the bellicose rhetoric to soon ease – hopefully the American media can restrain its warmongering too.

Our guides were fantastic, food was great, but photography was difficult on this trip – don’t worry I still got a ton of fantastic pics with tons of content to come.

Update: I will be going on CNN in two hours – things are going crazy.


Return to the Kaeson Youth Park Fun Fair

In the Spring of 2012 I made a return trip to Pyongyang’s Kaeson Youth Park fun fair ; chilly nighttime weather meant less crowds and interactions with locals than on my first visit, but the experience was enjoyable  nonetheless.

I really only have new 2012 photos to add – I’m going to let my cometary from my 2011 visit tell the story.

Local North Koreans would wait hundreds in line for theses new modern rides. As visitors we paid in hard currency at a rate 35 x what the locals paid, at that price we got the privilege of jumping line and holding up the locals as we enjoyed as many repeat rides on the amusements as we wanted. We were told by our minders that the rides had all come from Italy – they were new and modern, and included old favorites such as bumper cars and the pirate ship swing ride, and new favorites like a lay down style roller coaster and the “Vominator”.

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean locals enjoy imported fun fair rides.

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean locals enjoy imported fun fair rides.

Pyongyang Kaeson Fun Fair

A nice view of the lay down roller coaster.

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

A quiet chilly spring night at the fun fair.

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

Bumper cars!

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

Bumper cars!

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

Old racing video game.

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

Coin op skeet shoot game.

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean boy and his mom in charge of an old video game.

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean boy in charge of an old video game.

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

Old racing video game.

Kaeson Fun Fair Pyongyang, North Korea

Old racing video game.

North Korean Fun Fair Food Stand

The burrito stand attendant.

In the end our Kaeson Youth Park Fun Fair escort served our group up a bill of over one hundred Euros. As I had seen elsewhere in North Korea, when hard currency is involved a fist full of dollars will get the job done, and our escort gladly accepted what we had with a smile. We never got to visit any of the old and decrepit fun fairs during our visit to North Korea. Some of the old fairs, such as the Mangyongdae, have games that feature the classic old US anti imperialist propaganda. Times are a changing and the most bizarre thing I saw at the new Kaeson Youth Park Fun Fair were booths serving up Mexican burritos.

The Kaeson fun fair was responsible for the creation of this blog – more accurately the use of my fun fair pictures under the creative commons license  in a sensationalized and entirely misinformed viral photo essay got me so upset that I decided to blog as accurate a portrayal of the North Korean tourist experience as honestly as I could.  I am truly amazed at how far this journey has taken me!


Tour Transnistria!

This fall I will be continuing my tour of countries that don’t actually exist with a visit to Transnistria while helping out on Young Pioneer Tour’s month long Eurasian Adventure Tour.

The journey there will be an epic two week adventure from Beijing to Moscow on the Trans Siberian Express, touring through Belarus and Chernobyl in the Ukraine, and finally spending a few days in Moldova, the only ex-Soviet republic to vote the communists back in!

Phil Le Gal visited Transnistria on one of Young Pioneer Tour’s Eurasian Adventure Tours.  He has graciously allowed me to share his photos and comments on the experience:

Only a couple of hours away from Europe’s biggest cities exist countries we know very little about.  Sitting between western and eastern Europe is Transnistria, the “Prydnistrovska Moldavska Respublika” (also called Trans-Dniestr or Transdniestria).  Tucked between Moldova and neighboring Ukraine, Transinistria is an unknown and officially non-existent territory.

After the fall of the USSR Transnistria found itself integrated to Moldova.  Transnistria proclaimed its independence in 1990 which led to the 1990-1992 independence war between the breakaway republic of Transnistria, backed by the Russia and the republic of Moldova.  Although the ceasefire has held, the territory’s political status remains unresolved.  The outcome of the war was the birth of the republic of Transnistria.

Transnistria is currently only recognized by three UN non-members: Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia, themselves part of the list of states with limited recognition and not recognized by the international community.  Transnistria has its own constitution, parliament, central bank and money (the transnistrian rubble), army, flag, national anthem, passports and even stamps.  Still it is officially considered as being part of the Moldovan territory.

The border between Moldova and Transnistria, although not recognized, is very real with several checkpoints from both Transinistrian and Moldavian guards.  The Prydnistrovska Moldavska Respublika boast many of the USSR relics, war memorials and soviet era style architecture.

Welcome to Transnistria, Europe’s forgotten country:

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A young Moldovan army recruit proudly guards the eternal flame at the war memorial Eternity.
It is dedicated to the soldiers who fell in World War II and the military conflict in Transnistria.

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The biggest statue of Vladimir Lenin outside Russia is displayed in front of the Transnistrian parliament. According to the 2006 referendum 97.2% of the population voted in favor of “independence from Moldova and free association with Russia”. EU and several other countries didn’t acknowledge these results.

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 A man is wearing a traditional costume.

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Tiraspol – Transnistria (Moldova). Entrance of Tiraspol’s central Pobedi Park (or “Victory” park) containing a 50′s style amusement park.

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Remains from the war, like this Russian MIG plane are left outside rusting.

All photos by Phil Le Gal.

Phil Le Gal is a French documentary photographer based in London UK specializing in photo documentary, reportage and portraiture.  He is passionate about stories, travels, revealing how others live, the contradictions and oddities of this world.  He is currently undertaking a Master in Photojournalism and Documentary photography at the London college of Communication.

You can get in touch with him here hi@phillegal.org or visit http://phillegal.org/
You can also find him on facebook : http://www.facebook.com/forceorange

Interested in joining me for the 2013 Eurasian Adventure Tour?  Email me at joseph@youngpioneertours.com and I will set you up with a 5% trip discount!