In Beijing I joined a tour run by Koryo Tours. It was a week-long tour into North Korea – one of the world’s most isolated countries.
We flew into Pyongyang using Air Koryo – North Korea’s national airline.
We had a group visa and so didn’t get any stamps in our passports. In the last couple of years the number of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea has really increased and the restrictions for tourists have decreased. Initially we had been told that we couldn’t bring in computers, but then we found out it was all right. The main restriction still enforced is that you can’t bring any mobile phones.
Our first stop was the Rungrado May Day Stadium – one of the biggest stadiums in the world. It has the world’s highest stadium seating capacity: 150,000. Every year during summer, the North Koreans stage the Arirang Mass Games – an absolutely amazing 90 minute spectacle consisting of 100,000 performers.
There were thousands of people on the other side of the stadium holding books of different colored boards. They moved these in sequence to make some amazingly detailed pictures.
The show covered the Korean struggle for independence, the wonders of North Korea’s president and friendship with China (nothing says ideological purity like a dancing panda).