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Introducing Pyongyang

It’s no exaggeration to say that the North Korean capital is unlike any other on earth. An ideological statement forged in concrete, bronze and marble, Pyongyang (평양; 'flat land’) is the ultimate totalitarian metropolis, built almost entirely from scratch following its destruction in the Korean War.

Every visit to North Korea focuses heavily on the capital. Your guides will be falling over themselves to show you monuments, towers, statues and buildings that glorify Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and the Juche idea. These include the Triumphal Arch, the Tower of the Juche Idea and the Mansudae Grand Monument, a rendering of the Great Leader and the Dear Leader in bronze to which every visitor is expected to pay floral tribute.

While these are all impressive, if surreal, the real delights of Pyongyang are to be had in the quieter moments when you can get glimpses of everyday life. A gentle stroll on Pyongyang’s relaxed Moran Hill, for example, is a great chance to see the locals having picnics, playing music and idling away sunny afternoons. As you wander the streets between sights, you’ll still be able to find a semblance of normality surviving in the capital. You just have to look hard for it.