21 February 2019

Pyongyang: Eternal Leaders, Juche Ideas & Good Times...

Getting stuck into our North Korean experience, we were in for another day in the DPRK's showcase city of Pyongyang! Dressed in our best and with the importance of the visit well communicated to us, it was time to visit Pyongyang's Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. The day wasn't going remain with that beginning serious tone, no! Our second day in Pyongyang was full of extremes! 

The early wake up call required a few coffees and a snatched breakfast before boarding the coach, feeling fresher than usual it was no joke that all of us behaved well, the mornings itinerary was nothing less than serious! Dressed in our Sunday best for our visit to Pyongyang's Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the final resting place for the DPRK's former leaders who now rest in state for the North Korean people to pay their maximum heartfelt respects. We had been told that our scheduled visit was something to be thankful for, some other foreigners had been utterly careless with their words so the palace had to be closed to foreigners for a period of time. We were in full agreeance that our Korean guides requests were law during that morning visit to see such a place that holds such high esteem for the people of the DPRK. Stepping in our straight single file motion it was time for us to catch a glimpse of the NK leaders!

Leaving our coats behind we remained in our lines, passing through TSA like security screening had to be done, standing with our hands by our sides and not crossing anything was the order of events. Bowing three times from the front, left and right before the late leaders had to be executed with care and respect, we weren't about to get ourselves in trouble for the two rooms that housed the resting leaders were filled with high with emotion from the local people. We passed through vast rooms that acted as memorials for the honourary degrees and recognition the leaders had been given by countries from all around the world, following the same formation like the rest was important. We saw the exact miles that both former leaders had travelled by train and flight through their shared time as the DPRK's leaders. Dotted around every corner were those DPRK guards in those scarily sharp uniforms, well it would have been rude not appreciate the view! Oh, those icy winds were fierce!

Moving swiftly on to the next calling point during that frozen yet sunny Pyongyang February day, climbing up what felt like a mountain our coach dropped us off at the foot of the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery. Located at the top of Mount Taesong we had unspoiled views across Pyongyang's almost utopian skyline, it was such a view that transported me to the future or what we envisage the year 2070 to look like? The cemetery was set out with a very uniformed fashion, the bronze busts representing the deceased heroic icons of DPRK's past stood ready for us to learn their stories. The stories sounded gruesome and quite frankly awful, it was a swift visit during the A.M schedule, we were freezing at the top of Taesong! We were told our mornings schedule had a window of opportunity to see the formidable bronze statues of Kim II Sung and Kim Jong II. Buying flowers I wanted to embrace the experience! Yes, P-Yang!

Arriving to a frenzy of people who were visiting the statues of the eternal leaders ahead of a very important national holiday, we sped walked to the foot of the huge bronze statues to wait for our turn to bow before the two Kim's. People who had flowers were told to place them with the hundreds of others that had been laid down below the concrete foundation of the two statues. Bowing in unison, then we were allowed to take photos of the bronze statues, keeping in mind that our photos must display the entire expanse of the statues. Seeing the statues put me in my place, it was another key Pyognyang site that I had really wanted to visit! Dinner was really nice, we had our own hotpot creations along with a lovely cold beer and the conversation wasn't bad also! The morning had been hectic with protocol and rules in place, it was nice to take some time out to refuel for the afternoons schedule. The previous nights Soju had me feeling less than pretty, but queue those cold beers K!

Religion can be viewed differently across the world, treading carefully I observed the ways the DPRK views its faith from what my tour portrayed to me. Some believe in the big JC but in North Korea they stand with another type of J. Embracing 'single hearted unity' as the Juche ideals continue to guide the everyday DPRK folk. Visiting the Workers Party Monument allowed us to see the hammer, paintbrush and sickle that represented the three chosen trades within the nation that we were standing in. We had time to take some photos of that grand concrete monument that I noticed before dinner could be seen from the Mansu Hill Grand Monument where the bronze statues were admiring their city of Pyongyang. Those sub-zero winds were shockingly unforgiving but we were ready to view central Pyongyang from a higher view, up above from the Juche Tower! Wasn't no time for sitting down, we had to keep going! 

Burning up on the top of the Juche Tower stood a red flame, I had seen that Juche emblem all lit up during the first evening in Pyongyang! Cramming into the lift we ascended to the top of Pyongyang's Juche icon, schooled with the facts about Pyongyang's statement landmark. I am not one for heights but I knew that the eight storey high Juche Tower wouldn't be too high compared to the likes of NYC's Empire State Building, keeping it together I was able to marvel at the contrasting views of Pyongyang from the top of the tower! On the West side of the city it was all about the showcase sites, whereas the Eastern direction gave me all those colours! Our group snapped away at the top of Pyongyang's tower with much enthusiasm, sure the winds had a fierce bite but we fully got into the views! Descending back down to the bottom of the Juche Tower allowed me to find some cultural items for my students, always on the lookout for my kids! Oh, did somebody say Pyongyang Gold Lanes?

The seriousness of the day melted away as we arrived at Pyongyang's own bowling alley. Some of the group went next door to a coffeeshop, whilst me and five others played one game of bowling. It wasn't about winning, it was all about the experience in that moment. It was the perfect opportunity to people watch, to observe such a normal activity felt quite refreshing and for the price it was considerably cheaper to bowl in Pyongyang that it is in the UK! Regrouping in the coffeeshop it was time to find a beverage at the Taedonggang Beer Bar No. 3, it presented itself as a quiet place but we changed that for sure! Personally, it was a really good opportunity to speak with So Yon, who was our female Korean guide from KITC. The beers were flowing nicely, the conversation was free and we really had a great time at the beer bar! Back onto the coach, it turned into an impromptu karaoke session, I definitely belted out a tune! 

Tea was at a really nice restaurant, we dined on some really good food and at our tables the beverage kept on flowing and then some! The waitresses halted their duties, presenting themselves as the cabaret show for the meal! It was a full on show with tricks and the opportunity to get up and dance with them, I loved it! The group had been together since the Tuesday and being the Thursday we had bonded quite well, the vibe was really nice! We had stayed out a little later compared to the previous two nights, the previous night we were advised to sleep earlier because of our visit to Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to see the resting eternal leaders. Returning to the hotel, we all descended upon the bar and this time we were all present to have a night fuelled with DPRK liquor and laughs! From our strict morning to our afternoon at the top of the Juche Tower, we ensured the night time was a lot more relaxed! PY, it was another amazing day in the DPRK with Young Pioneer Tours and KITC!

PY, Shine On! 

Joseph Harrison 

17 February 2019

DPRK: The DMZ, Kaesong & Sariwon

Suited and booted in our smart clothes it was time for the lengthy drive along the Reunification Highway from Pyongyang City to Korea's Demilitarised Zone, the journey would take us face to face with the peninsula's southern border. Passing through Kaesong allowed me to try something new for dinner and our brief Sariwon hike gave us a higher viewpoint! Korea, peace out!

The DMZ had been on my list of places to visit within the Koreas, but Panmumjom isn't accessible from the southern side so my ultimate trip to the DPRK had to be the one. Breakfast was a blur that morning but we all made it down to one of the restaurants for something to eat before we boarded the coach for the long journey to the borderline. Those North Korean roads made me feel just fine and dandy, it was going to be fine! Passing underneath the 'Reunification Monument' onto the highway that shared the same name kickstarted our journey towards DPRK's boundary with South Korea. After stopping at a bizarre gift shop/toilet venue beside a motorway with no traffic, it was something else to process in my head. Making our way closer to Panmunjom, soon enough we pulled into the city of Kaesong that sits on the DMZ borderline with Paju, Kae's southern sister city. Best believe, this was a borderline never to forget!

Word on the street, apparently the best propaganda posters were waiting for us as we arrived at the checkpoint with the DMZ? Grabbing a few things for my students before being briefed about our pursuit to Panmunjom was the just the thing that I needed! Stepping to the beat we were told to, we made our way back onto the coach to the place where the 1953 armistice was signed, halting the vicious Korean War. Accompanied by a selection of delectable soldiers, I reminded my nasty side where I was in that moment, but those uniforms were something else! The stillness inside the building where the United Nations mediated the signing of those important papers felt chillingly still, it was quite interesting not see the stars and stripes, apparently the folks who were representing the U.S forgot to bring their honourable flag? Our YPT group had the whole joint to ourselves for a little bit, we had enough time to take photos before a Hong Kong tour group rocked up at the entrance. Go!

Backtracking to Seoul for a few seconds, I honestly looked at visiting the DMZ from the southern side, but it was all wishy-washy about what days were available. In the present time on the northern side, we approached the viewpoint of those blue U.N huts and the south's sleek DMZ headquarters. We weren't allowed to take any photos of the northern buildings, that was fine with me because from where we were standing it was such a still and captivating view to even take a second thought. Our guides proceeded to point to the location that Kim and Moon had their summit meeting, we were able to catch a glimpse of that powerful borderline marking that the South Korean leader stepped over to begin those ground breaking talks between the two K's, For those of us with Chinese mobiles it was a moment to remember, our phones pinged back to life for a brief second with Seoul mobile signal! I didn't check WeChat!

It was amazing to see the borderline that gets talked about when both North and South Korea hit the headlines, to see such a still and calm situation gave me the impression tensions seem to be easing ever so slightly. Up until that point the morning's proceedings had been quite formal and had involved us walking in soldier-like formations, boarding the coach to leave the DMZ & Pamnumjom area allowed me to breath a sigh of relief. Learning about the signing of the 1953 armistice was fascinating, it was quite something to see the southern border with such clarity and stillness. The close watching soldiers who were on duty put the fear in me but at the same time they were quite the eye-candy if truth be told. I'm truly thankful that I was too hungover in Seoul to make reservations for a DMZ tour from the southern side, things looked much better from where we were all standing. It was almost dinnertime, heading into Kaesong City took things into a different avenue. Kae, DMZ done!

Stopping at one of Korea's oldest educational institutions of its time showed us something interesting, it was on a different level compared with Panmunjom and the DMZ. Known as Sungkyunkwan, during the late Goryeo and Joseon dynasties it was a very famous lecture hall with many other buildings, some of those that shown to us housed many historical relics that corresponded to the time period. Before leaving for dinner it was time for us to see a gift shop that specialised in DPRK propaganda postcards. I bought some for my English Corner, the children can't read Korean but the cards look extremely colourful and each tell their own story. Kaesong stood as a pint-sized city, the buildings were mostly painted very brightly with many hot pink and canary yellow tones served as we approached the restaurant. Like many places in the DPRK, it was a rare sight to see any cars because most people used bikes! On your bike!

During my South Korea trip during October 2018 I didn't eat any Korean foot whatsoever, so being in a place that wasn't commercialised allowed me to be more adventurous! I had read up about the golden bowl restaurant in Kaesong, that wasn't the restaurants name but what food was served to us was certainly present in golden like bowls. Many people assume that I have tried dog meat, people only eat it in China down in the southern parts of the country, during that Kaesong afternoon I had to try the sweet 'dog' meat soup to say that I had tried it at least once. I picked around most of the food, others weren't so keen but it was an experience not to repeated. Diving into the soup, I tried a few mouthfuls of the suspiciously sweet tasting meat. The dog meat had the same consistency as pulled pork with a resounding sweet after-taste, if truth be told I couldn't carry on eating it because I couldn't get the image of my late dog out of my head, Murphy was judging me! 오, 안돼!

It was time for us to slowly make the journey back to Pyongyang but those bumpy roads allowed us to experience a rollercoaster drive back to the big city! Stopping halfway in a city known as Sariwon, it served true pedestrian style as the apartment blocks served straight up realness, Amsterdam could take several seats because bicycles ruled the streets of Sariwon. Reaching a folklore park, it was time to climb to the pagoda that was nestled in a mini-mountain, dolled up in my best, those dress shoes made me look like a slippery hot mess as I climbed that mini-mountain so triumphantly! The views over Sariwon gave me two main flavours, one being Soviet with those concrete buildings representing for miles ahead and the Korean slanted roofs reminded me I was rooted firmly within the Korean Peninsula. Climbing down catapulted us into a sea of curious eyes and wandering youths, sure we foreign folk stood out!

Pyongyang was in sight, we all breathed a sigh of relief to pass near the Reunification Monument, it had been a long day and the drive felt like forever. Stepping out into the drizzle for a few moments allowed us to see a monument that the North Korean people believed would reflect their country's future, one whole and reunified Korea. We had made such good time the restaurant wasn't ready for us, going back for a little rest was the tonic we needed after such a long and interesting day out. Pyongyang Cold Noodles and a rendition of Korean 'Oh, Danny Boy' impressed us with a certain bewilderment, we witnessed a surprise spectacle that was full of signing and dancing! After dinner we managed to stop across the road from the shimmering yet unfinished Ryugyong Hotel, for that moment it stood as a light show with messages and imagery that we couldn't read, it was amazing to see though! Back at the hotel, it was time for another Soju filled night after another full day out in the DPRK!

Signal Near Seoul? Yes!

Joseph Harrison

15 February 2019

Pyongyang: The First 24 Hours!

Arriving in Pyongyang felt downright berserk, it had been a city that I had wanted to visit since I knew a life in China was on the radar. Stamped into the country it was time to begin my tour of the city with Young Pioneer Tours, for a person who doesn't do group tours I rubbished that mindset! Ryomyong Street was our nighttime destination, those power cuts though PY! 

Taking that overnight train to Pyongyang from Beijing? No, thank you very much darling! Touching down into Pyongyang Sunan Airport kickstarted my DPRK Chinese Spring Festival experience, I wanted to make use of my Shunyi address being only 20 mins or so to Beijing Capital International Airport. I would be taking the night train back from Dandong soon enough, my time would come through eventually. Clearing through immigration was something else, I work in China but I'm originally from England so that gave the immigration officer some questions, the uniform put the fear in me! Baggage reclaim at Sunan Airport was done properly, no scanners before the carousel because I caught a glimpse of a sizeable German Shepherd, was that canine worker a sniffer dog? Leaving the majority of my electronics at home made the final screening so much easier, but where was my boarding stub? Who was that lady? Yes, So Yon!

Reunited with my fellow Pioneers, it was time for us to be escorted to our coach that would transport us for the duration of our Pyongyang City and DMZ experience. Introducing themselves, our guides Jeong So Yon and Jeong Kwang Gwong welcomed us to the city and to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on behalf of their KITC brand. Moving closer to Pyongyang City centre gave us some immense views, I had watched about one trillion documentaries about North Korea, most feature on the showcase capital, I was getting all kinds of North Korean City sights! I stared out of the coach windows with utter bewilderment! Nearing Ryomyong Street we were shown a series of Pyongyang City sights before we had even made it to Kim Il Sung Square, the Arch of Triumph was giving all kinds of Parisian vibes in the heart of the DPRK's provincial city! In that moment I was looking forward to a lengthy break from social media, the sights and sounds of Pyongyang would entertain me! 

Stepping down from the coach as the afternoon turned into dusk we were fronted by the flaming icon of Pyongyang, being the Juche Tower I wandered away slightly but with Kwang Gwong's presence nearby. I was going to play by the rules so took my photos of the impressive Kim Il Sung Square with consideration and caution. I got my snaps! Yes, those white marks on the ground symbolised the places people would stand as they marched in the processions, we weren't going to see anything of the sort but it was amazing to see the Grand People's Study House with the two leaders in clear view, on the right I caught a supersize DPRK flag above the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. The rest of the group had retreated to a nearby coffeeshop, I followed not long after but I needed to soak in some of the Pyongyang feeling in the heart of Kim Il Sung Square. Keeping all of my photos looking O.K I joined the other Pioneers. 

Stepping into the Ryongwang Coffeeshop gave me all kinds of flashbacks from Michael Palin's recent DPRK investigative documentary, the very same coffeeshop had featured in that Channel5 programme. Taking a seat for a little while it gave us flight takers the chance to take stock of the flight and the first few hours in Pyongyang. We had all travelled from different places to make that YPT DPRK trip, it was a meeting of nationalities with Mexico, Australia, England and Scotland all at the table with North Korea in close quarters. Enjoying our hot and cold beverages it was out of nowhere when the power completely shutdown, I was aware that power outages can be a normal thing in Pyongyang but we as a group weren't expecting to experience one, being fresh off the plane too! Our guides found it quite amusing to see and hear our reactions to the sudden loss of light, they used their phones torches for us to see. Paying for our drinks, we headed for the train station. 

A series of blinding lights and traffic fronted us at Pyongyang's hectic railway station, I had only visited Seoul Station through the metro interchange so I had nothing to compare PY's rail terminus with its southern neighbour. Anyway, we paid 1 RMB to access the platform to greet the incoming K27 train that had travelled all the way from Beijing Railway Station via Dandong and Sinuiju Stations, stopping for the immigration checks after crossing the Sino Friendship Bridge in Dandong. We had guessed the train takers would be in a merry state, they had a lot of time on the platform to give them the perfect excuse to drink their poisons! Do I regret not taking the train from Beijing? Absolutely, not! I loved the contrast between Air Koryo's inflight experience compared to their southern sister, Korean Air. The train journey sounded long, my add-ons to Sinuiju and Dandong took care of the train business! Yes, yes PY!

Now, let me break this down! Some of those DPRK brothers were looking fine! Keeping my nasty side in check, I appreciated the view discreetly because I certainly behaved like a saint from then on during my North Korea trip. Seoul had offered me many midnight and morning delights of a certain kind but It was an absolute no-go within the DPRK! Even my mom warned me to remember my location, it was not going to be Korean sojourn like Seoul! Remembering my location, we were ushered to the platform to greet the incoming Beijing train to meet the rest of the Pioneers! Pulling in on time, it took a few moments for the train to make a complete stop, allowing our YPT guide Nicolas Platt and the rest of the gang to join the flight takers and our Korean guides. With the business of 'hello' and 'where are you from?' done and dusted it was time for us to head for dinner. Now, I like a drink but credit to the train goers, they had done a good job by the sounds of it! Well, what a station P!

For the flight takers, we were about to revisit one of the sights that had passed us on the way we took from the airport. Clocking the futurist towers of Pyongyang's Ryomyong New Town gave me a sense of Futurama for a few moments. The day had been long but a good bit of food was in order for us all, that questionable hamburger had worn off well and truly at that point in the day! Learning how to get used to stairs, we found ourselves in this sparkly new looking restaurant with two perfectly laid tables that already had our food waiting for us! Get me a drink, please! Toasting to the holiday I enjoyed a lovely teatime chat with Tori, a fellow foreigner from Beijing. Like a few of us in the group, both me and Tori worked in the English teaching/education game! It was a pleasant introduction to our first evening in Pyongyang, DPRK. We had all been on the move for a long time at that point but the night was still YPT young! 

Checking into our hotel, we found ourselves at the Nangang Hotel. Word on the street was that other Pyongyang hotels had seen their day and if truth be told the first impressions of our residence for the week were good. Getting those bags set down in the room it was down to the bar for a night cap or five! I had downed a fair few grapefruit flavoured Soju's in sizzling Seoul but Pyongyang's own Soju required some mixing, enter Tori she found the perfect mix between the local brew as she added some ice and lychee juice! Claiming that drink 'the Tori' for the duration of the trip it was quite an interesting first night. People were feeling the day, returning to their rooms before midnight it wasn't quite bed for me! I shouldn't be allowed anywhere near bar because things get down right unpredictable! The following days long drive to the DMZ allowed us to have a few more drinks before calling it a night! All in all, the first 24 hours in Pyongyang proved to be fruitful indeed! Oh, Lychee! 

Go Pioneers! 

Joseph Harrison 

13 February 2019

Flying High... Air Koryo!

Air Koryo is the airline that represents the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, I had the opportunity to fly with DPRK's airline from Beijing Capital Airport to Pyongyang Sunan Airport on the 5th of February 2019. Compared with its South Korea counterpart, Korean Air and Air Koryo shared a brief moment that morning as both airlines prepared for their Korean flights. 

Reporting at the check-in for Air Koryo flight JS152 felt like a very different flight compared with by Korean Air flight to Seoul a few months previous to that February moment. Suited and booted in my best clothes, it felt like the right thing to, I didn't want to look scruffy after touching down at Pyongyang's Sunan Airport. Things progressed after three Air China passenger service agents brought the screens to light at Terminal 2's international check-in at Beijing Capital. A mountain of boxes stood next to the second check in counter, I wondered how much cargo would be checked in during that check-in period? Identifying a certain business dress and pin depicting a certain DPRK leader, it was apparent this flight operation was going to be very well managed. Meeting a representative from Young Pioneer Tours confirmed I wasn't the only person on the flight before the check-in started! Other YPT tour members needed their visas! 

Boarding card in hand, I passed through China Customs without any hitches. As time progressed it was quite apparent to see the buying power of the passengers who were also destined for Pyongyang that morning, it was evident to see the tills at the duty-free shops had been ringing with much enthusiasm! After meeting up with two of the YPT tour members at the gate, it was such a relief to see familiar faces from the previous days briefing. Before we knew it was time to board this direct flight to the DPRK, planning such a trip and getting the funds together had taken several months, in that moment it finally clicked that I was on my way to North Korea! Would we be flying on a Antonov A148? We were bound for Pyongyang using a Tupolev Tu-204, that newer looking twin-jet engine gave me some faith for the flight. Hearing some Seoul Gimpo announcements it was revealed to us that Korean Air and Air Koryo were sharing neighbouring gates! But, did the pilots give each other a wave? 

After the epic time it took us to taxi from the gate to the runway we finally took to the skies, it was a really polluted day so seeing anything out from my window wasn't going to be. Did I see a 'manual safety demonstration?' Yes, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Air Koryo crew perform one before take off, its not something cabin crew perform nowadays, its now all videos and the occasional pointing to the nearest exits. I must admit that I had watched so many reviews and video reports on YouTube about the airline of the DPRK, well I casually took my photo of the cabin that featured the main cabin area and its surroundings. I had to pinch myself that I was actually on my way to Pyongyang, DPRK with Air Koryo! I was expecting a different order of cabin services compared with Korean Air's offerings but I was open to their differences. Our in-flight entertainment started with footage from the Wonsan Air Festival. 

I was set next a DPRK mother and son, they were sitting in the middle and aisle seats, we exchanged several glances and smiles but for the life of me I couldn't catch their Northern tones compared to the softer Southern accent that I heard during my visit to Seoul. Back to the crew, our all female cabin crew represented their national airline proudly with their stylish black fitted uniforms, their hairstyles were modest with tight buns rather than the usual doughnut style many other international airlines have. I was impressed with their appearance standards, every crew member wore just enough make up because lets be honest there's some airlines that have clowns serving drinks and snacks at 33,000 ft. Their uniforms were the parallel to Korean Air's soft pastel coral blue uniforms, that gives me all kinds of flashbacks to that dreamy looking male crew on KE852! Leaving Beijing's smoggy skies behind, it was going be interesting to see what kind of views would be served to us!

Keeping this kosher for many reasons it's no secret that Air Koryo serves a certain burger for its main meal onboard their international flights to and from the DPRK. Personally, I was quite intrigued to try that dubiously sounding snack! Served through the cabin along with a light refreshment, I chose to drink some Cola. If truth be told the offerings weren't bad, being a short flight there wasn't much need for a full service meal for our Beijing-Pyongyang flight. The interesting tasting Cola reminded me of Lidl's own interpretation of the famous American soft drink. I am trying not to mention any branded drinks! People make a lot of noise, to be fair it was a memorable snack as my Tupolev Tu-204 made its way closer to DPRK's Pyongyang Sunan Airport. Thankfully, I had had a small Starbucks breakfast before boarding the Pyongyang bound flight, it was a good idea because the burger itself was small and being hungry, it was suitable JS!

No glossy airline published in-flight magazines were found in the seat-pocket that was in from of me, I had a copy of the Pyongyang Times to read for that short-haul sector. Printed in English with some really interesting articles and photos, I was happy to learn more about the recent news from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The current leader and his elegant wife had recently made a state visit to Beijing to meet the President and the First Lady, the colour photo that I found on the front page told me all I needed to know about one of DPRK's recent successful visits to China. Several articles promoted the triumphs of local businesses and the efforts of local people who had made an impact within their contribution to their country. I never read newspapers but during that once-in-a-lifetime surreal flight I was more than willing to find something to spill the beans about the DPRK. Judging by the change in the landscape below our Air Koryo aircraft, Pyongyang grew closer!

Now, I usually go for an aisle seat because I can have the monopoly when I need to go to the toilet, to pass by the galley to speak with crew or to get extra snacks, not during my Air Koryo flight! Choosing the window seat proved to be an absolute winner, the terrain changed quite a lot as we started to make the descent over the DPRK ready for our arrival into Pyongyang's Sunan Airport. The descent into Seoul was all about getting lost in the collection of K-Pop anthems from the IFE, but my flying experience north of the Korean border saw me appreciate the view compared to being distracted with the sounds of IKON and their 'Love Scenario'. Had it been snowing near Pyongyang? Mostly likely yes, saying that the terrain looked pretty mountainous with patches of green vegetation, well from what I caught as our Tu-204 retracted its flaps ready for landing at FNJ. Before we knew it, our flight had landed safely!

Pyongyang's Sunan Airport looked brand new, shinning in the dreary afternoons skies it was time for me and my fellow Pioneers to take a look and obviously enter the country to begin our tour. With the jet-bridge connected we were allowed to disembark, but was there a DPRK-pop star onboard? A beautiful Korean women was ushered down the aisle before anyone else was aloud to move, now I was intrigued! Presenting my passport, entry/exit papers, customs form & visitors visa card to the guard put the fear into me! My working location and nationality caused a question but that was all innocent and I was granted access onto DPRK soil. Grabbing my luggage once it made an appearance on the carousel and clearing customs concluded by Air Koryo experience. It was a very interesting flight to a new side of Korea, no ads for double eye-lid lifts were present in the terminal though! Meeting our Korean guides it was time to make our way into the city, leaving PY's new FNJ airport behind us.

Koryo Done!

Joseph Harrison