malioil
Topic Author
Posts: 142
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 3:19 pm

North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 12:35 pm

Welcome to my maiden trip report

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B A C K G R O U N D

The common argument against the existence of a time machine is that if it was ever to be invented, people from the future would be here already. I beg to differ. Air Koryo is, in many aspects, more than an airline. It is a vessel that manages to blend in the modern world with one that we all thought seized to exist after the end of the Second World War- a world where construction workers still labor to the sounds of patriotic songs played on loud speakers, where Czechslovakian trams thought obsolete in the 1970's still churn away. Where fashion long deemed 'historical' in nearly every other corner of the globe is still worn and sold. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a country in the past. And we were from the future.
I had set my eyes on visiting the DPRK from July 2009, but did not want to settle down for a 'tourist' group (after I was speaking to a Koryo Tour official, and they admitted that they're 'cash cows' which can hardly see any of Pyongyang, let alone the country). That is when, through their sole website, I approached the DPRK's Ministry for Foreign Affairs if there was any exchanges, or events one could join. After much negotiation (and periodic payments of money) I was placed on a governmental exchange for independent 'supporters' of the DPRK in August 2010. May I please note, that I AM NOT in no way a supporter of the government of the DPRK, or their ideology- it was merely a necessary act to follow to gain access to what could be termed an exclusive travelers paradise. My visit to the nation reaffirmed just how deprived the DPRK is. Again, I DO NOT support this government. Naturally, all flights were booked on the national carrier, Air Koryo, from PEK. In this travel report I am only planning on covering the night prior, the morning of and the flight itself. In my 11 days in the DPRK we traveled much and a far, and if you'd wish me to post more photographs/write more regarding what I saw within the country, i'd be happy to do that, when time allows. However, I have done my best to focus this specifically on the aviation, rather than the nation.

I N B O U N D
BEIJING CAPITAL-PYONGYANG SUNAN INTERNATIONAL
2010 1933

Unfortunately, I accidently deleted all the photographs I had taken on day 1, and day 2 of my journey inside the DPRK, and the entire week in Shanghai/Beijing prior. This also meant that photographs taken on the PEK-FNJ sector disappeared. The flight was very similar to my outbound one- the exact same aircraft (same reg). I was in row 7 Economy class, which was the exit row. Infront of me was a North Korean air hostess, and we shared a few words. 'How old are you ?' 'what brings you to my country'... she seemed very shy ( I would not say scared- that would come many times later in the trip.. .she was genuinely shy) and after a while the conversation fained out. I was allowed to take photographs across the border at Yalu and the beautiful, evocative mountain ranges below. Even when approaching Pyongyang, with the air hostess sitting opposite me, she seemed unphased by it, and did not tell me to stop. Otherwise, the flight was uneventful and in many ways identical to the outbound sector I will cover below. What I did notice is, that within Economy Class in the Tu-204, there were two very distinct cabins (separated by walls and a single curtain, NOT like the ones in normal airliners, but much more restrictive)- one seemed to be for 'foreigners', the others for North Korean citizens returning from abroad.

O U T B O U N D

PYONGYANG SUNAN INTERNATIONAL- BEIJING CAPITAL
1933 2010



August 20th, 2010 (Juche 99)

This was the night before the flight- the entire delegation were staying at the Habangasang Hotel, one that has not been open to foreigners for some years now, and was a very worn-down affair. It was a hotel for North Korean citizens visiting Pyongyang from other cities, or former North Koreans who now carry Japanese citizenship coming back to their original country to visit relatives. At around midnight, down in the shabby, cold and untastefully furnished hotel restaurant's imported-from-China plasma screen started airing the last of the day's propaganda. I have included some photographs below.

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The Hotel Room

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Habangsang's in-house Kim Il Sung/Jong book shop with titles such as 'The American Imperialist Started The Korean War', 'Kim Il Sung- Volume 1-104'

August 21, 2010

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Last look at the place that we would ultimately start calling 'Hebangsang Priosn' (the name fits, does it not-Habangsang)

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The trust-wrothy Hino bus that had accompanied us for more than 2,500km ( the drivers claim) during the last 11 days, driving us to the airport, taking us on one last journey.

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The view from the bus on the road to the airport

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and again

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One of thousands of murals to the 'great leader' and 'eternal president' scattered across the country. A brute dictator who has denied his people much of what they're entitled to.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A I R P O R T & F L I G H T
Airline: Air Koryo
Flight Number: JS151
From: FNJ (Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea)
To: PEK (Beijing, People's Republic of China)
Aircraft: Tu-204
Aircraft Reg: P-633
Class of Travel: Y
Seat: 12A (booked 12B- asked to sit in window seat)
Estimated Duration: 70 minutes


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The exterior of Susan International's Passenger Terminal- an old, small, compact yet somehow adequate airport when one calculates the number of flights that actually operate to it.

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The old flight board has been finally put out of service ( a shame- plasma tv's do not fit in with this place)

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Check-in area for all flights, however only JS151 was operating that morning.

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The economy section was starting to fill up, so our guides from the Foreign Ministry showed their ID to the J class check in counter and we were suddenly all checking in there- I find the presence of a J class quite ironic- whatever happened to equality ?

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Off and away !

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One last look at the airport's entrance and the DPRK- note that the flowers you see outside are not their for there beauty- but to remind the North Korean people (as with everything in this nation) of dictator Kim Jong-Il- the flowers are a species named after him- Kim Jonng-ilya.

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Up the stairs to the departure hall

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The departure hall

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Glimpse of P-633 being towed onto the tarmac (naturally, there are no air bridges here)

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A JS boarding pass

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Reflection of P-633 in the wooden cabin-like door that opens up to security

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Here, the old-style departure board were thankfully yet to be replaced by the plasma TV's. Only two flights were to operate on that day.

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and again, this time with the adjacent arrival's board.

Prior to moving air side, we had breakfast in the airport's cafeteria, which was again, a very basic affair with down-to-earth food being served along with basic 'cherry'- North Korean soft drinks. We then moved to say good-bye to our guides/guards/spies and moved air side, in order to board our ticket our of the worlds single-most isolated country. The thin sheet of paper I clasped within my hands, was something, that I knew, many North Korean's would die to have. A way out.

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North Korea's civilian fleet at FNJ

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An array of tales sporting the flag of a land that is deprived- yet somehow, one senses an underlying strength, a might.

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P-633 awaits on the tarmac. According to the frequent JS flyers within our group, it was a rare occasion when the brand new Tu-204's are used (although it seemed that as of August, only P-633 and her sister ship were in service). Apparently, the Il-62s and Tu-154s were a much more common sight. I could not help but feel disappointed a second time- I was really hoping to fly on an Il-62, something that has become a rarity in todays modern world.

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Post security hall at FNJ. Behind the gate with the photographs of the 'great' dictators, was a corridor leading to a staircase which took one on the tarmac to meet the bus.

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JS's fixed-wing fleet seen from outside the terminal, on the stairs leading down to the bus.

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The new bus is the same model that is operated in PEK. The protocol for the buses are similar to that found in Russia- all buses move together after all passengers on the flight have boarded them.

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The bus and the aircraft

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The airport building from the tarmac

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and again

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the staircase leading down to the bus

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JS's rotor fleet, and a stored Tu-154 in the background

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leaving the bus

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arriving at the aircraft, to board.

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Another view of the aircraft

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The JS titles in Korean

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The giant Perm Motors

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a badly angled photograph of the FNJ terminal, with the famous ''welcoming'' (in reality, it is otherwise) face of the 'Great' leader. (Kim Jong Il has not reached the level of 'greatness' yet- he is simply 'dear' leader! )

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More civilian DPRK fixed-wing aircraft

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Boarding the time machine back to reality, and 2010

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The profile of P-633 from the landing on the airstair

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about to board !

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One last look prior to entering the time capsule



PART 2, including take off, the flight and Beijing in the next post !

[Edited 2010-12-22 04:39:05]
 
spr773
Posts: 27
Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2008 5:23 am

RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:03 pm

Awaiting your next TR with lots of PEK photos.. Thanks for sharing those amazing photos. Pyongyang's airport terminal seems straight out o the mid-70s still in 2010 except for the LCD / PLasma FIDS screens and "Bussiness Class" screen or Air Koryo.
 
JL418
Posts: 401
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 5:20 pm

RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:02 pm

Hi malioil,

thanks for sharing! I'm always in the mood of reading about North Korea since, as you said, it's a little bit like stepping in the past. And I'm literally craving about the Tu-204 in-flight experience, I'm pretty sure that there wouldn't be more than a handful TRs covering this type of aircraft in our database. Pity you've lost the outbound pictures.

Anyway, I'm impressed by the photo-friendly attitude shown by airport and Air Koryo's staff especially if I compare such an attitude with the level of paranoia reached by some security staff at some free-world airports.

Please, can you add some words and pictures describing your stay in NK? You're a brilliant writer and every bit of extra information we can get about NK would be welcome, at least by me.
 
malioil
Topic Author
Posts: 142
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 3:19 pm

RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:07 pm

PART 2 !

Upon boarding, I was waved in the direction of my seat with a smile, and it was up to me to find my seat. Akin to much that is North Korean, the flight was orchestrated, and efficient. Nonetheless, there was a certain degree of humanity within the flight attendants- previous reports put them down as 'actors playing their role effectively'- on my flight, this was not the case. Although not chatting at length with anyone due to the restrictions that apply to all citizens of the DPRK, they still were friendly and rather attentive.

After buckling in into my seat, LCD screens popped down from the roof of the cabin. Then the safety announcement began. It started something along the lines of this:

'' Under the wise leadership of the Supreme Leader, our dear leader Kim-Jong Il, and his magnificent application of Songun politics, this flight has been made possible today. Let us all ask for the dear leader's blessing.''

Then it went into the regular fasten your seat belt, no smoking announcement, etc.

Screenshots from the safety announcement
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Within minutes of boarding, the door was closed and the aircraft commenced its taxi towards FNJ's solitary runway, as the announcement continued to play

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The civilian helicopters previously seen closer up, as P-633 taxied past them. They are nearly surly VIP configurations for the North Korean elite as well as visiting heads of state. They are unlikely (almost certainly) not for Kim Jong-Il's use due to his fear from flying (which was confirmed by our guides).

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The runway we would find ourselves on within minutes


Finally, take off. The aircraft did not stop prior to lurching forward, instead, we simply sped up from taxi speed to full thrust on the runway, with quite stringent power prior to the nose lifting up, pointed skyward.

The load on the aircraft was quite impressive (probably 90%-95%. This was due to the very high number of tourists on board (as well as the fact that this was the only way out or in North Korea [other than CA flights on certain days and a North Korean citizens only train ])

Take off:

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If you strain your eyes on the last photograph, you may see a network of dirt roads. According to our guides (which were from the Culture Department of the MOFA) it was to enable tanks to run across, nonetheless, little truth can be taken from that- it is nearly certainly due to a lack of funding. However, inter-city highways, which lay empty, could quite rival the best highways of the world. North Korea is one of the poorest nations in the world, yet, when one compares the country with other places of similar wealth, their shear efficiency- with the money they have, what they have built is outstanding, although sad.

As the flight hit its cruising altitude (there were no announcements to how high, however my guess would be 31,000 feet) the rattling of the food tray could be heard. It was time to try the infamous 'Koryo Burger' (ronic that such a staunch anti-American state serves the staple of American food on their flight, eh ? This ironic hypocritical approach sums up the North Korean government quite well). With a smile, I got my flabby sandwich. When asked for my drink, I chose the 'cherry' (DPRK soft drink) simply because I wanted to try a North Korean specialty one last time.

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My Koryo burger- I would not go as far as calling it disgusting, yet the meat tasted very bland, almost like bread, and the bread itself was not fresh by any respect. Due to this, after a few bites, I stopped eating it. The soft drink was okay, but in no way was it excellent. However, it's hardly fair critiquing the food here- its the experience of even being able to experience it in the first place that is exhilarating. At that point in the flight a sudden great-fullness overtook me. A sentimental person, this was no surprise, but I realized just how great-full one must be to be able to be on this flight, to have visited the DPRK and seen it from such a rare prospective. To have gone to both poles, to have seen so much in the world at such a young age. My emotional moment was cut short however, as the LCD screens whizzed down from the bulkhead to start playing the in-flight entertainment- surprise, surprise, it's government propaganda. What would have been quite infuriating on a longer flight was the fact that there were no headphones- just like the musical racket of Korean People's Army songs that would play well beyond midnight in Pyongyang, the sound was played through the aircraft's rather crisp PA system. On a short hop from FNJ to PEK however, it wasn't infuriating. It was fascinating (being able to experience it, not the propaganda itself).

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A glimpse of the 'in-flight entertainment'


Leg room was more than adequate, although should the longer flights to DME resume, it may have been to limited.


Probably the world's most valuable in-flight magazine. Filled with articles parsing the DPRK, this is the official English language news magazine of the DPRK. If I found this on a UA, BA, GF, EK or any other airline's flight I would have been downright appalled. Yet its contents were incredibly interesting for someone like me- a piece of print from a time that the rest of the world had long passed. Its cover story was the introduction of a mobile phone network in the DPRK (its been in place for years, but the government finally had enough monitoring equipment in place to allow the public to use it).

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The Korean section of the paper, and the dear dictator Kim Jong-Il

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The dear leader, Kim Jong-Il- a man who is responsible of depriving his people from the most basic of human rights. The people around him are carrying notes so that he can give them 'on the spot guidance'- basically he gives them 'improvements' and they must carry them out to the word.

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JS safety leaflet.

Unlike the inbound flight which was a brilliant opportunity to take great photographs, the whether on JS151 was not helping.


Somewhere around the DPRK/PRC border

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the obligatory toilet shot (again, it was clean and adequate for such a short flight)

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The Perm Motor that was powering our flight

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The view from the window

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A North Korean passenger gets something from the in-cabin baggage compartment. Unlike the previous flight, this one had a substantial amount of North Korean's aboard, in both economy cabins.

Although I had no idea of knowing, I believe somewhere around the mountain ranges on the border between the DPRK and the PRC we hit heavy turbulence. The seat ahead of the person sitting next to me started to shake violently, ending in the table tray falling off. As a flight attendant came to see what happened, she apologized, laughed, and caried out a quick fix. On landing, when the fuselage was shaking once again, it un-did itself (the fix being a tad too quick), and the poor chap next to me had to hold it in place until we arrived at the gate in PEK's T2.


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The culprit, a fallen screw, being held to the camera by my seat-mate.

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Note the missing screw- the seat-mate is holding the tray in with his legs.

Finally, approach into Beijing. By now, an immense happiness started to set in me, and I am sure it was the same for all members of our group. Loosing our freedom fully for 11 days, and being in a place of substantial danger was not pleasant, at least emotionally. Being so far away from everything that we knew, everything that we loved. Being away from the world that we all are used to- the year 2010, the modern world. Seeing Beijing open up underneath us was a feeling I cannot describe- the feeling that the finish line is finally near. An emotion that many have killed to obtain. The emotion that is freedom.

As the crackle of the speakers came on, announcing our landing, we started to loose altitude at an alarming rate. Too fast. So fast, that my already infected ears suddenly burst closed against the pressure- many other passengers held their ears. Eventually, we leveled off. However, for me the damage was done- the ear ache began, slow at first, but eventually it'd find itself in a crescendo that would end up with a visit to the ER of a Beijing hospital, and a bout of medical drugs as a souvenir. I never have a problem with ear pressure during landings- however, with already infected ears, dropping the aircraft in what was much more akin to a military monouver than anything else ( that would have never happened in any other airline unless it was an emergency- I am a very experienced flyer, and last time a fall like that took place was on a GF flight that ended up with the aircraft being written-off, in AUH, 1997)- even my ears could not stand it.

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you can just glimpse a Chinese river below

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This all-too-familiar approach into PEK had a much greater feeling this time.

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The beautifully imposing T3

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Almost there...

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Passing an AC B772 in the final moments of our flight... closer...

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very close now ! ...

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Touchdown! ... welcome back to 2010

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Aircraft at PEK... here a CA B744

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At the gate we were greeted by a KLM 744- the bright blue did much to awaken my eyes, a welcomed change against the Communist grey blandness they had become accustomed to.

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The passengers take their hand baggage

After all the passengers left the plane, I spotted the Captain. A friendly and approachable fellow, I greeted him, and told him I was a private pilot. He looked interested, and we had a nice chat. He said he was from the Korean People's Air Force (explains the landing monouver) and simultaneously flew in the air force as well as did the civilian flights for JS when called upon. Today was one such day. His early training had been done in a Yakovlev Yak-18 trainer, dating back to 1946. After I asked if I could see the cockpit, he agreed, throwing my heart-rate to around 5 million bp/m- how many people could claim to have flown on JS, let alone seen its cockpit. As we approached the cockpit, however, a stewardess barked something in Korean to the captain, and he looked back, gave us a very friendly smile and apologized, stating that it was not possible. It would be a rare happening on another airline when a stewardess contradicts a Captain so openly in front of passengers. Nonetheless, much of the DPRK is governed by ranking in the Korean Worker's Party, rather than seniority in a certain position- so had she been higher up in the party, it was probably alright for her to do that, then report the Captain had he let us into the flight deck. Gutted, I walked away, taking one last look at the magnificent rare bird that also had done my ear drums in (quite literally).

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One last look at P-633... it has a beauty, a regalness that no narrow body, not even the 757 (bar perhaps the 707) had.


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We were back to the future- the North Koreans were now people from the past. I saw a great scene ahead- a North Korean man wearing the traditional Communist agricultural suit, in the modernity that is China. I tried to translate it into a photograph, but with half-half results.

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We were nearly home.

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The Bird's Nest the night we got back from FNJ.


END OF TRIP REPORT: NORTH KOREA WITH LOVE: AIR KORYO PYONGYANG-BEIJING


Everyone, please advise me how to make this tr better, more readable and enjoyable. Next I plan to write up my CA flight in J PEK-DXB, connecting to GF DXB-BAH also in J. In that I would cover Beijing and Shanghai a little better- also, if you want more information or photos of Pyongyang itself, I would be happy to write a summarized report when time allows.


Thank you for reading !


regards,


malioil

[Edited 2010-12-22 06:19:06]
 
baguy
Posts: 474
Joined: Wed Mar 15, 2006 11:04 pm

RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:44 pm

Thank you for a fascinating insight - I would love to see some photos of your visit - and exactly what your visit as a "foreign supporter" entailed!

BAguy
 
Checo77
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:12 pm

Wooow, wonderful report, thanks for sharing!!!

You are very priviledged you traveled to DPRK, was that a tour? You cannot travel by itself, right?
How was the tour over there? Did you feel like they are spying on you? Could you photograph whatever you wanted or were restrictions imposed? And the last question, I heard that upon arrival, they take away your cellphone and notebook and return it to you upon departure, is that true?

Thanks a have a great day,

Adam
Czech Boeing lover living in Lima
 
gosimeon
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:07 pm

Such an interesting TR, thanks alot! I have always been interested in North Korea, one of the last national mysteries of out world if you will. Sad to see that it seems as bad as I thought there.

If you get a chance to put up some photos of your stay please do, and thanks again!
 
ba319-131
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:14 pm

Great report and pictures, thanks for sharing your flight and a few pictures of North Korea and Air Korya - love to see more pics of the country if you find time.

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a country in the past. And we were from the future.

- Your quite right when you say it like this.

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
Unfortunately, I accidently deleted all the photographs I had taken on day 1, and day 2 of my journey inside the DPRK, and the entire week in Shanghai/Beijing prior

- Bummer, that must have hurt!

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
The old flight board has been finally put out of service ( a shame- plasma tv's do not fit in with this place)

- Agreed, not something I would expect to see there, looks quite out of place.

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
I find the presence of a J class quite ironic- whatever happened to equality ?

- Good point, prehaps for the rich foreigners?

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
I was really hoping to fly on an Il-62, something that has become a rarity in todays modern world.

- That would have been nice, saw an Air Korya one in PEK a few years back.

Great stuff, looking forward to more TR's in the future.

Rgds

Mark
111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
 
ATLTPA
Posts: 72
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:18 pm

Great trip report. Far and away the best on Air Koryo I've seen. One of the best I've seen period, in fact!

The Tu-204 looks like a very nice airplane, broken tray table notwithstanding. I am amazed that there haven't been at least some deliveries to more airlines, both in the East and West.

In fact, it looks an awful lot like the Delta 757s I get to fly on all the time here in the US.

Malioil, did you notice or learn of any of its shortcomings? Any reason we don't see more of them elsewhere besides places like North Korea and Cuba?

Or perhaps others might know an answer to my question?

ATLTPA

[Edited 2010-12-22 12:19:56]
 
jetblue777
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Dec 22, 2010 11:03 pm

Woah. That was great! This is a very rare trip report and I like the way you write, very touching!

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
The thin sheet of paper I clasped within my hands, was something, that I knew, many North Korean's would die to have. A way out.

Very true.

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
Finally, approach into Beijing. By now, an immense happiness started to set in me, and I am sure it was the same for all members of our group. Loosing our freedom fully for 11 days, and being in a place of substantial danger was not pleasant, at least emotionally. Being so far away from everything that we knew, everything that we loved. Being away from the world that we all are used to- the year 2010, the modern world. Seeing Beijing open up underneath us was a feeling I cannot describe- the feeling that the finish line is finally near. An emotion that many have killed to obtain. The emotion that is freedom.

My favorite line...  

That was an impressive TR, it was like stepping back in time!  
It's a cultural thing.
 
SIN7
Posts: 169
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:20 am

Thanks for the TR and great pics of NK.
I too made this back to the past trip in 2008.
Yes, I'm no supporter of the Father and Son.
Like you I did not take the in-bound flight from Beijing to Pyongyang (silly me left the camera battery in the check-in bag).

Looks like nothing has change since the time I was there.
Think in fact nothings changed for decades.
You're right, everything stood still in time.
When I was there, I felt that the war just ended a week ago. Just non-stop barrage about the evil Americans.
It's like living the Cold War era all over again.
I've seen a may pics and videos of Pyongyang, it seems that almost the areas foriegners are allowed to see are the same. The English guides were the same ones too.


My TR with some pics of Pyongyang

Air China – Pyongyang, North Korea (pics)
Air China – Pyongyang, North Korea (pics) (by SIN7 Jun 12 2008 in Trip Reports)?threadid=127948&searchid=128034&s=SIN7#ID128034
 
debonair
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:22 am

Hi! always GREAT to read from such "exotic" airlines...

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
as the LCD screens whizzed down from the bulkhead to start playing the in-flight entertainment- surprise, surprise, it's government propaganda.



WOW, a Tupolev with modern IFE! Any audio-channels available?
 
tjcab
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:18 pm

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
A brute dictator who has denied his people much of what they're entitled to.

Very nice report, great images and all. But, lets stick to aviation and keep politics away from here.
 
malioil
Topic Author
Posts: 142
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:59 pm

Quoting tjcab (Reply 12):

Dear tjcab,

I have tried to keep this as aviation clad as possible, to the extent of not writing at length regarding my experiences inside the DPRK. Yet is it really a political sentiment when human emotions are stirred when you look the eye of any North Korean, and they shake in fear- presumably terrified to offend you, and be punished for that, or terrified to communicate with you, and be punished for that?

I commend North Korea on many, many fronts- their shear efficancy is second to none. The most generous of estimates put their GDP at $40 billion, only twice that of Bahrain- yet in size, North Korea is around a thousand times bigger. Still, they have highways that put ours to shame. Their buildings are striking and mightily well built. As is their huge army. The ability for most people in the DPRK to obtain access to governmental positions, something that is not yet prevalent in the nations that surround mine. The North Koreans, considering what little that have, have done many amazing feats. Yet one needs to think, why on earth do they have so little to work with in the first place ?
Yet all of this means nothing when everything is policed, everything is controlled by harboring fear. We were walking across the river to Pyongyang, and just stopping to look into the water, people would clad around you. Everything was orchestrated, artificial- all three of our guides were established alcoholics, and alcohol is very heavily subsidized by the government. We could not turn our heads left, or right, without permission- and when we did so without getting it, we never were punished. It was our guides, and one of them was the Head of European Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Culture (so this is not something affecting only the lower end of the chain) who would start sweating and jittering beyond belief. When I spotted the very same head of department accept a 20 Euro bribe from a tailor at the Yangkakdo Hotel, he was uneasy for the what was left of the trip.

Tjcab, I might be mistaken here- driving this discussion further into politics, and I must say that this is not my goal. My examples probably have not forwarded my point either- yet what I am trying to say is this- it does not take a political mind to decipher the underlying happenings in the DPRK. How simply deprived they are- and although, perhaps, direct comment on Pres. Kim Il-Sung may have not been necessary, you need to heed this... without a comment on the state of the DPRK, no travel report could be complete. If you visited Disney land you'd speak of the rides, if you visited Egpyt, the pyramids, Dubai, the glitzy hotels- the DPRK has one thing which dominates its horizon, the reason people go to visits. Its politics, and ideology. Within our group of 'supporters', some were genuine supporters of the ideolgy of Juche, etc. None of them were by the time our flight landed back in Beijing. The most generous comment was this -''none of what is written is actually carried out''. I will not get into politics even further here, or the idea of Juche or anything- but it is simple enough to say that nothing is implemented, no Communism, no democracy (which the DPRK constitution instigates), no nothing. No good, no bad. Plain dictatorship.

[Edited 2010-12-23 09:01:40]

[Edited 2010-12-23 09:16:39]

[Edited 2010-12-23 09:17:46]

[Edited 2010-12-23 09:18:32]
 
Ps76
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Thu Dec 23, 2010 5:22 pm

Hello(!),

Just to say many thanks for the report/pics etc. You're right, that in-flight food doesn't look too good. I remember when we were young in the 80s we took a trip to Russia flying on Aeroflot and Russia back then was like stepping back in time although probably tame compared to North Korea. I mean St.Petersburg was almost Western. If you feel like posting more pics of your trip that would be great but it was cool to see things from an aviation perspective. That's great you got to talk to the pilot. I would have been a little nervous flying on a Russian plane although I'm sure they're safe enough!

Many thanks,

Pierre
 
flyorski
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:33 pm

Quoting malioil (Reply 13):

Thank you for sharing that. This is a great trip report from a seldom seen land of the past. I added you to my RR list for that last post about emotions forcing politics to the front. I think in the end politics is about bettering your life, and the lives of those around you. Thanks for sharing.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved, than those who falsly believe they are free" -Goethe
 
swi
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:29 am

Did any of the officials/staff at the airport say anything about your picture taking? I was surprised to see so many pictures of the facility.
 
ronerone
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Fri Dec 24, 2010 8:48 am

What an interesting insight into something so taboo.

This detail definitely tops some of the previous ones on Air Koryo and DPRK. How difficult was it to take all these pictures?

I think this would be my friend time seeing the interior of the TU-204 which more or less looks like un updated 757 (though with a bizarre looking lavatory).

Previous reports showed a full meal service on this sector, so the small burger that you got is quite a surprise.

Thanks a lot for sharing.

Cheers,
Roni
Fly Roni. Aviation Journeys. Photos. Videos.
 
einsteinboricua
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:28 pm

malioil: could you further explain how the procedure was to obtain permission to visit the DPRK? I'm sure that I'll be barred from visiting the DPRK so long as I'm a US citizen, but if US citizens can visit Cuba and circumvent restrictions, I'm fairly sure others do the same with the DPRK.

I must say, you bring a side of North Korea that instead of feeling hatred or pity, one feels jealousy. The immense buildings and roads I've seen in other pictures clearly secure North Korea as a developed country (not as developed as others, but compared to Afghanistan...). I would also assume that the emotional and psychological aspect of the trip was an uncomfortable one. Not knowing whether any KWP officials would come and detain you or your guides for that matter.

But in all, excellent trip report.
"You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky."
 
malioil
Topic Author
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Fri Dec 24, 2010 10:30 pm

Quoting einsteinboricua (Reply 18):

Einsteinboricua,


Thank you for your comments. Although North Korea is not developed as in Western European, it is miles ahead of the African nations, and most Asian countries for the matter (bar the Republic of Korea, China, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan), they still have a very stringent infrastructure, and an underground tunneling network that makes the Vietnamese tunnels during their war look like pie (infact North Korean engineers did help in certain aspects of the VC tunnels). We entered vast, vast buildings, which literally stretched for many hundreds of meters, an intense maze of lavish corridor after corridor. From the exterior, it was simply an enormous concrete door in a mountain. If this was a civilian building, you can imagine their military buildings. When it comes to digging, North Koreans are second to none, and this is their great danger for any invading force- spying in North Korea is non existent, as nobody enters unless they are supposed to. This brings you to your point. Unlike in Cuba, where everyone is free to enter, North Korea still maintains a very hefty isolationist policy. Its not as much that the USA does not want you visiting the DPRK (such as Cuba) but the DPRK not wanting you to visit them. Nonetheless, the economy is very poor and they like all the tourist dollars that they can get. If you go through any North Korean tourist agency, such as Koryo Tours, they will give you a landing slip at the airport that you keep. Mind you, crica August 2010 (it changes plentifully) American tourists are not allowed to stay for longer than 5 days and the places they are allowed to visit are even more limited than the non-American counterparts. For example, in our group we had four Americans, all visiting for specific reasons- such as an exchange with a Pyongyang hospital, etc. They were all, from the moment we entered the airport, rushed away to the 5 star Koryo Hotel (this is a better hotel, but much, much higher control is asserted on it- for example more efficaint bugs- etc. they cover your every move ). Also, the places they are allowed to visit are more limited than others. Nonetheless, no stamp is put in the passport, and you may enter North Korea quite easily if you go through one their travel agents as an American citizen, but what you see will be limited at best, as will the time you spend there.

There was only one day when I had a very uncomfortable psychological aspect- me and my father (who I had invited along as he has a lot of experience with Eastern block/USSR countries in his day) were discussing politics, and how bad this regime was. Later, we discovered bugs in the toilets, behind the mirror. It was just me feeling really upset at just how robotic everything was- even when you do your business in the toilet, they are watching. Another quite emotional moment when at the DMZ, we were at a watch tower, and through binoculars I could see a South Korean highway, the rush of cars- for that moment, it didn't feel to great retreating back into the grey North. Yet, the difference was exactly why I chose it as a destination, and that bout was over in a moment. However regarding being put away- to be frank, if you don't do anything illegal, you won't be, and its not nearly as bad as they make it out in the news. If you chose to go, you'll be more than fine.


hope it helped


malioil
 
L410Turbolet
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Sat Dec 25, 2010 2:37 am

Quoting malioil (Reply 13):
I commend North Korea on many, many fronts- their shear efficancy is second to none. The most generous of estimates put their GDP at $40 billion, only twice that of Bahrain- yet in size, North Korea is around a thousand times bigger. Still, they have highways that put ours to shame. Their buildings are striking and mightily well built. As is their huge army. The ability for most people in the DPRK to obtain access to governmental positions, something that is not yet prevalent in the nations that surround mine. The North Koreans, considering what little that have, have done many amazing feats. Yet one needs to think, why on earth do they have so little to work with in the first place ?

Why do they have to work with so little in the first place? Umm, maybe because the system is not as efficient as you seem to believe (in areas other than perfecting the police state), but is a total economic failure and by any standard you look a disaster and direct consequence of the Juche policy. If your father is so well versed on the USSR then he's probably familiar with the concept of the "Potemkin Village"... which is what I believe you're being shown. Let me ask you: Why do roads in a country where there are no cars to use them impress you? Why does impress you NK's huge army, when its only role is to keep the regime in power and maintaining 4th largest standing army in the world results in the country failing to provide even basic services to its citizens? Perhaps you are too young and inexperienced to see behind the facade? Be comforted by the fact that even G.B. Shaw was once fooled by what he was electively shown by Stalin.
There are some accounts of NK's reality by people who have been given a slightly more freedom of movement than the participants of the usual dog and pony show orchestrated by the NK propaganda machinery.
These people claim, that there is one North Korea, somewhat bearable and at least when it comes to superficial impression to susceptible minds "developed" thanks to big buildings, multilane highways, monuments and so on built between the border and Pyongyang and a completely different North Korea in the north and northeast of Pyongyang where no tourists are being taken and where the situation is What better proof of surreality of the experience could there be than people landing in China, with its atrocious human rights record, are feeling relieved and with sense of "freedom".

Quoting malioil (Reply 13):
The ability for most people in the DPRK to obtain access to governmental positions, something that is not yet prevalent in the nations that surround mine.

Any proof for such claim?

Quoting einsteinboricua (Reply 18):
I must say, you bring a side of North Korea that instead of feeling hatred or pity, one feels jealousy. The immense buildings and roads I've seen in other pictures clearly secure North Korea as a developed country (not as developed as others, but compared to Afghanistan...)

Jealousy?   The point of reference for assessing North Korea is not medieval Afghanistan but South Korea just across the border. And if you compare these two then I do not see any reason to be jealous about Kims' "achievements" of turning the country into a one giant prison. It's nothing but a shame.
Last but not least: Developed countries do not systematically rely on foreign food aid and its population does not suffer from massive famine(s).
 
einsteinboricua
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Sat Dec 25, 2010 3:25 am

Quoting L410Turbolet (Reply 20):
Quoting einsteinboricua (Reply 18):
I must say, you bring a side of North Korea that instead of feeling hatred or pity, one feels jealousy. The immense buildings and roads I've seen in other pictures clearly secure North Korea as a developed country (not as developed as others, but compared to Afghanistan...)

Jealousy? The point of reference for assessing North Korea is not medieval Afghanistan but South Korea just across the border. And if you compare these two then I do not see any reason to be jealous about Kims' "achievements" of turning the country into a one giant prison. It's nothing but a shame.
Last but not least: Developed countries do not systematically rely on foreign food aid and its population does not suffer from massive famine(s).

Granted, their political system is not a $100 bill and people are oppressed and citizens rely on food donations to survive. But if you look closely at my statement I clearly specify that NK is not as developed as other countries (mainly, its neighbors and the West). However, when compared to an African country (save some countries), NK is way ahead.
"You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky."
 
NoUFO
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Sat Dec 25, 2010 3:48 pm

First of, malioil, I very much enjoyed reading your trip report, so thanks for that.
Personally, I would not mind to seeing some more pictures of North Korea. I know this is an aviation related website, but aviation and travelling are sisters so to speak. So I would appreciate if you are willing to share some more non-aviation pics.

Quoting malioil (Reply 13):

  

A level-headed reply which I can only second.

Quoting L410Turbolet (Reply 20):
Why do they have to work with so little in the first place? Umm, maybe because the system is not as efficient as you seem to believe (in areas other than perfecting the police state), but is a total economic failure and by any standard you look a disaster and direct consequence of the Juche policy.

L410Turbolet, your post and malioil's stance aren't as mutually exclusive as you seem to think they are. Juche itself is a huge failure, which is something malioil would probably agree on (without claiming to speak for him now) but what people make of it is something different. I don't wish to sound like a racist, but Asians generally are very efficient and striving people, more than say: Germans with their proverbial sense of efficiency. That doesn't rule out that the Juche ideology is inherently ineffective, bureaucratic and - worse - undemocratic and, in the way how it is being executed, inhumane.

Edit: I would like to add that the infrastructure and buildings, which impressed malioil against the background of NK's lacklustre economy, are in fact relicts of "better times" for the North Koreans - strictly economically speaking. In the 70s, North Korea was a wealthy, striving country when compared to most - if not all - other Asian countries. I believe even Japan's economy ranked second after NK's.
So even in this respect, a trip to North Korea is always a trip into the past.

[Edited 2010-12-25 08:08:20]
I support the right to arm bears
 
fasty
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Sat Dec 25, 2010 9:43 pm

Hi Malioil,

Very interesting TR from this once secret coutry which seems to be more and more open to tourism (although politically oriented) nowadays.

From the pictures you show and my own experience in Africa, the infrastructure are indeed much more developped and efficient than in much african countries. But at which cost ?

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
(as well as the fact that this was the only way out or in North Korea [other than CA flights on certain days and a North Korean citizens only train ])

Are you sure the train is for DPRK citizens only ? I recall having read the story of a French guy who actually left the country with this train.
 
User avatar
SirThomas
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Sat Dec 25, 2010 11:35 pm

Good Trip-Report Mali!
Nice to read another report from someone who's been  
I feel your pain for getting the Tu-204, I was really looking forward to the Il-62 myself! But there's always next time I guess! 
Oddly enough I got to fly P-633 too...

You wanting to go back again? (I know I am!)  
Quoting fasty (Reply 23):
Are you sure the train is for DPRK citizens only ?

Everyone BUT Americans can get the train in/out of the DPRK... I got the train out myself as I wasn't told about the possibility of Air Koryo-ing it out with the Yanks! (On an Il-62!)  
Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
Habangasang Hotel, one that has not been open to foreigners for some years now, and was a very worn-down affair.

You should be thankful you got put there and not somewhere in Hamhung! It looks a Palace in comparison! ... The place we stayed there was bloody awful! (typically North Korean, mind..)

A good read!
Tom
Flown On: A319/A320/A321/A332/A333/AT45/734/736/738/744/DH8D/T204/T154/IL62/T134/IL-18/An-24
 
777ord
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Sun Dec 26, 2010 2:38 am

absolutely fantastic AND rare TR! With the increased media in the NK/SK region it is quite interesting to get an inside view such as yours. I do have some questions that I did not see asked above

1) What sort of entertainment/ fun locations (bars, clubs, theme parks etc...) did you see.

2) How was interacting with the NK citizens like compared to the very courteous interactions we experience with numerous Asian countries.

3) You mentioned the food briefly, what are some typical NK specialities?

4) Beer, any good ones? hehe
 
reifel
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Mon Dec 27, 2010 12:44 am

Terrific report! I was impressed that you were able to take so many pictures from Pyongyang airport! It really reminds me of Rijeka Airport, Croatia to be honest, which is a disgusting airport which stopped in time at least some 20 years ago...

Also I was surprised to see that they actually used computer printed boarding passses with barcodes. I was expecting using handwritten ones, or at least needle printer boarding passes, like in Indonesia i.e.
Appearently you had an eticket as well accoriding to the ticket number written on the boarding pass.

Thanks a lot for sharing!
 
TreeHillRavens
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:49 am

http://i143.photobucket.com/albums/r139/malioil/DPRKWithLove881.jpg

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
The Korean section of the paper, and the dear dictator Kim Jong-Il

That is Chinese actually, not Korean. It is not Hanja (old Korean) either because everything (except the title of the magazine which is written in Traditional Chinese) is written in Simplified Chinese.

A very rare a nice trip report. Would appreciate very much if you can upload all the pictures you took in North Korea  

[Edited 2010-12-26 18:52:20]
 
SR 103
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Mon Dec 27, 2010 3:54 pm

Thanks for an amazing trip report on an airline (and country) that is not reported on very often here. You have a very easy to read and informative style of writing which creates a very entertaining read. It looks like Air Koryo is nothing too special, but then again the purpose of this trip was not to fly on an ultra luxurious Asian carrier. I am sure the experience is something you will remember for quite a while.

I am eagerly looking forward to your PEK-DXB and DXB-BAH reports.
 
standby87
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:43 pm

Absoloutely fascinating trip report - I can't believe the Skipper was overruled by the cabin-crew member when you were on the brink of a cockpit visit. I would be totally gutted.

Great stuff, much appreciated your time and effort.
 
MSS658
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Wed Jan 05, 2011 9:16 am

Nice trip report, We don't get to see the TU-204 and North Korea that often. I'm surprised how modern the TU-204 looks like.
Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
 
BrusselsSouth
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:47 pm

Very enjoyable read with interesting pictures.

Thank you for sharing your DPRK experiences.

Regards
BrusselsSouth
 
robso2
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:57 pm

This trip report is fantastic. Thank you so much for providing a fascinating insight into the North Korean world.
Would love to see more pictures!

Must have been a nervewracking but amazing trip!
733/4/5/6/7/8/9, 319/20/21, 752, 744, 772/W, 332/3, 343/6, E70/90, AT43, AR85/1, D38, D10, M82
 
covert
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:32 am

Quoting malioil (Reply 19):
Although North Korea is not developed as in Western European, it is miles ahead of the African nations, and most Asian countries for the matter (bar the Republic of Korea, China, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan)

Although I do think you have drank a bit of the DPRK Kool Aid during your visit and have been misled on a couple of "facts" that you have stated, I would like to keep a political discussion and possible flame war out of this thread and thank you for this unique look into this society. I was secretly hoping to find some pictures of these NK flight attendants, and the possible picture of the TU-204 cockpit had my anticipation up until I was disappointed.

Hope to see TRs of these rare destinations more often.
none
 
wexfordflyer
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RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:02 pm

Really enjoyed reading this, thanks. Fascinating to get a slight insight into a world away from our own. Makes me want to visit one day!
Come with me, there's a place I want you to see, where the leaves are dark, I've got a hiding place in central park.
 
FAEDC3
Posts: 111
Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2007 10:11 am

RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:58 pm

What an amazing glance into NK!! For me it has been one of those mythical spots, scary and fascinating at the same time... I think more info is available on the deep sea than on how people live on a day to day basis on NK
Thanks for sharing malioil... and yes, I'll second the (very popular BTW) request for more pics, even the non aviation related ones!
 
mattdell
Posts: 71
Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 11:42 pm

RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Tue Feb 08, 2011 12:11 am

I also enjoyed reading this. Five stars!
 
magicalcarpet
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:13 am

RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:43 am

This was truly a step back in time, enjoyed reading this tremendously, Mali.
Very nice photos around the airport too.
 
BO__einG
Posts: 2646
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2000 5:20 am

RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:09 am

Thank you for posting this. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at your pictures as well as the wonderful written work to support your trip. It truly shows the real deal inside the DPRK and I was most impressed that you can somehow opt out of the standard ultra orchestrated tour and do a more engaging tour for greater experience with the culture and people.
I hope someday things improve enough in that country that the people will have a voice for rights.

Many cheers to your hard work in sharing your experiences to the world.
Follow @kimbo_snaps on Instagram or bokimon- on Flickr to see more pics of me and my travels.
 
abrelosojos
Posts: 4049
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 6:48 am

RE: North Korea With Love: Air Koryo Pyongyang-Beijing

Thu Feb 10, 2011 3:54 am

Thank you very much for this incredible trip report, and joining the DPRK "club". It is quite the feeling isn't it ... you program your head to think a certain way (after all the reading), and then something contrary happens during the actual experience. DPRK is a special trip and I am glad you documented it for us.

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
Welcome to my maiden trip report

= You could not have started off any better!

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):
At that point in the flight a sudden great-fullness overtook me. A sentimental person, this was no surprise, but I realized just how great-full one must be to be able to be on this flight, to have visited the DPRK and seen it from such a rare prospective. To have gone to both poles, to have seen so much in the world at such a young age.

= I had the exact same feeling ... and yes, we are fortunate to see so much of what we have.

Quoting malioil (Thread starter):

Finally, approach into Beijing. By now, an immense happiness started to set in me, and I am sure it was the same for all members of our group. Loosing our freedom fully for 11 days, and being in a place of substantial danger was not pleasant, at least emotionally. Being so far away from everything that we knew, everything that we loved. Being away from the world that we all are used to- the year 2010, the modern world. Seeing Beijing open up underneath us was a feeling I cannot describe- the feeling that the finish line is finally near. An emotion that many have killed to obtain. The emotion that is freedom.

= I had the same feeling. Isn't it sad that we got this sense of "freedom" when we crossed over to China of all places?

Thanks again for writing. I was particularly impressed to see the departure facilities at FNJ ... and surprised at how poor the food was. Take a look at my report and how good the food was:

Air Koryo JS 222: 12/APR/10: PEK-FNJ: Y Cabin (by abrelosojos Jul 9 2010 in Trip Reports)

Saludos,
A.
Live, and let live.

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