Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pyongyang metro, Children's Palace, etc.


Program for the day:
- Juche tower
- Worker's Party monument
- Three Revolutions exhibition
- Metro ride
- Kim-Il-Sung square
- Lunch at the hotel
- "Pueblo"
- Kim-Il-Sung statue at Mansudae Hill
- Book shop
- Children's Palace
- farewell dinner at a restaurant

As Oliver felt sick today, he decided to stay at the hotel. Till lunch only one of the guides accompanied me, whereas the other stayed at the hotel.

Juche Tower and Worker's Party Foundation Monument

The Juche Tower was the first point on the agenda for today. As the weather was quite foggy, I decided not to go up, but nevertheless it was quite impressive:

These plates are from foreign Juche idea study groups, they are showing the world's enormous interest into Juche ideology and Kimilsungism….

Then we drove to the Worker's Party Foundation Monument. It consists of three hands, holding a hammer, a hoe, and a brush. They represent the three classes of the North Korean society: workers, peasants and intellectuals.

Just next to it I could also take another tramway photo:

The Ryugyong hotel can be seen in the foggy background:

Three Revolutions Exhibition

We made a short visit at the Three Revolutions Exhibition, where some exhibited trains drew my attention:

A Korean-made (?) M62-version:

Builder's plate:

The sleeping wagon Moskva – Pyongyang was of the same type as this one, just not so well-maintained:

Freight wagon:

Electric locomotive:

Builder's plate:

Some more freight wagons:

We then visited the space department of the exhibition.

There they presented some kind of show, which explained various space related things (solar system, stars, solar/lunar eclipses – the usual stuff). The guide there spoke some Russian, so I could exchange a few words with her. She told me that she had learned Russian in Vladivostok at the university.

Metro ride

Next activity was a metro ride. We drove to the Puhung station (which is the terminal station of one of the two metro lines) and from there went by metro one stop to the Yonggwang station (next to the train station).

See also the maps-section at
The station names don't refer to the area in which they are located, but have meanings like "victory" and "glory".
Puhung means "rehabilitation", Yonggwang means "glory".

Inside the station building:

Usually tourists and their guides can pass the gates without showing a ticket, but I said that I wanted to ride the metro legally ;-)

So the guide bought tickets for us:

The escalators down to the platform:

The standing-right-walking-left-principle for escalators seems to be unknown only in two towns worldwide: My hometown Graz, where I - when I visit it on a weekend – always get angry about the stupid people standing on the left side on the escalator. And Pyongyang, where nobody seems to be in a hurry ;-)

At the platform:

I asked the guide not to take the 1st available train, but to wait a little bit to have more times for photos. As far as I remember the trains ran at an interval of about 5 minutes.

Newspapers on the platform:

Video of an arriving train and it's passengers:

Another video:
(the 1st train arrives empty as it is the terminal stops and it just starts it's run here and came from the waiting track. The 2nd train of the other direction accordingly leaves empty, it goes to the waiting track)

Inside the metro train:

The metro trains were bought 2nd hand from Berlin. Of course all German inscriptions had been removed. But apparently they didn't replace all scratched windows, as I read somewhere. Our train had original scratched windows from Berlin ;-)

Video during the metro ride (not very spectacular, I admit):

At Yonggwang station:

Before leaving Yonggwang station, we stopped at a small office, where a employee of the metro offered me a booklet about the Pyongyang metro. Of course I bought it.

The whole booklet is also available online at

Station entrance:

Also here, close to the train station (can be seen in the background), the tramway network was under reconstruction:

So, I too only saw the two stations usually shown to tourists. There are even rumors, that only this two stations exist and that the whole metro is a huge setting for tourists and that all Korean passengers are actors…. Ok, although North Korea has much to offer for conspiracy theories, I had the impression that the metro really serves as means of transportation for the Pyongyang citizen.
I also heard reports of tourists, who could visit some other stations.

Kim Il Sung square

The driver and our car were already waiting for us. He then brought us to Kim Il Sung square:

Karl Marx….

… and Lenin:

Alltough the North Koreans are proud of the own Juche-ideology, the – according to them –
perfected way of communism, here they honour the two originators of Communism.

As it was now already time for lunch, we went back to the hotel.

USS Pueblo

In the afternoon both guides accompanied me and we started our tour with the "USS Pueblo" ship. The spy ship was captured by North Korea in 1968.
Of course the North Koreans are very proud to show the trophy from the evil "US-imperialists" to tourists nowadays.

More information at

Inside the ship I was first shown a short film, telling the North Korean view of the Pueblo-incident. Then I was taken for a tour on board of the ship.

An US-cryptographic machine:

Kim Il Sung statue at Mansudae Hill

Then we drove to Mansudae Hill, where the famous 20m-high bronze statue of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung is located.
The usual flower-buying and bowing followed.

Book and souvenir shop

At the book & souvenir shop many books (in various languages) written by or about Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il are sold. It is said, that both of them wrote thousands of books….

Titles of some of the books:
Kim Il Sung: "On Juche in our revolution"
Kim Jong Il: "For the victory of the socialist case"
Kim Jong Il: "The Songun-based revolutionary line is a great revolutionary line of our era and an ever victorious banner of our revolution"
"In Memory of President Kim Il Sung: Eternal Sun of Mankind"
And so on…

I only bought a pin with the North Korean flag, a map and a North Korean flag as souvenir, but no books, which I now regret. It would have been a good souvenir, although I'm not yet totally convinced of all that Juche- and Songun-stuff ;-)
Maybe I will call my friends at the North Korean embassy in Vienna and ask, whether they can sell me some of that books…*g*

Children's Palace:

The Children's Palace is a place, where children go in the afternoon after school. Also free time and hobbies are organized by the party…
Such places are said to exist everywhere in North Korea, but I'm sure that the others, which tourists don't see, are not that well-equipped.

We were guided to a lot of different classes:








Computer class:

I asked whether children can choose what they want to do. The answer was, that there is a test, to find out about the talents of the children, and according to that the options, which they have, are decided.


I have to admit, that all the children are very talented, but that's also connected with hard work and drill…

The highlight was a music performance of some of the children on the stage:

That was the final part of our sightseeing program in North Korea. By the way, it was also planned that we visit the railway museum, but unfortunately it was closed for some reconstruction.

Farewell dinner

In the evening we had a farewell dinner with the guides and the driver at the Pyongyang Duck BBQ restaurant.
The food was very tasty and it was a nice finish of our tip.

Our guides did the best to enable us a pleasant and interesting stay in Pyongyang. Sometimes it was a little bit too much Kimilsungism for us, as everything is in some way brought in connection with the Great and/or the Dear Leader. But that's what we expected and we always tried to respect their culture and mentality.
So we had a good and friendly relationship with our guides and some interesting discussions with them.

Pyongyang by night – photos taken from the hotel:


Eurasia 2005: ~35.000 km by train from Europe via Ukraine, Russia and Mongolia to China and back to Europe via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan:

Total solar eclipse 2008: Trip to the total solar eclipse in the Altay mountains (1st august 2008), including a 6-day trekking trip:



Jiwoo said...

I really enjoyed your blog, and I also followed your trace in google earth. It was interesting that I finally arrived at Pyongyang from North Korea - Russia border by tracing railway on google earth. Thank you for the publishing, it is meaningful for me, I had chance to adventure forbidden world to me (I am Korean, live in Seoul, South Korea).

Josh said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to publish this travelogue! What a fantastic trip, and so many beautiful pictures. Thank you!

diodon said...

Thanks a lot for this travel log!

Lucas said...

Really enjoyed reading about your journey. I hope to travel East someday, and it's been a real inspiration

Ned said...

i just finished reading the entire travelogue - i was completely transfixed! i am so impressed with you and your friend and i hope you're proud of the great trip you took. i have a bit of fascination with trains too, so the details and commentary you provided along the way were extremely interesting. thank you so much for putting this together!

reinisXd said...

Great trip and great travelogue! Very impressive. Greetings from Latvia!

Andre said...

Enjoyable read - thank for taking the time and effort to publish your stories and your photos.

Gavin said...

Absolutely fascinating! What an incredible journey! The photos are great, but I'm most impressed with your ability to make the trip at all. As an American, I'd probably not be allowed even to see the North Korean border, let alone cross it. Thanks for posting!

Richard said...

Fantastic! really enjoyed it!

fishbone said...

Thnks for posting such a wonderful insight into your journey.

Michael and Jodi Crisp said...

Mesmerizing and wonderful. I applaud your bravery and courage for undertaking such a trip. Your blog has taught me much of areas of the world that truly are fascinating. It also brought back many memories of my trips to the former USSR, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. Thank you for sharing and for being so detailed!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Helmut.

edasx said...

Dude, this log rulez. I remind from a late 80s that in Prague metro you were also unable to pass other people on escalators. =) Now, it's ok =)

Max said...

I really enjoyed your blog, and the respect that you showed to North Korea despite the utter foreignness of their lives. Cheers.

czerni said...

Ich habe zwei Stunde lang Ihre Riesebericht gelest wie ein gefesselter.
Scharf Interessant!
Grosses Eindruck!
Ich habe bemerkt, dass Sie haben einige russische verwendet, wie "elektritschka".
Immer mehr interessant!
Mit vielem Gruesse aus Moskau.
und vielem Dank!
E. Czerniawski

Hamburger_Junge said...

Toller Bericht und mit viel Fingerspitzengefühl und Respekt vor den Gastgebern geschrieben. Eurer Beitrag ist für mich sehr verwirrend, da er das klassische Vorurteil einer (ver)hungernden Landbevölkerung nicht bestätigt (auch nicht widerlegt). Ich bin überrascht über all die Reisfelder und offensichtlich landwirtschaftlich genutzte Flächen. Euer Bericht ist ein einsamer Puzzlestein in einem im Wesentlichen ungelegten 500er Puzzle über das N.Korea, wie es wirklich ist - was Euren Beitrag umso wertvoller macht.

Adienis said...

Really great journey, perfectly written, actually inspires for something similar.

Erick said...

Great stories and pictures. Thanks for writing it up! I wasn't even aware that tourism was permitted in North Korea.

Greetings from Chicago!

Michal Durkac said...

I have red your almost whole blog. Your journey is fascinating, I thing that from your blog people can get much more normal information about DPRK then from all Discovery or NatGeo films. You are briliant traveler and if you decide to go again on such a trip like this one ( of course not thru TUmangan - and BTW you are mentioned alos on wikipedaia as only two tourist have ever passed by train to DPRK via TUmangan )I go with you. Take car. O r you can find my brother on FB , he is also big maniac about train travelling and he works for slovak railway company. take care and when you come to Bratislava let me know, I invite you for a bier and you have to talk me your story. bes regards

Jack said...

Just amazing! Thanks for posting it!

Hora said...

I really enjoyed reading about your adventure!

I also wanted to say that I found the pictures/videos of the kids in the children's palace really depressing...

Sedasa said...

Really fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing your journey!
Greetings from Virginia, USA =]

Yummie Dummy said...

some photos are missing -- i can see just borders instead of images. could you please check and re-upload them? thank you.

Visakh aka Bonchi Buji said...

Some of the photos, especially in the last few posts are missing. Also, i noticed the Imageshack copyright violation message instead of a couple of photos. Can you please re-upload them? I suggest you use Picasa so that there won't be any removal without your knowledge.

Thanks for this wonderful travelogue.

KinoAzja said...

Great travel blog!

Cora said...

What a wonderful travelogue! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it down. I would love to go to North Korea, but being a journalist it is highly unlikely I will ever get there...

Greetings from Rio, Brazil.

Prem said...

Can't thank you enough for this travelogue. You are incredibly lucky to have accomplished something like this. But hey, fortune favors the brave.

Prem said...

Can't thank you enough for such an incredible travelogue.

M said...

Wow, thank you for satisfying my late night curiosity, I learned so much. Very nicely written & with amazing photographs to see a bit more of the real NK and such a different world from ours. Greetings from Serbia!

G. Tingey said...

The standing-right-walking-left-principle for escalators seems to be unknown only in two towns worldwide
LONDON does this, has done for as long as I can remember ....