China and the DPRK: Day 7 – The Candy Festival.

A mark of a good tour guide is how they can rearrange the itinerary when things come up, so their guests get to experience as much as they can. I saw this in Europe, where Gigi saw the weather report for our boat tour on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland and quietly organised to share a boat a day earlier with another tour group. The next day was POURING with rain – we would’ve been miserable. Instead, we had a glorious experience that I still remember fondly. The tour in North Korea was like this as well. Tour guides have to be flexible and things can change without notice. Matt and Mr Pak were constantly on their phones making things happen. However, this was an added extra. They heard about the Candy Festival opening and so they squeezed it into our day.

This gaudy display is what greeted us as we stepped off the bus, fresh from the Planetarium, and ventured inside the lobby of the Candy Festival. At least, that’s what the guides called it, but it looked to me more like a cake decorating show, a bit like the shows I used to work at when I was a thermomix consultant, back in the day. It seemed to be a weird hybrid of Disney and Japanese anime. All of these figures are edible.

There was a swirl of people around us. Clearly, the Planetarium wasn’t where the cool kids were hanging out –ย thisย was where the action was.

We walked into a huge room that had display tables set up with all of the cakes and confectionary set up. Some of them were basic, like the soccer ball on the bottom right, while others were far more elaborate.

The attention to detail in these flowers is incredible. I couldn’t do anything like this in a pink fit!

Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of North Korea my mind doesn’t automatically slide to snooker. But then again, we’re in Pyongyang, where the people lead a far more privileged life than in the country. It was an interesting little window…

There were quite a few people there already. I took some photos of the people who were there, particularly the women. I was noticing the way they dressed and comparing it with the country people who we saw from the train when we were coming in. Lots of conservative skirts, court shoes and hair bling.

I can’t make up my mind as to what emotion is on this guy’s face.

A very pretty display. You can see that there were also a fair few men there.

This was serious business… a news crew was there to show the DPRK the highlights of the exhibition and obviously lighting is everything. Still, as I was watching a couple of late-comers fussing over the placement of their spun sugar creations, I couldn’t help but think of the people we saw from our train windows coming into the country as the snow was falling. They were working in the fields with spades, both men and women, and gathering around open fires lit in the fields, presumably to stay warm. We were rubbing shoulders with the privileged.

Are you noticing the floors? Architecture on a grand scale.

I took a sneaky shot of the woman in blue because she seemed the archetype of the Pyongyang woman: conservative attire but she was still breaking out her individuality with her hair decoration and her shoes.


These were the only dogs I could find. Unfortunately the middle one looks as if she’s suffocating under the plastic dome. But the next exhibit was worth coming to this place to see.

How’s this for a little slice of life in North Korea? This was one of the things that make you widen your eyes slightly and think,”OMG… this really is a crazy country…”

YPT had 2 tours going on at the time. Ours was the 10-day tour and there was a 5-day tour as well. There was a couple of British guys on the other tour who asked whether they could buy any of the exhibits. Apparently, you can. So they bought this one. This was their last day in Pyongyang, so they amused themselves by setting up the truck in their photos. I saw one photo of the truck advancing with the rocket pointing towards the Arch of Triumph. So funny! HOW I wish we’d thought to ask the question!

Men are either in uniform or dressed fairly plainly.

They grabbed Matt, our guide and interviewed him about the exhibition for the TV. Matt said later, “This isn’t the first time I’ve been on ‘Propaganda TV!'” He was speaking in English and Un Ha was translating.

I wish that this shot was more in focus. She had such a dreamy look on her face and the collar on her coat was gorgeous.

In an adjacent room, there was a cooking class going on. I took this shot for my sister. When I was a Group Leader for Thermomix (and my sister still is), I had to run cooking classes set up exactly like this. Well, except we weren’t teaching people how to make strange-looking dancing figures. Still, it was funny to see the exact same thing happening behind the borders of North Korea. People are still people…

Hair bling.

Shoe bling.

Not quite sure about the choice of shoe style with those white tights, but she still has shoe bling happening.

She also has a bow in her hair. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our guides came to find us and we went back out to the foyer. We were leaving Pyongyang to go out to the country and a school was expecting us. We were running a bit late because we’d squeezed this Candy Festival in. This was when we discovered that the things out the front were for sale.

James from Ireland felt a bit peckish.

Meanwhile, Matt was buying this for the tour manager’s son.

Marjo from Finland also decided to indulge.

Helen didn’t even wait for the bus before she inhaled hers! She said that it was not as sweet as our cakes. James let me try some of his and it was quite nice… like a cross between bread and cake.

Then, not 10 minutes out of Pyongyang, we were seeing scenes like this. It’s a country of contrasts, that’s for sure. But what I didn’t know was that I was travelling towards an experience that, though slightly unnerving at the time, is one that I will never forget.

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6 Responses to China and the DPRK: Day 7 – The Candy Festival.

  1. Andrew says:

    It is a little surprising to learn that North Korea is like all other Asian countries, with a huge divide between the rich and the poor, there perhaps not being so many rich in North Korea. I would have imagined the cronys of the government would do well, be it seems many others do too. I think I caught the archetype Viennese woman shot a few years ago.

    • Frogdancer says:

      Even the ‘well-off’ people in Pyongyang aren’t really rich by our standards. I’ll be touching on this in a couple of later posts. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Jamie says:

    You sure know how to leave us with a cliffhanger! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Frogdancer says:

    When I read your comment, I couldn’t get this song out of my head:
    It’s Australian, so you might not have heard it, but it’s, like, totally groovy.

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