When you’re on vacation in North Korea, you don’t get to sleep in. And really, how could you, when there are so many Kim Il-Sung monuments to pay homage to and ill-maintained roller coasters to ride? Thus, your morning in North Korea typically begins with a wake-up call at 7am (and 7:05am, in case the lazy U.S. Imperialists just pick up the phone and then go back to sleep), breakfast at 7:30am, and on the bus by 8am.
Our first morning in North Korea I actually woke up a little early (shocking, I know), downed a canned “coffee milk”, and opened the window to let some fresh air in. I was still pretty amazed that you could open the windows, considering I was on the 33rd floor of the hotel. Even more amazing, however, was that the city was completely silent. There were no honking car horns, sirens, or any of the other sounds you would find in a city of 3.2 million people. Just silence…until 7am, when the sound of air raid sirens began to echo throughout the city. Great. My first morning in North Korea and we are apparently under attack. My parents are never going to let me hear the end of this.
But Pyongyang wasn’t under attack, of course. The air raid sirens there basically serve as a city-wide alarm clock to wake up the residents and let them know it’s time to get to work and school. I suppose it’s cheaper than issuing every household an alarm clock. They wouldn’t have the electricity to run them anyways.
The wailing of the air raid sirens was then followed by snappy revolutionary music and several announcements. Since I don’t speak Korean I hadn’t the slightest idea what they were saying, but I imagine it was something extolling the accomplishments of the Dear Leader and criticizing U.S. Imperialists. Just a guess.
Here are a few photos I took of Pyongyang covered in a thick, early morning mist.
The incomplete Ryugyong Hotel
Schoolchildren practicing with flags