Traffic girlsSeptember 1, 2007
Caught a shift change
Today was another full day of touring. Woke up early again this morning to walk around outside the hotel. There was a stream running by that had amazingly clean clear water, the early morning air smelt fresh, quite refreshing! The DPRK is mostly an agricultural society, and a pre-industrial one at that... most of the work has to be done by hand since they are short of fuel and energy. There are corn and rice fields everywhere, but the yields are low. Most electricity here is generated by hydro or coal. Lack of industry and cars means there isn't much pollution (well, at least not that tourists would see). China is certainly much worse in this respect.
Our first stop this morning was the Buddhist temple; surprising in a communist country! But it has been here for 1000 or so years. The guide here spoke good English and she wore a bright pink traditional Korean dress! This is keeping with the theme I had noticed, all of the guides at the places we have visited have been women, all speak English and have either been in military uniform or traditional dress. The temple/gate guardians here
were painted in bright colors, one riding a white elephant. The temples here have a greenish grey color theme, compared with China which uses more red and yellow. The temple was in gorgeous setting, surrounded by mountains. There was a bush here carved in the rabbit shape of Korea.. all maps you see here show the two Koreas as united.
The International Friendship Exhibition is the next stop on our itinerary. This is a set of buildings built for the sole purpose of showing off all the gifts that have been received by the Dear and Great Leader by people around the world. The gifts range from extraordinary works of art (usually Chinese embroidery/jade carvings), to the bizzare (a stuffed crocodile barstand from the Sandanistas) to an ashtray from Jimmy Carter. There is Kim Il-Sung's train carriage, cars, etc. Kim Jong-Il's gifts tend to more mundane such as electronics or furniture. Each item is labeled in Korean, English, and the language of the country from where it was donated. Lots of gifts were Chinese and Middle Eastern (Pakistan, Syria, Iran) but they had room after room of gifts from pretty much every country; we only saw a small portion
apparently. We weren't allowed to take photos inside unfortunately. The whole building was built of marble, and quite cold inside! We also had to wear little booties over our shoes.. the LP book warns against the temptation to slide across the floor! :D
We went back to the Hangyang hotel for lunch before heading back to Pyongyang. Along the way we stopped by the side of the road for some photos. Our first stop once back in town was Kim Il Sung square; this is similar to Red Square in Moscow, used for military parades. We visited a bookshop and stamp store to shop for souvenirs. Everything here is priced in Euros for foreigners, although you can use US$. We never saw any of the local currency. After visiting the bookshop, we went for a ride on the Pyongyang Metro. I've been on the Moscow metro, which was built very deep in case of nuclear attack. The Pyongyang Metro is even deeper, and very similar to some Moscow stations. Huge chandeliers, lots of marble, etc. The map showed there were two lines, forming an X. We started at one end and were only allowed to ride until the next
stop. All of the metro cars had photos of the two Kims.
After the metro, we went to the Koryo hotel for drinks. The Koryo has two revolving restaurants up top, where we sat for awhile and watched the sunset. We weren't allowed to take photos from up here though. For dinner, we went back to the Yaggakdo hotel, which had opened up the revolving restaurant up top just for us! We made sure to celebrate, again drinking copious amounts of local beer! Though the stuff is weak enough to not get too tipsy. 😊
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