2 May 2013
Another early start and another long day. The tour guides took us to a farming neighbourhood to show us what a community outside of Pyongyang looks like.
The small cabbage farm/patch paints a picturesque and ideal scene of a prospering farming community as well as the fantastic agricultural developments and sense of great self-reliance in the DPRK all made possible due to the glorious supreme ever-so-wise leader.
It’s not hard to see the point of this morning visit. The Kim wall and his quotations was renovated to remember the dear leaders. After all, this is sort of like a “model” community.
In terms of orientation, the first Kim Statue Square is a short 2 minute walk away from the centre of the community. Greenhouses and apartments lies in neat rows towards the left side of the community square. A huge banner ” Our glorious leader” hangs along the greenhouses and a long Kim’s wall lies directly opposite of that.
After reassuring us that their country’s agricultural industry is performing well, the 12 of us were discussing about adding on a possible side trip to see a local’s home. Our tour guides really do trust us. After some quick planning, 15 people were crammed inside the home of an elderly woman who spends most of her tim looking after her three grandchildren. We had a quick tour of the apartment before snapping a photo with the grandmother and the kids.
The grandmother asked the guides where we came from and after finding out that we flew in from Beijing, she smiled and showed us all a photo of one of the Kims with Premier Zhou Enlai.
“She sends her best wishes to China and hope that you can visit again.”
From our first impression and contacts with the locals, we all felt that the North Korean people are nice, extremely friendly and equally as curious as the foreigners who pay a visit to their mysterious country. A short drive and voila- Nampo. A seaport and approximately 50km southwest of Pyongyang, Nampo used to be a small fishing village.
In 1897, it slowly transformed itself into a port for foreign trade before becoming a modern port in 1945. Anything to do with aquatic products, fishery, shipbuilding can be found in Nampo. It is also well-known for its apple production. We were given one hour to see Nampho Dam- a Damn strong masterpiece made only possible by the wisdom of their supreme leader.
The 20 minute-long video detailing the construction of the dam (1981 to 1986) felt like it will never end. Costing around 4 billion USD, the dam is seen as a major accomplishment of the North Korean people. After the long talk, we were given the freedom to roam around the visitor centre/ tower. We all headed to the roof since that is where we can see the dam and the tidal barrage.
After hot pot, we went to see Mangyongdae or Kim Il-Sung’s birthplace (12 kilometre away from Pyongyang). Born on 15 April 1912 or Juche 1, Kim Il-Sung spent his childhood in this thatched house. It is your typical Korean peasant house with thatched roof, blocks of living quarters and a barn. In fact, four generations of his family lived in this house.
Due to the importance of this site, locals (especially students) come here to pay their respects to their dear leader.
“You will all ride the metro. Only one stop before we see some performances.”
Pyongyang Metro, with a daily ridership of 400,000 people was built around 1965. It is one of the deepest metros in the world since it also doubles as a bomb shelter.
The stations are not named after the locations but themes from the North Korea revolution. Completely underground, the design is based on the one in Moscow.
After the quick metro ride, we were driven to Children’s Palace. A school/centre for extracurricular activity (dancing, drawing, singing etc), the children later performs for the audience in the main auditorium.
Our guides took us from room to room and it was a bit rushed since we had to get to the auditorium to watch the performance.
When I was their age, I could barely tie my own shoelaces let alone sing, dance and play the guitar.
No doubt, some people will find the head bobbing, guitar-playing and expressive children a bit creepy. But then, if you think about the Child Beauty Pageants then it is equally as disturbing. Children should not be sexualised and parents should teach their young daughters to have knowledge, grace, poise and kindness instead of dressing them down to a “Pretty Woman”. I rather watch little kids singing and dancing than spoilt mini-hookers running on stage throwing a tantrum.
Kim Il-sung Square, directly opposite the Juche Tower is the 37th largest square in the world. It is a venue for dances, military parades and rallies. Many government buildings surrounds the square.
Our day ended at Taedong Gate (Pyongyang Castle).