Only in North Korea, I thought, could you have a day of sightseeing like this! It was the country’s National Day, marking the 71st anniversary of the founding of the DPRK, and our itinerary for the day had been carefully planned to allow us to see how Pyongyangites celebrated the occasion.
We had already paid our respects at the birthplace of Kim il Sung (Mangyongdae on the outskirts of the city). Later we would visit Moranbong Park to see locals barbecuing, picnicking, dancing and boating; and later still we would attend a revolutionary opera at the Grand Theatre, The Story of the Iron Works (yes, only in North Korea would an opera be set in an ironworks, I suspect!)
Dancing in the streets
But the highlight this morning was to join the mass dancing outside the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium (one of several locations for such gatherings). We were able to watch the colourful spectacle from the steps of the building. Many tourists were invited to join in too, and I had one dance with our young guide. I have a feeling I rather disappointed him in my slowness to pick up the steps; but as they were quite repetitive I did get the hang of them and got into the rhythm of the dance, which reminded me a lot of Regency era line dancing.
The local participants were uniformly (or so it seemed to my untrained eye) in command of the steps and proficient at dancing. They appeared to be enjoying it, while taking the accurate performance of the different dances quite seriously. As with so many things here, I couldn’t tell if they genuinely wanted to be here, dancing together, or if this was something they did because it was expected of them, like keeping the streets clean, and the grass and flowers well-tended. North Korea tends to have that effect on you, making you question things you would take for granted anywhere else.
Like almost everything we did and saw in North Korea, this was a unique experience. So when, for this week’s Friendly Friday challenge, Sandy asks us to share something unusual or unique that we’ve seen on our travels, I am spoiled for choice! But I think we all need something colourful in our lives right now. so I hope you will enjoy watching Pyongyang at play.
I visited North Korea in 2019