Kim Il Sung mausoleum

Pyongyang Travel Blog

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September 2, 2007
Hotel: Yanggakdo
Today was our last full day in the DPRK, but just as busy as the previous two had been. This morning we would be visiting Kim Il-Sung's mausoleum, for which we had to be presentable. Shirt+tie for men and dress for the women. The mausoleum itself is huge gray granite/marble building with no windows, just a large picture of the Great Leader. It is always busy with locals who usually visit two or three times a year. When we arrived there was a long line of workers and women in brightly colored traditional dresses, pink, blue, green, etc. The other KT tour arrived as well, this was the American group, so they had managed to get in as well despite the Mass Games being canceled.
There is a large courtyard in front where people pose for their photos. It takes awhile just getting into the mausoleum, it is so large. Moving walkways take you down a long corridor, then turn 90 degrees and go through an underground tunnel for another 50 yards before turning left again and entering the mausoleum building. You have to leave your cameras here, then walk through a series of huge rooms with patriotic music playing. At one point we got a MP3 player with an English narrator narrating the dramatic tales of the people when Kim Il-Sung 'fell asleep'. Officially in NK he is not dead. Finally after passing through a windtunnel?! we entered the room where the preserved Kim Il-Sung lies in state in a glass coffin. You can get much closer here than Mao's tomb in Beijing, maybe 4 feet away.
The protocol here is to bow at the right, head and left sides. Truly a bizzare experience.

The next stop was the Revolutionary Martyr's Cemetery, more monuments to those killed during the Japanese occupation (WWII) or Korean war. There is as much anti-Japanese sentiment here as anti-Western. The cemetery was on the side of a hill with a huge staircase leading up through the graves to a huge stylized stone flag. Each gravesite had a stone pedestal with a lifesized bronze bust of the soldier. At the the top just under the flag was the grave of Kim Jong-Suk, mother of Kim Jong-Il. She was quite young when she died, only 37. After the cemetery we headed to the Arch of Triumph.. like the one in Paris, but just a bit bigger. It has the dates 1925 and 1945 (end of Japanese occupation).
Monument to Foundation of Workers Party, Pyongyang, North Korea

From the Arch of Triumph we walked up past the stadium to Moranbong park where they have a local funfair. We got to see normal North Korean families out with their kids enjoying the day. They were eating ice cream, riding on rides, etc, and we were albe to get some great people photos here! Some people, even kids, shied away from the camera but others loved seeing themselves on the digital camera screen. Some of us rode on some bumper cars and a spindly looking roller coaster. They also had shooting games like a carnival, but these were different from what we would have at home.. the targets were angry looking caricatured Japanese and US soldiers!

Kim Il-Sung's birthplace was next, this was some distance out of town in a parklike setting. It had a reconstructed house where he was supposedly born.
Bowling in Pyongyang
We spent awhile in the park walking around before heading back into town and the Juche Idea tower. The Juche Idea is the Korean philosophy of self-reliance, since they are cutoff from the world. It's a huge tower with a red glass torch at top, at night this is lit up with moving lights to represent the flames. In front are workers holding the three symbols of Eastern communism, the hammer, sickle and calligraphy brush. You can go up the tower in an elevator, it gives a great view out over the city. From up top I noticed a hammer and sickle monument some distance away, this turned out to be our next stop. The Foundation to the Workers Party was a circular monument with three fists pointed skyward, holding a hammer the sickle and calligraphy brush (Mongolia has the same symbols, and they have a similar monument too in UB, just smaller!).

Since this was our last night we went out to a restaurant to eat. It was already dark and the streets are so dim, surrounded by concrete apartment blocks. Anywhere else you would have thought this was a bad part of town from the lack of lights, but the whole city is like this. We ended up at a Korean barbeque restaurant, they had the grills in the middle of the table. Quite a yummy meal, mainly duck. After dinner we went back to the hotel, and went bowling in the basement of the hotel, they had three lanes. I guess it had been awhile since I'd bowled, I barely was able to break 100. 
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Monument to Foundation of Workers …
Monument to Foundation of Workers…
Bowling in Pyongyang
Bowling in Pyongyang
photo by: xander_van_hoof