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“Fun Run” is an oxymoron, at least to me. I hated running at school, I hate running to catch the last train (and if it isn’t the last I usually don’t run and wait for the next one…) and I especially hate running during *urban exploration*, after all the main topic of this blog. So when I read in the itinerary of my trip to North Korea that one of the (optional) items on the agenda would be a fun run I completely ignored it. It wasn’t until after I booked the tour, actually until after applications for the tour closed, that I started considering joining the fun run. It would be a new experience, it would be for a good cause (minimum donation: 20 Euros) and let’s be honest, when do you get the opportunity to go running in Pyongyang?

The 2013 Pyongyang Fun Run actually was a world premiere. There is a regular Pyongyang marathon, but this event was the first charity run in North Korea. Originally it was planned to have a 5k version and 10k version, leading from the Ryanggang Hotel through Pyongyang’s “sports district” (where most of the competition venues are) to Kwangbok Street. But things didn’t go according to plan and when the organizers found out that a renovation project in the sports district was starting just before the event (and a group of tourists running through a camp of army construction workers wasn’t an option…) the 10k version was axed and a new route was found: along Taedong river, from the former site of the American spy ship USS Pueblo past the *Yanggakdo Hotel* to the city center at Kim Il-sung Square. (*Click here for the exact route on GoogleMaps.*)
Since the Fun Run was optional and we had a tight schedule for the day (May 1st, one of the most important national holidays in North Korea – guess why…) all participants got an early wake-up call – 6 a.m.! A blessing in disguise as I was able to take one of my favorite shots from the window of my hotel room, sunrise in Pyonyang… beautiful!
Originally I intended to run the whole distance with a couple of brief stops for a photo here and there, but after I found out that some people would rather do a Fun Walk I decided to join that relaxed group and take it easy – a smart decision as I woke up slightly sick. Instead of my usual DSLR I brought a pocket camera. Less weight, less “threatening” – photography is treated differently in the DPRK as you know by now.
Although my fellow group member Juliette and I usually were at the rear end of the runner field I never had the feeling that we were under supervision. Every once in a while I saw a Korean guide standing around to show us the track (we started running / walking on top of a small dam along Taedong River, but to avoid bridges and roads sometimes we had to go down to the road north of it or to the waterside promenade to the south). It was early in the morning on a national holiday, so the streets weren’t exactly crowded, but I passed pedestrians or got passed by cyclists on a regular basis – it felt like a genuine morning stroll in a country that is nicknamed “hermit kingdom”. I guess I should have tried to “escape” to find out how tight supervision really was, but I didn’t feel supervised at all – and if I would have been able to speak Korean it would have been easy to make contact with locals. I took a small video with the pocket camera, too – maybe you will be able to demask all the secret service agents I wasn’t able to see; probably because I was too busy enjoying the experience as the weather was great and the atmosphere was tranquil.

Now you might ask: What’s the point of a Fun Run that hardly anybody sees and that had only about 50 participants, none of which were regular locals?
Well, first of all: Those 50 people (and non-participating donors) raised about 2000 Euros to buy milk powder for an orphanage in Nampo – that alone would be reason enough to organize an event like that. But I don’t think it was the main reason why Koryo Tours did it. I think they organized the Fun Run to once more push the boundaries. Some people took the run very seriously, others (like myself) basically went for a stroll, so by the time the winner reached the goal the starting field must have stretched over two or three kilometers – too much to supervise with a dozen helpers or two. Since the track wasn’t closed off the runners and local people mixed, a first in the DPRK. North Koreans don’t see many foreigners – let alone see them running through the city, feeling the wind of change in their hair. Okay, let’s not overestimate the importance of this event. It still was just a fun run. But many events in history started with only some dozen people. Maybe next year there will be 100 people running, the following year employees of the Yanggakdo Hotel might be allowed to join and one day regular locals – you never know…
And even if not, it still was a great experience for all participants. It was just nice to walk around, to see locals interact with each other, to take photos from a different perspective other than from a bus or from a building. To hear the wind in the willow trees, to swallow a couple of bugs that were swarming everywhere along the river, to see locals spread herbs to dry in the warm spring sun, to have a moment for yourself without seeing any guides or fellow travelers. To pay attention to details – even though I had spent three full days in Pyongyang I never noticed the solar powered street lights, because on a group tour there is almost always somebody talking, there is almost always something to see. Yet I missed the solar panels. Nothing worth mentioning in most countries, but if anybody would have told me “Pyongyang has solar powered street lights!” I probably wouldn’t have believed him. But see for yourself, they are visible on quite a few photos I took that morning.
When I first found out about the Fun Run I completely ignored it – luckily I changed my mind and took part, as it was one of the highlights of my trip. If you ever go to North Korea and have the opportunity to join… do it! You’ll make memories for life!

(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*…)

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The food during my trip to North Korea is a topic I didn’t want to touch with a 10 foot pole, because as we all know the DPRK is a terribly poor country and it was struck by famine for several years in the 1990s. But I know that a lot of you are very much interested in what visitors to North Korea eat… and where… and when…

Since trips to North Korea are group tours pretty much everything is included in a total price. We always had breakfast at the respective hotels we stayed at – buffet at the *Yanggakdo Hotel*, set menu at the Dragon River Hot Spa Hotel in Nampo and the Minsok Hotel in Kaesong. Lunch usually was at restaurants run by KITC (which means that usually we didn’t eat with locals), dinner was either at the hotels or at restaurants. Lunch and dinner included water and one beer per person, additional alcohol was available at a ridiculously low price – I think 50 cents per bottle.
The Korean guides usually had their own table, not because they got different food, but because it was a chance for them to get away from the group and be amongst themselves. Tour guides work long hours, so they definitely deserved it!

Breakfast at the Yanggakdo Hotel was pretty good – usually some bread / buns, sweet doughy things (like donuts), pickles, kimchi, fried eggs, stewed meat (chicken, pork), battered fried fish, fried potatoes and veggies. Simple, but delicious. (Breakfast at the other two hotels was a lot more simple, which is understandable since they had a lot less customers…)

Lunch was always amazing! Usually we sat on a long table were groups of four people shared about 8 to 10 dishes. Kimchi, fried eggs, stewed meat, broiled / fried fish, sweet and sour tofu – similar to the breakfast, but way better quality. Again: simple, but extremely delicious. Since there are a lot of Koreans living in Japan I had all kinds of kimchi before, hot and cold, and I never was a big fan of it – but the kimchi we had at the KITC restaurant in Pyongyang was amazing, the best kimchi I ever had!
One day we were able to choose one of the main dishes, either bibimbap or naengmyeon. Bibimbap is one of the most famous Korean dishes (mixed rice, including vegetables, meats, eggs and several spices) and since I had it before I went with naengmyeon, cold noodles in a broth Pyongyang is famous for. Living in Japan I am very familiar with soba and udon (two Japanese kinds of noodles than can be eaten hot or cold) and so I was very curious about naengmyeon – and the guides were quite interested in my opinion. To be honest with you, if prefer udon over soba over naengmyeon at any day, but for the sake of understanding among nations I called it a draw – actually making our guide more interested in Japanese food. (I brought some sweets and shared them during the trip with fellow travelers, guides and locals.)
Another lunch highlight was the lamb BBQ in a Pyongyang park. Of course we had our own tables, but local groups were having picnics at identical tables, too, so it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary what we did there. Sunny day, great food, locals – a nice break from “foreigners looking at things”…
The lunch our guides were most proud of was pansanggi we had in Kaesong. Pansanggi consists of about a dozen small brass bowls filled with… well… vegetables, fried fish, pickles, tofu, meat, … It originated among Korean royalty, who realized that variety is the spice of life and rather had small portions of many dishes than big portions of a single dish. And since they had the resources to afford it… The preparation was amazing, for example this was some of the best tofu I ever ate – and of course the presentation added to the experience, too.

Dinner usually was kimchi, fried eggs, stewed meat, pickles, broiled / fried fish, tofu… lots of variations, so hardly any of us got sick of it over the course of the eight days we spent in the DPRK; but it was all Korean food, so people used to not only eating a different dish, but a different cuisine every day might have a tough time in North Korea. One evening we had the opportunity to visit Pyongyang’s only pizza restaurant with authentic Italian equipment and staff trained on location, but I bowed out and had dinner at the Yanggakdo Hotel. When in Rome, do as the Romans do… and eat pizza – but when in Pyongyang I prefer to have Korean food!
In Nampo we had a local specialty before the dinner – the petrol clam BBQ. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You arrange dozens of claims on a flat stone, soak them with two 500ml plastic bottles of petrol and light them on fire! Since the Nampo clams don’t open up when cooked that way, most of the gasoline actually burns into thin air. Nevertheless about 1 in 4 clams taste of petrol according to our guide Sarah. (I’ve tried only one since I had a weak stomach that day – more about that later…) But since “better safe than sorry” is valid all over the world our guides treated us with two bottles of soju (sweetened rice liquor) and two bottles of Pyongyang Vodka (beyond 50% alcoholic content…). I was tempted to ask for a bottle of Victory Gin, but I bit my tongue last second. 🙂
By the way – the standard farewell meal on the last night is at a duck restaurant in Pyongyang. When we went there the place was packed (with foreigners…) and the food was amazing! Four plates of meat, two plates of veggies and a grill in the middle. Heaven!

What else is there to say?
Oh, pretty much every meal came with a soup and rice – and the rice was usually one of the last dishes. Why? Because our hosts didn’t want us to give the impression that they would fill us with rice so they wouldn’t have to give us much meat, eggs and vegetables. A sweet gesture, but I don’t think anybody would have complained to get the rice along with the meats and vegetables; but I’ve heard it’s custom in other countries, too, for example at Chinese weddings.
If you want to visit North Korea, but you can’t stand the idea of eating fish, meat and shellfish with every meal there is good news: a vegetarian option is available, but no kosher or halal one.

And that’s it for food in North Korea… for now. (*But don’t miss the article about Korean Dog Soup!*)

(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*…)

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Pyongyang’s June 9th Middle School is the showpiece school in North Korea and the reason for that is not really a surprise: Kim Il-sung himself ordered to build a new school in 1969 – on June 9th, hence the name.
Since we started to run behind schedule due to crashing an English lesson at the *Grand People’s Study House* we basically rushed through the June 9th Middle School, even past the painting of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il surrounded by children that decorated the entrance. Almost all the pictures I took made me fall behind the group, luckily my fellow travelers wanted to take photos, too, so there was always somebody else at the rear. Pauses were only made in class rooms. One showed the history of the school, one housed the an exhibit collection (for example taxidermy animals and eggs of more than a dozen birds) and one was clearly the science room, with two microscopes on each table; different models, by the way – and I have no idea why there were pencil cases on each table; one row for boys (blue), one row for girls (pink). Although there were some boys playing soccer outside the place felt strange to me. Well, it was past 5 p.m., so barely any school in Germany would be more lively, especially in the afternoon before a national holiday, but…

We were in for another treat anyway – since the school is proud of their education in the fields of dance, drama and music a couple of students insisted on performing for us. After two tourists were dragged on stage at the *Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace* I asked Sarah if this would happen again, so she told me about that school we would visit later during the trip… and I decided to place myself in second row again, making sure to have people sitting both to my left and right. A wise decision, because for the grand finale all but a handful of foreign visitors were dragg–… invited by kids to join them for a group dance performance.

(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*…)

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Grand People’s Study House is one of the most famous buildings in Pyongyang and part of pretty much every tour to the DPRK. North Korea’s central library is located at Kim Il-sung Square in the heart of Pyongyang and can hold up to 30 million books, including a couple of foreign ones. It was built over a period of 21 months and opened in April of 1982 to honor Kim Il-sung’s 70th birthday.

We entered the study house through the entrance of Seomun Street (the north/south one, not the east/west one) and I have a feeling that this is not the entrance most people use. The first room we entered was a huge hall with a gigantic statue of Kim Il-sung, about 2 storeys tall, to the left and the right an escalator each, half-hidden behind huge pillars. We used the right escalator to go to the upper floor where a couple of locals were using PCs, looking through the library’s catalogue according to a white sign with blue lettering. I was really surprised to see that most signs at the Grand People’s Study House were bilingual Korean / English; not only those guiding signs, but also the names of study rooms and auditoriums.
Speaking of signs: When I took pictures of the restroom signs I seriously confused Mr. Yu; so much that he talked to our Western guide Sarah about it. I overheard the conversation and explained to him that I thought the signs looked interesting, with a more traditional one on the door and a more modern one next to it. I also mentioned that people who have never been to the DPRK don’t know what toilet signs look like in the DPRK and that some are interested in those details. This situation perfectly showed how differently photography is treated in North Korea and the majority of the world. For us photography became a thing we just do, sometimes even carelessly – even without having a camera with us most of us are able to take pictures at any time with a phone or a tablet. We rather take too many photos than to miss something we might regret. Not so in North Korea. There are a lot less mobile phones (which I don’t consider a bad thing…) and you only bring your camera to special events. Remember the days of analog photography, when you took pictures without knowing if they were good and you had to pay for every single one of them to find out? That’s what it’s like in the DPRK. In the 1950s or 60s hardly anybody took trivial photos – nowadays the meaningful photos have a similar share as back then the pointless ones had…

The tour through the building was pretty much exactly the same as the one everybody gets – and of course they told us the story about how Kim Il-sung invented the adjustable table when he first visited the study house. (He saw his fellow Koreans’ backs bend over the tables and decided that the height and angle of the tables need to be adjusted to make it easier for them to study…)
At the media room our guides popped in a tape with Beatles classics – a video I am not allowed to post on Youtube due to possible copyright infringements. Isn’t it nice to live in the free world?

From the media room we went to the foreign language classes and had a peak at an English lesson and some people learning Chinese. When we were on our way to the balcony to enjoy the stunning view at Kim Il-sung Square all of a sudden Jeff decided that he wanted to talk to the English students – after a short deliberation we got permission to go back, much to the surprise of everybody. Jeff, Juliet and Barbara crashed the English class, introduced themselves and asked the students a couple of questions; including if they had some themselves. At first the whole room acted like a group of deer in headlights, but they gradually warmed up to their new teachers and even started to give answers. Those conversations weren’t deep, but nevertheless quite moving to everybody present – students, guides, foreign visitors. This was quite an unusual situation, probably an all-time first. And everybody seemed to enjoy it – a welcomed change of pace after the rather unspectacular visit of the *Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm* and the quite boring Museum of Metro Construction (where we were not allowed to take photos… although nobody seemed to know why).
When we finally reached the balcony of the Grand People’s Study House we were running behind schedule (of course…), so I was only able to take a couple of quick photos and a short video. Guess what – at a school kids were waiting for us… to entertain with a musical performance!

Oh, one final little detail though – remember how I wrote that we entered the Grand People’s Study House and used the escalator to the right of the Kim Il-sung statue to get to the upper floor? Well, when we left we used the same moving staircase to get back down, which means that they changed the direction of the escalator, although there was a second one to the left of the statue. I guess it doesn’t mean a thing, but if you were critical of the system you could claim that everything is a show, that they don’t keep the escalators running all day and just turn them on for tourists to get in and out… heck, maybe the left escalator isn’t even in working condition anymore?

(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*…)

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The Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm (referred to as Taesongsan Combined Fruit Fam in most tour programs – I looked at GoogleMaps, it’s definitely the same place…) about half an hour outside of Pyongyang was one of the most unspectacular locations on my trip to North Korea. We were given the choice of either visiting the Pyongyang Folk Village (a park with miniature versions of landmarks in Pyongyang and the rest of the DPRK) for a rather steep entrance fee (something like 20 Euros) or heading out to the fruit farm for free, and the vote was unanimous – Taedonggang Fruit Farm!

Well, what can I say? The view from the observation point was nice, given that it was barely 50 meters high – but a fruit farm, predominantly apples and peaches, in spring isn’t exactly the most exciting place to be. So after we listened to the local guide how 800 people work on the farm, that the apple trees were imported from Italy and that the whole thing was built within just three years we headed down to the gift shop, which was actually the more interesting part of that stop. Fresh apples that looked like apples I remember from my childhood – different sizes, not perfectly formed, spots everywhere; much unlike the cloned stuff you get in supermarkets nowadays. I bought some dried apple rings and apple shampoo as souvenirs, but they also offered different kinds of juices and alcohol. Then we boarded the bus and headed back to the city, Pyongyang.

If I had only done some research in advance… What the guide didn’t tell us was that the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm is probably the best-defended farm in the world – the residence of the Kim family in Kangdong is only about 10 kilometers away and Kim Jong-un most likely passes by on the way to the city every day! There are several units of the Korean People’s Army stationed in the area, including some anti-aircraft units. So when you look at those peaceful pictures, please remember that all hell could break loose within seconds…

(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*…)

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The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace was by far the weirdest destination on my trip to North Korea. Not the weirdest experience in my life, but it turned out to be a very, very close second…

Located right across the KITC restaurant on Kwangbok Street (down the road turning into the Youth Hero Highway leading to Nampo) the biggest of many children’s palaces in North Korea features 650 rooms on 6 floors, including a gymnasium, a swimming pool and a 2000 seat theater; its shape symbolizing a parent hugging their children. (Or Kim Il-sung / Kim Jong-il hugging children. Kim Jong-un still was a kid himself when the building was erected in the late 1980s and officially opened on May 2nd 1989.) Palaces were always popular in communist countries. Not to live in, but for education and leisure. Pretty much every city in the former Eastern bloc had at least one Palace of Culture (*here I visited the one in Pripyat near Chernobyl*) where people could watch movies, rehearse theater plays, practice on musical instruments, do sports, … Children’s Palaces are basically the DPRK version for juniors – I’ve never heard of them in the context of Soviet Russia or the German Democratic Republic, so they might be a North Korean invention. But while Palaces of Culture were open for everybody the Children’s Palaces are only for the most talented kids in the DPRK. Here they learn foreign languages, do sports, perfection their computer skills or practice instruments as extra-curricular activities – reportedly up to 5400 children at a time!

When writing about the *Workers Party Foundation Monument* I mentioned how much monument planners love symbolism – hardly anybody knows that it backfired in this case. In front of the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace is a huge sculpture called Chariot of Joy, depicting a chariot drawn by two winged horses, manned by eleven children – symbolizing the number of school years in the DPRK… raised to twelve in 2012. 🙂

As I mentioned in the *previous article*, my tour group was running late and so we were eagerly awaited by our local guide (most places actually had local guides that guided our Korean guides who guided our western guide who guided us; the DPRK clearly is a communist state…) – a young girl, early teenager, with astonishingly good English. So we rushed through the corridors, stopping here and there for some short presentations. Ballet / dancing, piano, drawing. Most of those presentations were hard to watch, for different reasons.
The main dancing girl, maybe 8 years old, was excellent, but she slammed her knees to the ground so hard and so often that it would really surprise me if she would be able to walk pain free when she’s a teenager… or now, for that matter.
The drawing / painting room I call fake. About 20 kids were sitting in front of busts, but everybody had a different drawing in front of them. Faces, geometrical structure, ears – it was not only not a consistent class, in the five minutes we spent in that room hardly any of the kids were touching their drawings, some of which looked amazing. I’m not saying those kids are not talented, but I am not really buying their “presentation”. Same for the two painting girls. It took me forever to take a photo where one of them put the brush to the paper…

And then the weirdness meter exploded. I have to say in advance that I am not a big fan of singing and dancing… or overacting… or children performing – and what happened next combined all three (four…) and brought it to a level I hardly thought was possible.
My group, along with some other tourist, were lead to the already mentioned auditorium, filled about half with North Korean kids. When I asked Ms. Park before, if she went to the Schoolchildren’s Palace as a child, she told me no, only as a visitor; but that she loved it and admired the children performing. I guess it was a blast from the past for her. I felt more and more uncomfortable by the minute while taking one of the honorary seats all foreign visitor got in the center of the first three rows. Row number 2 in my case, which turned out to be a piece of luck a couple of minutes later.
The show started and I have to admit that it was as good as it gets when it comes to kids performing – if you like singing, dancing and overacting. Sadly I don’t, so it wasn’t my cup of tea. Nevertheless I recorded about 20 minutes of it for your viewing pleasure, though you probably might have seen similar performances in reports about the DPRK. I had – and to be honest with you, I don’t get why people always claim that those overacting kids are kind of proof for how North Korea brainwashes its children. Look for example at the child beauty pageant circus in the States – those kids act exactly the same as the kids performing in the video… In Germany we had a TV show called “Mini Playback Show” where kids dressed as stars were lip-synching – terribly, since hardly any of them spoke a word of English, them being German; one of the worst TV shows ever. Interestingly enough both the child beauty pageants as well as the TV show raised public concerns about the sexualization of pre-teen children. At least least none of the Western bashers ever brought up that when criticizing the North Korean child performances.
BTW: Whenever there is a “performance” in North Korea, be prepared that you might be included. The one at the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace was our first demonstration of North Korea singing and dancing, so everybody went in without suspecting anything – with the result that two rollerblading girls dragged two tourists on stage to first hula hoop themselves and then throw some of those oversized rings at an amazingly talented young boy (see the second video of this article, it’s kinda heartwarming…). Some of us got caught by surprise a second time at a school – but when a couple of women started singing and playing accordion after lunch on the third to last day you could see how people were trying to hide behind others or even getting more distance to the performers… 🙂

Anyway, the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace was a place people either hated or loved. At first sight those kids indeed looked like crazy brainwashed maniacs – but so do professional ballroom dancers, at least to me. I am pretty sure most of them enjoy what they are doing and they are actually absolutely fantastic at it, at least those allowed to perform on stage. And I am sure spending the afternoon at the Children’s Palace beats working in the fields – because from the looks of it that’s how most children outside of Pyongyang spend their afternoons…

(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*…)

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Rides on the Pyongyang Metro usually were one of the prime examples for how everything on a tour to North Korea is staged – now it is a prime example for how the country opens up to its visitors.

It was the second visit to the DPRK for Jeff, one of the great people of my tour group. Back in 2007 he visited the country for the first time and of course back then a ride on the subway was part of the itinerary, too. For Jeff an underwhelming experience as back then the group was told which train and which wagon to enter – basically an (almost?) empty wagon. Most people describe their experience like that actually. No stops, no freedom, no contact with locals. Again, my experience was quite different.

Since Puhung Station was right across the street from the *Mansudae Art Studio* we accessed the deepest subway system in the world right from there – locals entering and leaving the station via one of the three escalators. (Although the middle one wasn’t running – it wasn’t necessary since the station wasn’t that busy on a Monday afternoon.) In (ex-)communist countries subway stations were / are showpieces – *I’ve been to several stations in Kiev*, so I knew what to expect and Pyongyang didn’t disappoint. While the entrance kind of looked like a bomb shelter (which it will be used for if North Korea ever gets attacked) the platform of the station was absolutely gorgeous. Slightly dim, but lit by beautiful chandeliers. At this point our group got quite excited, with people running back and forth to take photos – and I have to admit our guides looked a bit more nervous. Some people might claim they were worried about… us making contact with people, us taking photos we might not should take, us doing whatever. In my opinion they were actually worried that one of us could get lost, because the metro was quite busy. Not “Tokyo rush hour” busy, but “a good chance to get lost (on purpose / accidentally)” busy. When Mr. Yu tried to get us on a train he was widely ignored as most people were still taking photos – so the train left, and the next one, too; both times accompanied by a wave of locals flushing the station. We finally got close enough together to call us a group again when the next train arrived – and people just headed in, splitting over two wagons. Most likely not according to Mr. Yu’s plans, but rolling with the punches was going both ways… The first ride was a short one as we left the train at the next stop, Yonggwang. Judging by the look on his face Mr. Yu was glad that everybody listened to the plan and actually got off. On past rides Yonggwang Station was the end of the tour on the Pyongyang Metro – which lead to claims that there were no more than two stations and / or all the other ones were secret. While it is rather likely that there are indeed some secret stations for the military (which isn’t uncommon in other countries, too…) there are definitely 17 stations on two lines (locals can change at Jonu / Jonsung, it’s a walk of about 300 meters). So we got off at Yonggwang, took some photos and entered a rather crowded train to ride four more stops to Kaeson – the station right next to the *Arch of Triumph* and the Kaeson Fun Fair; one photo in the arch set actually shows the subway entrance, so I’ll include it here again. Since we skipped a couple of trains before, we were a little bit behind schedule – some quick photos at Kaeson Station and off we went to our bus as countless kids at the *Mangyongdae Children’s Palace* were already waiting for us to show their talents…

(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*…)

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