By Shubham Goswami
Ever wondered what the craziest place in the world is like? Well, you wouldn’t know if you didn’t visit one country in the Far East. Come aboard as we head to what is arguably the weirdest, creepiest and craziest place on earth: the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea
Now you, lucky one, have acquired your visa to the most secretive nation in the world. And you are all set to go. But wait, here’s a caveat. Make sure that you have planned your tour with government authorized guides before you embark on your journey. Tourism in this enigmatic nation is strictly regulated by the DPRK government (DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. That’s what North Koreans call North Korea).
Independent travel is a strict no no. And oh, you’re not going there as a journalist, are you? I sincerely hope you have no intention of reporting under cover or making a secret documentary. Because if you’re caught, the DPRK will send you to Jail. And you can be sure that you won’t like North Korean jails.
Enough of frivolous talks. Let better sense prevail. Be a good boy/gal and listen to papa DPRK. Keep papa happy and you will have no worries during your trip. Oh, and make sure you pack your woollens. North Korea is pretty cold during this time of the year.
The most common itinerary is to arrive at Beijing first and then board a flight to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. So off you go on your aerial voyage, accompanied by your best friend, your North Korean guide.
The minutes pass by, your heart pounding faster as the plane begins its descent and voila, you have landed in North Korea.
Welcome to the Hermit Kingdom, the nation that has pushed itself into oblivion. There is a chill in the air and you might even find snow on the streets.
Where have all the vehicles gone?
The first thing that strikes you as you step out on the streets of Pyongyang is cars or rather, a paucity of them. You may see a couple of public transports once in a while. But that apart, the roads are pretty barren. You literally feel like singing after Pete Segar. “Where have all the vehicles gone? Long time passing….”. The common people in North Korea are not allowed to own luxuries like cars. These are only meant for government mandarins and their acquaintances.
You will be escorted to your hotel, entertained with traditional North Korean Music, served traditional North Korean food (and they will seem anything but delicious). Never mind, enjoy the hospitality! Revitalize yourself, so that your best friend, the guide can take you on a tour around the city.
Now in North Korea, you only get to visit the places which the government wants you to visit, hear the things the government wants you to hear. Your orchestrated North Korean expedition will involve visits to the following places.
Kumsusan Palace of the Sun
The Statue of the Great Leader on Mansu Hill
Every tourist must pay homage to the Great Leader, the late Kim Jong-il. To the North Koreans, the Great Leader is a deity. Any sign of disrespect towards him is a punishable offence. Be careful while making any critical comments. Even your whispers may be heard.
The North Koreans seem to be architectural geniuses, though. And they are overly forward when it comes to flaunting their triumphs.
The Pyongyang Underground Metro
And they have done well in transportation too. A really state-of-the-art metro service awaits you.
Monument of the Party Founding
Built in 1995 to celebrate the 50th Jubilee of the Korean Worker’s Party
Do not forget to visit the demilitarized zone, the border between North and South Korea.
The average North Korean is a friendly, peace-loving soul. He is all praise for the country’s leadership and loathes America. He is not aware of things like the internet, has never heard of Facebook or Twitter, has never listened to Hard Rock. His favourite song is most likely the Internationale. He is not allowed to travel outside the country. He is unaware of concepts like Human Rights or equality. He is unobtrusive and demure. Why wouldn’t he be? Wouldn’t you if you were under surveillance 24X7?
When you come to North Korea, you feel transported in time to 1970’s Soviet Russia or Mao Zedong’s China. Time seems to have come to a standstill here. No matter where you go, almost everything in this country bears footprint of the Great Leader and his exploits. But beneath this veneer lies an autocratic leadership which feeds on the resources of the country taking advantage of the guilelessness of its people. While the majority of the North Koreans may find leader Kim Jong-un to be a hero, the reality may be quite different. Why is the world silent about North Korea? Isn’t it time that the UN started talking about it? How long can we allow this to continue? Is this not as grave an issue as religious terrorism? Is it not the time for a North Korean spring to overthrow the dictatorship?
As you leave the Hermit Kingdom, you are left with so many questions that remain unanswered.
And lastly, here’s an account of those who were daring enough to venture out with the Big-Bad Hermit, N. Korea.