Shan and I finally found the time to go in and check out Sinuiju
after what has been a very packed tour schedule and it was definitely worth finding time for!
We woke up early and crossed the bridge by bus. Customs had some issue on the Chinese side as they are not used to dealing with foreign passports. I was bumped from desk to desk but finally someone seemed to know his stuff and I was sent on through. There were many Chinese going through- most traveling on a special one time entry and exit blue “passport” which is for border travel only, as well as a fair few DPRKoreans coming over for business etc.
On arrival in Sinuiju we met Pak Un Ha, our English guide and the only one there at the moment. She was one of the highlights of the trip really and was great fun and constantly hassling me to drink 6 beers after I told her I was too shy to sing her a song while dead sober. She even offered to buy them! I promised her when they open two day tours I’ll give her a rendition of Kim Jong Un Jangun moksumuro sasuharira, so I have that to prepare for next year. She promised to buy the beers I’d need to build up my courage. She studied at PUFS (Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies) for seven years and although she’s shy about her English, she’s actually very good.
We toured the city just for the day- first visiting the Statue of Kim Il Sung in Sinuiju square and then the Revolutionary Museum, behind which shows the activities of President Kim Il Sung, General Kim Jong Il and Mother Kim Jong Suk during their visits to the city and surrounding province.
After that we went to see the new Mosaics of the“Tigers of Mount Paektu”- Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Suk, which were built for the 100th anniversary of the President’s birth last year. The drive out there also gave a great opportunity to check out the streets and it was interesting to see the divisions of the city between the port area, the residential area and the industrial areas.
We then went to the folklore park where I had a great time at the driving range, shooting, archery and also watching the traditional swinging (I hate heights so had to pass on that unfortunately) and enjoying the view of the city from the artificial rock hill. The “driving range” was very unusual though, the aim was to hit it very flat and low and hit a target. I swung like usual and ended up blasting two balls over the train tracks which ran just by the walls, though luckily nobody seemed to mind so much. I guess it was just a novelty to see a foreigner swing a golf club.
After that was lunch, which was excellent and far more than we could handle. We also ate with Mr Joh there, who was in charge of all the groups of Chinese that day, (though I’m not sure exactly what his position is) to discuss future itineraries. He was also very keen to hear our thoughts on pricing and how to fit into the market compared to alternatives like Pyongyang, Rason and the North East.
After lunch it was shopping time. They had a decent range of products, but nothing I hadn’t seen before unfortunately. We then went to the History museum which was focused mostly on ancient history rather than revolutionary history, ‘mostly’ being the operative word.
It was then time for the final activity, a visit to the Sinuiju Kindergarten, which is famous for the quality of its artistic performances- one of the students even wrote the template for the characters spelling out Arirang in the May Day stadium for mass games! The performance was amazing, and compared to all the other kindergartens I’ve seen it took top marks for originality- especially for the segment featuring tiny Korean commandos, South Korean rat soldiers and an American King rat soldier, who of course got taken down. The skipping, hoops and juggling also was impressive. Finally the teachers came out and also performed, with them giving a special rendition of aloha ‘oe just for me as the first New Zealander to visit. Unusual choice and sung in Korean, but a nice gesture nonetheless. They were very keen for a better song for European guests, but caught up in the moment I had no idea what to suggest!
After that it was time for goodbyes, and the waitresses from the restaurant even came out onto the bank to wave us goodbye, which was a sweet gesture. I’m looking forward to going back, and really looking forward to when they open a one-night, two-day itinerary, which will give guests more of a chance to get to know their hosts and really get a feel for things, rather than just seeing it..