Only 13 days left before our grand China & North Korea adventure. Wait a minute. ONLY 13 MORE DAYS?! Right. In 2 weeks we’ll have just touched down right about now (around 3pm Chinese local time) and I’m probably walking around the old Hutong area in Beijing with a nice hot and sweaty back but also wearing a smile from ear to ear. And we have over 3 weeks before we have to catch our plane home. I. Can’t. Wait!!!
Our Chinese visa are already taken care of and the visa for North Korea (the official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the DPRK) are being processed in Beijing. Today I discovered a really cool website for globetrotters such as myself, Travellerspoint. On this site you can plan and prepare your entire trip by creating a trip planner to which you can add bookmarks for every single stop on your trip. So very very nice for the pre-travel excitement ánd also for everyone back home because a very neat travelmap will show the concerned and anxious parent (you know who you are) where we are and when. This is particularly nice because:
- Internet in China, due to the “Great Firewall of China”, is pretty restricted. Read: no Facebook (What?! No Facebook?! Nope. No Facebook.), Twitter, Youtube and very unstable access to Google and Gmail. In short – if we want to contact the home front we’ll “only” have to pay a couple of euros per minute for a good ol’ old-fashioned phone call.
- From North Korea contact with the outside world is absolutely impossible. Huh? Like totally impossible? Yep, absolutely totally impossible. Until 1 January 2013 you even had to leave your mobile phone at the border. But now it is OK to bring your mobile device, even your iPhone, but it will lead you nowhere since you cannot access the North Korean phone network as a Westerner. Internet access will also leave you with “the computer says NO” since this is also not available for non-residents.
So the week we are in North Korea we’re pretty much “unplugged”. Another fun fact: in North Korea you cannot wander about on your own. Nicht im frage. Out of the question. We are not allowed to leave the hotel without the presence of our guides (the government officials). A lot of people, perhaps you are one of them, have reacted, let’s say, surprised when I told them about our trip. I absolutely get that some people don’t understand why we want to go there. Let’s face it, this trip is not for everybody. But, apart from my interest in communist and socialist systems, we are just very very curious about the hermit kingdom, the most closed-off country in the world. Whatever else may happen over there, there are also people who fall in love, go to work, like to have fun, fancy a drink every now and then and who highly value a rich cultural life. And yes, these people do not know everything we know, and yes, these people do not have unlimited access to a variety of sources of information. That’s true. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t also muddle through an everyday life like the rest of us.
I want to see what it is like to immerse yourself in this country. Even though it’s already decided what I get to see, and even though I will never get a full picture. Even though I have to lay flowers at the mausoleum of the Great Leaders out of respect. Our British travel agency emphasized that it is very important to keep an extremely open mind when taking this trip, and it is just not OK to act like some sort of missionary from back in the days and impose “our religion” (let’s say, capitalism, free market thinking, democracy etc.) on them. This is a trip for the curious traveller. Wait a minute. Somebody said “curious” and “traveller”? That’s me! So yeah, that means I’ll be in Pyongyang in a couple of weeks. Yep. Crazy. Cool.