Introduction to Pothonggang Hotel
The Pothonggang Hotel (보통강려관) or also spelt as Potonggang was built in 1973 as a joint-venture between the late Reverend Moon leader of the Unification Church in South Korea and North Korea. The hotel is well-known in Pyongyang for being one of the most deluxe and expensive hotels in North Korea with a high level of service and the best quality of food served at the various Korean restaurants located inside the hotel.
The hotel mostly attracts foreign business travelers and investors which is why Koryolink – North Korea’s leading mobile network have a kiosk and WiFi located in the lobby to provide convenience for those needing to contact outside of the DPRK with the internet. More on that below. The hotel underwent minor renovations in 1998 and major renovations made to the interior and exterior in 2016.
Pothonggang Hotel Location
The Pothonggang Hotel is a nine storey building and is located in Potonggang District alongside the Pothong River which is one of the most central districts of Pyongyang, the capital. The name Potonggang translates to ‘Common River’ in English. The river itself flows from South Pyongan Province north of the city, passing by Pyongyang Airport and joins the Taedong River.
Located on the grounds of the hotel is a pink painted church which allows private visits and pilgrimages from members of the Moonies.
Although quite small in size compared to the other hotels in Pyongyang, the Pothonggang Hotel certainly packs a lot in the building by offering a massage parlour, saunas, karaoke rooms, a barber shop, a beauty salon, a gym, a clothing store and tailor, and a supermarket selling imported items such as Japanese chocolates, German candy and Thai snacks.
There two cafés within the hotel, one located near the entrance of the lobby which offers an incredible Austrian styled coffee and another located in the rear end of the hotel for a more private conversation.
There are three restaurants in total at the Pothonggang Hotel. A Korean restaurant which offers very good local North Korean food, a Japanese restaurant which was previously staffed by Japanese – now staffed by local Koreans but still give very high-quality service, and a 180 seat banquet hall which serve both Korean and Western dishes.
One of the more popular facilities of the hotel is the Koryolink office located in the lobby. Here you can register for a North Korean sim card which will give you access to the internet or top up your existing account. There is also a WiFi router which is possible to connect to for 10RMB (Chinese Yuan) for 10 minutes. The internet connection isn’t the best in the world, it can be patchy at times but it is the cheapest way to connect to the World Wide Web from within the DPRK.
Pothonggang Hotel Rooms
The Pothonggang Hotel has 2 VIP rooms, 12 suites, 56 deluxe rooms and 93 standard twin rooms bringing the total to 163 rooms with numerous office space available for rent on the lower levels.
The standard rooms offer spacious rooms with two standard single beds, attached bathroom, with bathtub. The suites offer a separate lounge room with a large TV and couch, a reading desk with an executive office chair and a queen size bed.
The VIP room is one of the most expansive rooms we’ve ever seen not only in North Korea, but elsewhere. It offers a conference room with a large table for up to 6 guests, a large seating arrangement with three couches and a large TV, a separate dining room, a modern bathroom with separate shower and bath, and two separate bedrooms.
Previously the balconies attached to each of the hotel rooms were open aired and since the 2016 renovations they are now covered by a permanent fixture to help keep the rooms warm during winter and cool during summer. Renovations to bathrooms, the lobby, restaurants and shops were also made within the hotel. This however did take away a little of the unique 70’s charm the Potonggang Hotel once had and have now have modernised their accommodation and facilities.
TV channels in each of the rooms offer Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN and RT, as well as local North Korean channels.
Import Supermarket – the imported supermarket is one of the best in the country. They are constantly well stocked and hold a wide variety of special imported goods such as fine alcohol, snacks, stationary and personal care products.
Karaoke – Whilst the Karaoke room looks fancy, they don’t keep their English songs well up to date which is disappointing if you’re hoping to bash out the latest Miley Cyrus. Entrance is also $10USD.
Hotel Grounds – The hotel grounds are quite large and impressive for a hotel centrally located in Pyongyang. Take advantage of this during summer.
North Korean Internet – It’s better to register and top up your local North Korean sim card at the Koryolink office here at the hotel, rather than visiting the Telecommunications office nearby. Less crowds, very friendly staff, and there is a receptionist who can speak Japanese, Chinese and English.
Fancier than the Koryo Hotel – if you’re looking for a very posh stay in Pyongyang, I’d recommend this over the Koryo Hotel, but that is just our personal view!