“NORTH Korea has banned Malaysians from leaving the country until “the incident that happened in Malaysia is properly solved”. Today’s headline (7 March 2017) about North Korea.
This could be a weird time to post my travelogue about North Korea. However, we’re grateful to be one of the few that stepped in the world’s most secretive country.
21-22 December 2016
We don’t transform from tourist to traveler overnight. Like a marathon, it needs training and experience and some guts to do the first one. In 2010 we took 2 weeks to travel 3 countries and self-drive. We realize we like “Amazing Race” holiday.
Our travel, in figures:
2 weeks 4 countries, 9 cities.
China – Tianjin, Beijing, Dandong (border town)
DPRK – Sinuiju (border town), Pyongyang, Kaesong
Russia: Vladivostok, Moscow
5 flights on 4 airlines
First time on these airlines: Scoot, Air Koryo, Aeroflot, Finnair
1st time on Airbus 350-900 (Finnair AY81)
SGD16k: cost of 5 people’s air-tickets & sleeper train tickets, accommodation, visa, DPRK tour, visas
SGD4k: cash expenses on food, daily transport, souvenirs, miscellaneous.
We brought along SGD10k equivalent of foreign currencies.
Out of the SGD16k travel expenses, SGD10k goes to the trip to North Korea (DPRK), train & flight and in/out of this country. This is super budget already.
Homework: The only time investment is on air-tickets, booking Air BnB and communicating/payment of the DPRK trip. It’s only in early November that we got a little anxious and started to ask question about DPRK, apply Russian visas and clothing. Visas are costly. Because of work, we have no time to plan on where to go and stuff like that.
No foreigners can enter DPRK without booking with an authorized tour company. After a few Q&A via email, we decided take train from Beijing to Pyongyang and flight from Pyongyang to Vladivostok. Americans cannot enter Pyongyang by train.
DPRK hates USA, yet Americans are not banned to enter. Visa is the thing that worries us a lot until we got it when we were in Beijing less than 24 hours from our train departure to Pyongyang.
Did I tell you the tour company does not have an office in Beijing?
Planning a trip to the most secretive country on Earth, naturally, invite questions from relatives and friends. We have lots of questions in our minds too when we set foot in Beijing. Even with answers from your company, we were skeptical. After all, we don’t know anyone who had been to DPRK. Even someone’s experience may not represent what you will encounter. What if we run into some trouble in the train, money stolen when we’re in the train, they don’t let us enter?
Trust…important element in our travel. We have faith in the people that we meet along the journey and doing business transaction with us. The train journey from Beijing to Dandong and from Dandong and from Dandong to Sinuiji and from Sinuiji to Pyongyang is enough to write a chapter in a book.
All these years of traveling to so-called medium to moderately high risk countries in Singaporeans’ eyes, we realized that fear of the unknown is created in our own minds because we watch the only news we got from mainstream media is all about sanction, nuclear weapons, behavior which are weird and unthinkable in our eyes…
The best part of the trip is the experience and people we met on the train…the most heart-stopping moment, the conversation we had with the first DPRK person we met. He can speak English and more surprisingly… HE HAD BEEN TO SINGAPORE!!!
So, here is our version of DPRK experience…