I could dress this up in a million different ways. I could say it was a research trip, or perhaps that I wanted to check out a new product. But however I cast it up, the fact is that after guiding a tour to North Korea I, by choice, spent my own money to go back as a tourist, and with a Chinese group no less. Am I crazy? Well, I think the press answered that question a while ago. For whatever reason, I went to explore the overnight Chinese tour to Sinuiju City. And how was it? Sit down and listen to Daddy tell his story.
Cheaper ways to get a stamp.
YPT is famous for running the cheapest trips to North Korea (advert over), but for true country collectors, there are actually cheaper ways to get the stamp. Namely, the day trip to Sinuiju. If you wanna get even cheaper one, there’s an overnight version of the same trip that starts at 7:30 am and finishes at 5 pm the following day. Thus, I went at 7:30 am with my two chums and about 8:00 Chinese people. During peak season. And how to explain the kind of Chinese tourist? Let’s just say the kind that doesn’t have the passports or the money to go to Thailand.
On a plus point, I got to travel to North Korea by bus, something I hadn’t done before. As is standard for North Korea, our first visit was to the monuments to the great leaders – always a pleasure – but even better this time as I bumped into a cameraman I have worked with a lot in Pyongyang. We had a big hug, and then he told my English-speaking guide what a heavy drinker I was. I now had a reputation to uphold; could I handle the pressure?
The North Korean Street-Food Jollies.
The rest of the day was spent looking at stuff, with a particular highlight being climbing up a hill to some viewing platform. Obviously, that doesn’t sound that exciting, BUT on the way up the hill was a random bunch of folks cooking up a BBQ storm, including lamb sticks, Korean pancakes, and obviously beer (they weren’t cooking this one). A great surprise that I was able to receive my random Sinuiju/North Korean street-food jollies. So, more Gareth Johnson looking at stuff followed before we boarded our personal train for the one hour trip to Tongrim. Why Tongrim instead of just staying in Sinuiju? Long story short? CITS built the hotel, and someone gotta pay for it. To be fair the Tongrim hotel is pretty good, dinner was decent, there was a standard singing and dancing show, and they also had a bar.
Onto the evening’s festivities! Cheap soju, rum, whisky, and beer, and even better an outside area where there was more North Korean street BBQ! I upheld my illustrious reputation! Oh, and I wasn’t guiding (I was on holiday, remember?) so meh! I was allowed. The next day obviously resulted in a hangover, which meant I went for a swim. Dreaming is free, as Blondie once said. Swimming in the Tongrim Hotel isn’t; it costs RMB 50. The last day was spent travelling around by bus and train seeing various museums and a cosmetics factory. But most excitingly, we got to hang out by the waterfront opposite Dandong – a trippy feel – and I could even see the YPT pimp pad!
Overnight trip was worth it!
Is it worth visiting Sinuiju on the overnight trip? If you add it on to a great YPT tour, hell yes, but if you want to visit the country you need to do an Ultra-Budget tour instead. And the street food of Sinuiju and Tongrim? Pretty damned good, if you like lamb BBQ.
Gareth Johnson is the founder of Young Pioneer Tours, a published writer, and all round entrepreneur. He enjoys street food, and encourage others to get paid to travel the world.