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North Korea, long closed off to the world, is an ever-fascinating destination due to the mysterious lives of its citizens. Divided from its southern brother since 1953, this country presents an ultra-conservative society with fervent veneration of their Supreme Leader. Their representatives in world sports are also greatly admired, especially when they perform a synchronised routine which exhibit such outstanding discipline and skill in the world stage.
Travellers looking for an intriguing destination can do no less than North Korea. One rule to be kept in mind when visiting here is to be circumspect about words and actions during the trip to keep viewing the country's sights and remain in the good side of the minders. Such a lack of spontaneity, however, is made up for the fascinating view at how the people of North Korea live in such enclosed and restrictive atmosphere.
Where to go
When in Pyongyang, guides will show tourists around to the monuments, towers, statues, and buildings that glorify the rule of the Kims. Depending on the itinerary, one can start with the Kim Il-Sung Square where the military parades usually take place. From here, tourists can enter the landmarks surrounding the plaza such as the Grand People's Study House, the largest library in North Korea. More than 30 million books are stored here, with visitors allowed to view rooms designated respectively for reading, classes, browsing the Intranet, and late-1980s cassette recorders.
From here, one can venture to the Korean National Art Gallery, where one can find beautiful pre-war artworks as well as socialist and realist collections. Those out to see the countryside in the surrounding area can also arrange a trip to Mangyongdae, where one can find a hilly place with the Sunhwa River flowing into the Taedong. Another highlight here is the birthplace of the Great Leader Il-Sung who is shown to be from humble origins.
After the capital, tourists can also visit Panmunjeom and the Demilitarised Zone which lies so near Seoul. Visitors can get in the KPA post where a soldier will show a model of the entire site. The Armistice Talks Hall is where visitors can view the 1953 agreement signed by the two countries. The most interesting sight in the Demilitarised Zone is the Korean Wall, which runs the length of the 248-kilometre border.
Beijing, Pyongyang's elder brother in ideology, is a mere two hours' plane trip via the North Korean capital. One can visit here the Temple of Heaven Park where one can rest in the peace and quiet of the surroundings. A visit to Zhihua Temple can then follow, which displays a unique eight-sided Ming dynasty wooden library, Buddha statues, and sutras.
The Capital Museum is also a fascinating addition to the itinerary, as one will see here various collections of ancient Buddhist statues, Chinese porcelain, and find out more about the chronological history of Beijing. There are also cultural relics and displays of ancient jewellery, calligraphy, and paintings. Those making an effort to view the royal complex, on the other hand, can visit the Workers' Cultural Palace in between. Located between Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, this area offers a striking view of the Supreme Temple.
Russia, the foremost country in Communism, makes an excellent destination from North Korea. A trip about nine hours or so awaits visitors, but the length of time is worth the wait due to the astounding sights of Moscow. St Basil's Cathedral is a marvel with its profusion of colourful, patterns, and shapes. Nine main chapels reside here such as the Church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, and many others.
The Novodevichy Convent is also a fascinating landmark to see with its red-and-white Moscow baroque Transfiguration Gate, as well as the white Smolensk Cathedral. Those out to see the arts will also have fun here in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts featuring a broad range of European works and Izmaylovsky Park and Royal Estate, an arts and crafts market.
How to get out
Those aiming to visit other destinations from North Korea can make their way through flights arranged with Pyongyang Sunan International Airport. Regular scheduled services are mainly available, as well as a number of seasonal and charter flights from airlines that serve here which include Air China, Air Koryo, and MIAT Mongolian Airlines.
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