Having read about the experience of other tourists going to a funfair in Pyongyang I was really looking forward to our visit to the funfair and not because I particularly needed to go to North Korea to have a ride on a roller coaster or in a dodgem car. The attraction was that the funfair tourists typically went to was a rusted and run down 1950s affair, portrayed as the latest and greatest by guides.
I think the one tourists previously got to visit was the Mangyongdae Funfair on the outskirts of the city which (spoilsport) Kim Jong-un visited in 2012. While there it is reported that he severely rebuked management for their ‘below zero spirit’ and ordered a clean-up which he started when, on seeing some weeds, he “with an irritated look, plucked them up one by one”. I suspect tourists have not been taken there since.
As such when we did get to the funfair it was to one in close proximity to the Arch of Triumph. It was modern and while a little lacking in the lighting department it equated to a funfair of its size anywhere else in the world. While it was pleasant to visit it was not what I had anticipated seeing so, in that regard, it was somewhat of a disappointment.
What did differ from back home was the lack of noise made by visitors – no smiling, laughing or screaming here (which on reflection is a fair reflection of Pyongyang – the City). People queued in an orderly manner, waited their turn in virtual silence, took their ride and went on to the next ride – all rather mechanical but fun, fun, fun DPRK style.
What also differed was how the funfair operated (at least for us). As we could not pay for rides (local currency required) we moved from one ride to another in a group and those that wanted to go on a particular ride did so while everyone else watched. The number who went on each ride was recorded by our special funfair guide. Though it was late, after 9pm when we got there, and the locals were dispersing we, as special guests, got to jump the queue at each ride.
While I thought this was a little unfair it does happen everywhere – you pay more and you get a VIP pass, express entry, etc, etc. The rides cost between one and three euros each. While not expensive by western standards, I imagine this was many multiples of the cost for locals and thus part of the reason we didn’t have to queue.
When we had finished, or more precisely, when the park was closing at 10pm, we paid our guide, in euros, for the rides we had taken and the guide organised payment to the park in local currency.
Not a highlight for me but pleasant nonetheless.
On exiting the park we were treated to a beautiful lit up view of the Arch of Triumph – this in itself made the visit worthwhile.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to Pyongyang. I suggest you continue with my next entry – The Bright Lights of Pyongyang – or to start the loop at the beginning go to – Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other