North Korea’s most luxurious and first ski resort opened it’s doors earlier this year. We were one of the lucky ones to visit the resort and experience some of the facilities that was installed for us. Since we were already in Wonsan, there is no escape from visiting and even staying at this beautifully crafted resort hotel. This resort was one of the pet projects of Kim Jong-Un. The most awesome feat about it, was that it was completed in a short time of 10 months, followed by an inspection by Mr. Kim himself. This would mean that it would be one of best projects so far that the North Korean government had planned in increasing the tourist population. Kim Jong-Un was known to have studied abroad in Switzerland during his teens and some records showed his interest in skiing while he was there. This must have been one of the reasons that inspired him to come out with this fantastic project for the people to enjoy and also an effort to proof to the world that they too have international standards.
Designed by the Pyongyang Architectural Institute, the 120 room hotel has twin pyramidal towers with the taller of the two having nine floors. The interior of the hotel lobby was superb and it was extremely luxurious. The hotel had an overall look of a giant wooden cabin. We were so excited because the four of us wanted to quickly throw our bags to our rooms and ride the new ski lift up the hill to see the view. When we got our keys, we quickly rushed to our rooms and we were surprised to find out that the room looks absolutely awesome. We were supposed to change our clothes and head down to the lobby to get ready for our ski lift but the room was so beautiful I had to enjoy it while there’s still sunlight. They had designed the room to look and feel as if we were staying in a wooden chalet. It had this contemporary design to it and there were two extremely comfortable beds. After staying in so many low cost motels in the countrysides of North Korea with rationing electricity and water heaters, this was in fact a wonderful treat for us. The bathroom was clean and it had this state-of-the-art shower that I had been craving for days. The only odd thing about the hotel was that the coffee and tea box that was beside the kettle was empty. There weren’t any sugar as well.
After drooling all over our room and waiting for Fann to finish jumping on the bed, we quickly grabbed our jackets and went downstairs with Dione and Peter. Our two guides were waiting for us at the lobby and they led us to the ski resort which only operated when we decided to take a ride on it. We were the only tourists there and it felt like the entire ski resort and lifts were built exclusively for us. The ride up to Masikryong Peak took a whopping 45 minutes and cost €5 per person. The temperature was extremely cold, but the view was spectacular. I wanted to try and get as many shots as I could but my fingers were freezing. After we reached the peak, the sun was beginning to set. The scenery was so beautiful and we didn’t even feel like we were in North Korea. I regretted not bringing my tripod up and also I seemed to have misplaced my ND filters. I had to settle with handheld clumsiness to capture the awesome view that was in front of me. Since we went in October, there wasn’t any snow for us to ski, but the view was extremely rewarding.
We went back down to the resort when it started to get too cold and we had to prepare for dinner after a great hot bath. Dinner wasn’t bad. They served us a mix of western and asian food which was a pretty strange combination. We then toured the hotel to see what other facilities they had. We were surprise to find a lot of cool entertainment stuff there. There was a Karaoke Lounge, Olympic sized swimming pool, a gym, pool room, internet room, book store, and a very relaxing cafe at the top floor. It was very charming. Peter even had a good shave at the salon downstairs. The lady gave him a head massage that looked so utterly amazing. One of the receptionists thought that Fann and I were from Mainland China, and he spoke to us in perfect Mandarin. We were shocked and we told him we were from Malaysia. He was extremely friendly and he even asked us some questions about some Chinese brands which we never heard of. But we were glad that we got to communicate with another North Korean and in a language that we could understand. We were really amazed by the first class facilities and hospitality that North Korea has to offer. This was something that was not in our itinerary and it surprised us. Too bad we stayed only for one night and had to head back to Pyongyang the next morning.
Conversion of the Kalma Airforce Base in nearby Wonsan into an international airport is underway as part of plans to create a special tourism area with the Masikryong Ski Resort as a major attraction. Check it out the next time you visit the DPRK