Travel Magazine

Rollin' On The River... Pyongyang's Taedong, DPRK!

By Joseph Harrison @JTAH_1990

As the frozen waters of the Taedong River stayed put, my tour didn't lose a minute of sleep in Pyongyang City! Rollin' on the river, the serious business had been seen to during the early morning at Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. With our coach wheels turning, we made it through another day in the DPRK's showcase capital! Pyongyang took us to the Taedong! 빨리! Quickly!

Rollin' On The River... Pyongyang's Taedong, DPRK!

We had been sent to bed earlier than usual the previous night and instructed not to drink the usual amount of Pyongyang Soju! Why? The visit to Pyongyang's Kumsusan Palace of the Sun had been scheduled for the morning of our second full day in the DPRK. I have previously mentioned abut the protocol that was attached to that formal visit, so after leaving that place of rest we headed for the Taesongsan Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery momentarily. The cemetery gave us a dual purpose kind of visit, behind us stood the sombre place of remembrance and in the other direction a showcase vista of the Pyongyang skyline. For me, I wasn't bothered about the height as we stood quite high upon the Taesongsan space. The futuristic vibe of the city skyline allowed me to see Mirae Scientists Street in the distance with the May Day Stadium also appearing in full during that panoramic view. Going back to ground level, it was time for us to experience the flower offering ceremony at the foot of Mansu Hill Grand Monument. Quick, go! 

With our flowers offered up with a respectful bow in tow, we appreciated the view of the eternal leaders image once again. The two towering bronze statues amazed us, it was a sight of true appreciation and adoration for the Korean people. Behind us once again, another doubled side view was being served to us. The Workers' Party Monument stood in the distance, we had plans to visit the hammer, sickle and paintbrush after lunch. Our Korean hotpot lunch was lovely, enjoying an afternoon beer was just the ticket. Standing before the concrete block monument, the story of the artist, worker and farmer looked us right in full view. It was an imposing but really worthwhile part of the days itinerary. On our third place before 1 p.m, the Workers' Party Monument was completed on the 10th of October 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea being founded. Where was that Taedong River at? We had been closely located near the riverside, we were about to meet that Korean waterway! My paintbrush, please?

Rollin' On The River... Pyongyang's Taedong, DPRK!

Since arriving into Pyongyang, DPRK, we hadn't had many chances to see the Taedong River during the day time. Being at the edge of winter, the springtime had the sunsetting early doors, the initial sighting of the Juche Tower and the river had been for me, brief during the first afternoon after arriving into Pyongyang. Catching the river during the early afternoon was an absolute treat, we had enough time to buy our tickets and take the lift to the top of the Juche Tower without encountering any issues. A similar lady who was dressed in the female national Korean dress stood in the lift to help us reach the top of the tower, Michael Palin had also shared the same experience as I tried my own Korean greeting attempt. Differing from the softer South Korean way to say 'Hello', I tried my best to say '안녕하십니까' which is spoken as 'ann-yeong-hasimnik-ka'. As the lift scaled the 170 metres to the top of the Juche Tower, I was schooled that the Korean language differs across the Korean Peninsula. I was not ready for the view! No way! 

Stepping out of the lift I had to get myself together, I focussed on the view and to get those much needed 'Rollin' On The River' photos! From one angle, I saw Kim Il Sung Square from the opposite side! The brightly painted apartment blocks did serve a sense of neon 'Soviet' style, with the skies as blue as they were, it was really colourful view! The futuristic Ryomyong New Town could be seen in the distance along with the towering Ryugyong Hotel also. The photo that has been captured above focusses on a northeasterly direction, no Yanggakdo Hotel from that river facing direction. The River Taedong itself looked pretty frozen due to the ice cold temperatures that day, to add another fact the most famous beer in the DPRK shares its name with the Taedong. For me it was a mini triumph because high as the tower took us, the objective to appreciate the view and to snatch those photos had me truly distracted for all the right reasons. Making our way back down to ground level was a relief, such a breath of fresh air! Yes!

Rollin' On The River... Pyongyang's Taedong, DPRK!

With our feet firmly on the ground, we walked the short way beside the Taedong River to Pyongyang Gold Lane. Honestly, in that 2019 moment it had been an age since I had been to a bowling alley. Playing one game, we had a scream at the Pyongyang Gold Lane, it was a hype of activity with many families and young people playing their own games at the lanes. It looked as if the Pyongyang Gold Lane was from another dimension with its fluorescent orange and yellow design. I didn't do very well score wise but it was all about the experience. We spent about an hour playing our game, maybe a little bit less time? Some of the others in the group didn't fancy bowling, they spent their time at the adjoining Gumrung Cafe, that coffeeshop had a sense of European sophistication about it. How utterly bizarre it was to have just played a round of bowling in the DPRK! From the coffeeshop, we then jumped back onto the coach towards our next stop of the day. Keeping the Taedong River nearby, we had been told about a craft beer bar! 

Arriving at the Taedonggang No 3 Beer Bar, we were immediately seated at a long wooden table in the corner of the venue. Decorated with dark wood cladding, the golden beer pumps had us feeling as if we were in a Bavarian beer bar in Germany. Another one of Kim Jong Un's favorite European exports transported to Pyongyang, DPRK? We ordered one beer each, we chose different types, I tried a wheat variation whilst others enjoyed the darker malt choice. We toasted to good health and the rules and regulations that the morning required had melted away as we supped on those seriously delectable beverages. As mentioned in one of my 2019 DPRK blogs, myself and Tori mostly spoke with our female Korean guide, So Yon. Reflecting on that moment, it was a golden conversation to have. The day had been long but we had seen an awful lot since the usual morning pick up from the hotel. The beer bar filled up quickly, I spotted a super cute little boy, he looked happy and contented! Back on the coach, en-route to a show, P?

Rollin' On The River... Pyongyang's Taedong, DPRK!
Our dinner venue had us wanting to know more, taking the steps up to the first floor, we found a wedding reception like banquet hall waiting for us. Taking our seats, we picked up where we had left off at the beer bar, drinks all round! Tucking into our food, it was another interesting North Korean taste test, I wish I had documented the dishes but that will be my mission for next time! Behind the glittery curtain, the waitresses had changed from their uniforms into elaborate costumes/dresses. We were in for a show, it was such a spectacle with song, music and dancing. They pulled some of us up to the stage, of course I had to have a little dance because Pyongyang didn't serve the clubs that Seoul did for me, well after my second visit to the Republic of Korea capital. With a certain thirst almost quenched and our food finished, we made our way back to the hotel. Returning to the bar, it was nice to continue the celebrations, as mentioned the previous evening had to be saved for the next due to the important visit. Sure P, it was worth it! 

Our Korean guides had kept us in check during our Pyongyang tour with Young Pioneer Tours, the morning as mentioned several times had been a pivotal moment for our tour. They remained professional at all times during the visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, something told us that the nature of the location shouldered a massive responsibility that their foreign guests were on their best behaviour! As the tour group and myself poured our drinks at the hotel bar, it gave me the chance to speak with So Yon, I even managed to get a photo taken with her. She had a really sweet demeanour, her passion clearly was to work with people like us in the job that she had chosen with the KITC, she confided in me and we spoke frankly about life. She asked me a few curious questions and I gave her honest answers because the situation was friendly. Earlier on myself and Tori had spoken with So Yon about life in the DPRK. It was clear that she loved her work because spoke so positively! Oh, another glass of ice, please? Oh, that Pyongyang Soju! 

Taedonggang, Who? 

Joseph Harrison 

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog