Mt. Chibo Homestay

An overnight at the Mt. Chibo Homestay is a highlight of any trip to the remote North East of North Korea. On a pristine beach with the Chilbo mountains soaring behind, the home stay affords visitors unique interactions with locals, and ample leisure time to enjoy activities like village volleyball tournaments, traditional Korean wrestling, beach side campfires with sing-alongs, and traditional fishing boat rides.

Mt Chilbo Home Stay

Is the Mt. Chilbo Homestay a Potemkin Village? Read my interview with NK News to learn more, or better yet, visit North Korea’s remote Northeast and decide for yourself!

More pics from the Mt. Chilbo Homestay below:

Mt. Chilbo Homestay

Homestay map.

Mt. Chilbo Home Stay

Tour of the homes; typical living room.

Mt. Chilbo Volleyball Cheerleaders

Volleyball cheerleaders.

Volleyball Cheerleaders at Mt. Chilbo Home Stay

Girl at Mt. Chilbo Home Stay

Mt. Chilbo Boating North Korea

Fishing boat ride on the East Korean Sea.

Mt. Chilbo Fishing Boat

Mt. Chilbo Home Stay Camp Fire

Campfire with locals.

Mt. Chilbo, North Korea Home Stay

Mt. Chilbo Home Stay Songs and Camp Fire


I won the traditional Korean wrestling tournament!

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III

Humvees, Pawn Shops, and 5 Star Bathrooms – North Korea’s Surreal Rason Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

No visit to Rason, North Korea would be complete (at least for those interested in business or entertainment) without a stop at the Hong Kong investor owned Emperor Hotel and Casino. The second casino in North Korea (the original being a small dodgy room in the Yanggakdo International Hotel basement), the Emperor Hotel and Casino is located on a lonely stretch of coast with farmers and oxen tilling fields right up to the empty parking lots.

The lobby is spotless, the restaurant promising (but empty), and the signs politely remind Chinese gamblers not to spit. Visitors can only gamble if they exchange a minimum of 500 dollars into chips – we didn’t, so we couldn’t visit the gaming floor. Neither did we visit the dodgy Chinese massage parlor, but as per our guide’s proud recommendation, we did use the county’s only 5 star bathroom.

The casino has a fleet of Humvee vehicles reportedly confiscated from Chinese mafia gamblers who lost millions of dollars and refused to pay their debt. They left the Humvees instead, which are now used to shuttle patrons down from the Chinese border – they must have been on a run, we searched for the Humvees but the casino motor pool was empty.

And if this wasn’t all surreal enough, there is even an associated pawn shop for unlucky gamblers located on the road leading to the casino!

More pics of the Emperor Hotel and Casino:

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Rason, North Korea Emperor Hotel and Casino

Dodgy Chinese massage!

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III

10 of the world’s ugliest buildings – CNN

Hotel of Doom

North Korean Hotel of Doom photo by Joseph A Ferris III

CNN fluff web article on the world’s ugliest buildings:

1. Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korea’s long and hideous Communist dictatorship has simultaneously heaped misery upon its people while offering the rest of the world several moments of unintentional hilarity.

This 330-meter pyramid/spaceship/sci-fi villain’s lair-themed concrete edifice is a prime example of the regime’s hubris. Erected, apparently, as a riposte to South Korea winning the right to host the 1988 Olympic Games, the impoverished North ran out of cash for the project in the early 1990s.

After a 16-year hiatus, construction began again in 2008 at the behest of an Egyptian investment group and the hotel is slated to open next year in time for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sun, the country’s late “Eternal” President.

This is a development that will surely herald the emergence of Pyongyang as a heavyweight tourist destination –- in the same alternate reality this monstrosity was conceived, that is.

On the Streets of Kaesong, North Korea

A busy morning street scene – photos all taken from the gate of the Folk Hotel (with no freedom to explore further), Kaesong, North Korea.

On the Street in Kaesong, North Korea

On the Streets of Kaesong, North Korea

On the Street in Kaesong, North Korea

On the Street in Kaesong, North Korea

On the Street in Kaesong, North Korea

The Porters of the Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

Yanggakdo Hotel Porters

With the philosophy that it’s best to cultivate a little good will, even in the lowest of places, because you never know when you might need a friend or a little help, and even though we carried our own bags, we always greeted the Yanggakdo Hotel porters and bell hops with bright smiles, handshakes, and a few packs of Marlboro Red cigarettes discreetly slipped into their palms.

Not that we ever needed their assistance, but the porters made us proud when on the last morning of our trip, while tossing and playing Frisbee with us in the hotel parking lot, several government agent types – black shades, slick suits, BMW ride, angrily asked the porters “what are you doing, don’t you know you are playing with Americans?”

It was later told to us that they replied with the Korean equivalent of “f*** you, they are our friends!”


Hotel of Doom – Ryugyong Hotel

Dominating the Pyongyang skyline, the North Korean Ryugyong Hotel finally nears completion after 20 years of on and off again construction.  I’m not going to badmouth the Ryugyong Hotel any further – I will leave that to this article.

Hotel of Doom

More North Korea pics at my Flickr Photostream

Casino Pyongyang

Casino Pyongyang

Welcome to basement floor #1 of the Yanggakdo International Hotel of Pyongyang, the one and only red light district open to foreigners in all of North Korea.  Don’t expect to find any North Koreans in this shady area, this floor is forbidden to residents and staffed only by Chinese workers.  Here the adventurous can party at the Egypt Palace Karaoke and Nightclub, try their luck at the Casino Pyongyang, and get a naughty Chinese massage in the VIP room of the Golden Spring Island Sauna.  While this all sounds like a Hangover movie in the making, in reality don’t expect too much.  During my visit to basement floor #1 I found the nightclub closed, the casino empty and depressing, and the naughty massage parlor simply intimidating.

On a side note – my father runs a video game company and in the past was involved with casinos, so I took a close look at the serial number tags on a handful of the slot machines that sat unpowered in the Pyongyang Casino.  All of the slots were registered and had come from the United States!  I wish cameras were allowed so I could have recorded some of the tags – would have been fun to track these machines down.

Check out all my North Korea pics at my Flickr Photostream