China and the DPRK: Day 9: The shooting range, movie studio and the circus.

Lunch was served when we arrived at the shooting range. It was all pretty standard – kimchi, soggy potato “chips”, an egg dish, but something else was a bit special.

Pheasant. I kid you not. I felt like a poacher out of a Roald Dahl story.

We didn’t hang around in the dining room for too long because, hey! There were actual guns to fire.

I’ve never held a gun in my life. James and I decided to go halves in some bullets and we went for 50% pistol and 50% rifle.

After using both types of guns, I have to issue people with a warning.

If ever the zombie apocalypse comes, don’t rely on me to shoot our way out of it. That’s all I’m saying.

James was a lot more accurate than me.

Hard to believe, really. Isn’t it?

Mr Pak and Un Ha were both very good shots.

The army girls were running the place and their well-groomed selves were everywhere. James and I were two of the first to leave the table to go and shoot and I saw a couple of the girls were playing on what looked like old-school video shooting games on massive arcade consoles similar in appearance to the ones below.

There was a gift shop on the bottom floor. After I’d used up my share of the bullets in a futile attempt to hit the target, I popped in to see if there was anything tempting. There were 3 girls rostered on to work in there, but no one else had been anywhere near it. When I walked in, the three girls were busy mucking around and practicing dancing. They didn’t see me at first, so I pretended not to notice them and started browsing the shelves. When they saw me they broke off in a great hurry and proceeded to act very professionally.

I felt for them. It must be a very dull place to be working in, especially during the day. It’s not as if Pyongyang is swarming with tourists, after all.

Our next stop was a drive a little out of town to see the set where a lot of Korean movies used to be shot. It’s not used a lot now, so the guide said. He was a cranky old guy.

To be honest, this was a real fizzer. All we were doing was walking around empty streets looking at fake buildings. It was a bit dull.

Well, it was a bit dull until Un Ha started telling me the plot of her favourite movie. She was doing the translating for our guide, so when he’d talk she’d break off and translate what he was saying, then she’d pick up the thread of the storyline exactly where she’d left off and continued to keep going. I got her to write down the title on my phone and I found it on Youtube after I got back.

You should watch it. It’s deliciously awful.

As we were heading back to the bus I caught a glimpse of the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. It wasn’t that far away but it seemed like a long way, considering what we drove through to get here. I was sitting on the wrong side of the bus on the way in to capture much, but I took sneaky shots out of the window on the way back.

Apologies for the blurriness of some of the following pictures. I was in a moving bus with a window that has weird glass in it, judging by this shot.

We drove for miles beside what appeared to be a camp where literally hundreds of soldiers were involved in massive building projects. It looked as if they lived by the side of the road in pretty makeshift buildings.

One of only 2 or 3 dogs we saw in the whole of our 10 days in North Korea.

There’s another one!


This blue plastic was in front of most of the building works, but every now and then we’d be able to see past it.

And then we came closer to Pyongyang.

OMG! A cow!

Aaaand then we were back in the city of marble and shine, here to see a circus. The 31st International Spring Arts Festival Circus was on. This happens every year at the same time as the marathon, with artists from mainly China and Russia coming to the DPRK to perform.

Fortunate Frogdancer struck again! Front row seats in the middle tier, so we could see everything.

See the backdrop? It’s a picture of Kim Il Sung’s birthplace. All of the backdrops were patriotic in nature, which is what you’d expect here.

The acts were mainly acrobats, jugglers and clowns. The audience applauded rhythmically, like they did in the stadium at the marathon. Clapping in unison isn’t so bad, though. We had to pay an extra 20 euros to see this, so half of the group opted out and went to a bar to have some drinks.

While I was here I realised that I hadn’t yet taken a snap of a squatty potty for you. The bin in the corner is for toilet paper/tissues. The sewer systems in both the DPRK and China aren’t up to handling massive amounts of paper running through them.

You flush by stepping on the pedal thingy on the bottom right. Going to the toilet this way is supposed to be far better for your body… but gee it gives the thigh muscles a workout!

After the circus we picked up the rest of our group and we went to a barbeque duck restaurant where we cooked our own meals on a grill in the middle of each table. It was absolutely delicious. Then we went back to the hotel for yet another alcohol-fueled night at the karaoke bar. I pulled the pin at about midnight but some of the others were carousing until 2 or 3. I don’t know how they do it.

The next day was going to be an interesting one for a few different reasons, one reason being one of the most bizarre things I have ever eaten…


2 thoughts on “China and the DPRK: Day 9: The shooting range, movie studio and the circus.

  1. Gerald Durrell’s mother (My Family and other Animals) found bins for toilet paper not at all acceptable and moved house to one that I guess had a septic system.

    All the work you put into the post and I end up leaving a comment on your lav experience.

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