Something I love doing, and always do, when I visit somewhere is to go out and just walk. This, in my view, is by far the best way to get to know a place.
In Pyongyang (and elsewhere in North Korea) we could go nowhere without our guide and walking around the streets by ourselves was absolutely forbidden. Our island hotel, the Yanggakdo International is nicknamed the Pyongyang Alcatraz for good reason.
If groups ‘behave themselves’ and can be thus trusted to walk down the street (in the company of guides, off course) then towards the end of their stay they will indeed get to go for a walk. Our group must have been especially good because not only did we get to walk, on our last evening in Pyongyang, down a pretty deserted Sungri Street from the Pyongyang Grand Theatre to Kim Il-sung Square we got to return a similar distance along the river to our next destination, the Rakwon Paradise Microbrewery.
All up, a walk of maybe three kilometres. The other (naughty) group, which we encountered at regular intervals, didn’t get to have a walk but instead went straight to the Microbrewery (pub) when we commenced our walk. The only downside of us walking was that when we got to the Microbrewery all the seats were taken – a reasonable price to pay for getting to go for a walk, though.
Pictures of the Pyongyang Grand Theatre and Kim Il-sung Square can be seen on reviews related to these locations and it was along Sungri street that I took the photo’s included in my Shopping in Pyongyang review. Also, an empty street is an empty street. The buzz was to be able to walk down a street in Pyongyang which, granted, doesn’t sound like much but, trust me, you think it is when you are there. Unfortunately this buzz cannot be reflected in a photograph!
‘The buzz’ continued as, after viewing Kim Il-sung Square and the Tower of Juche Idea across the river for one last time, we started our return walk along the river. This part of the walk was just like a walk along a nice river on a beautiful afternoon anywhere – most enjoyable. People were out enjoying a stroll, reading a book (with a Kim Jong-un haircut of the type many western media sources mischievously claimed was mandatory around the time of my visit), boating on the lake, fishing and generally enjoying a nice afternoon by the river though not in the numbers one would expect in a city with a population of three million.
As was the case almost everywhere else, there was no interaction with the local people – it was as if we were invisible. Interaction with foreigners is not permitted and tourists engaging with locals run a real risk of getting them into serious trouble. That’s sad.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to Pyongyang. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Cranes bound for heaven? – or to start the loop at the beginning go to – Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other