Monday, September 29, 2008

Beijing, Tianjin and back home to Austria

2008-09-26

In Beijing we had booked a hostel in advance via www.hostels.com. Originally we planned to stay one night in Beijing, then take a night train to Shanghai, stay another night there and then fly home from Shanghai.
We had already booked the flight from Beijing to Vienna via Dusseldorf with AirBerlin, but some weeks before the trip, we were notified, that this flight would be cancelled. AirBerlin offered a full refund of the ticket price (~450 EUR) and a discount of 150 Euro for any other AirBerlin-flight.
So we booked a flight from Beijing with them and due to the discount it cost only 304 EUR. This flight was on the same day as the other flight from Shanghai, so we extended our stay in Beijing by two nights. The hostel for the 1st night (Beijing Downtown Backpackers) was already fully booked for the other two nights, so we booked another hostel (Wangfujing International Youth Hostel) for the 2nd and 3rd night.

After arriving from Pyongyang at the main train station, we went to the hostel by taxi. Going by taxi in Beijing is relatively cheap and easy. It is just necessary to have the destination written on paper in Chinese. Fortunately the hostels adress was written also in Chinese on the booking confirmation.

The hostel was in a quiet narrow road north of the city center. As both of us had already been to Beijing before, we were not in a hurry to do as much sightseeing as possible. We decided to make a day-trip to Tianjin with the new highspeed-train, but apart from that we had no plans yet. It was also good to have some time to work through all the impressions of our trip to North Korea and sometimes we couldn't believe that we really had sucessfully done the Tumangan-route to Pyongyang.
On of the 1st things I did after arrival at the hotel was checking my e-mails and telling relatives and friends that our trip was a success and we were still alive. As expected there were also some e-mails from our travel agency in my inbox, which I could read only now. Our last-minute-announcement about the "modified arrival details" for Pyongyang caused – initially – a lot of confusion and then a lot of troubles at the travel agency (Korea Konsult) and within KITC. But it was not possible to prevent us from entering at Tumangan…
However, it seemed that our trip was quite a shock for KITC and that they would now do everything to prevent that something similar happens again.

Well, back to Beijing. After hanging around at the hostel for some hours we decided to make a walk around downtown Beijing.

The narrow road, where the hostel was located:



We made a lunch break at a restaurant in Jingshan Xije road, then headed for the Jingshan park.

View from the hill in the Jingshan park, Beihai lake in the foreground.


It is quite unusual to have such a clear sky in Beijing which even allows to see the distant mountains! Usually one cannot see further than one kilometer due to the fog/smog…

View from Jingshan park to the east:


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Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


We then went around the Forbidden City down to Tiananmen Square.

Forbidden City, palace moat:



Meridian Gate of the Forbidden city:




Tiananmen Square:







The Qianmen Dajie road leading to the south from Tiananmen Square had been totally rebuilt since my first visit to Bejing in 2005. It is now a pedestrian zone, all houses are new, but everything looks very kitschy and artificially…




I prefer the smaller and more traditional roads like Dazhalan Xijie with lots of small shops and sales booths for everything.








It is not necessary to have a car to transport big and heavy things – we Europeans should learn from the Chinese people regarding that ;-)







In the evening we went to the train station to buy tickets to Tianjin. We asked the hostel staff to write our ticket request on a sheet of paper, but we also found a ticket booth, were english was spoken.
Due to the low price level we decided to travel in 1st class. The one-way-ticket for the 130-km-trip cost just 69 Yuan (~ 7 EUR).

2008-09-27

After breakfast we took a taxi to get to the station Beijing South, from where the highspeed trains depart. The ride took about 45 minutes.


Arriving at the station by taxi:




The station is more like an airport with all that security checks at the entrance:




The departure boards swtich between English and Chinese:
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The waiting area:




Ticket office:




Everything is kept clean:




We found some "propaganda" about the Chinese railway plans fort he future:

Map showing the highspeed line Beijing – Shanghai (under construction):




Planned new train station and airport at Shanghai:



Two local girls checking out the station plan (Beijing South):







Beijing South station:



(it seems that even more underground tracks are planned in the future, they don't seem to exist already)









A few minutes before the departure the boarding starts and we can go to the platform. There we still had some time for a few photos.

Our train was a Siemens-"Velaro" train (CRH3):
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The impressive steel construction of the station roof:

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Train ticket Beijing – Tianjin:

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ImageShack.us

The train seemed to be fully booked. Inside a 2nd class wagon (only ~10 Yuan cheaper than 1st class):




1st class:




The ride was smooth and fast – 334 km/h was the top speed:




After 30 minutes we arrived at Tianjin, and the first thing we did there was buying the return tickets. The ticket office was quite crowded. There were also some ticket machines and we decided to use them, as the "spoke" also English. For the Chinese people it was quite unusual to see Europeans buying tickets themselves at the ticket machine, everyone was looking over our shoulders. And when they saw, that the machine could be switched to English, everyone was quite surprised… ;-)
We bought tickets for a train departing in the afternoon, so we had some time for a walk.

Ticket office:

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Station square: 



Skyline near the station:



Downtown Tianjin has some quite European looking buildings from the colonial era.















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By the way, we noticed that especially here in Tianjin, but also in Beijing, many people now were using electric bikes or other electricity-powered vehicles.

I do not know who they were and why they were marching lock-step…anyway quite funny.




Back to the station we took such a taxi:




Small booth selling the Chinese railway timetable book:



Tianjin station:




We were lucky, on the way back we had a CRH2-train, so we experienced both types of trains used on that line:




Ticket Tianjin – Beijing:




Inside 1st class waggon:



Some videos of the train ride with more than 300 km/h:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXoLQPlSZr4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5-3q--KHzY


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4msgn7lLIto



Exit gates at Beijing South station – it's important to keep the ticket till leaving the station:




We took a taxi to our hostel, where we just picked up our backpacks and continued to the other hostel for the remaining two nights at Beijing.

In the evening we rented bikes to ride around, which was quite funny. We also stopped at the main station to take some photos of the international train to Moscow, which departs from Beijing every friday (there is a 2nd weekly train going via Mongolia):

Chinese dining and sleeping car to Manzhouli (at the border to Russia):




New Russian waggons:








At Shenyang two similar wagons coming from Pyongyang are attached to this train. These wagons are the officially (by KITC) accepted way to travel from Russia to North Korea or vice versa by train…

Departure of the train to Moscow:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2F2OA2iH0TY

Of course I would have preferred taking this train over flying to get back home to Europe, but my job was already waiting for me…. I'd need more holiday ;-)


2008-09-28

It was quite an unspectacular day for me. Oliver decided to make a trip to the Chinese Wall, he had not been there before. As I felt al little bit tired and had already done the same trip in 2005, I decided to stay in Beijing and make a lazy day.

I started to sort my photos, made another bike trip, had lunch, did some shopping etc.

Beijing by night:









No visible evidence of communism….


2008-09-29

That was a long day for us. We got up at 6 and left the hostel at 7. A taxi brought us to the airport, where we noticed that we were at the wrong terminal. So we had to take a bus to the other terminal. But we were not in a hurry, departure was only at 11 or so.

The plane to Dusseldorf:




The route of the flight was via Mongolia, Siberia and the Baltic Sea. Only till the Sayan mountains (just west of the Baikal Lake) we had clear view to the ground, so it was quite boring for most of the time.
I have to admit that take-off and landing is quite spectacular, but apart from that I prefer train travel. A week on a decent North Korean train is more comfortable than 10 hours economy class…
We arrived at Dusseldorf in the late afternoon (local time). Oliver's connecting flight to Zurich was within one and a half hour, whereas I had to wait for four hours.
The flight to Vienna took 90 minutes and after a 30-minutes train trip with a suburban train I arrived at the small station Wien-Traisengasse at 10 p.m. local time (already 4 a.m. Chinese time) – the same station, from where I had started the adventure 22 days before…
Two more minutes walking and I was at home in my apartment - 22 hours after getting up in Beijing.


---------------------------------------------


That was it...I hope you liked the travelogue and I appreciate your patience, as it took me nearly a year to write this travelogue.
And I also apologize for typing errors and grammar mistakes, English is not my native language, and so it might not be perfect, but I wanted to make the report available for a greater audience, so I decided to write in English instead of German.
And I ask all of you, who are not so much interested in railways, for your understanding for the many rail-related details in the travelogue...


Apart from that I hope, that the travelogue provided some useful and interesting background information about the DPRK, which you don't get from the news on TV.
I think that a country must not be reduced to it's government in the personal perception. I don't support the North Korean regime and I don't deny the problems which exist there, but the country doesn't exist only of Kim Jong Il, nuclear bombs, concentration camps and starvation.
Most of the people there are also just people as everywhere, they live under quite hard circumstances, but they also have family and friends, make jokes, make love, go to work…of course our contact to them was limited, but the few encounters with North Koreans, we had (train staff, fellow passengers, border guards at Tumangan and of course our guides), were very nice and interesting and I hope that one day I can meet some of them again….

I still often think about this trip. Sometimes I have the feeling as it was just some days ago, but sometimes I feel that it was already very far in the past or that it even didn't happen at all. I think that this is due to the fact that the places, to which we have been, are so hard to reach…
I still hope that there will one day be a happy end for the situation in North Korea and that North Korean people will be able to travel like we did and that we will be able to travel across North Korea more freely.
If possible, I will visit this fascinating country a 2nd, 3rd, etc time and I hope I will one day have the possibility to explore especially the regions which we crossed by train on the way from the border at Tumangan to Pyongyang.
There is still so much to see there. After our trip my interest into this country grew even more and now I often think, that I should have kept my eyes even more open on the trip. And that I should have taken even more photos during the train trip, especially of everyday life. But on the other hand, we were glad that we could take this route at all and too afraid to take photos when people were looking at us.
I also appreciate the feedback of all of you, I received a lot of e-mails and comments on my blog from all over the world. Please apologize, that I couldn't answer personally to every mail due to lack of time. I tried to answer all e-mails containing questions, but maybe I just forgot some e-mails. So if you still have an unanswered question, please send me an reminding e-mail.

If anyone can provide additional information about trains in North Korea and especially the Tumangan-route, please write me an e-mail.
And I would also like to get in contact with others, who have 1st hand experience with the Tumangan-route. As this route was open to tourists till around 1995, I'm sure that there are more people who travelled this way. I personally know three other people, who did this route before 1995.
Or if one day somebody succesfully repeats our trip – please report!!!
I also found a report from some Russians, who recently took a train from Pyongyang to Chongjin and then further via Tumangan/Khasan to Russia on a business trip. They visited the Russian consulate at Chongjin, so maybe they were Russian diplomats. Their report is at http://www.ermanok.net/news/comment.php?1591 (sorry, in Russian only, you might use Google to translate it).

I also decided to create a blog dedicated to the North Korean railways at http://dprk-railway.blogspot.com/
I hadn't yet much time to create a lot of content, there are just some photos of another rail-related trip to North Korea done by a friend of mine in 2005.
But I plan to collect more information about the railway system in North Korea, please just be patient!
If you're interested, please subscribe there as a follower. Any important news regarding the Tumangan-route will also be posted there.

Last but not least I also want to apologize for the troubles which our trip caused for "Korea Konsult" (the travel agency with which be booked the trip) and for anyone else.
I admit we were quite egoistic when doing this adventure. It was no one elses fault, that we could enter North Korea via this back door – it was just our crazy plan and we had to realize it at that time, as the timeframe we had choosen for the trip, turned out to be perfect for the experiment during the planning phase (a small mystery – the ideal time for such a trip has something to do with the number 106,5...ho has an idea?).
And if you want to travel to North Korea yourself (on "legal" routes), I really recommend "Korea Konsult", they did a good job!

Or if you just want to get some special experience you can reapeat what I did in 2006: Just take the North Korean waggon for a domestic trip (like Moscow - Irkutsk) inside Russia. This is totally legal and it's likely that you will be the only foreigner among North Koreans on board of this waggon. If your're interested, just contact me.


197 comments:

Stephen said...

I just want to say thank you for taking your time to post these pictures and the accompanying text. It was a great read/visual. Thanks again!

TLVspotter said...

Hello Helmut, i just want to say it was an outstanding piece of writing, and together with the awesome photo shots from such an exotic country as DPRK, its makes a great experience and joy to read it even without actually being there. i take my hat off to u, for taking such a risk and getting back with such an experience. Bravo.

milonomania said...

Thanks for the travelogue, Helmut..It was awesome - the journey itself, the pictures and your writing style. I am a railfan myself, and of course I love to see much rail-related pictures in yours. As you'd mentioned, I'd really love to see the pdf version of this travelogue since I found that your current travelogue is too big to direct-copy. I will be patient. Please tell us when it's done..Once again..nice job and congratulations on finishing your outstanding experience!

PS: Have you travelled to my country, Indonesia? Of course there isn't any rail connection from Europe, but we also have a large railway system. If you haven't I hope someday you would and write story about it as well!

Paul K said...

Hello-
I am a student in Los Angeles, California in the United States. I just wanted to say that your work is excellent--simply outstanding. I have spent several hours reading it and looking at the pictures. Thank you for taking the time to make such a document, as it helps immensely in breaking down cultural and political misunderstandings between different parts of the world

Best of luck in future trips, and take care.

bruce_wallace@toyota.com said...

This is fantastic!! Thank you for sharing. It's inspiring!

RockStar said...

I feel as I have been all the travel with you and your friend, it was awesome!

hajfly said...

deeply impressing report, I spent a lot of time to go through it ans I'm kind of jealous. Must have been really an experience I hope i can also make one day.

Alfredo said...

Very nice blog!!! very good pictures and very good narrations. The travel you made is amazing. Than you for your work! Greetnings from spain

Maican Eduard said...

thx for all the pictures . and for all the information about NK.. in future i want to go to this country , because i want to see how my parents lived under comunism..i am from romania and we had the same thing for 45 years ,that s why we are now a poor country ...we are trying too keep up with the rest of europe .. but you saw it too.. what comunism means and what comunism could do for a country , and believe me , what you saw is nothing , if i will go i will really know what people are thinking..the reality is like a hell believe me .. forgive me for my english .. cheers ..and once again thanks for sharing this amazing trip

Andre.Koster said...

Thank you for your elaborate blog. I found it very interesting to read. Truly armchair travelling!

Jeff said...

I also want to thank you for taking the time to write about your trip. My son and I are rail-fans in the U.S. So far our trips have been a bit less adventurous, but still fun. Our next trip will be Boston to Ft. Lauderdale (one overnight) on the Amtrak "Silver Meteor."

-Jeff

Carl David said...

*Wow that took longer than i expected!*

Best travel story from North Korea i have ever read and i have read and seen em all. NK never stops to surprise me! Not just were the ride from Irkursk to Pyongyang unbelievable but you got some rare things from the capital too! Still cannot believe you managed to get through the Russian boarder but i guess it was a bureaucratically process that started once you had the VISA and the ticket. Nobody thought, just did what they were supposed to do, stamp this and that, check passport etc.
But i wonder how you could get guides waiting at you in Pyongyang like it was no big deal? It seems like NK indeed is a place where very few individuals even in the every day have any control or power. Its like you could have papers that says you are gonna visit Nampo and you would probably come along way before some high official actually stopped you:S

Nevertheless, amazing stuff this is! Definitely intelligence that is worth a lot for people working with North Korea (journalists, historians even the CIA could probably find something note-worthy in the episodes from Tumangan to Pyongyang. )

Thank you!

Cheers from Sweden

Kevin said...

Thanks for posting this! It was a very engaging read and I enjoyed all of your photos.

--Kevin from Seattle, WA, USA

sims said...

What an interesting report I only planned to read for a short time and two hours later finished reading it! Thanks for putting all of this up and greetings from a railwayman in Scotland.

Eric said...

Great story, I really enjoyed reading it and looking at the great pictures. I also shared your anxiety at Tumangang - I wondered how it will en !!. And even more, maybe I wonder why you didn't have a more unfriendly welcome at Pyongyang ? :)
Just wondering how you warned KTIC about your arrival, maybe just before arriving at Tumangang ?
Did you have any remarks from your agency or the ambassy after your comeback ?

Anonymous said...

Helmut - that was amazing, thank you so much for taking the time to post so many pictures and detailed narrative. Incredible!!

-Eric, from Washington, DC, USA

Dave Hogan said...

Wow, awesome photos and story! I've wanted to go to the DPRK for years, so I'll admit I'm a little jealous, but thank you so much for sharing!

Mary said...

I loved your blog and have shared it with others. Thank you for putting these amazing pictures and stories online!

Gesa said...

Beeindruckend. Danke dafür :D

Eine Freundin des Reisens (und vielleicht auch ein bisschen der Züge) aus Hamburg

Anonymous said...

I should say i really got jealous about your trip to North Korea. I also wanna do the similar trip to there, but the thing that makes me scare is my Korean language ability. If i do the thing that you have done, they highly likely would catch me under a supspecion of spying :) It is i guess would happen all because of my curiosity about the life inside there...

Greetings from Turkey/Istanbul

toenemy said...

Owesome story, owesome trip! Greatings from Vilnius, Lithuania!

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic writing. I am eager to make a similar trip, but I have read your travel log 2 times now completely and carefully through. Although I am not a big train fan like you, it is still very interesting, and train would be the perfect way it seems to visit DPRK. At least you see some things not controlled by the guides all the time. Thank you for your great work.

Robert said...

Hallo Helmut,

das hast du beeindruckend geschrieben! Du bringst die Faszination für Bahnreisen toll rüber. Ich habe 8 Stunden gelesen und bin den Details über Bahnstrecken gefolgt.

Ich bin froh, dass deine Methode nach Versuch und Irrtum so gut endete und beeindruckt wie weit unsere Vorstellung von Freiheit uns tragen kann.

Viel Glück und Erfolg auch auf deinen zukünftigen Reisen.

Robert, Hamburg, Germany, Europe

nzibari said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing these with us!

Rob said...

I found this travelogue from the comments section on a story about North Korea at gawker.com. Great story, and great pictures.

Rob
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Canada

Vittal P said...

Thank you very much for your patience. It was a wonderful read for someone from South Asia to read about the experiences of an Austrian travelling through Russia, North Korea and ending up in China!

Anonymous said...

amazing pictures and story, thanks!

Anonymous said...

I followed the link that was tagged along with your photos on Google Earth and ended up spending hours reading your posts.
I must say it was very interesting and must have been a very unique and unforgetting experience. The scenery photos are absolutely breathtaking!

Thank you for sharing your travelogue and since I'm S.Korean, it's probably going to be something which I'll never be able to experience anytime soon :)

Happy Travels!

Sander said...

I'm a Dutch student currently working in Tokyo for 5 months. I met some koreans and one of their foreign (american) friends pointed out your blog...

I must say; very impressive, I couldn't stop reading. I spent half my working day reading everything and I did not yet take time to look at your video's, but it was really worth reading all this. Thanks!

Sander

Neal said...

WOW! What a fascinating unconventional journey into North Korea, very well written and detailed, great pictures! I hope to have travels as interesting as yours someday keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was really amazing, I stumbled across this when looking for pictures of the Russian/North Korea border. This blog is incredible!

Kiseok said...

Das war atemberaubend!!! Ich bin ein Koreaner, der in Australian wohnt und ich muss sagen dass Ihr bericht von der Realität des Lebens in Nordkorea (nicht was die Regierung zeigt), sehr interessant und informatorisch war. Ich danke Ihnen für die unbezahlbaren Fotos und die ausführliche Beschreibung. (Bitte entschuldigen Sie mich für mein schlechtes Deutsch!!)

Kiseok said...

Bitte notieren Sie dass Wien auf Koreanisch 빈(nach Deutsch) oder 비엔나(nach Englisch) heißt, nicht 윈! Danke.

rick said...

wow! outstanding! sensational effort getting into Nth Korea.
I've looked at that rail crossing from Russia on Google Maps in the past and here you have crossed there.

nice effort. great pics, well written. Your english is fine.

XenoLair said...

Took me 6 hours to go trough this and it was the best 6 hours of this month :D

Markus said...

Hallo Helmut,

bin durch Zufall auf Deinen Blog gestoßen und war zwei Stunden in einer anderen Welt...besser als jeder Roman! Vielen Dank, dass ihr euer Abenteuer hier mit der Welt teilt!

Ein toller Bericht!

Anonymous said...

exciting trip, excellent blog. i will visit DPRK

Cristi Bucur said...

You are great man.. I like to read and see everything about your trip.. It is the 2nd time when I read your blog and I appreciate your courage.. I like too to trip in NK, but now it is difficult for me..may be in the future.. but your trip journal was inspiring for me.... I like very much too to travel with train..

DAVID STEVENSON said...

Absolutely fascinating. Well done.

SOUMITRA said...

Hi. Helmut,

Enroute North Korea, besides corn and rice, could you able to locate other crops. Are the food availble at hotels mostly imported.

GREAT TRAVELOGUE.

-Soumitra, India

Torsten said...

Wow.. what a fascinating report! The most authentic one I've ever read.

It took me a couple of hours to read through it, but it was worth every single second. You're really a brave guy - and clever enough to take advantage of the "beaucratic hole". Really fascinating that they were not able to cope with the situation and left you unescorted. Thanks again for posting this - I'm still deeply impressed. Greetings from Germany and good luck for your next trips!

Fernando said...

That trip make my 2 interails in the 80's fell boring... tank you 4sharing the story

Anonymous said...

Like others who have posted comments, I've spent a few hours totally absorbed in your story. Usually I click on a site and I'm off after 3 minutes. I could have read an entire book on this...you should perhaps think about doing that. Brilliant writing - was a pleasure to see your photographs and read about your travels - thanks a lot!

Danny said...

Hi Helmut. My interest in travelling to/fascination for North Korea is one that's quite a few years old now. After reading all the stories on your blog from Pyong to Yang I decided to visit the DPRK myself next year! Thanks very much for sharing this amazing trip with us and thank you also for taking away the last doubts I had thanks to your amazing story. All I need now is some money and off we go! Thanks again!!

Michael said...

Thank you for a great travel report. It took me couple of days to get through it, but it was definately worth it.

A story like this is hard to anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

I'm a student from Spain. This was brilliant... After going through the whole thing, I felt as If I had done the trip myself =)

Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic impressions! Thank you!

MKL said...

Best blog on the subject and amazing photos. I wonder, how NK officials reacted to this blog and whether they would let you in again.

North Korea seems to be stuck in 1950s. Amazing, that cell phones are banned.

flow666 said...

Thank you very much for this amazing text. I am fascinated by your experiences and i just like all the pictures you took there.
I even read all the railway-concerned stuff, although i'm normally not especially interested in that topic - it was just too interesting to read :)

Anonymous said...

Even in summer 2010 your travel log is very nice to read. Thanks for putting so much work in it.

Mark said...

This was riveting to read. I've spent probably 4-5 hrs, taking my time with the photos and your descriptions. Thank you so much for making this available to us.

-Mark
USA

Daniel said...

I'm a little jelous of that you took this trip instead of me.. But reading your brilliant story made me feel like i almost could have been there myself.. Many thanks for this interesting story with which i spend almost an entire day reading!

S. said...

Great trip, superb log.
thanks a lot

Wendy said...

I am never likely to have an opportunity to make a trip to North Korea so your pictures and account of the journey are a joy to read. I'm even enjoying the pictures of trains despite knowing very little about the technical aspects of most of them. Keep travelling and posting for us. Now I am going to read on - it is compulsive.

Michael said...

Thank you for a fascinating account of your journey to North Korea!

Alex G said...

I am very interested in travelling to places around the world. Maybe not by train but still interested. i hope that one day i might get to visit North Korea as its not the typical place for people to go. your blog was fantastic and i enjoyed reading and looking at all your pictures.

Eric said...

Helmut,

thank you so much for your travel report. I spent hours reading every part of it, enjoying it.

For a long time I wondered how these guided tours of North Korea are, and wanted to know a bit more detail. And your report gave me exactly what I wanted to know and even more!

Congratulations on such a great trip and thank you for sharing it with others. Many people, not only myself, have gotten a lot from it!

Jordan Stolper said...

this is so cool. thank you.

Jordan
new york

Anonymous said...

Servus! :)

I stumbled upon your blog while looking up photos of the European concession buildings in Tianjin, and was surprised to see your amazing trip to North Korea! It was a riveting read, I stayed up till early morning reading it :)

What an unusual and fascinating (and dangerous) experience! I applaud you two for your bravery and boldness, taking the sorta-kinda legal route through the back door to NK. The pictures there are probably even more valuable than you realize... Oh, and I also liked your train-enthusiasm, it was very educational.

Greetings from Seattle, USA

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for a fantastic read and great photos (You even got me interested in trains :)

This was just fantastic, thanks again.

Daniel
Norway

Tak Jung Ham 탁정함 said...

Hi!

Firstly, I want to say I had really enjoyed mysef looking at the photos of your Pyongyang trip. I look forward to seeing more!

I would like to ask why your photos were so clear and how did you upload your photos on blogspot(because ihave difficulty doing so)

3000350 said...

@Tak Jun Nam: If you mean the clear photos from Beijing - well, we just had perfect weather there.
My photos are all uploaded to www.imageshack.us. Here on blogspot I only used links to the photos, which are hosted at imageshack.us

Leo said...

Thank you so much for your travel log!
I really love it ,
Thank you from hong Kong

Anonymous said...

Many many thanks for your report. My father was born in Shin-Ui Ju. But I never journey like you.. to my father's homeland.
When North korean girl tuned in your last train, I shed many tears.. She seems to be my sister..
Sorry for my poor English.

from Seoul

Anonymous said...

\Awesome!

Thank you for the travelogue. A lot of beautiful photos.

Anonymous said...

These are some amazing pictures! They clear up a lot of the misconceptions people seem to have about North Korea. Amazing read, amazing pictures!

Konrad, Poland said...

First, I've found at youtube your video about Korean car from Moscow to Pyongyang, then found this blog and started to read at midnight, ended at 5 am today.
Thanks

Andrei said...

Amazing tour. Great pictures. I also discovered some new Russia to myself. North Korea is a very interesting place to visit but not to live. I hope to witness the time when both Koreas will merge back together just like Germany did. So far everything there reminds me my childhood in USSR.
Vielen dank für ihre reiseroute und ihre website.

KS said...

Just wanted to post and say that this is the most impressive travel log I have ever read. Amazing work.

Amandla Consulting said...

This is a fantastic and wonderful narrative. Thanks for taking the trouble to present it all in such a compelling way. Truly inspiring and I have spent a very enjoyable Sunday morning reading it. Brilliant!

Christine said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences from this trip. I really enjoyed your travelogue and awesome photos!

kkss33 said...

Hello Helmut,
Im Madusanka From Sri Lanka. I just wanted to say that your work is excellent. I feel as I have been all the travel with you and your friend, it was awesome!. dont u like vist our contry? sri lanka is very Beautiful country.

Kirill said...

Thank you!!! I was born in Ukraine (now live in US) and I found the photos to be quite fascinating and your descriptions were excellent as well! What an adventure! Thanks again, i feel like i traveled in your shoes (and only in about 2 hours at my computer)

Anonymous said...

Really well written and described; thanks a lot for Sharing.

Tim Zurich

Anonymous said...

Great story, was really nice to read.

Gray said...

First of all, thanks for the excellent travelogue. The NK section was...well, congrats on being the only unaccompanied Western tourists there in a few decades that I know of. It's really something to see the "real" North Korea...particularly as an artifact of a world that's long gone even in most of the third world. One thing that struck me, thinking about it, is that though I know things were obviously more developed and "shiny" in the US, it really is jarring to think that the rural standards common in NK were common in the US in the early 20th Century. Looking at North Korea as essentially a country trapped in the 1930s (really, that's the standard you seem to be looking at, and the subways actually conform to the mentality of the early 20th century...see the City Hall station in NYC) with a nasty totalitarian side is intriguing.

I wanted to ask...you mention that this caused trouble for the firm you booked with, but I didn't pick up on what happened there. What did happen, or do you know?

Tomas Radej said...

Smashing. Thanks for the extraordinary travelgue, it's brilliant.

Bart said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I spent several hours reading the entire travelogue and looking at all your photos. I admire your passion. Keep traveling and keep posting :)

Anonymous said...

THANKS GUYS!!! It was an extra ordinary expierience to read your blog and to see all the smashing pictures. Also your comments, google maps and You Tube postings made the whole reading expierience so natural as nearly beeing here with you!The most ineresting for me was the North Korean part and also the fact as you travelled by train ,as beeing a train spotter.I am a Pole living in UK now.I ve done the train trip from Warszawa (Warsaw) to Severobaykalsk in Siberia via Minsk and Moscow at the same year 2008!As a person who lived in comunist Poland for my first 20 years it was like the trip in to the past for me, however living conditions and political freedom where extremely different in Eastern European Block ( e.g.Poland,Czechoslovakia, DDR, Hungary,Yugoslavia, Bulgaria)Its great job what you have done to show the rest of the world this most mysterious country! Vielen Dank! :))) Robert (PL/UK)

Tony Whaley said...

This was so amazingly captivating! With my US passport, I'll probably only be able to get as far as Vladivostok if I ever tried to follow your journey. Perhaps someday, when relations warm with N.Korea, will it be possible to go on such a trip. Thank you very much for sharing your trip's memories and photos with everyone!

Tony Whaley

Sajai said...

Greetings from India!

I am amazed by your rail trip to Pyongyang via this lesser known route.

It is a credit to your writing ad photography skills that I was captivated from the first page itself and couldn't stop until I reached the last page.

My excitement when you reached the North Korean border at Tumangan was palpable. I had to pause in between and remind myself that you had done it as you said so in the first page. But still my heart was beating faster.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this great stuff!
Greetings from Romania!

odin

sue kelly said...

Incredible story--you should write a book!! Thanks for providing such a fascinating travelogue!
Best wishes from Philadelphia, United States :)

yvonne said...

Faszination Abenteuer pur! Faszination Bahnreisen pur!!!

Habe eigentlich was anderes gesucht, bin dann aber die letzten paar Stunden auf deinem Blog hängen geblieben und habe ihn von Anfang bis Ende verschlungen.

:-)

Stephen S.O. said...

Thank you.
I have enjoyed using the evenings of the past week reading your blog.
I have personally lived 2 years in S. Korea, (Seoul and Busan) and visited the DMZ from this side, stood on the other side of the Panmunjon buildings etc. I am very sad of the suppression by the N. Korean leaders, and the increasing tension on the Korean peninsula. I still have many friends south of the border...
Your collection of information and references is quite outstanding.
Interesting also to see the defence system's north of the DMZ, compared to the ones I know from the south side. I was surprised that many beaches on your pictures seem to have no protetion, which is different than the case on the south side.

Anonymous said...

Incredible.... Unbelievable. This is a master class...You did an outstanding adventure, Mate!. Take a bow.

Sten said...

Than you for a wonderful story!

boedak doesoen said...

hi helmut... nice to see you in your blog...
i think you had done a very amazing journey at that time... i realize that North Korea until today is one of world's "strangest" locations...
i hope you will write another amazing stories about your journey... why don't you make a plan to visit Malaysia and Singapore from your hometown by Eurasian Rail Link, then you visit me in Indonesia??? i think it would be a great journey...

greetings from me in Indonesia... kisahbujangbiasa.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I just found this travelogue yesterday while looking around the internet for info on NK. This is so far the best information I've found on this mysterious place. I'm not a railfan, just an American women very curious about life in the Hermit Kingdom. I very much appreciate you taking the time and effort to write in English, thank you so much for sharing this amazing and special experience. I do have one question....how did you answer the question about how you feel about America, diplomatically? Also, how did you answer the Austria portray's NK in the media? BTW - I traveled by rail 22 years ago by myself from Amsterdam to Vienna. It was a wonderful visit and opened this American's eyes to the then cut off eastern block countries when I was made to get off at Vienna, which was a wonderful city!! Thanks again, so very much for sharing.

Liz said...

That was fantastic! Thank you for the long interesting writeup and all the photos!

Anonymous said...

I just spent almost 3 hours reading your blog - and it was totally worth it. Thanks for the insights!

Manu said...

Thanks for your Blog....i am keen in knowing N.Korea and reading about it.
your blog is very very interesting and very good..

Cheers..!!!!

Fatih said...

Like many other people who read this, after reading the entire story from the beginning again (which took me several days — it's for sure best to take some time out to think and reflect about the story, no matter how catchy its style may be), I again have thought I have travelled with you from the cities of Central Europe to the desolate landscapes of Siberia, and then onto tidy yet neglected North Korean stations and to the boomtowns of China. And when I was sad that it ended again, to my surprise, I've found out that there are lots more to read and look about your trips while in Pyongyang and out to China — the part of the blog I didn't "discover" for some reason when I was having a read for the first time months ago.

No matter how much I want the North Korean people to be free, I also want to visit North Korea in its current regime (and unfortunately, I don't expect either to become real any time soon...). No, I'm not after mountain and forest vistas (which I see North Korea has plenty of) or historical artifacts — both of which can be found elsewhere, too — but I, being the egoistic bourgeois jerk I am, wonder about the life under such a totalitarian regime — like you do, many travellers to the country report of having a relief when they are back at China, and most have been there for only a period of less than a week! One day, when Korea is reunited (under the auspices of the South), I plea to then-united Korean officials to keep Pyongyang in the state they found it, without demolishing or removing any statues and monuments, and turn it into some sort of "communist theme park", perhaps complete with rigidly controlled guided tours.

There is actually so much to say about your trip, but instead of starting a mouthful of my reflections upon reading and seeing all this, I'll keep it short and simple: everything in the story, both those that took place in North Korea and elsewhere, and both those related to sightseeing and not (including the details on railways and trains) were extremely interesting. Anyway, I can't thank you enough for taking the effort (and being courageous!) to document and publish this amazing trip (and also for publishing it in English). When once North Korea becomes part of our world again, and when everything to do with the Great and Dear Leaders are forgotten glimpses of the distant past, this will surely be a greatly important historical record.

And one last thing: the way that you informed the tour company that you have a "last minute change" to your plans and will be arriving with the Tumangan train rather than the expected Beijing-Sinuiju one was having a friend, perhaps someone in Russia, e-mailing or calling the company when you were actually in North Korean territory, right? (I totally understand that you can't give the exact details, though.)

Thanks so much again,
Fatih from Tekirdag, Thrace (northwestern Turkey)

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I've read your story with pleasure. It's good that you wrote it in English, so the guy from Ukraine like me can read it.
Good job!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the story! I really liked the pictures taked from the train windows, specifically the ones in Siberia. Keep up the good work and happy trails :)

Anonymous said...

i came across your site from a link in seat61.com and it was amazing to see the pics and read what you wrote.

Łukasz said...

great!!!

Henning Sweden said...

This travelogue was one of the most exciting text I'vw ever read. I have, just like you, a big interest in special countries like Korea or GDR and trains/infrastructure. This travelogue combined these two great matters. I've been stuck in front of my computer two nights now just reading your traveloges. Again: fantastic reading! Thanks for sharing.

Stan said...

Hi Helmut,

Thank you very much for posting so many photos and descriptions of your North Korean adventure! It was a truly fascinating glimpse into one of the last isolated societies in the world. Your blog is hands down the best source of "ground-truth" about North Korea I've encountered.

As I read through your writings (excellent by the way) and looked through your photos, I only wished you were more adventurous. Though I say that from the comfort of my office, I'm sure you had intensely nervous feelings whenever you strayed from where you were "expected" to be.

Thank you so much once again for taking the time to detail your unique adventure!

Stan
Sacramento, CA, USA

Benn said...

Great story. Thanks for documenting with photos and words.

Keep up the travels and good luck with your next exploration!

Anonymous said...

Helmut, your travelloque bring me hours of curious and excited reading.
Thanks from Spain

Adran said...

Thanks from Slovakia

Transsib Train Tours Ltd. said...

OUTSTANDING. Could not stop reading as an old German boy who has been living in the Americas and in Russia 4 as long as 18 yrs...... Only hope the officers who let you in NK got no problems to allow you to do so.......many greetings from St. Petersburg / Russia! Paul T.

Mara said...

Great travel, great story :-) Thank you man

Stefano & Anabel

Anonymous said...

EPIC story sir! Thank you for documenting such an amazing experience. I have been reading it for a few hours!!!

Anonymous said...

I came across your online North Korea tour by accident.

I had a lot of stuff to do today but thanks to you, hehe, I have got nothing done so far.

That was truly a fascinating tour. Just great. I loved every part of it. I had to pull myself away after a bit into the China tour that comes just after the North Korean one. I will be back.

You know, one that that struck me was how here in Chicago we are always fighting for funds to keep our trains running let alone expansion and I see Pyongyang is expanding their's. Then off to the super modern China trains.

Anyway fantastic work.

Pete. said...

Hi Helmut,
I've just finished reading this account of your travels. It's totally amazing and so well written and as for the pics, they make it truly spectacular. I've so enjoyed the read and in my mind, I've travelled the journey to Pyongyang. Now, it's on my list of things I must do. Best wishes, Pete.

Mark said...

Hi Helmut,

I must echo previous posters in congratulating you on this truly excellent travelog. Through pictures and text, and felt as if I was in your boots all the way into North Korea.

You guys were either insane, or have guts of steel. Either way, I tip my hat to your both for being cheeky and stealing a chance to see the Korea that the Government guides won't let you see. Thank you for sharing that with us. North Korea seems a lot more...'real' after reading your stuff.

Dean said...

Hi!

After reading through that whole story I figured I had to at least leave a comment. The whole story of your trip was fascinating - especially the journey getting to North Korea and to Pyongyang. This is the first time I read about someone going to North Korea that way. Reading about Pyongyang was interesting too, but of course it was the "standard" tour. Thanks for taking the effort to write all this and show us your pictures! Regards from Canada,
Dean

fototechnik said...

Inspiring stuff, a great journey and a great read! Thanks for taking the time to put it all together to share with the world. Happy trails.

Dorian Grey said...

Great work!

FAILACE said...

Excelent post, read it twice.
I want to inform you that in Brazil, people stand in the midle and in both sides of scalators. No education at all.
Abraço
Hug
from
Brazil

Anonymous said...

Excellent Report!!! I haven't read such a detail trip report. Thanks!

Ivan from Canada

hijaungu said...

Such a fascinating journey, I really want to experience it myself after read this. Thanks to you. I'm very interested with DPRK after watching South Korean anti-war movies "Joint Security Area" and "Welcome to Dongmakgol". I wish they will be reunited someday. Peace from Indonesia.

milllan said...

Reading your travelblog for 3 days ... amazing :)

Lucia said...

Thank you for the travelouge - I enjoyed every single page and photo, it was really an amazing read.

E. Gan-Och said...

Wow, i loved this "travelogue". I came by here from Google Earth after watching some documentary was wondering what are the possible routes to escape from NK, noticed that Russia NK and China share a common point, then saw some images in NK. and voila, anyway spent too much time on this blog today, thank you very much for this detailed log. I'm from Mongolia; I went from Moscow to UB when I was little 5 days trip was the most fun I ever had then.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Yours is the best travelogue,(especialy the journey is not just to any regular coutry and taking the very unusual way for a tourist) though it gave me some headache, reading it page by page and staring at those photos for HOURS!,as it took you almost a year to finish it up. lol (like it consumed my whole evening)

It's fascinating to know that such long..long railway exists which connects russia to pyongyang. While reading the journey via the train i felt traveling too.lol. I super love the excitement. I would want to travel that way to NorthK someday & i'll definitely contact you.

Thank You for sharing your thoughts and photos. very well written.

Again, Salamat (Thank You) from the Philippines.
-Rochell :)

Anonymous said...

it's 2:15 am and I am still not sleeping. I have just read your story!
Bravo!
Your blog to N.Korea is better than movies on TV.
Regards from Poland!
Piotr

Patrik said...

Very interesting read indeed, did a similar thing as Piotr last night, kept on reading this facinating travellog until you arrived in Pyongyang, then continued today.

martin frutiger said...

Bravo! Ein geheimer Traum von mir, eine solche Reise! gut geschrieben, habe eine halbe Nacht gelesen! danke!
Martin

Jon said...

Das war ein tolle Geschichte. Die Teil über die Nordkoreanische Grenze war total aufregend. Danke, dass du es gescrieben hast und wenn du es nochmal machen möchtest, komm ich mit!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, good blog , Dave from Bratislava - Slovakia ....

Gimli2 said...

Thanks for perfect travel log. Greetings from czech.

venkatesh said...

What a fantastic piece of writing. I can literally feel the sights and scenes myself. Your passion for trains is amazing. Would pease make a visit to india and write about the pathetic trains here. Overall it has been a fantastic read.

venkatesh said...

What a fantastic piece of writing. The best travelogue adventure ever I have read. Please visit my country India to write about the pathetic but most crowded train system in the world.

Unknown said...

What a fantastic account, just beautifully documented. The photos and videos were incredible. Thank you for the travelogue I really enjoyed it.

Sergio said...

Hi There:

I just spent the last 2 days reading your Blog... Fantastic. Even though I am not a train Fan I do Like traveling in anything other than airplanes...so i felt very inspired by your blog... I hope i can someday take the trans siberian train and now a trip to NK seems to be a must do.

I have taken trains Between cities in China before and loved the experience... Again thank for the inspiration.

Greetings from Peru.

Jojo said...

Dear Friend, It was an excellent reading. Virtually you had taken me to Russia, North Korea and China by your description, photos and videos. A great work.
As an Indian, I do invite you to travel in the Indian trains and give your experience to the 'railway lovers' all over the world. India has a complex and wide netweork of railways. You will not be disappointed here. Thank you.

Harry said...

I came upon your blog after seeing some of your photos on Google maps! What a fascinating trip! I spent much of the morning reading your account and loved the photos. I am very impressed by you guys, planning this rail trip and taking some big risks to travel to North Korea.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and thanks . I read your report with interest and pleasure.I was in Panmunom , at the K-K border but I came from Seoul. It was really interesting to see the view from the 'second" side,especially your pictures 9with North Korean soldiers . Good job Jungs
anna

Sally said...

Hi Helmut,

What a fantastic adventure! Your photos and insights were fascinating. Where are you going next?

Sally from Australia (found you via Twitter)

Anonymous said...

Just a quick thank you for this travelogue. It was a very interesting read and I enjoyed seeing the accompanying photos :-)

Radu said...

Excellent post, loved every picture.

Cheers from Seattle,
Radu

Anonymous said...

Hallo!
Klasse reisebericht und tolle Bilder! Nur leider alles auf Englisch
Gruß
argylelachi@t-online.de

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a great blog. I was just looking for some impressions of North Corea (countryside, urbanism, people) on the net, and your pictures have been really helpful. Great job! Thaks a lot!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a great blog. I was just looking for some impressions of North Corea (countryside, urbanism, people) on the net, and your pictures have been really helpful. Great job! Thaks a lot!

RC said...

Hi Helmut & Oliver! I'm very curious about North Korea as there's so little information about it. To cross the border at Tumangang was really amazing and to be in NK for a few hours without a guide...I have no words really!!
Your blog is a very nice source of info on NK and in fact I find it better in many aspects than the stuff we get from some media sources. Thanks for all the photos and videos and for the short "unsupervised" glimpse on NK from Russia to Pyongyang (probably very exclusive for foreigners).
BTW, also appreciated your madness about trains and railway transportation in general!!

Thanks a lot to both of you for sharing this experience with such great quality!

Regards from Belgium!

manwani91 said...

I am Monish Manwani writing from Mumbai,India age 20 years

I would like to thank you for sharing your experience on the web of the north korean railway system

I would like to invite you to come and explore India and its railway system there are no restrictions like North Korea as India is a democratic country.

Also since you work in the Austrian railways you can even get help from Indian railways authorities to help you explore India's diverse rail network.

Almost all of India is connected by Railroad network

(you will be surprised to know that INDO-PAK rail route exists but is closed due bomb blasts by Pakistani terrorists in 2007 now its mostly used for simple trading only)

so you can get a see a variety of trains from modern trains to british era trains

(of course bullet and maglev trains are not there at present in India)

along with some awesome landscapes and variety of cultures as each state in India has its own language and own culture.

If you do visit India I would like you answer which rail service is better India or North Korea?

This blog of your really refreshed my mind and now in true sense I can pursue my engineering studies with a fresh mind, I am studying telecommunication engineering at present I am in 1st year.

Also I would also like to ask you in general are telecom engineers of any use to railways (just a general question)because I want to make a ppt in my college about use of telecom in railways

kibiiin said...

best travel blog eveeeer! :>
i want a trip just like this.
i just want to ask how much pocket money should you bring??

KK said...

Thank you for the blog, its was great reading!
Greetings from snowy Estonia!

Anonymous said...

well, done.
greetings from HongKong

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading through your story, it took me 3 hours to enjoy your great travels through Russia and into Korea. Thanks so much for taking the time and being brave and posting all these stories and pictures!

Anonymous said...

Just reading the story of your journey is enough to be life-changing. Thank you so much for doing such a great job of documenting your trip! I loved it!

Anonymous said...

So interssant! Danke!

Marcel said...

Thank you for your amazing travelogue. You have inspired me to undertake a trip of this magnitude myself (perhaps a different route ;-) but I am really impressed.

you're an inspiration

M

Ramnath Rangaswamy said...

Amazing and brilliant travelogue! Excellent writing and photographs! Awesome! Thank you for taking the effort and time to write this detailed piece about your travels. I look forward to more of your travel writings. Cheers...

Srivathsa Yajaman said...

Epic. What a fascinating travelogue. I was glued to my computer for 3 hours. There is something about a train journey that cannot be explained through words. The statement that comes closest is from Dr.Zhivago - " These vast expanses gave him a feeling of freedom and elation. They made him think and dream of the future."

Anonymous said...

george..
thank you for this outstanding reportage. i have the feeling to have traveled from vienna to china and back myself. bravo

Eduardo said...

Helmut,

Great job, I spent some days reading your travelogue, congratulations!. Greetings from Mexico.

Anonymous said...

Incredible. Great pictures and story. Thank you!

LeLe said...

What an interesting trip! I really felt like I was along for the ride. You made me want to travel by train to someplace exotic. :)

Unknown said...

Hi Helmut, Thank you so much for such an entertaining and informative Travelog. Having spent a lot of time in China and South Korea, your report has inspired me to visit the DPRK.

Best regards and good luck on future trips.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful narrative! The pictures too are exquisite!! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! Some trip you had! I was fascinated reading the details of your Vienna-Pyongyang trip, I really enjoyed, and made me wonder lot of things... I feel very atracted to someday go to North Korea and to China... Well have to go, and BTW, saludos desde Mexico!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great read, it was really awesome. Personally I would love to travel to NK, but they won't let us South Koreans in right now. I hope all this hate and misery in this peninsula end soon and peace come once again.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how I came upon your travelogue but once I started I could not stop until I read every word and absorbed every photo. What an awesome journey. Thanks for taking the time to post.
Chris - NC, USA

Anonymous said...

hi Helmut,

i would like to thank you for dedicating so much time and effort into writing this travelogue. like many others here, your story has given me insights that i never thought i could gain without stepping a foot into DPRK. sneaking into DPRK by its backdoor was definitely risky but i dont think you guys have regretted giving it a try!

am still fascinated by those north koreans who are able to train out to Russia/China. i always thought north koreans can only stay within DPRK..

- Reader from Singapore

Jukka said...

Wow! Amazing story of the unbelievable trip. I hope you can continue fulfilling your dreams via travelling and share those moments with everybody this awesome way.

Thank you!

Jukka / Finland

Anonymous said...

Very, very interesting article! Its so good that it deserves to be proofread to eliminate the many spelling and grammatical mistakes. The writing is worth the effort to "polish" it. Hopefully when that's done you can make and sell a little ebook complete with linked videos.

For people wanting to understand North Korean life you need to talk to North Koreans. This really isn't possible in North Korea but its much more possible I would think in China though you'd probably have to be in a place for a while to garner some trust. I would think travel to the Dandong area of China would be fascinating and yield far more information on real North Korean life. And its pretty close to Beijing.

Also it would be informative if you mentioned if you had to pay the guides. That's usually included in the package tour price but you didn't travel like that. Please consider adding that.

And realize that every person that travels to North Korea under the typical government controlled scenario is supporting the regime as you know that money doesn't go to North Korean tour operators or guides. That's why its important to go like this, under the radar, humble and unassuming, drawing little attention to yourself.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing report! Thank you sooooo much! :)

Phil said...

I am from Klagenfurt Austria und i want to thank you Helmut. It took me 4 days to read your Story and i have to say that i am fascinated about what you did there. You should write a book ;)

Anonymous said...

This was the most amazing blog story Ive ever read, and I read the entire thing in ONE night! I was addicted. Thank you so much!!! AND THE PICS ARE BEAUTIFUL!

Craig Wilson said...

Hi Helmut,

A truly absorbing read from start to finish, and one that inspires me to do a bit more travelling to these far-away places myself!!

Craig

Lukas Fittl said...

Another thank you for writing this up, its been a fascinating read!

Cheers from a fellow Viennese & hope you still find the time for new adventures.

Best,
Lukas

Porter said...

This is an incredible story. I so enjoyed reading all of the day to day interactions with people local to the spot you were visiting. Thank you for taking the time to relay your adventure to the rest of the world!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Helmut, I came here via a link on Hacker News and read every single posting 'til the end, it was just so interesting and addictive. I think you've described your experiences in a very well-balanced fashion. Personally I would never dare to do something like this. This was a much more interesting travelogue than I've ever read in a printed magazine. Kind regards from Germany.

Garagemc said...

A wonderful story, thanks so much.

Steve said...

Thank you for a great story. I have been reading about your adventures for the last couple of days and it was really interesting. One problem I found was that many pages from around the time you went to the DMZ to the last few pages have lots of photos missing... the links do not appear to work for me at least. Other than that, fantastic story, videos and photos. I did many side trips to various links and Google searches to find out more about things you talked about in your story. Once again, thank you. Steve from Melbourne, Australia.

Cory said...

Thanks so much for this excellent travelog!

Alfredo VOGEL said...

thanks for sharing your adventure and helping us to understand the human side of it all: well done and congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for showing us the inside of DPRK.

Flooo said...

Thank you for the great story, it was very interesting to read about your experience as I love traveling too!

Anonymous said...

Best blog ever! Im going to North Korea this june. But im flying in and taking the train out, legally. ;D

ian said...

Thank you for the travelogue, it was a fascinating read! The time you put into it is very much appreciated.

Ian / San Francisco

Mitch Wintner said...

This was a great story and great pictures. I live in Houston, Texas USA. I have been really interested in North Korea and found your story and pics. You did a wonderful job! Thank You.

Meinrad aus Kanada said...

Great travelogue. You guys showed maturity way beyond your age.

Anonymous said...

What an incredible experience! Many thanks for taking the time and effort to write about and upload pictures of this extraordinary adventure. Truly inspirational.

Greetings from the United States.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great blog and for all the interesting photographs.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for an extremely interesting story!

Elena Trofimova said...

Thanks for an extremely detailed story! I got curious about North Korea, bumped into your blog and then just couldn't stop reading and looking at the pictures for an hour until I read all of it. You managed to give a very good, sincere and objective impression of this mysterious country.

Yarwinish said...

Spectacular travelog. I read it all with great enthusiasm! Great work.

Greeting from Brazil.

HDN said...

I read the travelogue some time ago on Drehscheibe-online and stumbled across it here again. Interesting trip, well documented. There are some areas I rather read about then travel myself, so thank you for sharing !
HDN in Berlin

HDN said...

I read the travelogue some time ago on Drehscheibe-online and stumbled across it here again. Interesting trip, well documented. There are some areas I rather read about then travel myself, so thank you for sharing !
HDN in Berlin

S Merrick said...

I stumbled onto your travel blog by looking at pictures on Google Earth, and wanted to thank you for taking the time to do this. As a citizen of the United States I will probably never have the opportunity to travel here. Even if possible, I would be concerned at becoming a political pawn...so safer not to go. I was fascinated by your comments and pictures...thank you so much for taking the time so that the rest of us could relive your experience. I also wanted to comment on one of your final comments. I have traveled many places in the world, and politics/governments aside we are all people that have the same likes and dislikes, family, and dreams!
Thank you again!

Anonymous said...

This was GREAT! You should definitely turn this into a book!

Anonymous said...

only can say one word for your travelogue... it was AWSOME!! :)
greetings from Indonesia :)

Anonymous said...

Great trip, great blog! Had much fun reading it!

Sjoerd, the Netherlands

Ted Crilly said...

Fantastic blog. I think this is the best travel story from North Korea i have ever read. Thank you for putting the effort to put this together for sharing with the rest of the world.

Ted,
San Jose, California.

Kris said...

Hallo Helmut und Oliver,


I just want to express my thanks for this amazing work of art epic rail journey! I've been hooked reading this for the past week every night when I get home from work and now I'm finally at the end..
This story really is just unbelievable...

As a fellow Railwayman from Scotland -(I'm currently doing an operational apprenticeship in London), who is also very passionate about the Railway and travel, -(I have a keen interest in left politics and the countries of the former Warsaw pact and CCCP in particular) I loved every second of this trip across Eurasia to the DPRK! I feel like I've been traveling along with you guys for the past week while reading this!

I look forward to reading more of your adventures across the world both on and off the rails and I'm going to read your Eurasia 2005 trip now.

I hope to travel across Eastern Europe by train later this year in October time -(if I can get some leave) with my FIP pass.
I plan to take the train from Chisinau, Moldova to Tiraspol in the breakaway PMR -(Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic). Have you ever been there? They call it "Europes Black Hole"! The Soviet Union and communism live on here, so for me this place is a must-stop!

Anyway, thank you so much again for this wonderful travelogue, its been a privilege to read and an inspiration. I hope to make the trip myself some day in the not too distant future.


All the best, -(from a Scot in London!)

Vielen Dank,
Kris.

FokkerTISM said...

Your story has inspired me to take a similar trip in 10 years' time. I MAY take the Tumangan-route you used, it sounds interesting. I hope I have the same successes you had.

I don't speak a word of korean, but I am a native English-speaker and am currently learning Russian.

Karel said...

Hi Helmut, just finished reading your travelog, it's amazing trip and let me congratulate. I am also fan of train trips despite such long i have never done. You showed us new picture of East Siberia, unhided secret of Khasan border point I saw before just on GoogleEarth and told story about part of NK where just few people from West/Central Eupore had chance to see {I mean north-east part of NK}.
Good luck on some of your next trip on rail.
Karel, Prague

Joachim said...

Männer,

die Geschichte hat mich richtig mitgenommen, einfach fantastisch.
Beinahe als wäre man dabeigewesen. Beim Grenzübertritt bekam ich Herzklopfen.

Joachim

JInbum Lee said...

Great journey!! I'm very pleased with your fascinating travelogue and a lot of photos. North Korea(=Kim's dynasty) is most closed country in the world.
In that reason your trip is extraordinary one. I've heard that north korea had recently closed tuman-gang(tuman-river) railroad route for foreign traveler.
Because they hate exposed their lagged entire country. Whole infrastructure, starved north korean and everthing except their capital, Pyeongyang.
Anyway thank you again for your awesome blog.

Wish to unification of Korea someday..
From south korean live in seoul.

Vlad said...

Thanks for for posting this travelogue! Interesting read.

Lazza said...

Excellent blog! I have to admit I read only starting from the part in which you approached the Russia-NK border, being only interested in NK, but it still took me hours to finish it all. :D

Thank you very much for writing and for providing never seen before pictures.

Anonymous said...

Hi Helmut,

What a great read, thanks for posting. I was stationed at JSA (of course on the south side) in 1994 to 1995. I have always been so interested in the North. Hope to visit one day.

Best regards,
Wade