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?)


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