Tuesday, May 08, 2007

DPRK, Day 1

Day 1. Getting there. Mass Games.

Our Air Koryo flight from Beijing to Pyongyang was not very eventful. We were a little worried at times whenever a turbulence hit because the plane was pretty old. Fortunately the immigration cards provided some entertainment and took our minds off.
Good thing we ate at the airport as the food on the flight was really naff (see here). Luckily the flight was short and in less than 2 hours we arrived Pyongyang.We were the only people at the airport but there were a number of interesting planes on the tarmac.

The distance between our plane and the terminal was less than 100 meters but we were whisked on the bus nonetheless. The immigration process was straight-forward. We handed our mobile phones to our guide (they are not allowed in DPRK) and one by one we handed our passports to the officer and we were through. No questions asked. Our hand luggage was put through the x-ray (no quibble on the fruits and food) but the dude wanted to make sure that my ipod wasn't a phone. In less than 30 mins we entered one of the world's most mysterious countries (with no proof to show because they didn't stamp our passports).

Our group was split into 2 groups of 15. We were now officially Team B. We were introduced to our local guide H and there were also 2 guys and they were "assistant guides". Tell-tale signs during the trip told us that they were more like watchers. There was also the camera man aka Leisure Suit Larry.

Anyhow we were taken to the Yanggakdo Hotel for supper before we headed to the Mass Games. We were told that we should never leave the island where the hotel is unaccompanied (i.e. without our guides). Fine by me because it's not like we could get a taxi or something.

After our meal we rushed to see the Mass Games. Mass Games is a large gymnastic show with over 100,000 synchronised performers.

There were already hundreds of thousands of people at the May Day stadium when we arrived (it has 150,000 seats)! We were totally blown away when we saw the scale of the performance. All the planning and rehearsing involved! Good god. And you could actually the people's heads appearing behind the placards:

Here's a warm up before the show started:

And we actually recognised the Arirang song:

You can see it in action below:

An uplifting number on the military (I don't know why but my spacing is all screwed!):

The kids' performance was easily our favourite:

The one on the Korean War:

And after the War:

This is a cool one with all the flags:

Some of the moves were pretty challenging:

We were pretty much awe-struck the whole time and before we knew it there came the finale for the 90 minute-show.

Outside the stadium people were very friendly in general and lots of them were waving at us frantically. A very warm welcome indeed to begin our trip.

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