North Korea – the most mysterious country in the world. One of the biggest defence budgets in the region but has trouble producing enough food to feed the population in most years. After years of famine, the country is now struggling to increase agricultural efficiency and be able to afford food imports when necessary. Knowledge is everything in modern agricultural markets and learning about countries such as North Korea may be just the edge you need.
This is possibly, at least for Australia, the first farm study tour to North Korea. It promises to be a unique and unforgettable experience. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to this country which only receives a couple of thousand tourists each year.
On the way to North Korea, we'll also visit the large Chinese grain production around Shenyang.
Fly Australia to Beijing (most flights will be via Hong Kong). On arrival we are met and transferred to our central hotel for dinner before enjoying a well-earned rest. Our North Korean visas will be waiting for us.
Today we have guided tours of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and other world famous attractions in and around Beijing. In the evening we will have a briefing on the protocols and behaviour expected of us during our visit to North Korea.
This morning we transfer to the airport for our flight to Pyongyang. On arrival in North Korea we will be met by our local guides and transferred to the deluxe Potonggang Hotel for check-in.
After dinner, we’ll have the option to visit the Rakwon (Paradise) Department Store’s microbrewery to celebrate our arrival with some locally brewed beer before returning to the hotel.
Our hotel has some entertainment facilities such as a pool/billiards room, karoake, bowling alley, shop etc.
Flight: Air Koryo Beijing to Pyongyang - Departs 12.00pm - Arrives 2.30pm
After breakfast, we board our charter coach and drive east across the mountains with a visit to the Simpyong-Gumgang scenic site and a picnic lunch on the way. In the afternoon, we will arrive in Hamhung City, only recently opened to tourists. We will also visit the Dongbong Co-operative farm where we will meet and talk to the local farmers and inspect their fields and facilities - including the on-farm kindergarten. We then transfer to our deluxe hotel in the eastern part of Hamhung City.
This morning, we will visit the famous Hungnam fertiliser factory before lunching at the Hamhung cold noodle house. In the afternoon, we will follow the eastern coast through Wonsan, to Mount Kumgang, the site of North Korea's only ski resort. On the way, we will visit the Anbyon Co-operative farm and picturesque Sijung Lake.
This morning, and for the more energetic among us, our guides will take us on about an hour-long hike to the Nine Dragon Falls. Or you can just relax at the hotel and enjoy the mountain scenery. After lunch, there is an option of a mineral hot spa before visiting Samil Lagoon. We then travel to Wonsan, our overnight destination, for dinner and perhaps an evening stroll along the foreshore.
Today (April 15) is “Taeyangjol” - or the “Festival of the Sun” - North Korea’s most important public holiday commemorating the birth of the DPRK’s founder and president, Kim Il Sung. Very special festive activities will be happening - we maybe invited to join in on some of them.
We will visit the Juche Tower before strolling by the Taedong River, crossing Okryu Bridge, and into central Pyongyang. Here we find the imposing Mansudae Grand Monument - two large statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il flanked by sculptures depicting the Korean people’s experiences during Japanese colonialism and the Korean War.
After lunch, we will visit nearby Moranbong Park, a beautiful location in central Pyongyang. Here, we’ll mix with the picnickers and take in the view. We’ll then visit the People’s Outdoor Ice Skating Rink, and adjacent Skate Park. This is a good (and unique) opportunity to make some local friends. We can then join university students, dressed in their finest, in one of Pyongyang’s public squares for a round of communal dancing in celebration of The Festival of the Sun. For those of us brave enough to attempt to pick up the dance moves on the fly, you can select a local dancing partner. These ‘mass dance’ events are the equivalent of our discos where young people can meet.
This morning we will visit the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state. We will view exhibits dedicated to their lives and have a group photo taken in front of the building.
After lunch we will visit the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. Here we will see a (North Korean) depiction of the history of the Korean War as well as a grand panorama of the Battle of Daejon including captured and downed American vehicles, tanks, artillery and planes. We will also visit the USS Pueblo, which, in 1968, was accused of being a spy ship, captured and kept as a trophy.
After breakfast, we drive south to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), the border between north and south Korea, passing Kaesong along the way. At the DMZ we will visit the Armistice Talks Hall, the Armistice Signing Hall and Panmunjom Peace Village from the northern side. At the Panmunjom Peace Village we will view the south from metres away at the balcony of the Panmun Pavilion and hopefully, get right up to the border with South Korea - even technically crossing it in one of the Negotiation Huts which are bisected by the border.
After driving back to Kaesong and having lunch, we will visit the Koryo History Museum in Kaesong’s former Confucian Academy (Songgyungwan). On our way back to Pyongyang, we will visit the famous Migok Cooperative Farm as well as the Kyeungsan Agricultural College of Kim Il Sung University.
After breakfast in the hotel, we will visit the Pyongyang Metro, the world's deepest metro system. Construction began during the 1960s and 70s, and the metro displays a similar grand style to its predecessor in Moscow. Some of the stations feature elaborate murals and mosaics as well as ornate pillars and chandeliers. This excursion will include a ride with the locals for several stops. We’ll then drive to Kim Il Sung Square, where we’ll take a stroll, and then stop off at the nearby Austrian-run Viennese Coffee Shop for coffee and snacks. We’ll then head back onto Kim Il Sung Square and visit the adjacent National Art Gallery, which exhibits both ancient and contemporary Korean art.
We will also enjoy a visit to the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren's Palace and hopefully be treated to a live performance from some of the amazing young singers and dancers. Next, we’ll go for a stroll down Kwangbok Street to the bustling Kwangbok Street Shopping Complex. Here, we can exchange foreign currency (euros, USD, Chinese yuan and Japanese yen), for the local Korean won, and shop for a range of locally produced and imported products.
This morning, we say goodbye to our guides and transfer to the railway station for our journey back to China. We will then enjoy the fantastic scenery on the ride to the border and mingle with some of the Korean and foreign travellers on board. You can enjoy a packed lunch on the train, or visit the restaurant carriage.
The train journey itself is only around 5 hours, but the substantial and inevitable border inspection adds to the total trip duration. After we cross the Yalu River we arrive at Dandong (China) and transfer to our hotel.
Our train departs Pyongyang at 10.10am and arrives into Dandong around 5pm (Chinese time)
After a leisurely start this morning, we will visit local attractions including Hushan, which is considered by many historians (but not all) as the eastern terminus of the Great Wall of China. In 1992, this section of wall was renovated and opened to the public. The wall runs for about 1200 metres over Hushan (Tiger Mountain). Later in the afternoon, we will catch the high speed train to Shenyang.
Today we will visit wheat and corn farms in this highly productive farming region of northeastern China as well as meet researchers at the Shenyang Agricultural University.
In the evening, we will fly to Beijing to allow time to catch our return flights to Australia the next day.
Overnight at an airport hotel.
Leisurely start to the day before our short transfer to the airport to check-in for our return flights to Australia.