Top 5 Things To Do While Visiting North Korea
Travel to North Korea? Most people are shocked when they learn that thousands of Westerners do in fact travel to North Korea every year. While tourism in North Korea is very structured, there are still plenty of opportunities to meet the locals and experience authentic North Korean sights. Below are five things you must do if you ever make it to the DPRK.
1) Take a Walk On Changjon Street
This is one of the best ways to see Pyongyang’s (relatively) new skyline. The new high-rises were completed in the summer of 2012 and give the city a surprisingly modern feel. A night walk on this street is one of those quiet moments when travelers can enjoy the city like an everyday resident of Pyongyang.
2) Bring Your Own Skates
I wanted roller blades. Even the four wheelers I grew up with would have been fine. But it was too crowded, and my American feet (average in the States) were apparently too big for anything at the Pyongyang Skate Park. Or maybe because of the huge roller blade trend sweeping the DPRK, people thought it was just plain weird that I didn’t have my own pair.
Whatever the reason, they handed me what looked like a giant, flat Q-Tip made of blue plastic with a wheel at each end. I don’t think I’m that old and out of touch, but I had no clue what this was. Apparently it’s called a Rip Stick. Miraculously, after a couple of total wipeouts in front of every kid in Pyongyang, I started to get the hang of it. If you want something a little more relaxed, definitely pack your skates.
3) Try the Street Food
On our second night in Pyongyang we were treated to North Korean style barbecued duck. While this was amazing by itself, there was an added treat that made it more memorable than most meals. The treat was an entire clove of salted, fermented garlic that our guides had bought from a street vendor earlier that day. When I say that this garlic was out of this world, I mean it.
At the risk of alienating a group of complete strangers by reeking of garlic for the next five days, I devoured every juicy nugget. So, if you can’t tell by now, you must try the BBQ duck with a salted, fermented garlic clove. We tried other types of food for during out trip, but this was my personal favorite.
4) Taste Snake Wine
I can’t tell you that it’s tasty, but the sheer novelty of the pungent wine is worth every drop. The wine is actually bottled with a live snake, which tries to get air by escaping through the mouth of the bottle, ensuring that the snake’s head is close to the top when it takes its last breath. But, if that doesn’t bother you, step up and claim your manhood. Lest you think that this is a particular North Korean rite, note that snake wine can be found throughout Asia. Of course, a bottle of North Korean snake wine will give you serious bragging rights.
5) Play a Round at Pyongyang Golf Course
The most exotic golf course on earth, period. No, it’s not nestled amongst palm trees or positioned at the foot of an active volcano, but you can be sure that FedEx will probably not ship your clubs to this course any time soon. What’s more, you probably will be hard-pressed to find a course record anywhere on earth as impressive as Kim Jong Il’s 38 under par! How did he do it? Let’s just say 11 hole-in-ones didn’t hurt. Also, it was his first time playing the course. If he hadn’t been so busy as the (great) leader of the DPRK, he could have had quite an easy life on the PGA tour. Come see how you fare.
By John Dantzler-Wolfe
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Dantzler-Wolfe is Operations Chief of Uri Tours Inc. Uri Tours is an authorized DPRK tour operator that handles travelers’ DPRK visas, flights, accommodations and trip planning for a flat fee. Thousands of westerners travel to the DPRK each year, and there are currently no U.S. State Department restrictions on travel to North Korea as it is generally safe for U.S. travelers.