Staying and Eating Out in Pyongyang

There a few good hotels in Pyongyang, but it is likely that we will stay at the Yanggakdo Hotel, located in the middle of Pyongyang. It is probably the most impressive hotel in North Korea with 1000 rooms, 47 floors, its own island, rotating restaurant, casino, football stadium, cinema and many other things. Although, there often less than a few dozens of foreigners who stay at the hotel in one time, it is certainly designed as an attempt to showcase the grandness of North Korea. Despite its size, we will be guided each time we go out of the room and it may be suspected that not all rooms are equally, well furnished. The Yanggakdo Hotel is akin to a ghost town, but it is clean, nice; as well as offering great view of the Pyongyang, including the scifi-looking, modern Juche Tower. There are also a few places to eat in Pyongyang and they are designed primarily for foreigners.

One of the places is the National Restaurant and we could expect good food in such restaurant. It would be designed to showcase, the fine dining of DPRK and some foreigners could feel a bit guilty of easting such a lavish food. Most of the time, millions of North Koreans are ordered to work in fields to ensure adequate supply of food, especially during the winter. Many people need to cope on small rations of rice, veggies and almost no meat each week. However, it is another thing that we need to accept when visiting North Korea, we will be shown only the best experience we can get in the country. When enjoying our meal, we could be accompanied by live music by some North Korean women in their best traditional dress. They usually sing revolutionary songs with hints of Russian marching and patriotic music. After enjoying the good dinner, we would be brought to see Pyongyang at night and it is certainly devoid of energetic night life. At night in many capital cities, we would hear traffic going past and some loud music, but in Pyongyang it is nearly silent.

At the moment, we could listen to a few drifting noises from afar, but the whole city could feel eerily quiet. There are many large buildings and only a few lights come out from them, making us wondering whether they are actually occupied. It is easy to sleep early in Pyongyang and when we wake up at 5AM, there could see very few things in the city. It is certainly both a fascinating and very eerie experience, actually a good change, if we are tired of the noise of Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo. The TV channels in the hotel room are usually only fuzzy transmissions of BBC World, CNN International and something similar. North Koreans obviously don’t purchase any TV rights for these channels, so it could be their best effort to unscramble the signal. Overall, we can’t help to have a good; rather fake but a good experience when visiting Pyongyang.