Sunday, August 31, 2008


So, I decided to go to North Korea...I won't bother to explain why. Just suffice it to say I've done much more boneheaded things in my travel career. Americans can get visas up to five days, during the season of the Arirang mass games (which I'll talk about later.)

This blog probably won't be the best or the most informative blog on North Korea. This blog is by someone who has a lot more travel experience than me, including (this is important) in South Korea, and also he understands the language. I have been in China for a while and can speak a bit of Chinese, which definitely opened some doors, but it's nothing like actually speaking Korean. Also, a much more in-depth guide is this one, by the second Brit ever to actually live inside Korea. Though it's twenty years old, I suspect little has really changed that much. Many of the comments he makes about the country kind of eerily forshadow things that people have been saying much more recently. This is just the impressions I was able to get there, in the very restricted environment they create for us.

This trip has definitely taught me the importance of good photography equipment, and knowing how to use it. Though our North Korean guides of course were restricting our photography, it seemed like most of my shots were ruined because my camera was just too slow or things came out blurry. Fortunately, all of us on this trip are supposedly going to share our photos on Flickr. My page is here.

Okay, so now with the story.

..Although, if I can just add a quick message against the Chinese government, it has become a lot more difficult to publish a blog here than in was a few months ago. Probably related to the Olympics, everything is. Even most of my trusty proxy servers aren't doing the trick. For today, is my ticket. One continues to wonder exactly what it was that China was hoping to exhibit to the outside world...

[Update: That may have been a Shenyang city or Liaoning province thing; here in Beijing I'm not having any problem.]

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Day 1 - Shenyang

By this point, I had been in Shenyang two nights, and I was anxious for things to get started. I still hadn't met my trip mates. The day before I had finally met this "Brooklyn" character (the name designed to sound a touch shady.) Actually, I found him pretty trustworthy, I wasn't the first American he had ever met or anything. But then I found out he wasn't coming into Korea with us, which I guess was my first expectation dashed. I still don't really know exactly what he actually did, besides the marketing and the visas. Maybe that's all that's necessary from the Chinese side.

Anyway, there were six of us. Me, and another single guy, who ended up sharing a room with me. He's an English teacher in Hong Kong. A Dutch couple, one of whom worked for a travel company. (If I can jump ahead for a second, this was enough to earn her a business meeting with some Koreans while she was there, interested in starting a partnership so that she could bring her own tourists in.) Finally, an American couple, on their honeymoon - owners of an art gallery in San Fransisco. (Even our Korean guides had never had a honeymoon couple for guests before.)

After some last minute scrambling on money issues (I ended up having just barely enough money to pay off Brooklyn and having any spending money for the trip; my trip mates, all of whom had been in China for much less time than me, were very impressed) we were off.

Waiting in the airport, I started to take stock of our fellow passengers. There were some Chinese people, and some Koreans, presumably from the North - this was exciting to get my first look at them - and a few other foreigners, mostly Americans. One guy - and for the whole trip I never quite figured out exactly what he was about - had a powerful camera, more powerful than one would think would be allowed into Korea - and a vest with some deep pockets that seemed to for some kind of illicit purpose. He kept talking about his photography. Also there was a girl, an English teacher in South Korea, which was kind of interesting, because we could kind of compare notes on our respective experiences.

I suspected I would see these people again over the course of the trip; actually, we ended up running into them several times a day, every day. The selection of things for tourists to do there is quite limited. But my count of the number of people I saw did kind of make me doubt Foreign Policy Magazine's count of only 500 American tourists ever ever to visit the north. I would guess there were at 10 at the time I was there, and if each on is coming for only 5 days, that number must be rising quickly.

Here is a picture of our condemned air carrier (the only airline banned by the EU)

(Okay, actually I got a better angle in the Pyongyang airport on the way back.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Day 1 (part 2) - on the plane

Okay - on to the plane. My first time being surrounded by North Korean things. Actually, it wasn't as bad as I expected. The seats weren't midget sized or anything, like the Chinese try to do sometimes. There was fog coming out of the air vents, which prompted musings about biological weapons and such. One quirk was that the seat numbers weren't labeled, so the flight attendants had to tell everybody where to sit. The Korean teacher was sitting right next to me, which was kind of auspicious. Her Korean was maybe comparable to my Chinese. She was telling me that the language they were using was an extremely polite version, which she didn't even know very well. Their voices were very high pitched and feeble, which she described as how the church ladies in South Korea talk.

The flight attendants came around with newspapers. I wasn't disappointed with the quality of their propaganda. One story I particularly enjoyed explained how the recent high fuel prices were the result of an American conspiracy. (It's in American interests, of course, because it's the only way for the US to dump excess dollars. Duh.) Apparently everything that goes on in the world somehow benefits the US.

I was looking forward to the plane ride, because it would be one of my only opportunities to take pictures freely. It's not like the flight attendants can watch a whole planeful of people very closely. So I was a bit dissapointed when somewhere in the middle of the flight one of the flight attendants sat down right in the empty seat two seats away from me. Apparently there's no place in the cabin set aside for them. Actually, I was incredibly lucky to have a North Korean and someone who can translate Korean in the two seats next to me. Right in the first half an hour of the trip, I had one of the more spontaneous and unscripted interactions for the whole time I was there.

Still high on adrenaline, I started right away with the questions. Was she North Korean? How old was she? (22 I think it was.) How long had she been a flight attendant? (3 years.) What languages could she speak? (Korean, English, Chinese, and Russian. Actually, neither her English nor her Chinese was good enough to communicate with.) Was she from Pyongyang? (Yes.) Did she go to a special flight attendant school? (Yes.) Though she answered everything I asked, she didn't really seem particularly pleased to be talking to a foreigner. Though on the outside this exchange was very similar to interactions I'd had with Chinese people countless times, I found something very cold about her. She didn't ask me any questions.

As for the landscape itself...I think some of my travel mates may have gotten pictures, which might become available later on Flickr, but I'll describe it for you. Richard the Brit noticed that as soon as we crossed the line into North Korea, the air became much clearer. The entire country was very green, and there were no mountaintops missing or lakes drained like you see in China. As we got lower, I could see that the crops were all in neat rows. Human engineering projects criscrossed the landscape, but in a way that complimented, rather than detracted from it. There were many long, straight, dirt roads. Later views from the ground showed these roads in relatively good condition, relatively smooth and few rocks. Canals were also very visible. Some of them, though obviously artificial, were as big as rivers. They snaked around the edges of hills, and sometimes, which I found pretty amazing, even tunneled through them. As we got even lower, we could see some of the little village hamlets, which again were quite attractive looking, even if modest. The North Koreans, it seems, can make poverty look somewhat attractive from the air.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day 1 (Part 3) - landing in Pyongyang

This is the Pyongyang airport. After landing and going through customs, finally we got to meet our tour guides and get the road. We had four of them - two men, two women - plus a driver. I have to say that they were not quite what I was expecting. For starters, they all spoke quite decent English. There were very few communication problems for the whole trip. They were all pretty young, basically college age, and were somewhat more willing to talk than the flight attendant I had talked to earlier.

My strategy was to feign ignorance on their photography policies until they made things more clear, and take as many pictures as I could right at the beginning. But I knew I couldn't just start snapping away without their permission. One of the people behind me asked one of the guy tour guides if he could take pictures, and to my surprise he said yes. So I started taking pictures of just about everything I could see. One of these actually came out:

A few minutes later, somebody at the front asked one of the girl tour guides if they could take pictures, and they weren't allowed to. I had heard that one of the tour guides is often a trainee, so I assumed the one that told us we could just didn't know what he was talking about. But, just to make sure it was obvious that he had told me I could take pictures, I asked if I could take a picture of him, and he said yes.

Unfortunately, that picture seems to be missing from my camera, making this a pretty stupid story. I must have deleted it from my camera at some point. Doing this picture thing has been a lot more complicated than I expected. But anyway, a few minutes later everyone figured out that we weren't allowed to take pictures, so that was the end of that.

We got to our hotel a bit later. It was a 46-storey building, with a beautiful view of the sunset over Pyongyang. There is just one pollution source in Pyongyang (which I later found out to be from power generation) and at that moment it just so happened that its thick streaks of smoke were passing right in front of the sun, making the scenery that much more beautiful.

Some more views of Pyongyang:

Later that night, after a quite decent dinner, we all went up to the revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel. This was going to be our hangout spot for most nights of the trip. I felt a bit imprisoned there - especially on that first night, not having seen much more than the airport that day - but it was about the nicest prison cell one could ask for. Beer, a special North Korean brand, went for a fraction of the price even in China...

(The revolving restaurant...or does the entire world revolve around this point?)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 2 - some random memorials - getting to know our guides better

My goal this day was to actually get to know our guides a little bit better. As we started off towards the Kim Il Sung mausoleum, I started asking one of them with the best English her about her life. She was 22, could also speak Chinese, and we were her fifth tour she had done (second with Westerners; the rest with Chinese.) Her father was in the military, her mom organized mass events like the Arirang festival we were going to see the next day. She had even performed in one of them, in the background, one year. She lived with her parents in an apartment. She had been a foreign language major in her college, which was the second best college in the country. She had had a British foreign teacher for a bit, and had even watched some foreign films. (Actually, I later found out, like 'The Sound of Music' - not like Hollywood films.) Unlike the flight attendant, she didn't know she was going to be a tour guide since graduating high school. She said she could have been a diplomat if she wanted to, with her foreign language training...I wondered if that was really true. And why she wouldn't want to. I asked her if she knew any people from outside Pyongyang, and she said she had done some work in the farms in the countryside. But sometimes you have to ask these questions in the right way...I asked her if she actually had any friends from outside Pyongyang, and she said no. That would seem to imply that even the country's no. 2 college doesn't recruit very much from outside Pyongyang, which I found to be pretty interesting.

Our first stop today was Kim Il Sung's mausoleum, the site of his preserved body. (Incidentally, this completed the 4-fecta of preserved Communist leaders for Richard, my roommate.) I won't go into the details...there was a long hall to get there which took forever, and we had to turn over our cameras, so I don't remember what else was along the way. There was one guy there who was obviously a political type, way overdressed, and standing at least a foot above everybody else. I guess probably on some kind of diplomatic assignment or something, though he didn't seem too much older than me. (Or does the US even have a diplomatic assignment there?) Anyway here's a picture outside the hall, I walked up on a photo shoot with Koreans:

There were a bunch of soldiers there, of course we couldn't take pictures. The girls were all giggly around us, and they stared at us when we went by, but of course they couldn't talk to us. When one of our members waved at a big group of them, they all started giggling, while of course still pretending not to notice.

Our next stop was the USS Pueblo, the spy ship North Korea captured in 1968. Though I guess some people on the trip were interested in seeing it, my feelings were a bit more skeptical. Showing respect to their leader is one thing, and of course they have a culture that really values that sort of thing. But having to sit down and listen to anti-American propaganda - though of course not unexpected - is bit different. I can handle this thing, if you don't talk about politics, I won't - but that wasn't exactly the arrangement they had in mind. So back on the bus, after having our long conversation in the morning and wondering exactly how far I could push the boundaries, I asked the guide if she could take us to see some Korean spy ships. "Korea doesn't have any spy ships," she replied. Of course. "I think your joke has gone too far." Uhh. Great. It looks like humor here is a razor-thin deal.

I quickly clarified that I meant counter-spy ships, but the damage was already done. The rest of the bus ride was pretty quiet, at least for me, and I didn't talk to her for most of the rest of that day. We went to a couple of other monuments and memorials that - Kim Il Song's birthplace was very nice, very obviously fake.

Oh, but the subway was very cool, as expected.

By the end of the day, before we got back to the hotel, I had a conversation with Ms. Jong again, about learning foreign languages, something we both had in common. I will also say in my defense that Richard got into trouble with her too for taking too many pictures (it was either that day or the next day,) and she made him delete him delete some. For a while I was getting really paranoid about the pictures I had already taken. But actually, our relationship with our guides would very quickly warm as we headed into our third day...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day 3 (part 1) - DMZ

The road to the DMZ is the sterotypical North Korean four-lane highway that you could take a nap on (in fact, though I didn't get any pictures, there were people doing exactly that. Near the side of the road, at least.)

The DMZ itself is probably actually better seen from the South. Besides the closer correspondence between reality and the South's version of it, you can also get a better sense of the politics behind it from the restrictions the South places on visitors. In fact - as long as you can get into North Korea at least - it is much more difficult to get to the line from the South side than the North, because of restrictions including nationality and attire. Anyway, today was a bit dissapointing, because there were no soldiers or tourists present on the other side.

The blue huts are from North Korea, Ms. Jong told us, and the white ones (out of view on either side of these three) were built by the Americans. She also pointed out a couple of American soldiers doing something over off to the side for a second. I noticed during the whole presentation she never once mentioned the South Koreans, only America. (In fact, this giant vaccuum on South Korea would become a larger theme of this whole trip.) This DMZ situation would of course be something she would have seen with her own eyes, so I decided to challenge her on this point. "When you mentioned that on some days there are American soldiers that come to that line, are they only Americans, or are there Koreans there too?" She asked to repeat the question, so I did. Then she mumbled something incomprehensible, before I finally changed the subject again.

After this I didn't feel so bad about the day before. She could have possibly been taught that Korea didn't have any spy ships, or that 10 million of them had fled the South to live overseas (which would be the implication of the incorrect population numbers she gave one of our members who asked about it) - but here she was lying directly to my face, and I think we both knew it. I'm guessing this is a situation that comes up a lot in their daily lives, and not just in their dealings with foreigners...

On the way back - and it took me most of the trip to realize this, inbetween some dozes - the guides were letting us take pictures freely, without even asking. I started looking at the districts(these are not called "villages," our guides say) and one interesting thing I noticed was that even some of the smallest settlements of only a few houses had a memorial to whatever erected in the central part of the 'town.' Unfortunately for the entire trip I was unsuccessful in getting a picture of this. In addition to all the various other camera problems I was having, the roads were generally lined with a couple of layers of very thick trees. I did manage to get one decent pic it looks like - Leonika, I'm counting on you here!..

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day 3 (part 2) - gymanstics

Alright, now the circus. It's really been a while since I've seen a real circus, and they didn't disappoint. The gymnastics and the trapeze works were fairly impressive, and interspersed between them were various magic/gag acts. Everything seemed fairly safe to me, not like some things that could be possible in a Communist country. A small band accompanied everything, with the help of some strange Communist-sounding electronic sounds.

I found the second act to be an absolute riot, though I may be alone here. A magician in a funny looking suit came out, and asked for a volunteer from the audience. He picked a woman, and they went onstage. After messing around for a bit, she went into a black cloth enclosure, with two holes for her white-gloved hands. They started talking about some things, and she did some things with her hands, like tying a handkerchief and whatever. It was pretty obvious to me that it was somebody else's hands doing the moving, because her shoulders didn't even move with her hands. Eventually, even the audience started catching on to this - when she occasionally reached up to scratch 'her' face or whatever, people started laughing. Finally, she took her hands out, and went and sat back down. Then the white hands poked out of the cloth again, sans body, making what everybody knew even more obvious. The magician hurriedly ran over to put them back in, and continued with the rest of the act, pulling down the cloth to reveal...nothing. Then, just as the lights were coming down, he 'accidentally' pulled the cloth over a little further, to reveal the lady hiding underneath it, dressed in tight black clothes. At which point there was nothing at all magic left in the act, it was just pure comedy. It whole thing seemed like a good metaphor for our entire trip - despite all the bells and whistles they were constantly showing us, they didn't really expect to be able to change our minds about anything.

The circus was fun, but the real attraction was still to come. The Mass Games are truly the greatest show on earth. As our guides never hesitated to remind us, it holds the Guinness world record for the biggest performance, with around 100,000 performers. And, just as we were approaching the beautifully lit stadium, with all the crowds of people surrounding it, my camera batteries decided to run out of juice. So again I'm hoping my tripmates upload good stuff..

As we got into the stadium, opposite us was a huge wall of schoolkids with big colored notecards. In a feat of coordination that would probably be impossible in any other political system, thousands of them flipped their cards in a coordinated display to make images. There were so many of them that even the cards flapping made a sound that resonated throughout the stadium. And then the lights dimmed and the thing begun...

Thousands of dancers came onto the floor, in something that looked a lot like the Olympics opening ceremony. There was evidently a meaningful story behind all of this. First Korea was under Japanese occupation, and then there was obviously a nuclear bomb...actually the story kind of ends there, as our guide was out cold for most of the rest of the performance. I didn't try to wake her. No matter, there was no shortage of things to look at, and most things had a pretty obvious meaning. There was a Taekwondo act - very nicely done so that the motions were big enough to see from a great distance, but still very natural-looking - and something with children jump-roping. Also a weird one with dancing bunnies and eggs. And some gymnastics - nothing extremely elaborate, but I had to wonder how they could get so friggin many of them with at least that basic level of talent.

One act was clearly the highlight of the performance. The lights dimmed, and focused on a metal ring suspended high above the stadium floor. (I mean high; one of our guides later told us 70 meters.) Two people were hanging on the ring as it slowly moved across to the center of the arena; they climbed down until one was fully supported by the other. Then he was only holding on with one hand...then she let go and dropped down towards the floor. The whole stadium watched as she seemingly floated there - a couple of seconds, but she was so high that it only seemed like she wasn't moving. She wasn't suspended by any sort of cables. Some people - not me, of course - were relieved when then lights turned on to reveal a net below to catch her just in time. But later, I really did get a little bit nervous, when they started shooting people out of some kind of catapult device onto the net. They would have somebody sitting on the net, just a few feet away, to counterbalance their momentum when they landed. Had there been any contact, that would have been disastrous for both of them. But their whole system had pinpoint accuracy. One of the catapultees - travelling head, not hand, first - went right through that metal ring, not much more than a body length wide. Though it may be hard to visualize without pictures, these guys were travelling a long way. I would guesstimate they were in the air for four seconds, and where they landed was more than halfway across the soccer-sized field. Putting this guy through the ring was really threading a needle, and - as flawless as the execution was - I have to say I was a little bit glad when this act was over.

The whole thing in fact was without any kind of major incident, which is just incredible considering the number of people involved. Though I was kind of skeptical about the whole thing, and the fact that we had to come see it as the reason we were getting our visas, the blog descriptions I had read before coming truly didn't do it justice. As much as the North Koreans may have screwed themselves over economically to make this spectacle, you just have to sit back and admire it for what it is, because something like that simply doesn't exist anywhere else in the world.

After that, we were all kind of tired, I think. Basically most of the major points of the trip I had been looking forward to were already accomplished, and we had just one more day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day 4

Actually I didn't wake up any more rested than I went to sleep. We were on a quite unrelaxing schedule for the whole trip, starting out every day at about 8 - 7 Chinese time. Today our destination was - shit, some mountain resort. Actually, this was more than a mountain resort, it housed a collection of all the gifts given to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. But I didn't really come away from that with any really insightful things to say. Other blogs have adequately made fun of the quality of gifts on display, especially from capitalist countries. For lunch, we had bread with goat butter, which was randomly the best bread and butter I've had for a really long time. The whole thing ate up like 5 hours of driving, so we didn't get back to Pyongyang until about 3, which gave me adequate time to catch up on sleep. By this point, I was starting to realize that the Koreans weren't concerned in the least about photos being used for propaganda purposes, as they were really letting us take pictures of just about anything. This was one of the more interesting insights of the trip for me, that they did the photo thing just to establish a sense of authority. And it basically worked, because no matter how free I was I was still feeling like I should look over my shoulder every time I took a picture...anyway I won't post all the pictures I took, you can see them on my Flickr page. I still didn't manage to get pictures of many of the most interesting things, for more boring technical reasons. There was even a single billboard advertisement, likely in the entire country, near Pyongyang. One side was for an SUV, and the other showed a lady smiling. That would definitely be a good shot, if my stupid camera didn't have like a 5-second wake-up time...

Our other stop that afternoon was at a middle school, which I was definitely looking forward to. We weren't going to get to teach the students, which would have been really cool. Actually school wasn't in session for the wonders if they would have taken us there if it were. When we got off the bus, the first thing we were in for was a tour. Here is a mural in the lobby of the school, showing what looks like both Kims with some children, in a futuristic looking vehicle:

Our guide at the school took us around to some of the classrooms. This is from the biology lab, a biological map of Korea, where they can apparently also simultaneously learn historical revisionism:

We also saw some other rooms, including a room full of various kinds of stuffed animals (as in dead animals) that had been donated by some Kim or something. It was hard to see what kind of educational purpose they had. We also saw a room where they learn the Revolutionary History of Kim Jong Il. This is apparently a subject unto itself, like math or Korean - and shouldn't be confused with the Revolutionary History of Kim Il Sung.

Next, we went to a little auditorium to see a student performance. I was the first one in the room, and the music started as soon as I set foot inside. There were some kids singing - with very strong voices - and a little band in the back.

The whole thing was done in typical North Korean style - choreographed down to the smallest detail. I began to get the sense that they not only would have acted it off if we didn't like it, but genuinely not have even cared. I stopped clapping inbetween the numbers; later there wasn't even enough time between them.

After the music was finished, the students came down to greet us, and actually invite us to dance. The tour guides grabbed our cameras and took pictures.

I don't know how stiff I look in that picture, but I was definitely trying to figure out this situation. I noticed that my girl never made eye contact with me the entire time we were out there - I was watching - but only sometimes with her classmates, with little giggles. The whole thing was fun, a final picture,

and then it was time to go. The only thing was a little scheduling snag, so we ended up having to stay at the school for a few minutes to wait to meet somebody. We were out in front of the school, and there were a few students around. There was a group of girls behind us, doing something, and also some boys practicing gymnastics - all pretending not to notice us.

We were there for about ten or fifteen minutes, and it seemed like there was just the Great Wall between us and the students. The divide was so great that the guides even let some of us smoke right there while we were waiting, on the school grounds. You can't smoke on school grounds even in China, which has to be one of the worst countries for that. (Most things in North Korea are actually cleaner than in China.) The students were obviously trained that anything the foreigners do just doesn't have anything to do with them. Finally, the whole thing got to be too much. One of us had been trained in gymnastics, and had been talking about walking on her hands in some kind of strange situation, just to see what the Koreans would do. There couldn't have been a better time or a weirder situation than now. I challenged her to it. (Actually, before that I didn't really know I could walk on my hands.)

I looked around to see the reaction. The students who before were standing around, mostly doing their own thing with maybe one or two looking at us, were now standing straight at attention, each one staring at us. They weren't talking - they don't usually seem to talk amongst themselves when they see something interesting - they were just all looking at us. Apparently it takes the sight of us dancing like monkeys to get them to take any notice. Finally getting any sort of reaction out of them stands out in my mind as one of the more interesting unscripted interactions I was able to have with Korean people over the course of my trip. But the coldness of the students, and in general basically everybody I was able to talk to, definitely left an impression on me.

...Later, our last night at the hotel, was our night for Karaoke with our Korean guides.

After that, I subjected myself to a few games of Ping-pong with some other North Koreans (and I really wasn't in a state to be playing ping-pong at that point) - and then went to bed for the last time on the trip.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day 5 - The great study hall of the people - Shenyang again

We only had time for one attraction this morning, which was this great study hall of the people. Apparently, this is like a library, except more. They hold various kinds of lectures there, and even have professors on hand to answer any questions one might encounter in their reading. As we were led into various rooms full of people studying, nobody really batted an eyelash - they were apparently used to this sort of thing.

At one point we were lead into a music listening room, full of stereos.

Earlier in the tour, the Great Hall tour guide had asked me what nationality the people in our group were, apparently making small talk. Here, I found out what I think the purpose of that conversation was. I think she had somehow communicated that to somebody or other, and as we came into this room, we were presented with a choice of American or Dutch pop music. We turned the stereos, loudly - definitely disturbing a couple of other people in the room who had been listening to music - and hung out for a few minutes before heading back.

Then the ride to the airport - I managed to miss the picture of Korea's single billboard, again - and that was about it. At the airport, the Dutch people managed to score some Korean currency from our guides - definitely illegal - and I managed to find my map of unified Korea that I had been looking for. On the plane back our newspaper yet again didn't disappoint. Apparently, according to it, some US admiral had taken a break from his sailing and for some reason decided to stop off in Pyongyang in time to see the mass games we had just seen earlier - all the while somehow escaping our notice the whole time we were there. In addition to being impressed by the games, he was apparently so entranced by their culture that he took some aspects of their grammar for his own as well:

"This is my first visit to Pyongyang. What an unbelievable moment to come and visit the capital city and see the incredible show. It is like a magic. It seems like a hundred thousand people are creating a magic. It is the most incredible show that I've ever seen. I've got an insight into the Korean history. Well, I think it deserves to be given an access to the Guinness World Records. It's amazing that such a nice organization
can happen. Sailing is very tired but I think I am so lucky as to have an opportunity to see 'Arirang' in Pyongyang."

The flight attendant we talked to on the way over said hi again on the way back. And that was about the end of that...

Coming back to China was initally a letdown from what I had experienced in the last five days. It really was amazing how much cleaner Korea was than what I was used to - and I had seen too much of the country for this to be a simple propaganda job. The standards of everything really were quite a bit higher than I had gotten used to over the past year. I hadn't had to do just about anything in the way of thinking for myself over the course of the trip, which I thought maybe to have been a bit relaxing. ...But as soon as that thought entered my mind I remembered the guides sitting over my shoulder, watching my every move, and that doesn't sound like a life I or anyone would want for more than a few days at a time.