After clearing North Korean customs and entry, your train to Pyongyang finally gets moving. This journey will take a few hours, but for the first time traveler it is one that brings an incredible experience. The soldiers are gone, you are free to take pictures and now you have the opportunity to witness scenes of life in the North Korean countryside. Although people may prefer a quicker flight, the time spent on a train to Pyongyang is of an immense quality, so here is an outline of what to expect as you proceed on towards North Korea’s capital city.
Seeing North Korean life
One of the main criticisms of North Korea tours, always from those who never go, is that they believe everything is “faked” and “for show”, never allowing the visitor to catch a real glimpse of “proper” life in the DPRK. This very train journey dispels that myth. As soon as you leave Sinuiju, which by no means looks prosperous, you are surrounded by very humble scenes of North Korean life. The roads are not developed and in many places dirt, people are working with their hands in rice fields, cattle are being used as plows instead of tractors, the villages consist of traditional houses clearly without electricity and thus forth. Life is simple, undeveloped and tough. You can see that from a train window, meaning there are no illusions about what life is like outside of Pyongyang. This makes incredible viewing experience accordingly. You are seeing a world far beyond your own.
With these scenes of life. One may see enormous propaganda slogans and posters sprawled across the hills. The natural scene is beautiful. The Korean countryside is filled with incredible mountains and clean, unpolluted rivers. It marks an enormous contrast from the industrial, smoggy and crowded scenes of China you have just emerged from. It is a visual experience that provokes racing thoughts. It is without a doubt the most interesting and engaging train journey you will ever have.
Getting through the journey
Like the Chinese train, there is a restaurant cart situated in the center of the train. Here, you can buy delicious Korean dishes or tasty snacks such as instant Korean Ramyeon noodles. It is a tad more expensive than the Beijing-Dandong journey, but nothing to be overwhelmed by. This restaurant cart provides an incredible opportunity to meet, greet and talk with North Koreans, who are interested and curious about foreigners entering their country. This should make it all worthwhile.
One catch to be aware of is that there is a probability the train may be hindered by unspecified delays. This has happened before. Sometimes, the train may stop in random locations without explanation, for given amounts of time, resulting in delays in its arrival time to Pyongyang. If this happens in winter months, it results in nightfall whilst you are still on the train, allowing you to see everywhere around you is in total darkness. There is nothing you can do obviously but wait through these inconveniences. As mentioned in the customs page, take the time to socialize with your group.
Eventually, the scenes of rural life will slowly evolve into signs of higher development. Roads will become more thorough, bigger and buildings will appear and more lights will emerge. Pyongyang is near. As the train pulls into the elaborate station the train journey to Pyongyang is finally over. Now, it’s time for the adventure to really start!