Travel to North Korea

What It’s Like To Travel To North Korea

Derek North Korea 189 Comments

Travel to North Korea

If I was going to win, I needed to knock down at least five pins. I grabbed the least heavy of the concrete-like balls, all of which weighed more than any other I’ve ever used, stuck my fingers into the misaligned holes and stood up straight, taking as deep a breath as I could. I moved forward with a few short steps, extended my arm and released the ball, just watching it roll away, completely blocking out the noise of the dozens of other bowling balls rolling down the lanes all around me. And I nailed it, scoring an eight, enough to give me the victory over the two Danish guys and one American that I had been playing against.

I turned around and pumped my fist high in the air in celebration and then I glanced to the left and to the right, taking in the scene around me. Never in my life would I have thought I’d be bowling at a jam-packed bowling center called the Gold Lanes, in downtown Pyongyang, North Korea.

Bowling at Pyongyang Gold Lanes, North Korea

I never really had an interest in visiting North Korea. Knowing full well about their repressive regime, as well as the fact that travelers must join an organized tour group in order to visit, simply led me to believe that such a trip was not for me. And then, back in June, just a couple of short months ago, I met two travelers who had been on one of those tours and who recommended that I reconsider. They told me that such a trip would not be what I expected and that going there had much more value than I ever imagined, both for the traveler and for the local people.

So I did some more research on the ethical considerations about such a trip, which I’ll write more about soon, found some time in my schedule and decided I was going to North Korea.

Seven weeks later I flew to Beijing, attended the tour orientation at the Koryo Tours office and met the group of thirty or so fellow travelers from around the world who I would be traveling with. The next morning we all boarded Air Koryo flight JS322 for our journey to Pyongyang.

(After extensive research, I decided to contact Koryo Tours, which is the largest of the tour companies that offer trips to North Korea. Their reputation was excellent and after a lengthy Skype conversation with their General Manager, I was confident this was the company I should work with.)

Not At All What I Expected

Those two travelers I met in June were absolutely correct. It’s not what you expect when you travel to North Korea.

I’ll tell you now that you’ll be quite disappointed if you believe that everyone you’ll meet in the country is a government-appointed actor playing the role of a ‘normal person’ or that you won’t be able to talk to anyone apart from your government-appointed guides or that you won’t be able to take photographs or that all of your belongings will be thoroughly searched when you enter and exit the country or that you’ll have no freedom of movement whatsoever. You’ll also be disappointed if you think that all North Koreans have no idea of what is happening in the outside world.

None of that is the case.

In fact, apart from a standard x-ray screening of your luggage upon arrival at the Pyongyang Airport, the authorities there don’t care what you bring in. You can bring your mobile phone (and can even buy a local SIM card to call friends and family back home), laptop, iPad, iPod, Kindle or anything else you wish. Nobody goes through your stuff when you arrive.

As for there being actors in the streets, well, that’s not true either and for those who think you won’t be able to interact with everyday people during the trip, let me tell you that you can interact with and talk to whoever you want and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so. You can go up to anyone on the street, in the parks, on the metro, at the hotel, in the restaurants, at the bars (yes, you do visit some bars during the trip), in the main squares, at the monuments or anywhere else you happen to be and you can ask any questions you want. Sure, the level of English is not very high among the majority of the people and the answers you’ll often receive are a product of the endless propaganda that North Koreans are fed, but regardless, you’ll end up communicating and laughing and joking around with more people than you would think. Nobody, not even your guide, will restrict you from talking to anyone you come across.

Rebirth Metro Station, Pyongyang, North Korea

Riding the metro in Pyongyang

Koreans at the Fun Fair, Pyongyang, North Korea

And do you know what I discovered? North Koreans know who Adam Sandler is, they know who David Beckham is, they watch BBC and American movies and they know about the situation in Egypt and they know what life is like in the US and Europe. Not all North Koreans have access to this information of course, but before my trip I was under the impression that none of them had such access. One evening, our bus turned a corner in central Pyongyang and there was a massive television screen in a public square showing a European football (soccer) match, with hundreds of people sitting around enjoying the game. While in the Grand People’s Study House, an educational center of sorts, Beatles songs could be heard playing on the stereo in one of the classes. Access to the outside world might be limited but these days, it’s impossible to restrict it completely, and in some cases, it’s openly allowed.

As our guide said, this is not the 1930s anymore. North Koreans don’t believe that life inside their country is paradise and that the rest of the world lives in misery. They know that life is different outside.

And in terms of photographs, I took over 1800 photos during my five days in the country. You can basically take photographs/video of anything you want. There were a couple of places, such as the mausoleum of the late Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, where you are not allowed to bring your camera, but there are certain places in every country where that’s the case. Whether you’re wandering around Pyongyang or at the DMZ, the demilitarized zone at the border with South Korea (see the second photo below), or at that bowling center or fun fair or on the metro or strolling through the parks or even while riding through the countryside or visiting towns such as Kaeson, you can snap photos of everything you want for the most part, with the main exception being checkpoints and soldiers on duty (although several soldiers did pose for photos).

Statues of North Korean Leaders, Pyongyang

DMZ - Border between South & North Korea

View of Countryside, North Korea

Also, contrary to popular belief, your photos are not checked when you leave the country either. Nobody goes through your memory card to make sure that you only took photos of things you are allowed to take photos of, probably because, again, you are generally allowed to take photos of almost anything.

While it is true that you must follow the itinerary set up by the state-controlled tourism agency, Korea International Travel Company, when you travel to North Korea, it is not as if you must march around the country in a single file line all the time, without any freedom of movement whatsoever. You may roam off on your own at times (you can’t disappear for long periods of time but you can definitely stray from the group) and nobody is going to follow, or arrest, you.

Mansudae Art Theater, Pyongyang, North Korea

At the Moranbong Park, which we visited on Liberation Day, a national holiday that celebrates North Korea’s liberation from the Japanese, I wandered off at one point and ended up meeting dozens of locals who were cooking food, drinking beer and dancing together. There were families and groups of friends everywhere and we exchanged handshakes, some basic conversation and plenty of smiles. I also wandered off at the ‘Fun Fair’ amusement park to go search for some ice cream and I was allowed to walk around the entire place on my own and interact with anyone. Even in central Pyongyang, nobody was going to tackle me when I walked alone to the far corner of Kim Il-sung Square, about 500 meters away from the group or when I left one of the restaurants after lunch and walked up and down the streets outside for twenty minutes. I even managed to walk down a random street by myself and snap a photograph of the Romanian Embassy and at one point, I wandered away from the Monument to Party Founding (see below) and went down the road a bit without anyone noticing at all.

Monument to Founding of Party, Pyongyang

Before the trip, I was under the impression that I would be watched everywhere I went, but as proved to be true on so many occasions, that was not the reality in the end.

I Am No Fool

While all of the above is what I experienced, and my experiences were so very different to what I had expected, let me state that I am in no way naïve. I am aware that what I saw of North Korea was a tiny, tiny slice of that country and what I learned was also only a tiny, tiny piece of the truth. I didn’t get taken to the remote, and poorest areas of the country, and I certainly was not invited to visit a prison camp either. I did not, in any way whatsoever, receive a full picture of what life is like in this country. That I understand.

Kaeson, North Korea

I know full well that North Koreans suffer tremendously under a repressive regime, that prison camps do exist, that the living conditions in the countryside are far worse than what I can imagine, that brutal police checks, lack of permission to move around, shockingly low salaries, electricity cuts, non-existent healthcare and so much more is what so many North Koreans must deal with on a daily basis. I know all of that.

And I saw hints of it as well.

Despite what I’ve written so far, something definitely still felt odd while in this country. Something just didn’t seem right no matter where we went. Yes, North Koreans were bowling and dancing and working and laughing and talking to us foreigners and all that, but I can’t deny that almost everyone I did encounter, to some extent, seemed to clearly know their place in the system. Nobody spoke against the regime of course, although some locals did laugh or shrug their shoulders in a ‘what can I say, that’s what we learn’ kind of manner when confronted with an inconsistency between the propaganda and reality of the world outside, and there was a definite lack of free thought or creativity in daily life. Everyone’s movements seemed too orderly, too conservative, too much like the movements of people who had no choice but to accept their situation and who feared the consequences of trying to change it.

Leaders of North Korea, Pyongyang

Back to the propaganda for a moment. It pervades almost every aspect of life in this country and the amount of it, whether on display on large signs throughout Pyongyang, in North Korean films, on television, as part of everyone’s education, in theater performances and cultural events, books, newspapers, music and more, is unreal. The propaganda tends to focus on anti-US (the Imperialist Aggressors) and anti-Japanese themes, on racial pride, the importance of the military and the need to show devotion towards the state. We would often listen to our guides talk about the North Korean version of the Korean War (which is the only version for them) and about the brilliant ideas and philosophy of the “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung and “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il every single day, which showed how deeply this propaganda machine works.

Propaganda in Pyongyang

Propaganda in Pyongyang 2

Metro station propaganda in Pyongyang

There is plenty of inconsistency in all the propaganda of course but it all goes completely unnoticed, or at least that’s how it appears. The tales of their leaders often involve such ideal stories, such as the belief that Kim Jong-il was born in a house on the most sacred of mountains, Mount Baekdu, when official records (not the ‘official records’ later created) show he was born in Russia. The museums and monuments that are constantly being built or renovated are so elaborate and cost so much money yet everyone is so very proud of them all, despite the fact that the money could have been used for better purposes, such as providing food to the poverty-stricken majority. That’s just a small sample and I’ll talk more about the propaganda in future posts, but let’s just say that there was plenty of head scratching on this trip by us foreigners.

But again, you would think that all this anti-US talk and other propaganda would lead to some unfriendly people who did not welcome foreigners into their country. Heck, you would think that if the US is actually the evil Imperial Aggressor, they wouldn’t let Americans travel to North Korea at all.

However, we are welcome, as is just about every other nationality, and almost everyone I met on the streets was more than friendly even after learning where I was from. Even many of the soldiers we encountered would smile and wave to us and shake our hands. Only one man, while in the mausoleum of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, hissed at us group of foreigners as he passed by. He literally made a face like a cat hissing and hissed loudly at us. That was the only negative reaction I noticed during my time in North Korea though, which was surprising considering their beliefs.

Leaving With More Questions Than When I Arrived

In the end, I traveled to a country that I believed would be much different than what I witnessed. This is still not a free country by any definition of that word, not even close, but I certainly didn’t expect to be shaking hands with soldiers, riding on the metro and joking around with schoolchildren, taking photographs of anything I wanted, dancing with locals in a park, drinking beer with North Koreans at a micro-brewery or joining in the celebrations when the girl in the next lane over bowled a strike for the first time.

Beer at Taedonggang Craft Brewery Bar, Pyongyang

Yes, you could argue that I ‘didn’t really see North Korea’, which I’m sure some of you will, but at the same time, what I saw, even if I was only allowed to see certain, controlled parts, was indeed North Korea.

And the above is my interpretation of what I experienced during my five-day trip to this mysterious country that only receives approximately 6,000 foreign visitors per year.

On the final morning of the tour, our bus pulled out of the hotel parking lot at 5:30am and headed off towards the airport, just as the first rays of light rose above Pyongyang. And as I stared out the window at the buildings and the empty streets, at the monuments and the city squares, at the massive statues and paintings of their leaders, I soon realized that I had come to North Korea with a handful of questions but was leaving the country with more questions than I could even count.

As a result, I’ll admit that what I’ve said above may very well be so far from the truth that this post is the biggest piece of rubbish I’ve ever written. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever know.

**The tour cost for my trip to North Korea was covered by Koryo Tours. However, I never accept such a deal if I am required, in any way, to write positively about any company, organization or experience. I will only take such a trip if I am free to write honestly and openly based on the actual experiences that I have. And I can honestly say that my experience with Koryo Tours was indeed a positive one, from the organization of the trip itself to every staff member I came across, and as a result, I don’t hesitate to recommend this company for anyone considering a visit to North Korea.

Any questions about North Korea? Anyone else interested in visiting?


RSS
Facebook0
Facebook
YouTube1k
Follow by Email10k
Google+
http://www.wanderingearl.com/what-its-like-to-travel-to-north-korea/
Instagram
Since 1999 I've been traveling and living around the world nonstop. Sign up below for personal stories, real advice and useful updates from my adventures. Only good stuff, no nonsense.

Are you ready to earn money and travel?

How to Work on a Cruise Ship and Travel eBooksClick above and get started!

Comments 189

  1. Pingback: A Travel Guide To One Of The Most Misunderstood Country: North Korea - Fox Weekly

  2. Jessie

    I have been researching North Korea for awhile now and wanting to visit. Being in the military currently *probably not such a good idea* but my hope is to one day visit to learn more about this mysterious country. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Shahna

    What a lovely commentary on a strange and mysterious land – thank you very much.
    My tuppenny’s worth below isn’t a criticism of what you wrote – merely an indication that … things aren’t perhaps so different and that people are subtly directed to point fingers at NK “atrocity” for reasons outside the atrocity itself….

    “I know full well that North Koreans suffer tremendously under a repressive regime, that prison camps do exist, that the living conditions in the countryside are far worse than what I can imagine, that brutal police checks, lack of permission to move around, shockingly low salaries, electricity cuts, non-existent healthcare and so much more is what so many North Koreans must deal with on a daily basis. I know all of that.”
    =====================================

    ……. Gaza?

    The US has the highest per capita prison population in the world – they use words like “correctional facility” not “prison camps” to describe.
    Countryside living conditions in many countries across the world are often worse or no better to those in N/K — think Somalia? I could go on – a man has just had a police baton shoved up his backside in France (unintentionally of course) and electricity cuts and existent healthcare even in my own country leave a lot to be desired.

    I think what I’m trying to say is – those problems aren’t unique to N/K – NK doesn’t have the worst examples of them – yet no-one visits the US for example, and mentions the prison population, Gitmo, poor-folk repression, the cops shooting black folk and the courts letting them walk away, the weekly drone-bombing of civilians in foreign countries…. etc.
    .
    …How DO you shove a baton up a man’s arsé – unintentionally?
    One hand pulled his trousers down unintentionally and the other rammed the baton home unintentionally while the other hands of other cops bent him over and held him down unintentionally – and no left hands knew what all right hands were doing? This gets me, it gets me more that “unintentionally” was offered as excuse – but most of all, that “unintentionally” is accepted, glossed over by the media, and then spoonfed to us the people. Perhaps we should look to our own acceptance of our own propaganda before – or while – we point fingers at North Korea’s?

    1. Laura

      Shahna, while I understand your sentiment, comparing North Korea and US prison systems like that doesn’t make sense, and borders on false analogy fallacy. Yes, US incarceration rates are astronomical, as are NK’s. However, North Korea prisons are essentially concentration camps. There are memoirs written by escaped prisoners that are brutal to read and the unspeakable horrors that occur there are well known. The goal is torture and death. If you commit a ‘crime’ (that’s an entire other subject to get into), and they often punish three generations. Stories of long lost cousins getting hauled off to the camps because of something a relative they didn’t even know existed did isn’t unheard of either.

      “Perhaps we should look to our own acceptance of our own propaganda before – or while – we point fingers at North Korea’s?”
      ??? You can be outraged at law enforcement and prisons in other countries while still openly discussing North Korea’s vile human rights abuses.

    2. jay larsen

      North Korea is an older PhD experiment in social science. You are seeing the result of a certain communistic type model. In Denmark one recent study done by crime statisticians found one migrant family, one extended family, was responsible for 83% of the local crimes, this type of info has been known a long time but is not politically popular to publish broadly outside of academia. Korean social engineers arrested families of criminals based on these types of old well known social biological engineering reports and studies. Biology is a taboo in capitalistic countries due to eugenics concerns, legal, moral and ethics concerns. Nurture vs. nature is the issue, the debate, with each being 50% of the whole. One day people will be objective and non hysterical in their perceptions and the truth will unfold itself. Truth is not a matter of perspective; opinion is perspective: Truth is bare facts. Religion asserts the realm of the unseen for due consideration, hence the need for communism to void religion; and the reason religion erects certain taboos, like cannibalism for example. Truth is a hard reality with religion, communism, socialism, capitalism, etc., hence the reason for variables.

  4. Scott

    Great article. I recently returned from my trip to Pyongyang/Kaesong after Skype consultation with Earl. Thanks so much for all your help!

    A few things I’ll add to respond to other points on this thread:
    -While Earl (and I as well) both did the shortest available tour, which centered in Pyongyang and was a bit more “touristy”, there are substantially longer tours available. In total, you can essentially access every major city in North Korea if you go on a longer trip. No doubt you will be somewhat restricted anywhere you go, but it’s erroneous to say that foreigners are only granted access to Pyongyang. Things are gradually opening up over time.
    -I didn’t particularly feel like the poverty side of things was hidden. They aren’t broadcasting the worst of the worst, that’s for sure, but you see crippled people, poor people, homeless people, soldiers working in the fields, etc. If everyone was an actor, you wouldn’t see this.
    -The guides speak surprisingly openly about topics that you’d think would be taboo. Ours spoke about the famine, nukes, questions about America/capitalism, and we had a great time exchanging music on iPods. Not quite as controlled as I would have thought.

    It’s certainly a restricted trip, but an extremely educational one given the complete lack of information out there. Even seeing how the government chooses to present itself (the things that are true, the things that are false, the things that aren’t said at all) reveal something about the country. It’s not for the average traveller, but a highly rewarding experience for those who are willing to come in with an open mind.

    1. YHylton

      Regardless of how much less horrific the trip ended up being, by the end of the article, and by looking at the strange pictures of people out in the open, my take away is still: incredibly scary Orwellian place.

      I am not sure what the point of the glowing beginning picture you paint was? I mean, clearly it is a repressive country with a dictatorial regime and a frightened people. So some people can go bowling because they are from a privileged group? Who would think otherwise. The ruling class is the ruling class.

  5. ART

    I really enjoyed your article. I have always had a fascination with North Korea and what life there is like. I am sure that in many ways, North Koreans go about there daily lives just like anywhere else in the world, and many times we in the west are fed inaccurate depictions about life in other parts of the world. Having said that, it is also good you recognize that what you saw is just a small portion of what life in North Korea is like. I have done extensive research on NK system of labor camps, and it is absolutely horrific. Entire families are sent to labor camps, forced to work 12-15 hours a day and given starvation rations, just because one individual said or did something perceived as offensive to the government. The concept of “guilt by association” appears to be alive and well in NK. While I would like to visit someday to see what is like, the repressiveness of the regime towards its citizens certainly puts me of.

  6. Declan

    First off, I want to offer you my praise for having the curiosity to travel to NK. I’m glad you had a great experience. However, I’d like to point out a few issues of reality that you seem to have wither glossed over or mis-judged.

    Yes, “interaction” with locals is a lot easier now than it once was, but the people you interacted with are not everyday North Koreans. How can I explain? NK society is strictly managed. At the very top, of course, is Kim Jong-Un. Similar to people like Saddam Hussein and Mafia Godfathers, he has to protect his position. This is done by allocating favors to those a level or two down. What we therefore get is continuations of this, where levels provide favors to lower levels. Basically, the entire population of Pyongyang is made up of what is effectively, North Korea’s middle class. These people enjoy fairly comfortable lifestyles by NK standards, and they would never do anything stupid enough to jeopardize what they have in the form of good jobs and housing. So when you get smiles and hellos from these people, like you did, they are very aware that their foreigner interactions are being watched by everyone.

    The vast majority of North Koreans aren’t even allowed to enter Pyongyang. These people struggle to survive on farms, where work is expected of them every day and all day. Why don’t they simply refuse to work so hard? That would be an instant move even further down, along with all their relatives, to one of NK’s massive prison camps.

    As for allowing tourists in? This is ONLY done for badly needed foreign exchange, as well as a little stage-managed propaganda.

    Like I said, I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but the impression you give of the place is one of a giant misunderstanding held by outsiders. I work in the region and I’m not getting my insight from western news.

    NK is basically one big organized crime family, masquerading as a country. The Kim family enjoys a fabulous life, and they will kill and reward whoever they need to maintain the status quo.

  7. Owen

    Earl,

    Great account of your time in Pyongyang. I was up further north for a day, in a small town called Sinujiu. My experience there was a little different in that I did have a couple of my pictures deleted after handing back my camera (both of me standing next to a painting of Kim Il-Sung). The teachers at the local kindergarten were fine with posing for photographs, but clearly afraid to say anything to me, even hello. I think its only the tour guides and souvenir shop employees who are allowed talk.

    In general, I found the locals to be very friendly, totally different from the picture painted by Western media. The soldiers smiled and waved at me, and the waitresses at the restaurant we ate in did likewise. We were looked after really well. Like you, we also didn’t see any ‘actors’ in the street, just ordinary folk going about their daily lives. What really stood out for me was how quiet everything was, no cars anywhere, and very people around until after 4.00pm. Also how clean the streets are, no garbage lying around anywhere, completely spotless.
    Again though, we knew it was a small part of the town we were looking at, and only shows a tiny snapshot of North Korea, there’s much more to it than meets the eye.

    After leaving North Korea I looked for some videos on sites like tudou and youku, about people who’ve been to North Korea too, and what really annoyed me is how negative and sarcastic they are about everything they saw and experienced. Why go all that way if you’re not going to enjoy it?

    I’m also going to give a big shout out to Koryo Tours as well, as they organised my day trip. Very well organised, hugely enjoyable, reasonably priced, and lots of great memories. One day I hope to do the 5 day trip to Pyongyang like you did.

  8. Claude

    I’ve been in North Korea this August and I can confirm your impressions. Only, I didn’t see neither poor nor “sad” or “suffering” people: on the contrary, I saw happy and carefree people of all ages (children, adults, senior citizen etc.) everywhere. Also in Nampo the general situation is quite good. The countrysides are undoubtely riches: there were very high ears of corn and rice, and also a lot of corn cobs massed on the road for about 1 meter and a half every few meters. I saw also some houses a little ruined, but in some of them there were workers which were restorating them. I saw Pyongyang as a city continuously evolving, with a modern look and a true social equality. About prison camps, when you go to the USA nobody brings you to see their prisons, the electrical chairs or the place where people are shot (like in Utah), and the reasons (I think) are quite obvious…let’s finally take into account that North Korea is technically a country at war, you can’t have so much freedom to go around for reasons of force majeure.
    Greetings to everybody from Italy 🙂

  9. Pingback: What It’s Like To Travel To North Korea – Wandering Earl | Travel Possible

  10. FMSaigon

    Nice story, I can you are trying to offer an objective perspective. But my question to you, you went to the state-run travel agency to ask for a free trip to offer them publicity. Did they treat you like an ordinary tourist, or did you have more leeway? You knew you had more leeway to test the limits (and wouldn’t get shot dead like the South Korean tourist who wandered off into a restricted area) Good read, but just saying..

    1. Wandering Earl

      I definitely didn’t have any extra leeway. I was with the rest of my group the entire time and whatever I did, they could do too, and they did. It’s not as if they let me wander around the city for hours on my own or go to restricted areas. Everyone on the tour was able to do the exact same things.

  11. Anne

    Hello Earl,
    Thank you so much for the report. I visited North Korea in 2010 and really loved it. My group played volley-ball in a park on a sunday with the locals after having enjoyed a picknick in the same park and we went to the beach to relax. Even the DMZ was not too tense. Our guides were really relaxed and knew a great deal about our part of the world. But it’s hard to explain to people the country is not as bad as they are told. It hurts me when I notice people prefer to stick to the cliches.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Anne – I understand what you are saying. I do think the country is as bad as we hear though, it’s just the experience that travelers have shows the country in a different light. The travel experience isn’t as bad as we’re told and we don’t see any of the negative stuff we hear about the country, so the result is quite a pleasant trip. But I’m sure there is plenty behind the scenes that would be quite disturbing to have seen or learn about.

    2. Laura

      “But it’s hard to explain to people the country is not as bad as they are told. It hurts me when I notice people prefer to stick to the cliches.”

      I totally agree with Earl’s comment below: ” I do think the country is as bad as we hear though, it’s just the experience that travelers have shows the country in a different light.”

      Anne, You got the Disney Land version of North Korea. They want people to visit and leave with the exact mindset you have. “It’s not the terrible place it’s made out to be”. But it is. A tourist will never see what really goes on behind the scenes. You’ll never see what the majority of people live like, you will never get near the concentration camps they call reeducation prisons. You will never be able to freely and openly hear what an NK citizen’s life is like. From what former NK-born individuals who escaped say, they really can’t even talk to their neighbors or friends about how they feel about many things for fear of being turned in. It’s kind of like if someone from another country went to visit, say, Chicago and stuck to the Pier and fun tourist beaches. They might have the mindset “Chicago is supposed to be so dangerous and supposedly has one of the highest crime/murder rates in the country. I didn’t feel fearful once! It was really nice!”..when in reality they weren’t in the South Side streets or anywhere of the beaten tourist path.

  12. Miah

    Hi Earl..Your report is very eye-opening and interesting.I strongly believe that people should go and visit a country rather than believing what they see and hear in FOX NEWS and biased newspaper articles.I’m an Iranian and I’m totally aware of what dark and horrifying things western media says about my country to European and American people,however when tourists come and visit Iran (despite all warnings and propaganda) they find Iran one of the most amazing tourist destinations, and they notice that all those scary images of Iran they were shown before,were absurd .By reading your post, I have a feeling that people should stop judging North Korea without going and visiting the country.

  13. mia

    hi, earl! amazing report and great pictures! i am thinking of visiting north korea, too. how long did you stay there? how many days would you recommend? which of the different koryo tours did you join?
    thank you, mia

  14. Kirsten

    Hey Earl!
    Your account of DPRK is very interesting. I was wondering how you got to travel with Koryo Tours for free?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Kirsten – I was invited to join their tour because of this blog. There were no requirements but of course, they were hoping that I would enjoy the tour experience and as a result, recommend Koryo to other travelers thinking of visiting this country.

  15. Pingback: Travel Guide | Travelguide

  16. James Ogden

    Great read! I’ve been fascinated with
    the country for years. I’ve read a lot about it. Could you give me a ballpark b figure of
    how much you spent on your trip? USD

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey James – The tour itself runs around 1500 Euros and then I spent about $200 USD or so extra while there.

  17. Pingback: Travel Guide | Travelguide

  18. Mehdi

    Hi, You blog is very interesting. I’m planning to go NK with one of friend. We are both french students. Which tour did you subscribe?
    Thx

  19. Jin Heo

    Earl, thanks for sharing this great posting. You have a well-balanced and educated opinion on North Korea. It is really like to get puzzle pieces together to see a whole picture of North Korea.

  20. Mitchell

    Hi,

    Obviously you would expect these tours to go to the same areas every visit. I am just interested to hear whether you think it is possible that these areas are given more ‘outside world’ opportunities and experiences? Perhaps the rest of the country (that you didn’t see) is more like what we expect it to be? Honest response will really help me with deciding whether to travel and not be a part of a tour. Thank you!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Mitchell – That’s hard for me to say as the places we visited still didn’t exactly have much exposure to the outside world but I’m sure that the places we didn’t visit have even less. The places I saw were like what I expected but you just don’t see the reality…you can feel it though. I’m sure in the other areas life will look even harsher for those living there if we were allowed to see it (which of course is why we’re not).

      1. Mitchell

        Thanks for the reply. Yes perception is an interesting thing! Either way I am sure that travelling North Korea would be an experience like no other. Glad you enjoyed your trip and I look forward to making it there myself sometime 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *