Our lovely guide shares a laugh and smile during our return visit to the US spy ship Pueblo.
This wasn’t our first time meeting this guide – Jordan, Josh, and I remembered her from last year (and she confessed to remembering us too), she was our guide during our 2011 visit to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. It was with her that we shared one of our favorite interactions of last year’s trip:
After being told of our impending annihilation we split our group between our trip guides and the local museum guide to fit into a small elevator to return to the museum entrance. Stuffed in the elevator between 5 big western men our guide asked us where we were from – Michigan, Maine, California, and so on. The look on our guide’s face was priceless, she was stuck in an elevator with 5 arch enemy Americans just moments after she predicted our impending annihilation by North Korean troops. The look of shock on her face changed into a big smile as our guide declared “I love American civilians!” and together we all all broke out into laughter – one of the best moments of the trip!
- Thank You to Polaroid for Camera Sponsership (americaninnorthkorea.com)
My brothers over at The North Korea Blog and myself are are heading back to the DPRK next week for round two of some world-class totalitarian theatre. Empty highways, wet shooting ranges and disturbingly intimate conversations with locals are calling us back to the hermit kingdom.
Besides, this is the year that North Korea becomes a “strong and prosperous nation.” We couldn’t miss that, could we?
And how different it is this time around, just six months after our first trip.
Kim Jong Il is dead.
Kim Jong Un has assumed power……..continue reading this post at The North Korea Blog.
Taedong River View, Pyongyang, North Korea – photo by Joseph A Ferris III
The highlight of the trip will be the 100th year birthday celebrations of the ‘Eternal’ President Kim Il-sung. This was no easy trip to make happen, over the winter we waited out the nationwide lockdown after the death of Kim Jong-il only to learn that it looked like there wouldn’t be rooms available to foreigners in Pyongyang during the Kim Il-sung birthday celebrations. Dignitaries from the provinces would be flooding the capital during this time, but the good people over at Koryo Tours were finally able to scrape together some hotel rooms for us – not sure about the quality of the rooms but at least we have something guaranteed and the trip is confirmed!
Since I’m going to a birthday party I decided to bring a gift, and after a bit of diplomatic letter writing, I have been approved to present a gift to representatives for Kim Il-sung at the International Friendship Exhibition. This is truly going to be a once in a lifetime trip!
Soldiers at a Pyongyang park.
We want this to be a truly epic trip, birthday parties, rocket launches, and diplomatic gifts were not going to be enough, so I wrote up and submitted a custom itinerary that included North Korean sites never previously visited by western tourists. Our tour will include the first ever visit to the Nampo Chollima Steel Works, Tae’an Heavy Machine Tool Complex, Tae’an Glass Factory sites, and the Nampo Taekwondo School. Another first ever visit will take us to Pujon, a town deep in the wild interior of the country where we will take mountain hikes and visit the infamous “slogan trees“.
Other exciting destinations we will visit (not on standard first time visitor tour program) include the Nampo West Sea Barrage, the Songdowon Schoolchildren’s Camp, Wonsan’s central square and piers, the Wonsan Agricultural University, the Tongbong Cooperative Farm, and the town of Hamhung and its beach scene.
Man at a Pyonagyang park.
I have also planned a trip up to the Chinese/North Korean border town of Dandong for a little exploration and investigation. Most foreigners visit Dandong as a trip extension on their stopover on departure from the DPRK by train, but Americans are required to fly both in and out, so my visit will be by train from Beijing after the North Korea trip is complete. In Dandong my friend Jordan (from The North Korea Blog) and I will attempt to rub shoulders with North Korean spies, and learn the lowdown from the smuggles, refugees, and Christian missionaries that haunt the border region. There is also some pretty wacky nightlife to check out, and there is no way I’m going to miss out on the opportunity to have rocks thrown at me as I attempt to take pictures of North Korean sailors and their boats on the river cruise.
Bubble gum in Pyongyang.
I hope all my dear readers will be excited for all the new and original material to come. I have recently bought new lenses and upgraded my camera kit from the Sony A55 to the new pro level Sony A77. I just hope I can get this new camera into the county, I will be devastated if it is held at customs, so please send me some positive vibes and wish me good luck!
In Aug. 2011 Jordan Harbinger, Neil Strauss, Gabriel Mizrahi, and Joseph A Ferris III (me), recorded the first podcast ever from inside North Korea- check it out here! Then hear our reflections upon returning to the States – except for myself, I returned to Taiwan.
Arirang Mass Games, Pyongyang, DPRK, North Korea.
Think you are going to get the girl on your trip to North Korea? Well think again!
Cute times with the singing waitresses of Pyongyang.
Hey man, cool site and sounds like a never forgettable experience. One thing I gotta ask though. Is it possible to hook up with any chicks while you are there? I know you said you had a girl in Taiwan, but is it possible for a single dude to do something like that?
You never see any photos of North Koreans out having fun, or partying and wondered if something like that is acceptable. Then would it be acceptable if the guy was American. Know what I mean?
So I’m going to be totally honest here –
Many of the North Korean girls we came in contact with, such as waitresses and guides, were actually very flirtations – in an innocent way, and the girls are very cute – in a natural way…..but don’t get your hope up – there is NO chance of anything happening!
North Korea is the most racist country in the world – their pride in their racial purity is the secret to how the regime survives in the face of their poverty – when the going gets tough the leaders just resort to whipping up nationalistic outrage by showing footage of their ethnic brothers and sisters to the south fraternizing with the US occupation troops.
I went to North Korea with the world’s most famous pick up artist, Neil Strauss. Thing is Neil was on a vacation and not there as a journalist or a PUA, but he did bring along some of his “students” to help fill out our group so we could have an independent tour. The trip to North Korea was suppose to have nothing to do with “pickup” (even though my buddy Jordan is another big industry name) – so I found myself frustrated and even angry when some of the guys were focused on trying to get a North Korean girl – because it would be an epic accomplishment and to impress Neil- or they just didn’t know better.
Just go and enjoy the 1950′s style flirting, but don’t make a fool of yourself by asking the guides if “we can have a party at their house” or to “give me a little kiss” – that kind of shit just is NOT going to happen and makes the rest of us who are trying to be good westerners look bad.
That said, you might get lucky with a Chinese girl at the Casino or the massage parlor at the big hotel in Pyongyang, and you do have to fly out of Beijing – lots of fun to be had there – just check out Maggies bar!
I will invite my buddy Jordan to comment on the the topic here also.
Although the women are super cute in North Korea, I think we can pretty much forget about hooking up with locals. For one, contact with them is ULTRA-limited, and the only North Korean women you really interact with are the tour guides. We also met waitresses here and there, but the truth is, as Joe says below, North Korea is nearly fascist in nature. Does that mean they aren’t fascinated by Westerners? No. Does it mean they’d ever take the risk of making anything happen? Also no.
I spoke with a LOT of the tour company people (both the locals and English) very frankly about this and everyone was pretty clear that such a thing just isn’t worth the potential trouble. Even when guides were drinking with us at the hotel and the women were flirty, there were other people there to keep them in-check. Last but not least, even if all parties wanted something to happen, the logistics are impossible -no Koreans are allowed on the same hotel floors as tourists, and no tourists are allowed on the Korean hotel floors.
You get the idea…
More pics from my cute times dancing with the singing waitresses of Pyongyang
Jordan Harbinger and Joseph Ferris singing Careless Whisper in North Korea.
The most happening spot in all of North Korea is the karaoke bar on the 2nd basement floor of the Yanggakdo Hotel. This bar is open to both foreigners and North Koreans (the casino and naughty Chinese massage parlor on the 1st basement floor is foreigners only), and some pretty wild whiskey and soju fueled parties can get rolling there. We spent our first night in North Korea singing all the western Karaoke classics – songs by the Eagles, Queen, and so on, and while flipping though the song books I was hit by a sudden flash of inspiration – George Michael’s Careless Whisper was available, and this HAD to be sung!
I had spent a summer in the Philippines, where Careless Whisper is practically the unofficial national anthem, so I have a soft spot in my heart for that ridiculous song. Back in Beijing, as we waited for our North Korea trip to start, and while hanging out and listening to a Filipino band at a disreputable bar, I got the party started by requesting Careless Whisper. From then on out, Careless Whisper became the trip’s unofficial theme song, with a few notes always to be hummed when some sexy corniness was required.
So back to North Korea – Careless Whisper is on the menu and it HAS to be sung, but unfortunately the North Korean attendants informed me that a queue of 10 or 15 songs had already been requested and I would simply have to wait. I had a gut feeling on how to remedy this, “ladies, I’m the boss! My song WILL be played next!” With Jordan nodding his head to confirm that they were indeed dealing with the boss , and with a look of panic, the North Korean karaoke attendants asked if they should immediately cut off what was playing and start up my important selection. I was feeling quite magnanimous and with a flick of my hand I indicated that they should let the song finish. Damn its fine to be the boss in North Korea – or at least pretend to be!
All the classics on the menu with 1 Euro Tiger Beer at the Yanggakdo Hotel karaoke joint, North Korea.
Only in North Korea will the song “Hungry Eyes” be played to a video of donuts!
Breaking vases in North Korea.
Lost in the elevator – trying to find my room after a night of North Korean karaoke.
North Korea Shooting Range – Guns, Girls, and Beer – Photo by Joseph A Ferris III
In an online article at Mademan.com, Jordan Harbinger answers why North Korea is better than Vegas. Backing up this claim, Jordan points out such North Korean show stoppers as the Arirang Mass Games, massive propaganda statues, gasoline clam bakes, and my personal favorite, guns, girls, and beer at the Pyongyang shooting range.
Sure, the Gun Store in Vegas may have MP5s ready to rip up some paper targets downrange, but the shooting ranges in Pyongyang put that all to shame with cold beer and hot women in uniform reloading your weapon for you, then yelling at you in Korean to put down your beer while you fire for greater accuracy and safety or something.
Jordan Harbinger at the Pyongyang gun range.
When our North Korean guide asked us if we wanted to arrange a trip to the shooting range we said “Hell Yeah!” The shooting range turned out to be a type of North Korean men’s club, with young ladies in military style uniforms handling the guns, conducting the safety checks, and pouring the beers. This little side trip was not in the tour itinerary and there were some long faces from the other tourists at the hotel that night when we told our stories about this outing.
Neil Strauss at the Pyongyang, North Korea gun range.
Gabriel Mizrahi at the Pyongyang gun range.
North Koreans cannot go anywhere without the proper documentation and travel passes. During the famine years these rules were overlooked as unstoppable mass migrations of people searched for food across the country – often near the Chinese border. Now the rules and restrictions have tightened back up again. A Swiss diplomat stationed in Pyongyang (he claimed there are only around 40 full time expats living in North Korea at any given time, excluding the Chinese) told us that his team North Korean contacts spent one full week running around Pyongyang, gathering signatures and filing papers, just to arrange the travel permissions to make a visit and tour of the DMZ. As tourists with Koryo Tours we buzzed around everywhere hassle free with nothing more than a flash of a paper at a random checkpoint or two – makes me wonder about all the work that had to have gone on behind the scenes to make our tour appear so damn normal.
Teachers have their documents checked on a school group outing to the Ryongmun Caves.
Links to pictures of our North Korean Visas and tourist cards:
Kim Jong-il loves to look at things! Here is a website with an incredible archive of pictures of Kim Jong-il checking stuff out.
Of course we couldn’t let Kim Jong-il have all the fun, above is Jordan Harbinger looking at kim Jong-il, along with his father the Eternal President, Kim ll-sung, look at a vase.
Yesterday’s most viewed North Korea pic from my Flickr account – best selling author Neil Strauss, radio personality Jordan Harbinger, and the rest of our group chuckle over a model of a North Korean train depot at the Pyongyang Railway Museum – North Koreans really love their models and dioramas!