The country cannot be truly explained, accurately described, or even truly understood. Visiting is the best way to try and get your head around the place – but it could well leave you, like me, more confused than ever before.
A holiday to North Korea is, in some ways, a step back in time, while in others it is a journey to an altogether parallel universe – a destination more akin to a dream you may have had, or a scene from a science-fiction movie, than anywhere ‘real’ you may have been to here on Earth. Venturing beyond the showcase Shangri-La of socialism that is Pyongyang, more can be seen across the country than ever before, as the heavy red curtain is pulled back, inch by inch, year by year.
Stare into South Korea from inside the Joint Security Area, hike deserted trails around Mount Kumgang or Mount Myohyang, relax in opulent beach hotels near Hamhung or catch a vintage aircraft to fly to Mount Paektu.
Strive to unravel the enigma that is North Korea by trying to get your head around the Juche philosophy, the contemporary North Korean mindset and the reasons for the seemingly unwavering loyalty towards the Kims, while you explore cooperative farms, tour ostentatious museums and revel in the enchanting UNESCO World Heritage tombs and temples that pepper this misunderstood country.
Almost always vilified and oversimplified, open minded travellers to North Korea will discover a mesmerising nation that will draw them down a rabbit hole – each twist and turn leading deeper into the unknown.
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So what was it actually like, being in the country generally defined as the most dangerous in the world? All I can say is that it confounded all expectations and I now see North Korea in a new light.
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