On the morning of our fifth day in Pyongyang, we were back on the bus headed to the Pyongyang Airport to catch our return flight to Beijing. Of course, we were running late. The majority of our group was typically on time but there were always a few laggards, so we arrived at Sunan International Airport shortly before 8:30am for a 9:00am flight.
Despite the fact that there were only three flights that day, check-in was a bit chaotic; we hurriedly filled out the customs forms and waited for the guards to return our cell phones, which had been kept under lock and key at the airport since we had arrived in Pyongyang. We also waited for our guides to return our passports, which we were required to surrender to them when we arrived in North Korea.
After finally checking-in and receiving our boarding passes, we headed straight to the security check, which meant we had zero time to enjoy the airport’s only restaurant or make last minute purchases of books by the Dear Leader and Great Leader (basically the only souvenirs for sale) at the small gift shop. As to be expected, there was a long line at security and 9am was quickly approaching. Surely our plane wouldn’t leave without our group and leave us stranded in Pyongyang for a few more days?
The Kims are, of course, inescapable.
The security check actually went by rather quickly, as the North Koreans don’t make you take your shoes off or put all of your liquids in a little baggie like the TSA does. I guess if you are a member of the “Axis of Evil” you don’t really have to worry about all that stuff.
After the security check came passport control. Typically, if you enter a country on a visa, this is when you would receive an exit stamp, but we were on a group visa that was in the possession of our tour leader, so there was no visa in our passport to stamp, and thus no coveted DPRK passport stamp. Some of our group members politely asked, or begged the officers to stamp their passport, but their pleas were met by a head shake. So, I exited North Korea with absolutely no official record of having visited the country, just 1,500 photos and a copy of “The Eternal Sun of Mankind”.
Our ride back to Beijing
Air Koryo fleet
Heading to the runway
The in-flight meal – the infamous Air Koryo burger. Yes, it tastes as awful as it looks.
The flight back was uneventful, although quite uncomfortable. The seating was incredibly cramped and the cabin temperature seemed to be 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I dozed off intermittently, glad to be back in possession of my iPhone so that I could listen to music that had nothing to do with the Great Leader.
Goodbye, North Korea!
The rest of the photos are here.