We start our tour of Pyongyang with a visit to the Mansudae (Mansu Hill) Grand Monument, which is overlooked by two giant bronze statues. Our tour bus dropped us at Mansudae Fountain Park at the foot of Mansu Hill. Overlooking the park was the Grand People’s Study House, the National Library of the DPRK.
As we got off the bus a woman was waiting with some flowers to sell us so that we could lay them at the foot of the statue. We didn’t have to, but I figured I’d buy some as this might be the only time I visit this place.
The fountains in the fountain park weren’t turned on due to the weather being too misty. This was also probably because we were there so early in the morning as we had a lot to fit in. The fountains were statues of traditional dancing ladies. It was pretty nice, but far from the most impressive fountain I’d ever seen.
We walked through to the other side of the fountain park were the bus was waiting for us. On the way I noticed there were a lot of dragonflies flying around – which I was surprised to see in the middle of a city. The bus took us up to the top of Mansudae to see the statues.
Now, I knew the statues were big, but seeing them was still a shock. They were a lot bigger than I was expecting them to be. I mean, they were huge. Any pictures you may have seen of these don’t do them justice. The attention to detail in the statues was also extremely impressive – the textures on the clothes were amazingly realistic.
Those of us that bought flowers were instructed to walk up to the statues and place the flowers at the base. We had to approach one-by-one and place the flowers. After everyone lined up and we all bowed to the statues at the same time. It felt weird bowing to these guys, but I knew it was something that we had to do when we visited the country. I figured it was more about paying respect to the guides who were taking us around the country rather than to the Kims themselves.
We were now allowed to take photos of the statues. We were instructed to only take pictures that included the whole statue – taking only the torso, for example, could be seen as an insult.
Initially only the statue of Kim Il-Sung stood here, but after Kim Jong-Il’s death in 2012 another statue was added in his honour. I noticed that the faces of the two statues were exactly the same which I found a little odd. It’s almost as if they were supposed to be the same person.
After a few minutes what looked like soldiers arrived at the statue and lined up in front of it. We were told not to take any photos of them – anything military is right out in the DPRK. We meandered back to the bus, leaving them to do their thing.