Archives for posts with tag: Kim Jong il

As promised my wake up call comes at 7am in the morning, the voice on the other end of the phone is polite. I got dressed and headed out the room to go for breakfast as we had been told we would be leaving at 7:30 am to visit the Kim Jong-il and Kim il-sung friendship places, two “museums” dug into mountains that contain the catalogue of every gift given to the regime from foreign diplomats no matter how insignificant.

Once I got to the lift I realised why the elevator attendant the previous night had been wearing gloves. Upon pushing the call lift button I received a more than subtle electric shock. At first I though it was static which meant if I touch the button again it’d be ok. Wrong. Another shock. After a couple of shocks the button actually illuminated to say the lift was on its way and soon I was on my way to the lobby.

Not actually knowing where breakfast would be served I wandered over to the doors which we had been waiting at the previous night, one of which was ajar. I looked in and saw one of my group at a table eating so headed in. There was another guy at the table who turned out to be  an American who was joining our group. The significance of his nationality being that he had not been allowed to take the train in like the rest of the group and had to fly in on an Air Koryo flight from Shenyang to Pyongyang the previous day. He mentioned he spent most of the afternoon wandering around expecting us to turn up and struggling to find much to do within the confines of the hotel.

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After 6 months anticipation finally crossing into North Korea was a “don’t believe it till it happens” moment. Our minibus from the Dandong railway hotel pulled into a waiting area at the base of the bridge to North Korea. We sat in the bus whilst the driver stepped outside and our guide went into the Chinese departure building, presumable to get the permits for the minibus sorted. We all had a bit of a nervous chatter and then our guide returned and we unloaded ourselves and our bags from the mini bus and entered the terminal building. We appeared to be the only people crossing although many Chinese guys were hanging around waiting for something.

After about a 30 minute wait we were called over to the passport control counter. Our passports seemed to be looked at very thoroughly There were long stares at one guys passport due to his one year Taiwanese student resident visa. Once we were all through we loaded our bags into one minibus and boarded another. We realised that our guide was in the other bus with all our visas. Our bus trundled over the bridge, which seems to instantly get worse in quality half way across (but I’m not sure if I imagined that or not). At this point the reality of entering the DPRK is getting very real. We are stopped by a checkpoint where a KPA guard wants to see our passports and visas. We thankfully manage to explain the visas are in the other bus and we are let through after some stern looks.

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