Our Pyongyang to Rason train tour (in cartoons!)
In October 2017, Koryo Tours’ General Manager Simon Cockerell scouted out a Trans-DPRK train route, newly opened to foreigners, from Pyongyang to the Rason Special Economic Zone in the northeast of Korea.
In this short cartoon essay, we’ll look at some details of the route using cartoons from An English-Korean Pictorial Dictionary (2004 from the Foreign Literature Publishing House).
The first thing to know is that the train only departs on certain days of the month, namely the 1st, 4th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 21st, and 25th. To ride these rails you need to have some flexibility in your schedule. The train can sometimes leave days early or days late – this is as close adventure travel that you can get in North Korea!
Why are the trains sometimes delayed? Well, the train hauls cargo across the country and foreign passengers are not their primarily concern. This is a bit like riding passage on an old steamer or a modern day freighter. Also, some of the trains run on electricity and regional power outages can put them behind schedule.
If this sounds good for you, then on the train’s departure day (remember it may change!), then in the early morning you will head to Pyongyang Station, pass the waiting room, and through the entrance to the platform. Your Pyongyang guides will buy a ‘platform ticket’ and see you to your train.
After the train leaves, you are on your own. The guides stay in Pyongyang. This is currently the only way of travelling in North Korea without a local guide. Never fear, there will be guides waiting for you in Rason.
On the way, you will pass agricultural lands, villages, nature, and cities.
See I told you to expect delays! This one is not too bad though. And, well, there actually isn’t a restaurant on this train, so you will need to stock up in Pyongyang ahead of time.
For this journey, we take you farther than Chongjin. On to Rason!
And from Rason it is possible to travel overland to either China or Russia (Note: In the above cartoon, Sarah Palin can see Russia. Meanwhile a cowboy runs America. Circa 2008?)
And of course, remember that ‘good company makes for short miles’. Bring along your friends, or better yet make friends with the locals riding along with you!