Thursday's HOT MIC
North Korea has just inked a deal with a Russian travel company to offer tours of up to 10 people "to show the travelers the multi-faceted life of this most closed of countries."
Guests to North Korea must necessarily be "checked" before their trip and will always be accompanied by a guide who will monitor the "adequate behavior of the tourist and guarantee his safety." Pictures of strategic and military facilities are banned and long talks with locals "are not recommended".
Sounds like a barrel of laughs. The "guides" are notoriously humorless, although they are supposed to be polite to a fault. To be on the safe side, don't take any pictures at all since "strategic and military facilities" are numerous and usually disguised as something else.
The most pricey tour, 15 days "full immersion in the culture of North Korea" costing 118,090 rubles ($1,997), includes visits to a farm, a mineral water factory, a Buddhist temple, walks in the mountains and an introduction to national cuisine. Visits to numerous museums to founding leader Kim Il-Sung are also on offer.
Other less demanding tours include relaxation on a beach, an aviation show and even a beer festival.
The beer festival was just recently canceled, which begs the question: what does North Korean beer taste like? Even if it's rancid slop, I'd suggest pronouncing it the best beer ever, far superior to western brews.
I once tasted South Korean scotch, which is a fair facsimile to the stuff they make in, you know, Scotland and far superior to Japanese scotch, which actually had a fishy aftertaste.
It is unclear how popular these trips will be among Russians who have already developed a fondness for visiting Europe and the affordable resorts of Turkey and Thailand.
Many Americans have paid for their curiosity about what North Korea is really like. Some, with their lives. Others enjoyed the hospitality of North Korea's prison system. I wonder if the tour company mentions the fate of those who deviate a millimeter from the tour plan.