Jun 17, 2007

North Korea photo goodness (North Korea post #4)

I'm thinking some of these shots might be a little boring in that sort of 'had to be there' kind of way, on top of the fact that there is no way to capture the stunning sights and colors of Kumgangsan with such a shoddy little point and shoot. But since Garby threatened to beat me unless I posted them, here are some of the shots I managed to snap during the trip (I didn't document the tour much in pictures, understandably, after my traumatizing near-initiation into a North Korean 'prisoner of the war-against-cameras' camp).

Susie on the left, with her husband Mike and Deborah, who we met up with on the bus. It's not obvious from the picture, but we're standing at immigration on the South Korean side, and behind these three are the remnants of a still-plausibly-operable rail link to the mountains. It's a ghost track with enormous bold hammer and sickle-style train stations at intervals on the north side, their gray stone facades partially covered with the same giant red mural depiction of Kim Il-sun. They stand empty waiting for future diplomacy to hasten the arrival of southern tourists. On either side, the tracks just stop. They don't go anywhere else.

Yeah, we were mostly tired the entire time. This is us on the shuttle between our North Korea-run hotel and the little town built around two duty free shops, a performance hall, the hot spa and several restaurants.

Just arrived. Mount Kumgang is up in the clouds there.

At the start of the hike, the Korean tourists took off like shots and beat us to the top in no time, even the ones who didn't look like they had a youthful bone in their bodies zipped past me. I thought about challenging one of the elderly Ajummas to a race. But knowing I SO would lose, I just hung back and took some pictures of the scenery. You can see three bridges here - all in all, there were ten from the base to the waterfall you'll see a few pictures down, and from there on stairs ruled the day.

Geologically speaking, this felt older than time.

An early bridge. Not sweating yet.

The woodsy part.

Adam called it when he saw the LCD after I took this pic, yep, he does look like a bit of a goof here (someone in his eye line there spontaneously decided to help direct traffic while I was taking this shot).

There's a massive amount of engravings in impossible places on Kumgangsan. Some are in Chinese and I have no idea how old they might be. These particular ones are a brand of North Korean poetry professing the Godliness, goodness and might of the Kim family.

These ones mention Kim Jong Il's blessings causing the nearby spring to flow, the abundance of ginseng and something about reindeer antlers. I don't have a clue. But as per every thing I eat or drink in Korea, it's supposed to be really good for you (any edible Korean flora and fauna is purported to have health benefits - I was even told if I want to sing better, I need to eat more Korean-farmed chicken neck). The spring is so good for you, it's said that it extends your life by ten years (either that, or makes it impossible for you to avoid shelling $1 to pee it out at the only washroom near the top - they told me it costs $2 for a number 2. They weren't kidding. I only sipped from the spring, so let's say I got five years and managed to avoid washroom fees).

The spring.

The water was unbelievable crystal clear and a brilliant shade of emerald.

The waterfall - two thirds to the top.

Engravings in impossible places.

Alex recognized me as we neared the peak, turns out we were introduced by a mutual Halifax friend a little over a year ago at Sneaky Dees in Toronto and hadn't crossed paths since. I don't know how we're going to up the ante on that happenstance.

Alex's sweet little camera.

Taking a moment.

I know this shot is fuzzy, but it pretty much illustrates where things went from there, after hiking the tour mostly turned into trying whatever authentic North Korean alcohol we could get our hands on.

'Taedonggang' tastes a lot like an extremely bitter, more malty English or German Lager. Probably because the brewery in Pyongyang runs on German tech.

Ryongjonsan - Long-Life Liquor. Now with penis of fur seal. That's right, I said penis. No word on whether the liquor behind it boasts 'penis of angry bear'.

If I hadn't been uncontrollably falling asleep, I might have been on the edge of my seat for the 'Pyongyang Acrobat' show. From what I did catch, they were the best I've ever seen. Favorite acts include the woman who balanced a set of half-filled wine glasses on a tray on a stand on a sword on a knife in her mouth while flying back and forth doing the splits 30 feet up on a swinging trapeze. Hey, I can do that.

Serenity is.
(Linked to detail.)


Sam said...

The mountain looks breathtaking. I imagine the air is so much cleaner in the North. I don't know about Jeongseon, but some days I can barely see the high rises on the horizon through the haze.

I also love the ambiguous "others 36 kinds" on the long-life liquid. 36 other kinds of penis?

natania said...

Wow!! Some amazing pics...It looks really beautiful there!!
So, there is life out there lol...
Hope you had a great time!! xoxo

lisa said...

yay photos! and no, I'm not rejoining facebook. sorry darlin, you're just going to have to email me!

riley said...

you all suck except my sister and sam sam.