After a fantastic hike throughout Chilbosan area in the morning, through forests I found fairly similar to those in the UK, we got back on the bus to go to a city called Kyongsong, also spelled Gyongsong, which is nearby Chongjin, perhaps an hour driving.
Our journey to Kyongsong was definitely the main highlight for me during that day. Passing by fields, mountains, and regular North Koreans going about their daily lives. Especially in the Chilbosan area, the little villages which we passed were stunningly gorgeous, like the pictures below:
We had a gorgeous bus journey from Chongjin city to Mount Chilbo (Chilbosan), one of North Korea’s sacred mountains. We passed lush greenery, dramatic cliffs, and through beautiful old villages.
The picture above shows the beautiful scenery which we bus passed.
The trip to Mount Chilbo was meant to take roughly four hours, including a short stop at another revolutionary site, but our bus broke down in the countryside, delaying us. To be honest, I didn’t mind that we broke down, as it allowed us to see a part of North Korea up close that foreigners normally wouldn’t be able to see. We were stuck in between two villages, and there were loads of locals passing by. They reacted to our presence rather strangely (they definitely weren’t used to seeing foreigners).
After spending a night in Hoeryong city, we stopped by a school on the way to Chongjin. It was, of course, one of the better schools in the area, if not the best, yet is was still a functioning school. Apparently, English lessons are mandatory in the North Korean curriculum. I’m not entirely sure how true that is, yet if it is true, they are obviously not the best at teaching it. In fact, we met a couple of English teachers who struggled to speak it themselves.
After our school visit, we had a very interesting drive to Chongjin city. Driving on the way to Chongjin I managed to take some fantastic pictures from the bus, depicting everyday life in North Hamgyong province. We passed through some very poor looking villages and people.
After crossing the border into North Korea from Tumen, China, we were ready to go sightseeing. Today, we were to visit Namyang, Wangjaesan and Hoeryong city, in North Korea’s North Hamgyong Province. We met our two North Korean guides, Mr Lee and Mr Kim, at the border, and they both seemed very friendly. We drove for no more than two minutes after crossing the border before reaching the tourist restaurant and shop in Namyang town. The tourist restaurant appeared to be solely used for Chinese day-trippers and our Western tour group was a rare sight.
After a great day in Beijing, our 1pm train was to take us on a 25 hour journey into China’s Jilin province in the north east of the country, ending up in Tumen city, on the North Korean border.
This area of China is really interesting, as it’s part of an autonomous region called “Yanbian Korean Autonomous Region”, where a large portion of the population are ethnic Koreans, who speak Korean, rather than Chinese, as a first language. Being so close to the border with Russia as well, a lot of the sign posts and restaurants are written in 3 languages: Korean, Chinese and Russian. This part of China is regularly referred to as the “3rd Korea”, which most people do not know about.