When you’re on any tour in North Korea, there’s no way you’re going to avoid being taken to the various places the regime wants to show off around Pyongyang, so it’s pretty much a given that you will check off at least some places in the description here of the Tentative World Heritage Site
Pyongyang, the cradle of the Korean nation, has a great number of sites of all the primitive ages; Paleolithic cave sites including Komunmoru Site (upper Paleolithic Age), sites of Neolithic Age, sites of Bronze Age, etc., and it has prospered as the political, economical, military and cultural center throughout the whole period of history.
The city has been the capital of Ancient Korea for nearly 3000 years as the center of Taedonggang Civilization, which is representative of ancient civilization flourished 5000 years ago, and also of Koguryo from 427 till 668.
During the period of Koryo Dynasty it was designated as the secondary capital, and continued to be the major city in the northwestern part of the Korean peninsula during the Li Dynasty as well. Hence, numerous sites during the Ancient Korea are found in and around the city; the Tomb of King Tangun (founder king of the Ancient Korea), castle sites such as Hwangdae Castle and Chongamdong Earthen Castle, village sites such as Namgyong Site. and Pyodae Site, and dolmens.
Pyongyang abounds in the sites of Koguryo period as well. Koguryo moved its seat of power from Kuknae Castle (Jian, China) to the area in and around Mt. Taesong with Anhak Palace as its center, and again to the area of the present part of the city between the rivers Taedong and Pothong. This area was encircled by a large-scaled castle and remained as the capital until 668. There still remain the ruins of Anhak Palace and parts of Mt. Taesong Fortress as the capital relics, and the defensive works of Jangan Fortress (the first urban fortress built in Korea) in the city. Jangan Fortress has been utilized by the later dynasties without any modification to its structure or purpose, and there are still the gates and other parts of the fortress such as Taedong Gate, Pothong Gate, Ulmil Pavilion and Ryongwang Pavilion. And in the heart of the city there remain Sungryong Hall and Sungin Hall and other temples, Confucian buildings, the five-storied octagonal pagoda in Yongmyong Temple and other numerous stone buildings.
We went ahead and threw all our North Korean footage into a travelogue for that video up there, because of the various places on that list the only one we actually got to was Taedongmun aka Taedong Gate and its neighbors the Pyongyang Bell and Ryongwang Pavilion:
But hey, our standard here is any property in a serial site counts as a visit, so that’s good enough. In any case, historical relics are the least interesting thing about Pyongyang! You won’t hear us say that very often about a city —
— not sure we ever have before, actually —
— but Pyongyang, and North Korea in general, is a very. special. place. “Steampunk dystopia” is the best phrase we could come up with to describe it, it’s this unique blend of the futuristic, the dated, and the primitive that just doesn’t have anything close to it anywhere.
Right around the corner from Taedongmun is Kim Il-Sung Square with the Grand People’s Study House,
which is only mildly interesting by itself, but you ever seen any footage of military parades out of North Korea? They were all taken in this square.
If you haven’t … well, here’s a good place to start:
Usually we’re not particularly interested in military parades, but we could watch that for hours.
Any-ways, you’re required to see a good deal of Party monuments on any tour, and we recommend arriving at night like we did because the Monument to the Korean Workers Party which apparently is always your first stop is particularly striking at night:
Also, getting your first good look at Pyongyang out the window the next morning at the Ryugong Hotel-dominated skyline is …
… well, words fail us, because there is no skyline like that anywhere else to compare it to.
Speaking of things that it’s hard to compare to, the Mansudae Grand Monument to the Great and Dear Leaders is another one you won’t be missing, and buy flowers for besides:
OK, we’re not sure you actually have to, but Miss Kim looked so horrified and about to cry at my mumblings about is this really necessary that I promptly bought the largest boquet available. We’re so predictably manipulable, us trolls.
But hey, the monument was impressive enough we’re ok with a boquet of flowers to the Great and Dear Leaders as our entrance fee, why not, nobody does monuments better than old school Communists:
Speaking of old school Communists, which we can do with some authority as we got through the USSR and every country behind the Iron Curtain before it came down, what is it with them always insisting that they show off their subways? I mean sure, it’s very pretty and all, but it’s … a subway.
A pretty subway, sure, but really, is it the #1 Thing To Do In Pyongyang as TripAdvisor claims?
Another thing that always seemed odd to us in Communist countries is the “copy slightly bigger thing” exemplified in Pyongyang by the Triumphal Arch:
Looks kinda familiar, doesn’t it? Yep, Miss O proudly informed us that it was “just like the Arc de Triomphe, but 10 METERS TALLER!” Seems odd to us that would be a big point of national pride, but there you go.
So, if you want to go to the most surreal society on the face of the planet, we don’t think anywhere else is even in the running compared to Pyongyang and the DPRK.
And you can’t do it independently, you need to arrange it through a handful of licensed operators, and few of those are willing to set up any kind of a custom tour — so if you do decide this looks like a fascinating experience, thoroughly recommend you contact Tongil Tours the people who set us up.
p dir=”ltr”>And ask for Miss Kim and Miss O as your guides, and tell them Alex from Bangkok says hi!