Indeed some might be puzzled by the cover image of this Bradt publication by Robert Willoughby, as it shows two smiling kids of North Korean origin.
This alone may leave people pondering questions such as does tourism exist in North Korea? Do the locals live a happy life?
As a starting point it is important to note that officially North Korea is known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and should you visit the country the last thing you want to do is insult the key personnel by misstating the state’s official name.
This is Bradt’s third edition of the North Korea guidebook and it remains the standalone guide for the country.
Whilst it is well documented that North Korea is far from being truly democratic, Robert Willoughby also wishes to show what the country’s tourist trail can offer.
It is all too trivial to just merely repeat what other media outlets depict North Korea to be, i.e. a country run by a brutal regime that is somehow allowed to exist in the 21st century.
The positive aspect is that North Korea is opening its doors up to tourism and albeit at a pedantically cautious rate, this guide covers key sections across a plethora of regions throughout the country, outlining what there is to do and where to eat and stay.
Robert Willoughby is keen to list the ground rules and history of North Korea from the outset so not to mislead the readers into thinking that he is overlooking key issues associated with visiting the country.
The maps provided throughout the book are very informative and outline the fascinating topography of the country and its surrounding borders.
The most striking feature of North Korea’s map is the de-militarised zone that serves as a buffer zone from South Korea (also known as The Republic of Korea).
The Cult of Kims (as they are commonly known) who have governed the country throughout its history is well documented and their presence throughout the country is never understated, whether it be in the form of gargantuan public statues or portraits in public halls.
As a general point, when something is so secretive there is a curiosity to want to know more and suddenly the fascination subconsciously grows to yearn for more details.
Indeed, this is the perfect incentive to visit North Korea and truly find out for yourself what experiences it can give you as a tourist, not least the colourful images in the form of the Mass Games.
Furthermore, Robert Willoughby wants to provide the readers with as many points of interest throughout the various towns or cities, even if key essentials such as contact information and addresses of restaurants are missing. Indeed, not all places in North Korea are open to tourists particularly outside of the capital Pyongyang.
The lure of this Bradt publication is the fact that it illustrates that the country of North Korea does exist, has its own identity, and like its neighbours China and Russia, it has fine sites of nature on view throughout. Prime examples include Kuryong Waterfalls and Paektu Mountain.
Robert Willoughby is clear and concise with his analysis of the country and its people. Indeed, should you wish to visit North Korea you will need to be accompanied by guides throughout your stay. However, it is often the case in travelling that uncertainty can be tantamount to unrivalled excitement.
To say you have been to the most secretive country in the world presents a big ‘wow’ factor and a sense of pride as you add another tick in your travel bucket list.
Therefore start your journey to North Korea by purchasing the Bradt guide. Indeed, travelling is the best form of education and your education of North Korea starts with Robert Willoughby.
The guide retails at £16.99 and suffice to say that for every penny invested in the book you will come to know a new fact about the country.