My dog has no nose…. How does it smell? Awful ….

The title is a joke from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and of some reson I started thinking about it. When I traveled with the transsibirian railway this summer, I did it with Gadventures, an adventure  company that I have become quite acquainted with. When visiting Moscow , our local guide showed us one of Moscow’s secret rites.  At one of the subway stations there is a bronze statue of a dog, and you should touch it for good luck. So that is what we did…. When in Rome… You do as romans do…. An by the way… Embrace the bizarre  is one of the slogans  of Gadventures.

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-Ray

Debunking some myths…..The pictures that I was encouraged to shoot in rural North Korea

It have now been over a month since I ventured into the mystical and isolated country of the DPRK, or North Korea that is better known. I got to shoot between 5 and 6000 images on my 11 days trip that took me all over the land. The funny thing for me is that I have posted quite a few images on my blog, Facebook and Instagram pages, and people seem surprised that the images that I have shot is from North Korea. (since they look like they could have been shot anywhere) One thing that I have not shown is the poor side of the DPRK. (The part of North Korea outside Pyongyang) The fact that the DPRK is a very poor country is well-known, and is a fact that have been depicted before. But in the media you get the impression that the “poorer look” of North Korea is how it is all over.

In this post I will show some pictures that are from the rural areas of North Korea, and it is one thing that is very important to point out. All the images that I have shot I got permission to shoot, and I even got encouraged to take them. 

I have no reason or understanding of why they did encouraged me to shoot the images. The only restrictions that I got was to: 1) not take direct  pictures of soldiers, 2) of buildings that was being built , 3) And  images of the leaders (or Pictures of leaders) should be “complete”.  Except for that , it was like anything  goes. So I think is that I get a bit frustrated when I get read news article saying “Look at the pictures North Korea do not want you to see”, or  “This photographer smuggled out these images from North Korea”. So it is important for me to emphasize that every shot is done in the open, with my local guides around, and I did no attempt to smuggle or hide anything during border crossings or in other ways. It is also important to say that some of the images in the story is shot from a moving  car by and have used telephotolensens according to the rules and regulations of North Korea.

Hope you enjoy, even if the images is not of the usual happy travel images this time.

This image is from the east part of where it is an agricultural community. Bicycle is still the primary form of transportation.

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The next is a typical farmers village. The crops of corn are green and lush. But the buildings have something to be desired.

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Next image is from the city of Wonsan , on the east coast. People are busy, and do their things.

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North Korea  is rich in minerals and natural resources. Here we see some kind of mine digging from the mountains.

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Here we have another kind of mine, located by the riverbed. Notice the worker with the ox and carriage in front  of the mine.

 

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One of the major issues that North Korea have struggled with is the power supply. On our way to the east cost they showed us four new power plants. Our guides where very proud of them. And they seem to do there job.

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When it comes to buildings in the towns in the countryside they where in many cases quite old, and had not been maintained for a while.

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A more normal set of houses would often look like this.

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And a typical view of rural North Korea looks something like this. You have a lot of mountains, and in the canyon you will find small villages. As you can see from the image, only a little bit of the land is possible to do farming on, so they use every little spot that is possible.

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You can never have a little story about North Korea without touching the subject of army and soldiers.  You can see them everywhere alongside the road, walking, hitching a ride with a truck or something, but you never see any army camps. (at least I did not…)

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So the big question is of course , where are all the soldiers.?? You see many entrances in mountains, so it is reasonable that there are camps located in mountains. But you also see a lot of more or less “improvised” huts all across the countryside. It seems logical that there is a connection here….

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So that was a little bit of images from all over the North Korean countryside. This was just a little sample of images, and to make one thing clear. Or guides where very proud of  their country.

-Ray

 

Something totally unexpected: A prayer for reunitification.

During my visit to North Korea this summer, I did not know what to expect. And to be quite honest, I still have not grasped what I did experienced over my 11 days in the country. One of the things that everyone that comes to North Korea gets to see, is  the Joint Security Area (JSA), and the DMZ that I have mentioned in a couple of posts before. But the story I am telling now is something that never had crossed my mind.

When we arrived at the border, we got the normal “tour”, and the history lesson as told by “the victor”.

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But then the amazing thing happened. We got told that a Dutch christian group traveled around the world praying for peace, and they were given permission to come to North Korea , and do their thing. They lined up for their song, and I got my camera out. This is how it looked and sounded like.

I was of obvious reasons quite astounded by the event, and found it very cool. I really did not see that one coming. This is the lovely bunch.

gs3a7098 And to make the absurdness complete. Here is a lineup of the minister and his wife together with one of the high-ranking officers at the border.

 

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I have no idea of what the impact of allowing such events to take place in North  Korea does, but let us share an excellent story and hope that this little effort contributes to peace.

 

-Ray

 

 

 

A kind of an apparently peaceful war zone

This is a landscape image. But not just from anywhere. It is shot inside the DMZ between North and South Korea from the northern side. Technically there is a truce (armistice agreement) between the UN and North Korea, and that means it still is (even 70 years after the conlict) an “official state of war between the sides”,  so it is special feeling being in this place. We got taken to an observation post on top of a hill, maybe an hours drive from the Joint Security Area (JSA) near Kesong / Panmunjan, and got to look a little bit over the DMZ. The DMZ have a 2 km side that the North have, then you have the demarkation line, and then 2 km of southern part of the DMZ, and then you have South Korea. From the viewpoint you could see over to South Korea, and to my big surprise I was free to take as many images that I wanted. What you can see  in the image is villages and mountain ranges in South Korea, divided by green fields. Not to be mistaken. The lush and green fields are probably full of mines, small arms and other equipment like it was told by the army officer that gave us the tour of the JSA. But still, to be one of the most militarized places in the world. It does not appear to be.

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-Ray

Ekaterinburg, Europe meets Asia

When I took the Transmongolian Railway this summer,  I got to see a lot of very special sights. One of the many cool sights was that we on rail went from Europe and long into Siberia (that is the Asian part of Russia), and beyond. The meeting place of this is Ekaterinburg (many ways of writing that), and was one of the longer scheduled stops on the way. We got to leave the train, stretch our legs , and look around. Here are a few images from the place.

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The station itself was quite impressive in old fashioned style.

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And a lot of people preparing for boarding the train for the onwards journey.

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One of many very nice and fascinating stops on the transmongolian railway

-Ray

 

Beer party in Pyongyang

This is maybe the most unexpected post I have ever written. A beer party is something you think about in Munich or other places that have a Oktoberfest with german inspired customs and culture. And that is exactly what they have done in Pyongyang, North Korea. People need bread and circus, like the Romans said, and the North Koreans have set up quite the venue by the river, and to my big surprise. It was the first every such event , and it lasts most of august and it looks pretty much as anywhere else in the world regarding a county faire, or a similar kind of public party.

The  entrance was quite normal for such an event.

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The venue was packed with people. Mostly locals, and some tourists like me.

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There here some cooking going on.

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People seemed to enjoy themself

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The crew of staff and waitresses where wearing “stewardess” like uniforms

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Here is a little video that capture some of the “feeling” of being on a beer festival in Pyongyang.

I  have to admit. This is not what I had anticipated when I was i North Korea, a little bit of western culture.

-Ray

 

 

Mount Kumgang (Hiking in North Korea)

I have for the last 11 days ventured into North Korea. A country much spoken about, but a tourist destination “off the beaten track” for most. So when I was there, I got the opportunity to visit the Mount Kumgang, a mountain range located  close to the DMZ, and the border with South Korea on the east coast of the peninsula. The location makes the region  something that most tourist that visit North Korea do not come to the Mount Kumgang.  The region is taken to be one of the natural beautiful places in the area, and I have to agree. It is quite impressive. The limestone mountains reminds me of the Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. The mountains also have it share of old myths, and more resent history to it that was told to us by our local guides.  I used the possibility to go for a short hike in the mountain, and as you can see from my image,  the rain was pouring down. Still quite the sight I have to admit.

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-Ray

The Summer palace

The summer palace is the old Royal retreat here in Beijing, and is a must see when here. It is located about 20 km outside the city centre, but it is defiantly worth the time to get there. It is a wast area with many building located around a lake. The biggest one is a temple on a “artificial” hill that was made there. We where not allowed to visit the temple, but you get a good glimpse from the lake shore. Another possibility is to go  on one of the many boats that give you a little bit closer look.

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-Ray

The Temple of Heaven

Is one of the must see attractions in Beijing. It is a massive park area, and the most significant and famous landmark is The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests that is  large circular building. Quite the sight. Thought it suited nicely as a postcard image of the day.

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-Ray

Chinese acrobatics

When in Rome, do as romans do…. goes the old saying. So when in China it is time to enjoy som breathtaking acrobatics Chinese style. We where taken to a magnificent venue that are one of Beijings finest, and here are some shots from a spectacular performance.

The entire performance was a historical inspired thing, and a King  of ancient China was overseeing the performace.

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First of we have a performer on a balance board, that negotiated some plates on his head while performing. Quite impressive.

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The next one I chose is of two trapeze artists that did something that is one of the most impressive and terrifying stunts I have ever seen. Loved it🙂

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No Chinese show without some contourionists, so here we go…

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And to end this litte taste, I have filmed the last minute of a “cage of death” motorcycle stunt , featuring not less then six motorcycle stunt performers in a confined space I would guessed was made for just one. I can not describe it, have to be seen.

 

An excellent evening.

-Ray

 

by Raymond Hagen

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