Three days and counting. Friday we will be venturing across, yes, across the DMZ to experience North Korea!
The trip will be with my favorite Korean tour company. Just for the weekend and we will get some hiking, some hot springs and some entertainment (Korean acrobatics). We will be going to the Geumgangsan Diamond mountain area whose more than 12,000 pinnacles make up "the surreal land of fairies, immortal hermits, dragons and phoenixes".
As we are preparing for the trip, I can't help but question and then laugh at the laundry list of restricted items:
Banned items list and other regulations
① Mobile phones and other communications devices are not permitted. Cameras with telephoto lenses of more than160mm and binoculars with zooming capabilities of 10 times or more are banned. All electronic equipment must be checked at the Guemgang Condo before departing for North Korea. This includes all cameras, battery chargers, PDAs, video cameras, notebook computers, calculators & CDP, and MP3 players. (dang, I guess my x-ray specs are out of the question)
② Newspapers and magazines from South Korea aren’t permitted. You are allowed to bring personal reading material but please take the subject matter into consideration. (as if I'm fluent in Hangul and regularly read South Korean newspapers)
③ You must ALWAYS wear your ID (you will get this before you arrive in NK) around your neck. You will be fined if it lost or damaged. (I'm not worried about the fine, I'm worried about getting back into South Korea!)
④ Must carry your passport and ID with you at all times. (Duh!)
⑤ You are not permitted to bring alcohol or other food items into North Korea. (Fortunately, they make and sell azalea wine there)
⑥ Washing hands and/or feet is not allowed in the fresh water springs (fine is $15). Also, please be aware of the NO SMOKING areas and do not leave cigarette butts on ground. (stupid Americans...ruining it for everyone)
⑦ Do not take any natural objects(such as rocks) (Not even a small one?)
⑧ Only US dollars and credit cards are accepted. (You mean those funny looking green bills?)
⑨ There are many large rocks with engraving done by the government. Do not touch or lean on these rocks.
⑩ You may speak with the North Korean people that you meet, but you may not take random pictures of them, including pictures from inside the bus. In addition, please be careful of the conversation topics when speaking with North Koreans. DO NOT talk about politics, diplomatic relations, economics and other such sensitive issues. (Stick to acceptable topics like the weather and everyone's health)
I was also keen to find out that the hot springs have "contains trace amounts of radium and is effective for curing skin troubles, neuralgia, rheumatism, muscle pain, and has overall skincare and anti-aging properties". Radium?!? Isn't that the stuff that is intensely radioactive?
So if Kim Jong Il doesn't get me, I can look forward to the radioactive hot tubs. Awesome!
All in all, I am really looking forward to the trip. I'm sure I'll have lots of pictures to share next Monday.