Chongjin City kindergarten performance – photo by Joseph A Ferris III
A trapeze artist prepares for the Pyongyang Military Circus finale – the inspiration for the film Comrade Kim Goes Flying?
Comrade Kim Yong Mi is a North Korean coal miner. Her dream of becoming a trapeze artist is crushed by the arrogant trapeze star Pak Jang Phil who believes miners belong underground and not in the air.
My friends at the Koryo Group continue showing the film around the world at select film festivals. Don’t miss it at the Sydney Film Festival, June 5th – 16th, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, June 19th – 30th.
With all the action just a blur I put my camera down to concentrate on enjoying the show; readers will just have to be content with more pics of the finale setup:
Girls share a seat on the Pyongyang Metro – photo by Joseph A Ferris III
I was reading last night that when western tourists are allowed into the subway system, there are North Korean citizens who have the job of dressing nice and riding the subway. That is all they do. Get off the train, head up the stairs, and immediately come back down to board the train. It makes the station seem busier and keeps up appearances.
I can’t believe this urban myth is still making the rounds! The Pyongyang metro is real and used by normal citizens to efficiently move around the city. Riding the metro as a foreigner is not the only way to interact with locals on a tour, but it is one of my favorite ways to do so.
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.
Propaganda art at the Rason SEZ shoe factory – unfortunately not for sale.
I have been reading through your website after a friend put the idea of a NK trip into my head. The idea of seeing NK before too much changes (example of Suddam’s Palace before his fall compared to after) just wont get out of my head. While there is surprisingly a lot of information about the tours on offer, various questions still elude me. Would you be able to do a detailed article on how to get the most out of a NK holiday? Maybe some of my questions are more suited to a private tour with friends which is why they don’t pop up as most tours seem to be group booking with random people. After going so many times, I couldn’t think of a better person to ask.
- How much should you tip a guide? Some websites are saying up to 10 euro per guide per day from each group member… that would make them extremely wealthy compared to he average NK citizen after only 1 tour? Do the guides keep the money or is it given to the government and they are paid a wage?
Our policy is to tip 7 Euro per day per participant of the tour (or equivalent in hard currency). The cash will be pooled together and split something like 40% – 40% – 20% between the two guides and driver. The money goes to the tourism workers, guides, and driver, and is not handed over to the government.
Yes, access to hard currency does make the guides wealthy in the DPRK, but remember that money will be spread out and shared between the guide’s extended family and their networks of support. The wage paid by the government for the guiding job is negligible.
- How much cash do you need, some people say 200-300 euro others up to thousands. Besides tips and extra food/alcohol and small but expensive souvenirs, what else can I buy? And realistically how much per day should I plan to have to spend including tipping?
For a seven day trip based in Pyongyang 400 dollars should be adequate. Of course there are no banks or ATM machines so I always play it safe and bring more than I need. If you really love propaganda art perhaps consider bringing more, hand painted posters cost around 60 Euros, hand embroidered masterpieces start around 200 Euros. Also consider your price for the Arirang Mass Games ticket if you go in late summer/fall, and don’t forget your tip!
- Everything is in Euros and they say ‘have lots of small denominations.’ How small? what is the average price of items I would be spending money on? Do I need 50 Euro in small coins or are we talking 1 euro plus to buy anything?
Actually USD, Euro, and RMB are all acceptable. Small bills are helpful – don’t come with a single 500 euro bill, nobody will break it. Bills below the 50 denomination will be the most useful. When spending hard currency be prepared to receive mixed change, perhaps it could come in a mix of Euro coins and small RMB bills.
Things you might spend small bills on: an extra coffee in the morning or after lunch, a game of pool or bowling, a beer or two at night, sending postcards, bottled water…..
- In one of your articles is says that you gave the guide several euros to buy more beer. How accepted is this practice? Would they be able to get you other things not normally provided? Traditional meals from local restaurants? Memorabilia that isn’t sold in a government run tourist stand?
Using hard currency and having our guide get beers at local cost was a special circumstance, I wouldn’t normally expect it. You might be able to have them get you ice cream or other local treats, just ask and see, but unfortunately all sit down meals will be at authorized tourism restaurants. It is possible to order extra food off the menu but the cost will be out of your pocket and in hard currency.
- How can you get the guide to allow more time for photos or other small side deviations? (if there was a nice park and you wanted to stop and take some photos but it wasn’t on the itinerary).
Easiest way to get this accomplished is to act as a responsible visitor and respect their photography rules and customs. When you gain their trust it’s much more likely your guides will accommodate a request to stop and check out a passing site.
- Taking home a piece of art would be high on my list of things to do. Where would this be available? Is there local art of personal expression or is it controlled art by the government? Again is this something the guide would need to source?
Not on many tour itineraries I would try to get your guide to fit in a trip to the embroidery institute. It is possible to commission work there, or you can browse through their showroom. Also mention to your western guide your interest in art so they can work early on to ensure stops at showrooms and galleries are including in the itinerary.
- Are there stores that would have antique items for sale, old books or small items that would make a unique gift, rather than a commemorative pin or stamps? Again is this something the guide would need to source?
I have not seen anything like this, and while possible, acquiring antiques is only done by a few people with long and developed relationships and after many return visits.
- When attending the Mass Games, is there any advantage (photography wise) to purchasing a much more expensive seat? Is there 220 euro better photos in VIP section compared to 80 euro standard seat if you have a good camera and quality lens?
I have only been to Arirang Mass Games once and consider my 150 Euro 1st class seat to be completely adequate. We had a table which was perfect for a small pocket tripod (they don’t like large pro tripods). You have a great view wherever you sit. If you go for the 80 Euro third class section consider bringing a monopod.
- You mentioned at night there is only bars and theme parks to go to. Can you bar hop from hotel to hotel until closing time? Possibly to meet up with other tour groups?
If you want to go out at night take a close look at the itineraries offered by tour companies. My company (Young Pioneer Tours) routinely offers nightly visits to the various drinking venues, but bar hopping really isn’t an option. The majority of tour groups will be based at the Yanggakdo Hotel, with the best place to mingle with other groups being the hotel’s microbrewery bar.
- Are the women working in the hotels, as guides or ones you can interact with all married? If not what is the etiquette for social interaction? Are they banned from physical interaction with westerners after hours? (obviously not talking about prostitution as that is illegal, free will interaction) I wouldn’t want to offend anyone the same way you wouldn’t ask a woman in Muslim country as it is not socially/religiously acceptable.
No, they are not all married, some are single, and some are dating. Interacting with people in the tourism industry is fine, you can invite the girl that works at the Viennese coffee shop to play foosball, or have a dance with a BBQ waitress, but these interactions will be part of their workday and any meeting up with an off duty girl is impossible – as is any type of intimate interaction.
Your female tour guide will probably have a beer with the group after hours at one of the hotel bars, but please be aware of the situation, often the DPRK guides can be seen meeting up with long time friends and enjoying some quiet time after a long day – drunken tour members crashing their private time is not particularly welcome but a common scene.
- There is a lot of talk about local beer (I am not a beer drinker), do they have local spirits? (excluding rice based alcohol) Whiskey?
I’m a beer and wine guy myself; I have seen some imported whiskeys available, but I suggest you bring in your own bottle from Chinese duty free. There is absolutely no problem with BYO in DPRK. Local spirits besides soju include blueberry and apricot wines, and various snake liqueurs.
- Do you have any recommendation for non itinerary items you can suggest to the guides on a standard 7 day tour? Seeing a sporting, art or cultural event. Do you need to tip to get these added on for the day or only pay entry to the event (if required).
You just need to enquire what is happening in Pyongyang during you stay, it is possible for the guides to arrange a visit to the circus, dolphin show, revolutionary opera, sports events, pizza restaurant, shooting range, or maybe even the Moranbong Band concert. These activities are not held on a daily basis, cost extra, and your entire group will need to agree on making the activity. I would suggest approaching your western guide to help setup any extra activities.
Sorry I know the list is long, but I tried to make it concise. I feel the above would really help anyone seriously considering going to NK and help in the planning process. Your site and views on NK was inspiring, to be able to show the unbiased beauty of a country with so much negative press is a rare talent, keep up the good work.
Hanging out with the Pyongyang lamb BBQ girls.
Im off to Pyongyang tomorrow to lead a Young Pioneer Tours group on the first ever North Korean fishing trip. This will be my last DPRK trip of the season – wish us good weather, good photography, and hungry fish!
I’m back to the ship June 8th, hopefully then I can settle down and get caught up on all the photos and blogging. My next vacation will be in the fall. I already have some ideas for Oct. DPRK trips, if interested plus send me an email.
Heading into the Rason Special Economic Zone of North Korea. Visas are not required but travel permits are – above are our permissions.
Painting of the North Korea’s recent successful missile launch at a Chongjin Kindergarten.
Propaganda? Or a celerbrarion of a milestone in North Korea’s technological advancement?
In my Kim Jong-il suit at the Taedonggang Craft Brewery Bar.
On my March 30th- April 6th, 2013 trip I brought in Josh Thomas, a craft beer expert living and working as an expat in Hong Kong. This spring trip was customized for Josh’s Easter Holiday with a special itinerary designed around his passion, craft beer. After the trip I asked Josh to comment on his experiences with the North Korean brews he sampled, and the various venues we visited:
Josh Thomas and Ms Yu enjoy draft beers at the bar of the Yanggakdo Hotel Microbrewery.
You approached me to arrange a trip to DPRK with a focus on beer and nightlife. As a craft beer expert did the DPRK live up to your expectations?
It absolutely did! It actually far surpassed it. Like many things about North Korea, there wasn’t much information available about what the drinking culture was like there, but what I did know was that Koreans, North and South, love to socialize over alcohol and the rumor was that North Korean beer far surpassed the quality of South Korean beer. With the exception of a small number of American-style craft breweries in Seoul, this was 100% true! North Koreans do much more with much less and really seem to embrace the idea of experimenting with their brews. I fully believe that beer, being the one beverage found around the entire world, is a great unifier among all cultures. For me, as a home brewer and overall global beer nerd, I knew it would be one cultural aspect that I would share with the North Koreans. And it was true! Nothing was more special on this trip than the smiles shared over a beer, comparing and critiquing the beers, and talking about the differences between American beers and North Korean beers. There is no propaganda over beer, just real conversation, smiles, and drunken stumbles back to our respective rooms. And yes, North Koreans get hung over too.
We visited a lot of venues and drank a lot of beer on the trip, where were your favorites and why?
The best beers we sampled were found at the Paradise Microbrewery. Quite an interesting find in North Korea, it seems to operate as a highly independent brewing company, outside the confines of the state brewing Taedonggang Brewery. Unfortunately the brewer was not around when we visited, and the bartenders knew very little about beer and wouldn’t let us visit the back where the beer is made, but whoever made the beer seemed highly knowledgeable about beer. In my opinion the Paradise Pale Ale was the best beer of the trip!
Beers on tap at the Paradise Microbrewery bar.
Without a doubt the best venue was Yanggakdo Hotel. Not necessarily because they were my favorite beer we sampled, but because I was able to meet the brewer and even visit the microbrewery where they made the beers. It was a bit sad to see eight 25 gallon fomenters when there was no chance of them using more than one at a time due to the famine, but the smile on the young lady brewmasters face when I told her that I thought she had the best job in North Korea was the most heartwarming moment of the trip for me.
Josh Thomas and Jordan Harbinger visit the Yanggakdo Hotel Microbrewery.
Tell me about the craft beer served and the venues at the Yanggakdo Hotel, the Paradise Micro Brewery, and Taedonggang Brewery Bar.
Beer in Asia, recently imported American-style craft breweries aside, is largely based on American-German style pale lagers. These beers, like Tsing Tao in China, OB in South Korea, and Asahi in Japan are roughly similar to the American-German pale lagers like Budweiser, Coors, and Miller. Fine for a hot day when you need a cold beverage, but not something I’d choose first – I said I’m a beer nerd, not a beer snob, I will drink a Tsing Tao on occasion, as I live in Hong Kong! I’d much rather enjoy a Harpoon IPA or Mikkeller Hop Bomb Challenge given the choice!
Interestingly enough, economic sanctions in DPRK have lead to an entirely different tradition of brewing, not found elsewhere in Asia. Electrical shortages, causing unexpected and spontaneous power outages, mean that the refrigeration required for lagers is simply impossible. Budweiser-style, largely tasteless, lagers such as is popular in South Korea (OB and Hite) simply cannot be brewed. As a result, North Korean beer is ironically a “steam beer”, the only type of beer invented in the United States. A “steam beer” (better known in the United States from the brand Anchor Steam) is simply a lager brewed at Ale temperatures giving increased flavor, a pronounced bitterness, and a greater body. Crazier still was their affinity for stouts and porters in the DPRK, serving us elegant Coffee Porters and Chocolate Stouts. Their own discovery and version of a Pale Ale was astounding considering the lack of formal brewing training available to the budding brewmasters. Speaking with one of these brewmasters at the Yanggakdo Hotel, I encouraged her to try brewing an American-style India Pale Ale, if she was able to get the hops imported. If I learned anything from the North Koreans, however, is that they make do with what they have. I’d love to try her result!
Taedonggang Craft Brewery Bar Pyongyang, North Korea.
Taedonggang Craft Brewery Bar Pyongyang, North Korea.
Taedonggang Craft Brewery Bar Pyongyang, North Korea.
Taedonggang Craft Brewery Bar Pyongyang, North Korea.
Tell me about your experiences in the more local venues?
Well I’m a bit of a cynic. Some of the local experiences I truly believe were local. Some of the experiences I think might have had some actors planted to stand between the tourists and the real locals. The diplomatic club and the clam bake in particular were great local experiences. It was amazing to see some Koreans finally ‘let their hair down’ so to speak, and stop being mascots for their country, and start being real people. Over the Nampo Hot Spring Hotel clam bake I got to know our bus driver, Mr Lee. It was over this meal, while he poured petrol over live clams, blowing out his bottle when it caught fire, and downing huge amounts of “Pyongyang Vodka”, a 40% alcohol form of Soju, that I really became friends with this quiet and unspoken man. He was unbelievably friendly and never stopped smiling and really seemed to love hanging out with us whenever he could. He, more than anyone else, became my true friend while in the country. What surprised me the most was that he quietly told me that he used to be a soldier in the North Korean People’s Army. Its hard to wrap your mind around, as an American, this short, quiet, and friendly man was once a soldier in the army we seem to most fear in the west.
What was your favorite experience of the trip that was not related to drinking?
Undoubtedly the petrol clambake. Part of traveling around the world for me is trying local foods. North Korea, in the midst of a famine, doesn’t necessarily have “local” foods that they would be comfortable offering to foreigners without being embarrassed. Much of our food was simply iconic Korean foods such as kimchee, banchans, and prawn pancakes. The petrol clambake, however, was fully North Korean. Like much I saw in North Korea, they used unconventional means to solve problems by themselves. No charcoal or wood to bake clams? No problem. Just douse them in gasoline! Most people would think they clams would come out tasting of fuel, but I’m happy to announce that they were actually delicious. Fresh, clean, and tasting of nothing but clam!
Nampo Hot Spring Hotel petrol clam bake.
Would you go back? Suggest others to travel there?
I certainly would! Actually, I think the second trip would only be more fun than the first. Like anyone on their first trip to North Korea I was quite a bit scared going in. However, the nerves quickly dissipate when you meet your amazing guides and realize that you’re going to be just fine, but I can only imagine that a more relaxed mood going in will only enhance my second trip. I would highly advise anyone who can should organize their own trip and choose their own itinerary. To get the most out of a trip to North Korea, find an interest of your own that you can mirror in the North Koreans. They’re not the Taliban and they enjoy having a good time with any number of western things. If you’re a surfer, organize a surfing trip in North Korea. If you’re a chef, organize a local food tour. If you’re a cinema fanatic, get yourself into the Pyongyang International Film Festival! The options are literally endless and by organizing a tour that matches your own interests, you will get a greater insight into the culture and country.
Josh Thomas and a commander on the North Korea DMZ.
Cell phones in North Korea remain popular as ever; our waitress at the Kaesong Folk Hotel bar receives a wireless call.
Land lines still exist, are used, and give the moment captured a classic retro feel.
With her calls finished, and in between serving us traditional blueberry liqueur, our waitress poses for a classic portrait shot.
Clam BBQ cooked by a sprinkling of lighted gasoline in Nampo, North Korea – eat your heart out Anthony Bourdain!
The petrol clam BBQ is an activity I have always wanted to do but have had difficulty arranging until now. During certain times of the year the water is too polluted to safely eat the clams. The activity is also dependent on arriving early enough in Nampo to arrange a fresh batch of clams to be bought from the local fisherman.
Only the West Coast clams of Nampo can be eaten his way. These clams don’t open up when cooked, allowing minimal gasoline to seep into the tasty bits. To make sure everything is safe to consume our North Korean guides insist on a large supply of soju and rice liquor to wash everything down with.
I started playing with my photos on Instagram – you can follow me @josephferrisiii
Below are some of my favorite pics:
US spy ship Pueblo guide.
View of Pyongyang and Juche Tower.
Walking home in rural North Korea.
Kim Il-sung Square Pyongyang.
Mass dance held in Pyongyang.
Pyongyang subway signal girl.
Smile and peace sign in Wonsan, North Korea.
A nice write up about me in Business Insider:
Joseph Ferris doesn’t want to settle down.
Ferris earned himself a US Coast Guard 3rd Mate Unlimited license from Maine Maritime Academy, and took a job on a global class research ship.
There was just one problem: the job was seven months on with five months vacation.
“While on the ship, room and board goes with the job; I found keeping an apartment and all the trappings of a settled life is a waste of money,” Ferris told Business Insider.
So he took another job, as a tour guide … in North Korea.
I leave for my first spring trip out of a possible 5 visits to North Korea on March 30th; I will be live blogging there on the new Koryolink 3G network. Remember to not only follow me here on WordPress, but also live from North Korea on Twitter @JosephFerrisIII, Facebook, and Instagram (coming soon).
This fall I will be helping out on YPT’s Eurasian Adventure Tour!
Beijing – Moscow – Minsk – Kiev – Chernobyl – Transnistria – Chisinau – Bucharest – Sofia – Macedonia – Kosovo – Tirana
Group 1 (Beijing – Moscow) = €695
Group 2 (Moscow – Minsk – Kiev)= €255 / 950
Group 3 (Kiev – Pripya – Kiev) = €349 / 1299
Group 4 (Kiev – Odessa – Transnistria – Moldova – Romania) = €249 /1548
Group 5 (Bucharest – Sofia – Skopje – Kosovo – Tirana) = €350 / 1898
Quite frankly one of our favorite tours, our third annual Eurasian Adventure Tour!
The tour starts in Beijing, with an overnight stay and optional visit to the Mausoleum of Chairman Mao, before embarking on the 6 day epic that is the Trans-Mongolian, or the “party train” as it also known. We already have a number of people signed up for this part, so if you are considering taking the train anyway, why not join us fun young people?
Following our arrival in Moscow we start to fully embrace Soviet nostalgia, by visiting all of Moscow’s top sites, before taking the train to the most Soviet of all republics Belarus, and it’s capital Minsk, where we will be seeing such treasures as the former residence of Lee Harvey-Oswald, as well as staying in our own little pimping apartment.
This leads us on to group 3, our big group, where we will be visiting not only Pripyat (Chernobyl), but also doing the extreme missile base tour, as well as sampling the night time delights on a bar crawl. Accommodation? Old style Soviet Hotel, complete with rude staff, peeling wallpaper, and more corruption than you can shake a sickle at.
After group 3 leave us in Kiev, group 4 continue firstly to Odessa, then onto Tiraspol, capital of the breakaway republic of Transnistria. If you do not know anything about the place, Google it. And if you want off the beaten track this is it. There is one hostel in the whole country, and we are the first group to ever inquire about going there. A true Soviet Time-warp. Following a few nights here, we visit Moldova, the only ex-Soviet republic to vote the communists back in! Before taking the overnight bus to Bucharest, which as a flight hub, and will make it easier to arrange onward flights.
Group 5 completes the full communist chic element, with us visiting the former homes of Ceausescu, Tito, and Hoxxa, via Romania, Macedonia and Albania, as well as visiting the contemporary hot spots that are Mitrovice, and Kosovo, before finishing in Albania, which has ferry, road, and air links to aid your onward journey.
YPT are all about budget, and this tour is by no means any different, many companies, charge over 1000 Euro just for the trans-Mongolian, or 250 Euro just for a day at Pripya, we have managed to budget the whole thing, Beijing – Tirana, over 26 barmy days, to just €1898, all in. With the tour being split into 5 manageable parts, each part is completely optional, with guests having full autonomy to do any part they fancy, from just 1, to all 5
Join me for one leg, or for the entire crazy journey – email me at email@example.com for a trip discount!
Tirana, Albania – from my travels 10 years ago.
Intranet computer room at the Nampo Chollima Steelworks, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris
I was looking for this pic during the week when the Google visit went viral; found it in one of my Facebook North Korean albums – I drive myself crazy sometimes!
A question from the interview:
I saw a short video online made by a guy who visited North Korea back in 2011. The video is shot like it’s hidden in his jacket or something. It seems like you were just freely taking pictures. How were you able to do that? Is it a misconception that photos and video aren’t allowed in North Korea?
There are quite a few sensationalized videos out there and I think they present an entirely wrong impression of what the tourist experience in the DPRK is all about. There are some photography rules, but when the North Korean guides see that the group is diligent about following those rules they tend to relax and let everyone have some photography freedom. It helps that I keep my groups relatively small and manageable at around 10 people. With a group that size we can really develop a positive relationship, developing an optimum situation where the guides feel secure and in control enough to let us enjoy more freedom while not feeling that we are putting them at risk.
Conversely I have witnessed a full tour bus of about 30 camera touting foreigners clearly disregarding the photography rules within the first couple hours of their trip. The North Korean guides are responsible for the rules broken by the tourists under their care, and this group’s North Korean guides were clearly upset. The remedy to these situations is easy, punish the tour group by restricting access to sites. That group was allowed to drive to sites but only got to visit the parking lots. We saw them restricted to the bus at the Hamhung fertilizer plant, a site where we were given full and unrestricted photography access.
The Q & A above allows me the opportunely to highlight a few photos from my experience with the tour group that lost its access to sites over its disregard to the photography rules.
Both tour group crossed the West Sea Barrage on the same morning. The above photo shows the entrance to the eight-kilometer-long road crossing – this is a perfectly acceptable photo.
There were amazing photography opportunists as both buses got stuck in the midst of a crowd of North Korean locals on bicycles; barrage road transportation was delayed as ships passed through the locks. We were directed not take pictures at this time, we didn’t. Those on the other bus did and lost access to other sites because of it.
Locals waiting for ships to pass through the locks – I took the above photo from the West Sea Barrage visitors center on the hill above, we were not prohibited to take photos from there.
We later met the other tour group at the Hamhung Fertilizer Plant. We were granted full access to the site. The other group never developed their relationship with their guides and were restricted to the bus and not allowed to take photos.
Below are more photos from our visit to the Hamhung Fertilizer Plant:
A painting of North Korean fisherman, Pyongyang Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea.
The managing director and owner of Young Pioneer Tours and myself are teaming up to guide the first ever North Korean fishing trip!
The details are still being worked out but the highlights will include:
Fishing on the banks of the Taedong River
Fishing on a boat in the Taedong river
Fishing in the Sijung Lagoon
BBQ Seafood lunch on Wonsan beach
Fishing in East Sea from Jangdok Island
BBQ clams on the Wonsan pier
Visit Pyongyang’s New Dolphinarium
Afternoon of Golf
In addition to knocking back a few beers and fishing with North Korean old timers, we will be visiting the classic Pyongyang, Kaesong, and Wonsan sites, including a visit to the the Mausoleum for a viewing of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung.
Be part of something never done before, but we need interest to make it happen!
We are looking to make this a two part trip:
Option A: fishing trip to the Rason Special Economic Zone, May 8th – 11th -more info on this trip to come!
Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!
Fishing boat, Wonsan, North Korea.
Boys fishing off the docks, Wonsan, North Korea.
Boys fishing off the docks , Wonsan, North Korea.
I calculate having traveled to 95 countries (I used higher standards on the count than the Century Club accepts its members by).
I expect to visit my 100th country at some point this year; I have no idea what country it will be, but whoever is the first to make the correct guess by leaving a comment on this post will win a North Korean stamp book and other prizes from the DPRK.
Make a guess and win a book of stamps like the one above!
The North Korean Economy Watch recently did some detective work to track down the missing USS Pueblo.
USS Pueblo on the Taedong River April 2012 – photo by Joseph A Ferris III
As a Master Mariner Unlimited who has been on the Pueblo twice, my opinion is that this ship will never sail again under its own power. They may have knocked a little rust off the hull and given her a new paint job, but I’m with all my contacts in the North Korean tourism industry and believe she has been moved to the Homeland Liberation Museum.
The Homeland Liberation Museum is currently closed to tourists too. I’m bringing a big policy expert and war historian buff in on my May tour, his dream is to see the USS Pueblo – hopefully some “gifts” will get us in for a photo op even if the Pueblo and Homeland Liberation Museum are still closed.
The Pueblo and the Homeland Liberation Museum are due to be open for tours again in July.
My look behind the scenes of the DPRK tourist experience wouldn’t be complete without introducing the famous singing and dancing waitresses of the Pyongyang lamb BBQ restaurant. The girls are also available for catering; long time readers might have seen them cooking and dancing at the Mt Taesong Amusement park in my Ultimate Frisbee tournament post.
Cute, flirty, and always ready for a little dancing, relaxing with these girls is always a highlight of any trip to Pyongyang (at least for the guys) – they serve up one of Pyongyang’s tastiest lunches too!
Being now focused on filling spots for my big May trip (the April tour is pretty much booked), I thought it might be valuable to show a little of the fun and behind the scenes action from my past visits. If you are familiar with my gun range and Ultimate Frisbee posts than you already know my tours are about more than just being bused around different monument and museum sites – we like to party too!
Almost all of the photos posted and linked below are what I had considered Facebook pics. Overlooked and neglected by this blog for too long, I think they fit in perfectly with this post. I hope you enjoy them and the behind the scenes insights they share.
More pics linked below!
The view of the Pacific Ocean from my stateroom porthole this morning reminded me of the calm seas off the city of Wonsan where this traditional North Korean fishing boat works.
After 4 months of duty as a Chief Mate on a scientific research ship voyaging on expeditions from Chile, Galapagos, and out of Southern California, I made my final arrival this morning and have officially started 3 months of vacation! I fly back to Maine to visit my family for two weeks, and then start the real adventure: two and a half months traveling around the Netherlands, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Malta, Iran, Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia, Turkey, and Lebanon.
North Korea isn’t in the itinerary this time around, maybe in 2013, but I’m excited to make a visit to Iran. A little less strict than the DPRK, Americans are still required to have a guide there. I’m going with the owner of Young Pioneers, a tour company that specializes in trips to the DPRK and other hard to reach places. This is their 2nd trip into Iran, and after hearing stories about their first trip over beers at the Pyongyang micro brewery, I decided this trip was a must if my schedule could work it.
Expect a page here in the future with pics and a travel log from this Fall 2012 adventure!
Thanks to Cyrus Kirkpatrick who put together this video from our Spring 2012 DPRK trip.