Foreigners are not allowed to wander around without their guides in North Korea. But during the 70th Party Foundation Day, this was not the case.It was a national holiday in North Korea and locals lined up in the streets of Pyongyang to celebrate. A military parade was on its way and everyone was excited because the country was celebrating its 70th Party Foundation Day.
Pyongyang, North Korea
Pyongyang Misadventure aka #YOLOPART1
We were waiting for almost two hours already before the program for the parade started. I asked our guide which way it was to the restroom. She pointed me to the nearest building and I went inside to see that there’s a flower show inside. The comfort room is on the second floor so I had to climb the stairs to go there. On my way back, I took pictures of the flowers being displayed in the building. As I returned outside, I was surprised to see that they were all gone. My tourmates, my tour guide, GONE!
North Korean ladies wearing their traditional costume Joseon-ot
Instead of panicking, I wandered around and took pictures of the kids playing around but whenever they see me going near them, they would immediately hide. I then decided to go towards the building again and to ask the ladies wearing Joseon-ot if I could take pictures of them. They were reluctant at first but eventually agreed so I snapped away. I was trying to start a conversation with hopes of getting to know them but none of them understood English.
Suddenly, I heard people thunderously screaming. People were running outside the building and I rushed out to see what was happening. I then saw jets producing multi-colored smoke trails and everyone was amazed with the view we saw.
Policeman in Pyongyang
I only had my GoPro and my iPhone as my cameras during the trip (epic fail!) and I couldn’t use my GoPro since it was too far. It forced me to open my phone so I could capture what was happening and I was taking pictures non-stop. Had the group not left without me, I would definitely not be able to see this amazing air show and bring home these pictures. A few minutes after, I saw one of our guides and was told to transfer to another place where all the other foreigners were staying.
The German Lady
Foreigners are not allowed to take pictures of police/military personnel and their activities. If they catch you, they will get your device, and they will delete the pictures you took. Even if you do get away with taking a picture, immigration police will inspect your phones, cameras, laptops, and will delete the pictures they want once you exit the country. There’s no Internet in North Korea so you won’t be able to upload it anywhere else either. I went to the middle of the street to take a photo of two soldiers standing on an empty road and while I was there, I saw an old lady a few meters from where I was standing. She was around 60 years of age. We smiled at each other, and we started chatting. She asked if I was Japanese to which I replied: No, I’m Filipino. She said she was from Germany, and proceeded to tell me that two days ago, she woke up at around 5:00 am and went for a morning walk. She said she looked for her guide in the hotel lobby, but no one was there, so she just strolled outside for about five to ten minutes then went back in the hotel. Upon arriving, there were police in the lobby looking for her and they questioned where she went while checking her belongings that she carried with her at that time.
Pyongyang Adventure / #YOLOPART2
I was looking around the area when I saw a group of soldiers marching from behind me. I saw them from a block away and I ran so I could get to a decent place where I can snap them as they marched. I was really scared at that moment as I saw several people being approached by the police for the pictures they had taken. I ended up mustering my courage and telling myself, “Bla. You can do this. Just close your eyes and click away.”
Policemen in Pyongyang