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 I took this picture, the man started to smile and wave, excited to see us foreigners.
Chongjin city was perhaps one of the most fascinating places on our visit. It felt very closed to foreign visitors, and we were quickly rushed between destinations. Interestingly, Chongjin port is regularly hired out by Chinese businesses based in the North East of China (where there is no nearby coast) to export goods from. There is also a Russian consulate in Chongjin, and apparently some foreigners enrol in Korean courses here, although I suppose you must have connections for this (and perhaps not any westerners).
I took this picture on the outskirts of Chongjin city, which seemed like a very industrial area. The little blue booth on the centre left was a common sight in North Korea, and inside them they would sell daily goods such as cigarettes, drinks, snacks etc.
After we arrived in Chongjin, we briefly visited the Chongjin E Library, just off of the main square. This visit definitely felt ‘set up’ for me, I’m not too sure about the perceptions of others in our group. Our guides told us that citizens regularly use these computers for research etc, but we noticed that the people behind the computers didn’t really know what to do with them. Besides, how much is there to research on the North Korean web?
Here are some pictures of the main square in Chongjin city. It was quite a big square, with statues of the leaders at the front.
After visiting the E Library, we went a kindergarten, where we watched a performance by the children. The performance of these 5/6 year old kids was spectacular! Something that you’d usually only see well trained adults do. Below is the spectacular video showing part of it:
After this, we were taken to the Soviet Martyr’s cemetery, where Soviet troops were buried after helping the Koreans fight against Japanese occupation. The cemetery was located with a stunning view of old Chongjin and the port.
I took these two pictures on the drive through Chongjin on the way to the Soviet Martyr’s Cemetery.
Here are the views from the cemetery, where you could see the beautiful natural setting Chongjin is located in. If you look closely, you can see a layer of smog above the industrial part of the city.
After watching sunset here, we drove to ‘Namyang Restaurant”, where we were the first westerners ever to eat there. Upon our arrival, all of the locals who were eating at the restaurant were quickly whisked out – this was strange. We had yet another singing/dancing performance by the Korean waitresses after food, before going for a swim in Namyang Spa, part of the same compound. It seemed as if the main visitors to this compound were more well off Koreans.