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New Year 2017 started for me in North Korea. In Pyongyang, the capital, to be exact. The following (experimental) slideshow video offers a few highlights from the city.

Starting with a trip on the Pyongyang subway – the deepest in the world at 110 meters below ground.

Followed a night visit – with flowers and a bow – to the Mansu Hill Grand Monument where mighty 22-meter-high bronze statues of North Korea’s first two leaders stand in front of a mosaic mural of Mount Paektu, considered to be the sacred mountain of revolution. Flanking them are huge socialist monuments of soldiers, workers and the people.

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Traveling the subway in Pyongyang – North- Korea

The last outing here is an Ice Sculpture Festival held nearby the massive military parade ground in the downtown, and finishes with a few monuments lit at night and midnight fireworks.

Are you getting poor video quality? Change the YouTube setting: First press PLAY then click the “gear clog” icon at bottom-right of the player to watch in HD quality.

I went to North Korea by train from China, and traveled with a Chinese tour group of mostly students. There were 15 of us, me the only foreigner, but I had a decent North Korean guide/minder assigned to me within this otherwise Chinese-speaking group. A lot of fun, and some interesting scenes of North Korea were glimpsed … more later.

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While Pyongyang is mostly stark concrete blocks, the city also shows off some serious bling. Top: Great Parade ground – empty after New Year; Middle L to R: famous pyramid tower hotel that remains an unfinished shell since Soviet-collapse days; Massive palatial mausoleum of the last two Kim leaders; prestigious apartment tower block in “Science” street; Below: Old city wall gate near the riverfront in the morning. FACT: Most of the tour is a guided rush, where a lot of sights – and authentic city views – are glimpsed only from windows in a flash. Such is the nature of traveling North Korea.