The Golden Lane Bowling Alley in the heart of Pyongyang was the tenth and last stop of my second day in the DPRK – and the first opportunity to get close to regular North Korean people. After being taken from tourist spot to tourist spot on a first cloudy and then rainy Sunday I didn’t see a lot of people after the first stop at the *Kumsusan Palace* (other than my fellow travelers, of course), so the Golden Lane Bowling Alley almost came like a shock. It was loud, it was crowded, and I hadn’t bowled in about 25 years, so I totally felt like a fish out of water.
I guess by western standards the Golden Lane Bowling Alley is just a normal and rather dated bowling alley with an arcade on the second floor – and the only reason to write about it is the fact that you don’t expect to have a bowling alley in North Korea. Well, maybe you do, but I didn’t. I was actually so surprised that I didn’t even take any notes (30 lanes? 40? 45? I have no clue…). Neither did I go upstairs to see what arcade machines they have. I was just too busy keeping up with my group.
Two things I thought were interesting though:
1.) The bowling alley had the first English signs I saw outside of the hotel, for example “Shoe Rental”.
2.) At the time of our arrival we were the first foreigners that night, when we left about half of the bowling alley was occupied by tourists. Although the place is hardly ever mentioned in travel reports it’s a standard place to go to – as always us foreign tourists were automatically cutting the line and had no waiting time at all. Which happened everywhere over the next couple of days, it actually happened before at the Kumsusan Palace. Museums, fun fairs, bowling alley, … no waiting time!
Maybe that’s the reason pretty much every previous report about the bowling alley states that everything was staged. But again I didn’t have that feeling. Sure, English signs and locals giving up their lanes for foreigners – to me it seemed more like an express pass at an amusement park. People didn’t leave because their acting stint was over, they had to wait because somebody (= us) bought their way in. The whole place was buzzing with couples and groups of friends having a good time and it really seems ridiculous to think that they were planted there to give us another show – what a waste of time, money and effort that would have been, given the fact that we had a bowling alley at the *Yanggakdo Hotel*. Also: If the whole thing was staged, wouldn’t they have more bowling shoes in Western sizes? Half of our group had to squeeze their feet or bowl on socks… But well, maybe it was staged in the past? The situation at the metro changed, maybe it did here, too?
(Sorry again for the few photos and the extremely simple video! The next articles will have way better stuff…)
(Please *click here to get to Abandoned Kansai’s North Korea Special* and *here for a map about the tour at GoogleMaps*. If you don’t want to miss the latest article you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the *video channel on Youtube*…)