Be Amazing: Visit North Korea

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Whether you're looking to glow in the dark, swallow a sword, quit smoking, find Atlantis, get out of jury duty, buy the Moon, sink a battleship, perform your own surgeries, or become a ninja, our new book Be Amazing covers all the essential life skills! This week, we'll be excerpting a few lessons from the book.

Visit beautiful North Korea—because this way, somebody might actually be interested in your vacation slide show. And by "somebody," of course, we mean the U.S. State Department! Despite (and partially because of) the nearly 60 years of oppressive and increasingly crazy totalitarian leadership, the "other" Korea does have some fascinating tourist attractions—from the natural glory Mt. Paektu, a 9000-foot-tall inactive volcano, to creepy-but-impressive Mass Games, a sort-of communist half-time show extravaganza with a cast of thousands. But to see any of North Korea's sights successfully (i.e.,not in a gulag), there are a few tips you'll need to remember.

YOU WILL NEED

"¢ A love of adventure
"¢ A desire to experience new cultures
"¢ A way to figure out whether or not your room has been bugged

Tip 1: PRETEND TO BE CANADIAN

canadian-flag.jpgGranted, it's best not to lie on your official entry applications—we don't want to get anyone branded a spy. But, as you may have noticed, the United States and North Korea don't really have the best relationship right now and this animosity spills over into practical areas, like currency exchange. North Korea is one of the few countries in the world where flashing greenbacks will get you nowhere. Instead, you'll need to trade your dollars for euros before you get in country. Even then, don't expect to be able to trade euros for souvenir-quality North Korean wan; the government is touchy about letting foreigners have access to local currency.

Tip 2: GET PERSONAL WITH YOUR PROPAGANDISTS

Tour guides are mandatory in North Korea. Every group of visitors must have two state-authorized guides with them at all times. And while it's handy to have a couple of Korean-speaking locals around to keep you from getting lost, they'll also be keeping you from a few other things—like ever having any contact with an average North Korean. The guides are there to make sure you stick to the Kim Jong Il"“approved paths. For instance, they'll undoubtedly take you down to see the capital city's immaculate, art-filled subway . . . but you'll only ride from the Puhung station to the Yongwang station. In fact, since 1973, this one-way trip is all most visitors have ever seen, inspiring rumors that the rest of the system is dilapidated and abandoned. However, there are ways to charm your guides into complacency. Reportedly, they're big fans of chocolate and American souvenirs.

Tip 3: CATCH UP ON YOUR SLEEP

If you like the nightlife, baby, North Korea may not be the place for you. There are, according to Lonely Planetguidebooks, a grand total of 3 nightclubs in the whole country, and these are reserved for the small group of foreigners who live and work in Pyongyang. No casual tourists allowed. This fact probably doesn't bother most North Koreans, however, as they're not allowed out that late anyway. Citizens have compulsory political education classes every night after work and only get Sundays off. By the time the propaganda schools shut down for the night, curfew has already kicked in.

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March 2, 2009 - 8:30am
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