This day was packed with celebrations and festivities taking place all over the country. We visited several sites which were considered important to visit.

The Division of Korea

Our second day was the 9th of September 2019, which marks the day of founding of the republic, also known as National Day (인민정권 창건일).

After defeat in World War II, Imperial Japan surrendered control of Korea. Following the liberation from Japan, the country was divided along the 38th parallel into zones of occupation by the victorious Americans and Soviets. As a result, the Korean peninsula was divided into two countries, South Korea (ROK) and North Korea (DPRK).

Mansu Hill Grand Monument

First stop, an important site famous for its gigantic bronze statues of President Kim Il-sung and Chairman Kim Jong-il. It is customary to bow and lay flowers here, visiting is optional.

The process to show respect to the eternal leaders was to line up straight, walk up making eye contact with the statues, take one deep bow and then lay down any tributes like flowers at the podiums.
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We were featured in state media (KCNA) since it was the 71st founding anniversary of the DPRK. Never thought I'd be writing that in a sentence.
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It'll be a rare sight if you ever saw a male who does not have short hair. Although you do get some styles that give Kim Jong-Un a run for their money.

We left the Monument and were now heading to visit the Monument to Party Founding. Another well known landmark of the DPRK to idolise the Communist regime.

One of the many glimpses you will get to see of every day Korean life filled with contrasting pink buildings.
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Mass Dance

The Mass Dance that occurs on National Day was one great spectacle. If it wasn't humidity and 30°C+ heat I would of joined in for a lot more dances. 😅

Students dancing in front of the Monument to Party Founding - known for the rich symbolism in its design. The hammer, brush, and sickle; representing workers, intellectuals and farmers respectively.
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Our guide, Gum-Hee, walking around and helping some of the tour members to join in on some of the dancing.
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I was on a mission to get some candid photos of dancers smiling and this was the closest I got. There was Gum-Hee on the left laughing, but that's not the same... 😕
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Although, the mood and music was melancholy - I wish there were more people to share this moment with. It is unlike anything you'd ever see or experience, and you'd be glad to have visited just for this alone.

Kim Il-sung Square

We paid a visit the Pyongyang's central square, Kim Il-sung square. The home to many of North Korean military parades which draw international attention for it's demonstration of prowess and military flex.

The famous square with everything but the military. And crowds. And locals. And life. This place was surprisingly empty and dystopian looking. There were markings of where the positions of each squad and battalion would stand for the parade.
They're also wondering if this photo was really taken in 2019.
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This is the first of many souvenir stores we would visit, Foreign Languages Bookshop. A good place to pick up books, stamps, DVD/CDs and posters. That's right. CD's. There might of even been cassette tapes in there.
Stalker shot of a local volleyball game on National Day - a real capture of what a day off looks like in Pyongyang.

We were then off to board a nice cruise lunch around the Taedong River; with a bonus entertainment hosted by the waitresses.

Floating Restaurant (힉당배)

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Funny note, this boat can not leave this area because it can not fit underneath the bridges nearby. So it is forever docked.
The entertainment provided by the waitresses was memorable, to say the least. An all-women band rocking out on percussion, keyboard, trumpet, and violin - with some very high vocal notes. So high I think I went deaf for a few seconds.

Unfortunately for everyone, it's the same performance and band every night. They're not exactly in a position to hire a new band every night - this is the North Korean reality.

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A very rare moment captured where the smile looked more real than it felt. Just some of the smiles by of the performers were down right creepy and robotic. And you can't escape the gaze.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience on the boat and the cruise in general. I discovered out many quirks - like the sale of Sprite - a sanctioned product of the west.

I normally wouldn't bat an eye but until you remember that, in this country supposedly, sanctioned laws being violated openly in public can be dealt with harsh punishments. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Juche Tower (주체사상탑)

This looming tower topped with a torch that is always lit. We were on our a way to ascend to get some panoramic views of the city.

The Juche Tower is made up of granite blocks - one for every day of Kim Il-sung's life until his 70th birthday - over 25,000 blocks. It surpasses the Washington Monument in height by less than a meter - which I believe is another passive-aggressive 'middle finger' to America.

We were greeted with a new guide near the entrance who had a very eloquent English accent. She had showed us all the plaques from dignitaries all around the world which - which were conveniently placed at the entrance. This is another symbol to the Koreans and tourists that the world outside respects them.

A bleak view of a pink concrete jungle of apartment blocks.

It is not uncommon for the city to have blackouts - their main sources for power are from coal, solar and hydra. It is supposedly even worse for the countryside.

A clear view of the stadium where the Mass Games is held - which we will be visiting later that night.
This is Kim Il-sung square in it's least amount of glory. As mentioned previously, the entire square was dead and this was a photo taken a mile away showing that.

Enough doctrine for the day, it was time to head into the park and start interacting with some of the locals.

Moran Hill

Immediately, this seemed surreal and not at all what you would think of when you say 'I'm going to North Korea'. You don't think of healthy green trees, hundreds of locals having a picnic, playing sports or jamming out on the karaoke.

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I had to put my camera away and soak the moment in. In short, we just walked around and hiked up a small path towards our bus in the end.

We also lost someone towards the end, which caused the guides to panic and running around looking for the person. We found him in the end but we then had to rush everything... like the meal below. 🤬

Korean BBQ before Arirang. Sad to say that we actually had to rush this meal because the grills were lacking heat and we needed to rush to get to the Mass Games. And also because we had to go pick up a lost tour member 🤦‍♂️.

Arirang Mass Games (아리랑 축제)

One of the most spectacular highlights throughout my traveling stint was sitting here at the Mass Games in North Korea. Can't describe the energy levels coming out from this stadium that night.

Despite what Vice News say, the Government didn't just open up tourism to see this event but it does fit the narrative. This is very much a demonstration of peak Nationalism.

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This is held at Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. The stadium is considered the largest in the world in terms of seat capacity but is also on the Guinness World Records for the largest gymnastic display of over a 100,000 participants dancing and performing in harmony to Korean anthems.
Exactly 17,470 people with flip coloured cards to make up in the background to show beautiful art pieces in sync to the story.
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Crazy to think that the stadium's only use is for the Mass Games - which only happens for two months in the year September and October.

The colours of the flag like many other countries, hold deep meaning to the people. Red to spirit in the revolution, blue for the sky, white for the purity of people and a star to represent revolutionary tradition.
Again. One thing you will need for this trip is to prepare seeing this face everywhere you look. He is a worshipped figure who has done everything you can imagine - more on that later.
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They often add in new additions to the ensemble over the course of it's running. This was one of them. They would also famously add in performances to please the Chinese and Vietnamese tourist crowd.
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You ever seen an Asian blackface? Neither have I till this day. Everyone in the tour group had that double take moment, the laugh and then the acceptance face. It's North Korea - I don't think they got the woke memo.
And there we have it. The mysterious Kim Jong-un who surprisingly hasn't appeared much in the stories from our guides, monuments or in photos placed in the landmarks.

The energy in the performance was out of this world. There wasn't a moment where you weren't stunned at the performing talent pool.

There won't be another opportunity to see anything like this on Earth and is something worth seeing with your own naked eye and not through videos or pictures.