North Korea Travel Guide
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We know, we know. The Ryugyong Hotel saga has gone back and forth so many times now, we're beginning to just stop caring. In November, we told you (with some surprise, we admit) that Kempinski was set to become its daddy.
Well, that's not happening anymore.
Not that you really needed to hear it from us, though. As big bad North Korea keeps the whole world watching on the edge of our seats, the city of Pyongyang (or any other in the nuclear state, for that matter), is hardly a place major hotel chains want to be investing in right now.
A WSJ article states that Kempinski's plans for the Ryugyong Hotel (which, apparently, were never formalized) are "on indefinite hold." A spokeswoman for Kempinski said:
"There is no possibility to enter the market right now."
Of course, the world has bigger fish to fry than worrying about whether a pesky hotel will open or not, but we've got to hand it to the Ryugyong: we can't think of a single other hotel that's managed to cause such a stir for so long without a single guest ever having checked in, or even a single room having been completed. Let's just hope when this hotel does open, it'll be a sign that tempers have cooled and neighbor South Korea no longer has to worry about rogue rockets from the north. The sooner, the better.
[Photo: Ryugyong Hotel]
Better late than never, eh?
That must be what North Korea is telling itself after the announcement late last week—right around Halloween, in fact—that the world's scariest hotel is set to open sometime next year. Aaaahhh! Even better, Munich-based luxury chain Kempinski has been chosen to manage the hotel.
Given Kempinski's gorgeous properties in Europe and beyond (we're particularly fond of London's The Stafford), the brand will be adding some much-needed credibility to Pyongyang's 105-story pyramid-shaped "monster hotel."
Though, the execs at Kempinski aren't fools. With all the buzz this hotel has had over the years (as they say, there's no such thing as bad press!), they stand to make a fortune in sales. In the words of Kempinski CEO Reto Wittwer:
"I said to myself, we have to get this hotel if there is ever a chance, because this will become a money-printing machine if North Korea opens up."
Spoken like a true hotelier.
With hotels opening all over the world, including some of its most remote corners, there are few places that we never read about in all the coverage we see week after week. North Korea is one of those however, and we’ve previously said their Hotel of Doom, surely the world’s longest hotel delay, really didn’t have to open for us at all.
Browsing around the website of GHM Hotels to read about their development plans for The Chedi brand, we were surprised to see a reference to a hotel in North Korea: The Ananti Kumgang Mountains.
In case you had any hopes of visiting though, you can’t: the hotel is not operational until further notice due to the border closure between North and South Korea.
Hotel of Doom / Fugly Hotels / Hotel Openings / Hotel News / North Korea Hotels / Ryugyong Hotel / → All Tags
The Telegraph UK reports that thanks to investments made by an Egyptian construction group, the hotel is now readying for an April 2012 opening after having stopped work on the tower in 1993. Opening day will actually fall on April 15, what would have been the 100th birthday of nation's founder Kim Il-sung.
So what will be inside the world's fugliest hotel?
We can hardly believe it but after 16 years of neglect, the Doom Hotel in North Korea, aka Ryugyong Hotel, has finally been updated with some new glass windows at its peak.
Some background on this scary-looking hotel: The building was started in 1987 and planned to have 3,000 rooms inside its 105 storeys. But ultimately, the construction tab became to much for North Korea to handle and so it was left mostly abandoned for 20 years. It's never even hosted any hotel guests. But there are some improvements now being made. Reuters reports:
The peak of the 3,000-room hotel, in a country that permits few foreigners to visit, is encircled in new rings of shiny steel. Mirrored glass has yet to be affixed to the other sides of the muddish-grey concrete structure, foreigner visitors said.
The Egyptian firm, Orascom, is responsible for the face-lift but there is still no hope for this to be an actual hotel with real guests inside. Aside from the tourist restrictions, no one wants to give this building money anymore. They just want to spiff it up a little as part of North Korea's plan to become a "great and prosperous nation" by 2012. Hmmm....
Quite possibly the worst hotel in the world is the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. This is not because the hotel is infested with bed bugs, or has crappy service, pay-for-WiFi or outrageous valet parking charges.
Nope, it's the worst hotel in the world because it has been abandoned for over 16 years with construction on the 105-storey pyramid-shaped hotel halted in 1992. It's never even hosted hotel guests. Oh yeah, and it's in North Korea.
Indeed, it's been dubbed "The Hotel of Doom" and the "Phantom Hotel." And if you think it doesn't look so bad, ugh. Check it in Google Earth.
The Ryugyong Hotel, aka Dr. Evil's secret hideout hotel, never fails to fascinate us, even though it will more than likely never see an actual guest. The DPRK has actually struck the hotel from all official maps, and we hear many tour guides won't even confirm Ryugyong's existence. Ha. Yeah, the big, ominous, monolithic structure in the middle of town, that just so happens to be the seventh tallest building in the world doesn't exist.
So if Ryuguyog is a figment of your imagination, where do you stay if you visit Pyongyang? Well, more than likely you will stay at, Koryo Hotel, the second largest hotel in North Korea (also the second highest building in the panoramic photo above), and one of the DPRK's fully operational hotels.
While the entryway of a 30-foot wide jade dragon mouth that leads into an expansive lobby some guests have been less than impressed with the power of Koryo:
·This hotel is rated as 5 stars by the DPRK tourism officials. The atmosphere and the attention for detail however are definitely NOT up to usual 5 star standards.
·There is also a "restaurant number 1" and "number 2". One of them has a nice view over the river. Service is not great and not fast, and we got the set menu.
·There are about three channels on TV, the guards wouldn't let me go off the premises, and very few if any spoke English.
But you don't have to stay at Koryo, right? You have choices. Um, well, not really, according to another tipster:
You have no choice of accommodation. It will be at one of the two modern-ish tower hotels where you'll be one of very few guests and your fellow guests tend to be from places like Cuba, Mozambique (and other T.P.L.A.C.'s) and Libya. Makes for interesting post-dinner conversation.
Irrelevant - it's all part of your package, and that costs a mint.
[Image Via blogjam/Flickr]
The first time I ever visited HotelChatter was when another site linked to this post about the surreally eerie Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea.
DamnIntersting.com has posted even more info about this travesty.
The hotel, which was once found on city maps before the construction even began, has now been completely stricken from the official maps. Tour guides usually claim not to know where it is. Either a majority of the country is in a state of denial about the whole thing, or they avoid the subject for fear of reprisal. Since the government's embarrassing monument is visible from practically every point in the city, it's most likely the latter.
In the comments someone provided a link to this striking sat photo from Google Earth.
Bad as it is, at least they can claim as many guests as Las Ramblas.
· 2004 Awards: Best Villain [HotelChatter]
· Ryugyong Hotel: North Korea's Not So Secret Hideout [HotelChatter]
Now we are not saying this hotel is evil, we have no idea if that is the case.
What we are saying is if hotels were split into two groups, superheroes and villains, this hotel would be the leader of the villains.
If Dr. Evil was a real person, he would need a real hideout, and that real hideout may very well be The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea.
The giant dark monolith is 1,082 feet tall, has 105 floors, yet it is completely empty without a single window.
In one bloggers opinion the Ryugong Hotel is "the single most unsettling structure ever erected by the hand of man".
That same blog, Shape of Days, brings up a great question, which is why does Ryugyong Hotel exist in the first place? Certainly it is not to meet North Korea's mounting tourist demand. The hotel was designed to have 3,000 rooms, yet if every single Pyongyang area visitor booked a weeklong stay, the hotel would still be hanging a vacancy sign on the front door.
So why did North Korea build this not-so-secret-hideout-type structure? We agree with Shape of Days, gotta be national pride.
Unfortunately, looks like national pride gone terribly wrong. The North Korean's started this project back in 1987 and have spent around $750 million or 2% of the country's GDP on the Ryugyong Hotel.
· The Ryugyong Hotel [The Shape Of Days]