Having just arrived in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, we were met by two serious-looking “mandatory” guides who wore business suits more suitable for the secret police rather than for holiday planners. And to perhaps bring the seriousness of our trip to North Korea home, they started by giving us three rules – #1: You cannot go out without your guide; #2: You cannot fold, distort, deface or throw away any paraphernalia that contain the images of Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il and #3: You cannot take pictures of the military. And with that, our holiday to North Korea officially began.
the grand people’s study house, one of the most elaborately constructed buildings in pyongyang
The thing about visiting North Korea is that it’s not an usual destination by any sense of the word. Everything is strictly controlled. Visitors are expected to pay their respects to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il by bowing several times before their statues or embalmed bodies. Even the hotel rooms are most likely bugged. Then again, a trip to North Korea offers one a rare peek into the world’s last true communist state. It’s a country that got swept into the Cold War and never managed to get out, thanks to the country’s inflexible government.