8/21 trip to Pyongyang 平壤
It has been a week since I came back from the trip to Beijing and North Korea. Those films I took already printed out. This trip was a beautiful and amazing dream. I still couldn’t believe, even myself, that I was there.
All my friends and family thought it’s way too dangerous to visit there. These kinda words always made me worried and tried to “escape” from my own trip. Actually, I almost cancelled this trip. In the morning on 8/21, I was still in bed saying that I want to stay in Beijing instead, why am I leaving to there.
However, I already paid. 2500 CNY is still a certain amount of money.lol In the end, I still jumped on the taxi to Beijing main station and headed to DPRK.
On 8/21 at 17:27, K27 train departed from Beijing station. As usual, Beijing station was full of huge crowds of people. Big crowds and their noise annoyed me, and made me worry about the 14 hrs sleeper train later. Must be even worst ! 😦 Chinese railway operates an extensive network of sleeper trains throughout this big country. The one I took is the basic version- hard and fixed bunk bed, 6 beds (upper, middle and lower) in a room. Lower beds are more convenience, but u can have more privacy on top for sure. Foods, snacks, beers and ice cream are sold on the train. The sleeper train was way better than what I imagined. It will be perfect if there are clean shower rooms for passengers.
Dandong is the biggest boarder city in China. It is located in the north-east side, facing Sinuiju, North Korea across Yalu River. It takes less than 10 minutes from Dandong to Sinuiju by train. I heard that people in 2 different countries can see each other clearly along the riverside.K27 train arrived at 7-8 am in Dandong, and few carriages of North Korea was connected to this train. After that, the train departed around 10 am again, to North Korea.
Security check is required once you entered or left North Korea. We also had that twice in Sinuiju. In my poor memory, there were 3 different stages. North Korean soldiers (or customs) entered our carriage and took away everyone’s passport. Actually, it was not that tough as what I thought. They asked us to put our phones and cameras on the table. Next , they wrote down the brand of each phone on our name list, and turned off GPS on all devices. Everyone was asked to open suitcases for security check as well.
A soldier asked me to hand in books or newspaper, so I gave him my Kindle. He was so confused. And then he asked for my camera. What I had were analogs cameras and a polaroid. After I passed those stuff, he kindly sat next to me and investigated those cameras. He looked like a big child seeing new toys. After finishing whole process, they returned our passport back. One soldier was even laughing at my passport photo. It made me feel kinda embarrassed, cute and funny at the same time.
However, other carriages were not that lucky. I heard some people’s data and photos on the phone were checked by North Korean customs. The whole process took around 2 hours. We had lunch box and Taedonggang (대동강) beer. I even talked on WeChat by connecting poor signal from China. Taedonggang beer was my favorite there, which cost 10CNY only and tasted pretty good!
It took another four hours from Sinuiju(신의주시) to the capital city – Pyongyang(평양). That day was sunny and made the view outside way too beautiful – blue sky and green harvest fileds. North Korean farmers with tanned skin worked hard in the filed with those traditional tools, since they may not have many machines to help. Kids were playing in the river, with skinny cows walking around. In my carriage, there were a 84 and 86 years-old couple, and a 74 years-old granny. It was so sweet to see them traveling till this age, together.
Our tour guides were already at Pyongyang station to welcome us. One guide were a 30+ yrs old mom (I always called her 언니, which means older sis in Korean) and a 24 years-old girl who just graduated from university(I called her 동생, which is younger sis in Korean). They took our passport away after we got on the tour bus, and only returned us back in the last day.
The scene in Pyongyang was totally different from what we saw on the train – Buildings with different colors and even some with exaggerating design. lol However, I did feel like those buildings are kinda empty inside. Because normal people in North Korea are not allowed to have cars, most people were within bikes or public transportation.
언니 introduced her country to us. They called themselves DPRK ( Democratic People’s Republic of Korea朝鮮民主主義人民共和國, 朝鮮조선 ). One thing cool is that whenever they were introducing their country- population, total area..those numbers are all included with the South part.
언니 told us, during the time occupied by Japan (日本鬼子,언니 都一定要加上鬼子), life were too struggle and tough. At that time, they understood, for a better life, Koreans have to be unified first to against others. They wont have a complete home without a strong and powerful government. Leader Kim Il-sung leaded the battles against the Japanese and saved Korean people. However, United state, imperialism, still occupied the South part. South Korea now is still like the colony of the United State.. so now, their mission is to save the South from USA and unified the Nation. In the future, they will found a powerful country called “Federal Democratic Republic of Goryeo 고려민주련방공화국 高麗民族聯邦共和國”. And Koreans will be powerful and be respected as what they were in Goryeo Kingdom.
The first spot we visited in Pyongyang was the Arch of Triumph. This is the 2nd tallest triumph arch in the world. It was built in 1982, to commemorate the resistance to Japan.
The second place we visited was the Chinses-Korean Friendship Tower (조중우의탑). North Koreans really do appreciate the help from China during the Korean war (抗美援朝). We were there around evening. I stood at the tower and saw the whole city from the top. There were no phone signal, wifi or internet in Pyongyang. There were no video wall, commercial or crowded traffic. Almost everyone wore the same style – shirt and black worker pants. Even that time was around the rush hour, the city was still so quite and peaceful.
In this silence, I suddenly had a strong feeling… ” Seriously? I am really in Pyongyang. How crazy….”