North Korea: The Streets of Pyongyang, Part VII

Taken September 2009 while driving through Pyongyang in a bus (hence the poor photo quality)

I believe this is the entrance to a factory

I thought the style of these trams looked very familiar. They are Czech made, and likely the same style as the ones I rode in Prague several years ago.

Koryo Hotel on the left

Propaganda vehicle (notice the speakers on the top)

Student group

Top of the Ryugyong Hotel

The only gas station I saw in North Korea

A Nissan Paladin aka Nissan Xterra. The only reason I really took this photo was because I own an Xterra.

Another Xterra

A very crowded tram

The Mansudae Grand Monument to Kim Il-Sung. After Kim Jong-il’s death they added a statue of him as well.

And that is the end of the Pyongyang street photos. All of them can be found here.

North Korea: The Streets of Pyongyang, Part VI

More photos from Pyongyang in September 2009.

Traffic Girl (because who needs stoplights?)

City beautification project

City park with playground

Metro station

More propaganda

Apartment buildings and propaganda

Taedongmun (Taedong Gate). This is the eastern gate of the inner castle of the walled city of Pyongyang and one of the National Treasures of North Korea. The gate was originally built in the sixth century however the present construction dates from 1635 (the original was burnt to the ground during in the late 16th century).

Surprise, more propaganda

The elusive male traffic control officer

Pyongyang high rises

North Korea: The Streets of Pyongyang, Part V

More random photos taken while driving through Pyongyang, North Korea in September 2009.

More propaganda. It is literally everywhere.

Mangyongdae Children’s Palace

Ryugyong Hotel under construction.

Decorations for the September 9th “Independence Day” holiday


Portrait of Kim Il-Sung on a building

Approaching Kim Il-Sung’s Mausoleum (Kumsusan Memorial Palace)

Another view of Kumsusan Memorial Palace

North Korea: The Tomb of King Kongmin (Hyonjongrung Royal Tomb)

Note: I’m trying to play catch up here; there was a moment in 2010 when I stopped really blogging about my travels. I was laid off from my job in December 2009, and as the months progressed I felt guilty actually taking the time to blog when that time could have been spent more productively, i.e., writing cover letters or taking paid writing jobs (and let’s face it, after writing all day, the last thing you want to do is write in the evening). As a result, this blog fell by the wayside and I failed to finish blogging about my travels to North Korea and China in 2009, and barely mentioned my trips to Central Europe and the UK in December 2009/January 2010 and Costa Rica in February 2010. Then came a multitude of temp jobs, the move across country from DC to Seattle, a full time job in the travel industry, etc, and before I knew it almost three years had passed since I had completed these trips. So this is my attempt to finish writing about these places in time for a tour of Southeast Asia in December.

After touring Kaesong, we departed for Pyongyang, stopping enroute at the Tomb of King Kongmin which is located just outside Kaesong. I found this drive to be particularly interesting because we passed a lot of small farming villages along the way, all with the requisite propaganda paintings of the Dear Leader and Great Leader. Strangely, we weren’t allowed to take any photos during our drive to the tomb, which was unusual because our guides had not previously imposed any photo restrictions (aside from the DMZ, of course).

I was actually a bit surprised we even visited the Tomb of King Kongmin, as it was one of the few sights on our itinerary that wasn’t strictly “North Korean”. By that I mean there was no propaganda or lectures extolling the heroic feats of Kim Il-Sung, so visiting the tomb felt a bit out of place. It just seemed like a typical historical sight that you could visit in any number of “normal” countries. Our guide didn’t talk at length about it and actually seemed pretty indifferent about it.

Also known as the Hyonjongrung Royal Tomb, these 14th-century mausoleums contains the remains of Kongmin, the 31st king of the Koryo Dynasty, and his wife, the Mongolian princess Queen Noguk. Construction of the tomb was completed in 1372, six years after Queen Noguk’s death in 1365. Kongmin was interred here two years later after being killed by one of his court eunuchs. Apparently Kongmin had gone insane, threatening to kill several members of the court, so the court members decided to kill him first (of course, they would later be executed for the crime). The whole incident was quite tawdry and would likely make an excellent script for a Hollywood film.

Steps leading up to the tomb area

One of the tombs

The “spirit road” lined with statues of military officers and Confucian officials.

Statues of sheep and tigers surround the tomb. The tigers represent fierceness and the sheep represent gentleness.

Surrounding area

All photos of the tomb are here.

Olympic Peninsula: Dungeness Spit

Our last stop during our extended weekend trip to the Olympic Peninsula was Dungeness Spit, a natural sand spit that juts out into the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. With a length of 5.5-miles, it is the longest natural sand spit in the United States. And yes, in case you were wondering, that delicious Dungeness crab takes its name from this area of Washington.

We didn’t make the roundtrip 11 mile hike, but you certainly can if you are willing. At the end of the spit is the New Dungeness Lighthouse, built in 1857.

If you look closely, you can see the lighthouse

View all the Dungeness Spit photos.

Olympic National Park: Sol Duc Falls

After hiking and kayaking for the past few days, we decided we needed something a little more relaxing, so headed to the Sol Duc Valley area of Olympic National Park. Our main purpose for going there was to spend some time soaking in the Sol Duc Hot Springs pools, but first we made a detour to see the Sol Duc River’s famous waterfalls.

There are several ways to reach the waterfalls, either through a six mile hike or one mile stroll. Since we had done plenty of hiking the day prior, we opted for the shorter route. The scenery did not disappoint. It was just so…green.

As for the Hot Springs resort itself, I can’t say I was very impressed. The weather was quite chilly, so the warm water felt great, but the pools were packed wall to wall with people (then again, to be expected, as it was Memorial Day weekend). The water didn’t seem very clean and the women’s locker room was pretty disgusting. I think next time I’ll stick to the trails.

View the rest of the waterfall photos.

Olympic National Park: Lake Crescent

Drive seventeen miles west of Port Angeles and you’ll arrive at Lake Crescent, a 12 mile long glacially carved lake nestled in the foothills of the Olympic mountain range.

We were looking for a place to kayak during our Memorial Day Trip to the Peninsula. Our initial research on places to rent kayaks led us to the Log Cabin Resort on Lake Crescent’s northern shore, however when we arrived we were met with a large “CLOSED” sign. So we next stopped at Lake Crescent Lodge, a National Park owned resort that features a rustic lodge surrounded by adorable little cottages. It was here that President Franklin Roosevelt stayed while touring the Olympic Peninsula in 1937. He later signed legislation designating the area as a National Park.

The only thing missing is a cold beer

Thankfully, the lodge rents kayaks (2 hours for $30) so we were able to spend some time out on the actual lake (although sitting on the shore was pretty nice).

The brilliant blue waters of Lake Crescent rival those in the Caribbean.

Attempt at self portrait in choppy waters

View of the lodge

If you’re on the Olympic Peninsula and looking for a place to kayak, or just relax on some comfy Adirondack chairs while enjoying amazing views, definitely check out the Lake Crescent Lodge.

More photos here.

Olympic Peninsula: Cape Flattery

After hiking the Ozette Loop, we headed to Cape Flattery. Located at the western tip of Washington state, Cape Flattery is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is the most northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States (Cape Alava being the most western point by a mere 360 additional feet). Cape Flattery was named by Captain James Cook on March 22, 1778 while searching for a harbour (he made the wise decision to not approach the cape any further, as this would have meant certain disaster).

Unlike Cape Alava, Cape Flattery is not a part of Olympic National Park, but rather located on the Makah Indian Reservation. Upon entering the reservation you are asked to purchase a recreation pass. The pass costs $10 and is valid for a year. You can’t purchase the pass by the Cape Flattery trailhead, so be sure to stop at the mini-mart in Neah Bay (or there are a few other places in town) and purchase it prior to driving all the way out to the cape.

Once you arrive at the Cape Flattery parking lot, there is a short 3/4 mile hike over boardwalk that leads to viewing platforms and these views:

Tatoosh Island, home of the Cape Flattery Light

More photos here.

Olympic National Park: Hurricane Ridge

One of the reasons why I love Olympic National Park so much is its diversity; the park is home to rugged coastline, sandy beaches, rainforests, hot springs, and glaciated mountains. You can surf, hike, ski, kayak, snowshoe, or just lounge on the beach. There really is something for everyone here.

Located 17 miles south of Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge provides amazing views of the dense forests and snow-capped mountains that make up the Olympic Mountain Range and, on a clear day, a view of Canada across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When we visited Hurricane Ridge in mid-May, there was still plenty of snow around the visitor center area. The weather up here is extreme; the area receives 30-35 feet of snow per year and winds can top 75mph (hence the “hurricane” name).

Wildflowers blooming

Some of the local wildlife, with the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the background

Nothing but trees for miles and miles

Near the visitor center

More photos here.

Olympic National Park: Rialto Beach

We spent two weekends in May exploring various parts of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and because the area is just so beautiful and quickly becoming one of my favorite places in the United States, I took way too many photos. The below shots are from Rialto Beach, a classic Pacific Northwest beach replete with barriers of driftwood, giant Douglas-fir trees, distant sea stacks, and, of course, fog.

The Olympic Range

I stuck my toes in the water. FREEZING!

All photos here.