As usual we had an early start to the day, so as to fit in a final sightseeing stop in Chongjin prior to heading inland on our 2 – 3 hours drive to Hoeryong. En route we stopped at a small unmarked shop which sold bottled water (for a few cents) from the adjacent bottling plant which our guides assured us produced the best water in North Korea. A plaque by the shop detailed the makeup of the water for those seeking additional assurance in this regard.
I procured a couple of bottles of water here in addition to a couple of Phaner pies, selected from the rather modest range of food/snacks on offer.
I could not resist the chocolate pies as they reminded me of the famous (ok, famous in North and South Korea!) Choco pies which caused a rift between North and South back in the mid 2000s and subsequently became part of the propaganda war between the two countries. You can read more about that rather amusing story in my 2014 review – Have a Coke and Choco Pie. It would appear that the North Koreans have still not developed a taste for the locally produced copy of the Choco Pie – my pies being (parallel?) imports from Vietnam.
In addition to being able to get some refreshments here those of a strong constitution availed themselves of nearby toilets – those of a more delicate constitution opted to use some nearby bushes.
Just prior to our arrival into Hoeryong our normally imperturbable and stern local guide, in an extremely emotionally charged announcement, let us know that it had just been announced, on the North Korean intranet, that one of the outcomes of the then concluding and very successful third inter Korea summit of 2018 between Kim Jong-un and South Korea President Moon Jae-In, in North Korea, was that North and South Korea would be putting in a joint bid to co-host the 2032 Olympic Games. This was seen by him, and our equally overjoyed senior guide, as a giant step towards the reunification of the two Koreas.
On arrival into Hoeryong our first stop was the Kim Ki-song Hoeryong First Middle School where, in addition to attending the usual English language class, the more athletic of our group engaged in some friendly competition with students on the soccer field and on the volley-ball court. I watched a bit and did something else!
After this it was time for lunch which was at the relatively new Chongryangumryu Restaurant in what has been dubbed ‘Food Street’, recently created and principally aimed at luring Chinese visitors from across the border to part with their yuan. Generally in this north eastern part of the country businesses where we were able to use hard currency were only interested in yuan – a couple of our group had US dollars rejected.
Leaving aside the rather sterile appearance of the restaurant the food was really good with the potato ‘pancake’, traditional to the area, being delicious. Everything was made even better when washed down with the locally produced beer.
Tummies filled, we proceeded to the nearby Hoeryong Hotel, our accommodation for the night, to drop off our bags prior to the afternoon’s sightseeing.
There was no electricity on our arrival and, if they had generators they didn’t seem inclined to crank them into action. In any event it was daylight and as we were just checking in and putting our bags in our rooms we didn’t really need power. There was however sufficient light to notice that neither the UK nor New Zealand figure in the lives of the people of Hoeryong – at least according the world map behind reception.
My first port of call on entering any hotel room in North Korea was to check out the bathroom. While we were assured that there would be electricity on our return to the hotel (and there was) it was immediately clear that, despite the heating contraption attached to the wall above the bath, there would be no running water – evidenced by the bathtub filled with water.
Aside from the rudimentary arrangements around water, the room was fine and provided for a very comfortable nights sleep. While I had a television I did not switch it on. Had I done so there would certainly only have been North Korean fare on offer – and I really wasn’t in the mood for a revolutionary opera or the Korea People’s Army band though both are actually very good – or entertaining depending on your perspective – in small doses.
Room inspected, it was time for an afternoon’s sightseeing, inspired by the life and times of Kim Jong-suk. Around 7pm we returned to the hotel for a little beer aperitif in the lobby bar cum shop prior to dining.
While a tad on the gaudy side, the restaurant (where we also had breakfast the next morning) was more subdued than many restaurants we visited. Here the focus was on the presentation of the food and in particular the eloquently carved centrepiece on each table. The food tasted as good as it looked.
My next North Korea (2018) – Hoeryong review– HERE
Start reading at the beginning of my North Korea (2018) – Hoeryong reviews – HERE