Thursday, April 4, 2013

[PYONGYANG] All Aboard Air Koryo

Two ladies robed in bright red greeted me as I got onboard. The scarlet hue they were sporting matched the color of the cushion of the plane's seats, which were further complemented by outlines of dull gray. The first six rows of the aircraft were reserved for business class, while our part of the cabin resembled any other Cebu Pacific airplane I have ever been on. The plane's speakers were blaring with music that you would normally hear at a national parade or an election campaign sortie. As more people holding blue passports that said Democratic People's Republic of Korea came in, my initial assumption that we were going to be the only ones on the flight proved to be wrong.

An hour before, the very same ground crew who asked me to catch up with the tour group at the immigration area took pity on me and checked me in, in the condition that I show them the visa prior to boarding, to which I agreed because there was indeed a visa and it was not as if I had a choice anyway. She accompanied me to the immigration counters and I was able to finally catch up with the group at Starbucks while waiting for the boarding announcement. "Traffic?" asked Richard, one of our tour guides. "No, just woke up late!" I responded. After some capitalist choco cream chip goodness, we finally got on the plane after the ground crew eventually got his glimpse of our group visa.

Taking a photo of the lunch they served on the plane, I already broke one of the cardinal rules of Koryo Tours even before landing on North Korean soil, for which I got a friendly "No photos!" warning from the stewardess serving champagne. What came served with rice was sweet and sour fish, something not alien to the Filipino palate. It came with two more viands in two separate bowls: breaded meat and a different version of fish. In two more separate containers were a slice of sponge cake and a mini fruit salad.

But before the meal came the newspapers, while our plane was waiting for its turn at the runway. I was handed a copy of the Pyongyang Times, an English language newspaper the size of a tabloid. The publication is weekly and the copy I received was dated 30 March 2013 with headlines in bold saying: KIM JONG UN SIGNS HIT PLAN AND DIRECTS MANOEUVRES. Aside from the war rhetoric abounding its pages, the eight-page gazette also reported on other events such as World Tuberculosis Day and a Juche Idea seminar held in Mexico. Doing as I was previously advised to, I folded my copy of the Pyongyang Times carefully so as not to maliciously crop the Supreme Leader's face in any way. After that, I went on to fill out my arrival card and customs declaration form.

Mini screens descended from the plane's ceiling as the music died down after the fasten seat belts sign was switched off. We ate our lunch while watching a movie with uniformed military men doing Kung Fu. The entire duration of the flight was just under two hours. I wanted a photo with any of the flight attendants but decided that any attempt would be in vain after I was told off for trying to get a photo of the champagne cart earlier. Instead, I just verified the information I wrote on my arrival cards and decided to have a nap, which was interrupted by the announcement that we have finally landed at Pyongyang Airport.

4 creature(s) gave a damn:

David Bryan said...

Gah I'm really jealous. I want to visit North Korea also!

ihcahieh said...

@David Ramos - I would wait until after the missile test. Some Beijing-based tour groups already canceled their tours for the time being, although Koryo Tours is still doing theirs.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Just wow. I want to see North Korea as well but I'd probably wait until the tensions die down a bit. :P

ihcahieh said...

@jasetiojanco - the tensions have died down. Besides, NoKor is just bluffing, IMO. I think Koryo Tours have added several other destinations aside from Pyongyang.

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