Skooter reporting 07/27/12
A Briton that I befriended inside a restaurant of a plush hotel in Manila shared his unsolicited adventures in North Korea. The good Briton took him a couple of hours describing his unforgettable tour to the most feared nation on earth. He began with:
He and his group were hurling balls down the bowling alley lanes and sipping draught beer from the onsite microbrewery, and it felt like they could be anywhere in the world, he said seriously without blinking an eye. Just 20 meters away in the lobby, there were North Korean locals congregated around a television set, watching the new supreme leader Kim Jong-un addressed a mass children’s rally.
The innocent looking 20,000 school kids packed into a sports stadium, together were seemingly hypnotized in the presence of the great leader, were hard to believe. It was Beatles-mania, North Korea–style. In the situation of where they were, it seemed perfectly usual to watch goose-stepping child soldiers march down the running track. The only odd thing here was us, he said, foreigners, playing 10-pin bowling in the capital of the Hermit kingdom. Shaking his head, he took a sip of his beer.
For tourists, North Korea or known locally as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is very much a voyeuristic destination. Visiting is not just about discovering what makes the country click, he said, it is about collecting a sense of what is truth, what is spin and comparing what is reported in the Western media to how life actually appears on the ground. However, this is not a country where you can simply leisurely walk in for a casual look, he said. Adding he said, visits are only possible as part of an organized tour, with fixed route and local guides to accompany you everywhere outside your hotel.
While for most the idea of having a holiday in the DRPK, he went on, stopping only to sip his mug of SanMigs is one that borders on lunacy, it offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get an unusual quick look into one of the most isolated, mysterious and feared countries on earth. He tapped his fingers on the table, he said, and while there are not too many nice stories coming out of the country, for most of the few thousand visitors who are lucky enough to get into North Korea each year, it is one of the safest and most interesting, although uncanny, travel experiences around.
To be continued…