Guemgangsan North Korea
Trip Start Aug 30, 2005
49Trip End Aug 29, 2006
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Crossing through the DMZ was quicker than I imagined but it was certainly one of the most pristine areas in the world - with no human influence for the last 60 years
When we finally arrived where we were to stay it was no less than a compound, a complex of buildings within a highly monitored area. Soldier were stationed all around, but not in the town, to give the illusion of comfort but strict authority. The North Korean government wentto great tlengths to prevent the contamination of the surrounding towns by foreign ideology imported by tourist. Even the employees were mostly foreign nationals. There wasn't much time to observe the area, it was immediately to first hike. It was foggy, perpetuating the North Korean mystique, but not so much so that Guemgangsan couldn't be seen. Along the path were tons of carvings regarding the great leader, Kim Sung-Il(father), and the dear leader, Kim Jong-Il (son). We were warned of spies on the path to fine, monitor and listen to foreign conversations. Despite the cloak and dagger intrigues, it was a beautiful area with well maintained path
So it was back for a late lunch, which was good. We then checked in our hotel; it turned out to be the government-owned Guemgangsan Hotel. It was certainly very nice, but we were again warned against what to say. Got whistled at for trying to take a picture of kin Jong Il mosaic. Yes, thats right, a tiled mosaic of Kim Jong-Il and his father. I thought I was destined for a North Korean prison but they didn't do anything but whistled. It was to the North Korean Acrobactics show which was quiet spectacular; I guess with thte Mass Games there is no shortage of excellent acrobats in North Korea. Dinner was a great disappointment for the quality of the lunch. We made up for it with lots of beers. More drinking, North Korean whiskey made with seal penis and sesame cookies. The things you eat and rink when your drunk.... Then it was upstairs for a party, where I almost forgot the massage I'd booked for myself and was kindly reminded by a fellow traveller. The massage was just what the doctor ordered, done by a chinese migrant. She spoke some English and Korean, so we ended up conversing in both. This was followed by yet more drinking out on the patio. Returning from the massage I was informed that they had run out of the North Korean beer we were swilling; only the second time since the 1998 opening they ran out of beer
A short sleep of 4 hours later, bringing the total for 2 days to 4 hours, the wake up call came at 6:20 AM. A crap breakfast was served, supporting my orginal analysis that the Hotel's food sucked. Another death hike followed. Met a girl along the path who I hiked with most of the time. She listened quiet atentatively to my hangover-induced lamenting. A North Korean guide directed us onto what we thought was the easy path, which was the hard path. After several open-sky, loose rock areas of path we did reach the top for an undramatic view in the ever present fog. Ate a cucumber some Korean gave us when we reached the top; apparently they are rehydrating. We watched waiting to see if a North Korean guide was going to fall to his death from a loose railing he was sittign on. That provided some drama. On the return we drank some de-aging spring water. Then tried to convince some of the North Koreans to allow us to have a picture taken with them... a futile effort. The it was back along the super narrow, winding road. For lunch I had some North Korean rice soup dish, which was better than breakfast. The Spa afterwards was even better. Sat naked outside for all the North Koreans in the surrounding hills to see
4 hours of sleep later combined for a weekend total of 8 hours. The following morning I was bone tired and slept in teachers room. That evening I was sucked into drinking with the principle because I had denied him 4 times during the term due to extra classes. Got drunk in daejeon and stayed the night at his house. Needless to say this isn't what I needed.
Oh well, only a few weeks of real classes left. Then its home for a rest and hopefully some decisions on my next move. Until later.