“Into the Past”…From Dandong to Pyongyang

My itinerary this time goes like this: Beijing→Dandong→Shinuiju→Pyongyang→Panmunjeom→Mt. Myohyang→Shinjiju→Dandong→Dalien→Weihai, and back to Beijing. Returning home after riding the train for about 15 minutes from Beijing Station, I feel exhausted.

I’d wanted to visit North Korea since a year ago. It was because I wanted to see the Arirang Mass Games. North Korea is a curious nation; on the streets I saw letters I didn’t know the meaning of. At the time, I was unable to understand any of the North Korean language, but now I can roughly understand what they are saying on the news. North Korea reminded me of pre-reform China, and it felt as though I had traveled back in time.

Restrained from taking certain actions, I was quite frustrated during my three nights and four days of travel.
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When riding the train in North Korea, one must carry a letter of introduction from a national organization or the Party. Once aboard, one must show the attendant the letter, the train ticket, and identification. However, there was nobody directly in charge of monitoring the tourists. Although I mustn’t forget to mention that I did have two North Korean guides sitting right beside me.

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I took a lot of pictures secretly during the trip. By the time I got back to China, my two memory cards were full to the brim. Most of the pictures were taken with a small digital camera. I had been told by a guide I would not be given the opportunity to use a real digital camera.

Upon leaving Shinuiju, border security was tighter. The North Korean official ran a thorough check, even going as far as checking my pants, as if he were the proctor at a college entrance examination. So I first hid my memory cards. The official went through my bag, and proceeded to check on the legitimate pictures I had taken with my analog camera. But he didn’t search the digital camera holder. In my view, it seemed as if he did not know what it was for.

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