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).
This picture shows the location we broke down in, which was fairly populated. This young boy saw us whilst walking on the road, and the sight of us bewildered him. He stood from a distance for roughly 10 minutes, just observing us, and to begin with, his mouth was wide open in shock.
After a while, we managed to dig out the mud from underneath the bus, and it was working again. We then finally drove to Mount Chilbo, where we stayed at the Outer Chilbo hotel.
I’m not all too sure what it was, probably mild food poisining, but it was feeling very ill and weak the following day. I was still determined to do all of the activities, though, and we went for a beautiful hike through the mountains, seeing gorgeous views all around. There were very few people around, perhaps only a couple of military trucks passing by.
We saw some ancient Chinese encryptions in the mountainside, written before the Koreans came up with their own writing system.
The scenery in Chilbosan was stunning, and it was something which one would never expect of stereotypical North Korea.
After a wonderful day exploring Chilbosan, we headed to an area called “Sea Chilbo”. We were to stay the night at the only home-stay program open to foreigners in the whole country. Luckily for the Americans and Japanese on our tour, the government had liberalised the rules only a week beforehand. This allowed them to stay at the home-stay as well.
However, it was in a ‘home-stay village’, about a kilometre away from where most locals live. The locals which we stayed with evidently stayed in much better accommodation than most Koreans, and we were told that this is the ‘average Korean’, which obviously was not true. Our family was very friendly, though, and practiced our Korean skills, as they didn’t know any English.
We slept on the floor, as is traditional on the Korean peninsula. Traditionally, Koreans created a heating system within their houses called “Ondol”, which is used to heat up the floor from beneath you, as opposed to radiators on the sides of the room. This technique is said to have been used for centuries, and our homestay family had it within their home.
We took part in traditional Korean cooking classes, as well as Korean wrestling, and volleyball with the locals. However, I wasn’t feeling too well so I didn’t take part in the sporting activities.