We had been up since around 6am so when we arrived at our hotel, the Ryonggang Hot Spring House, at around 8pm we well and truly needed a rest. But no, before we were given our room keys we had to eat dinner first. Such is the life of a tourist in North Korea.
Dinner, in the rather cavernous restaurant in a separate, central dining/entertainment block, was typical North Korean fare of average quality – certainly sufficient but no gastronomic delight.
What made this restaurant stand out (by this stage of our trip we had become accustomed to the regular electrical blackouts during dinner and this restaurant didn’t let us down in that area) was the availability of western drinks, chocolates and other snack foods for sale – obviously a left-over touch from the days high ranking government officials used to stay here.
The hotel, in a small town called Onchen – 20kms from Nampo, is a former government guesthouse now open to foreign tourists and comprises about 20 rooms in seven separate, self catering (though we didn’t self cater), villas set in sprawling, reasonably well groomed, grounds which we didn’t have time to explore. Naturally, this being North Korea, the whole complex was surrounded by a fence – in this case a barbed wire one – to keep us in. Whoops, I mean to keep us safe.
Our aging room was large, comfortable and well equipped, amenity-wise, with the pièce de résistance being a hot spring spa tub which alas we had to resist as the taps did not oblige with the nice hot spring water we were told about. As it was midnight when we were able to retire to our rooms this wasn’t a major problem. That said, the spa brochure makes great claims for the hot spring water here, asserting that it can treat:
“hyperpiesia, non-tubercular arthritis, neuralgia, neuritis, lumbago, varieties of wound, sequelae of operations, chronic gynecologic inflammation, functional disorder of nidamental gland, sterility, chronic gastritis, chronic colitis, skin diseases including eczema and prurigo”.
Some visitors have more simply claimed that the hot spring waters ‘make you sick’!
The following morning, after the standard bland, though adequate, breakfast we had become accustomed to in North Korea I had a quick look around and a found table tennis room and a snooker/pool room. A cabinet full of roller skates in the snooker/pool suggests that roller skating is an option in these parts – most peculiar. Lighting arrangements and the presence of audio/video equipment in the restaurant and these other public rooms suggested that each could be readily converted into a karaoke room should guests have the urge to indulge in this way.
Like all other hotels in North Korea, I have no idea how much it cost to stay or eat here. Accommodation and all meals were included in our tour package, as they will be in yours.
Anyway, I have managed to get ahead of myself. Tourists stay at this hotel for two reasons the first of which, its hot spring spas (when there is water), I have mentioned. The second reason is to sample the local delicacy – petrol baked clams – and this we did after dinner, before retiring for the night. See my next review………….
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on my trip to Nampo, North Korea. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Try some petrol baked clams – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – Nampo – North Korea’s Industrial Region.