With YPT’s Troy Collings embarking on our second Pyongyang Korean Language Study Tour for an entire month of intensive study in Pyongyang, here’s part three of his updates on this unique way to experience the DPRK.
Going to Mt Paektu
This week, most of the group took a couple of days off class to take advantage of a unique opportunity to join our Victory Day & Mt Paektu group, flying up to Samjiyon County to visit Mt Paektu (also sometimes spelled as Mt. Baekdu and known in China as Changbai Mountain.
We flew up in an Antonov An-24 turboprop plane which oddly enough had a home air conditioner installed at the front of the cabin. While we waited on the tarmac to take off the plane was quite hot with the safety cards being used primarily as fans. However, once we got underway, the original built-in air con came on and it was much more comfortable. That being said, it was sad to see the one they’d installed up front go to waste.
We arrived at Samjiyon to beautiful weather but by the time we drove up to the mountain, heavy rain had blown in and visibility was at zero. We put our hopes on tomorrow and went to visit the Paektusan Secret Base Camp, Rimyongsu Waterfall and the Samjiyon Grand Monument in front of Samjiyon Lake, a stunning monument consisting of 84 bronze figures, a mini Juche Tower and a 15 metre high statue of a young General Kim Il Sung.
The town is currently undergoing a massive reconstruction plan with the aim being a model mountain town for other counties with similar geography to aspire to. Construction was everywhere as were trucks and labourers. The aim is to finish the site in time for Party Foundation Day this year, so next year’s trip to Mt Paektu should have a broader itinerary than is currently possible.
We then checked in to the Begabong Hotel where we had dinner and potatoes cooked on an open fire, military style. The next day we headed to Mt Paektu again, where fortunately the weather was much better than yesterday. We hiked up to the summit via a paved road so it’s not a difficult walk, though it’s also possible to hitch a ride with locals in a smaller vehicle if need be for a small fee. (Big buses and trucks aren’t allowed to take the road up).
At the summit we met lots of friendly locals and after taking lots of photos and enjoying the view for a while we headed back to the bus and onwards to the airport for the flight home. Class is still quite full on so it’s back to the books for our group!