The March 8th Hotel,
Sariwon | North Korea
Travel Guide

Sariwon's enigmatic hotel named for International Women's Day.

The March 8th Hotel

So I called up the captain / 'Please bring me my wine' / He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine.' -The Eagles, 'Hotel California'

It is a common misunderstanding that there is only one hotel where foreigners can stay in Pyongyang. There are at more like 13-15, depending on who you are! The city of Sariwon, the provincial seat of North Hwanghae Province, however, is a one-hotel town (for now). Located just about an hour south of Pyongyang on the plains of Chaeryong, many foreign visitors never set foot in this mid-sized city, let alone spend the night.

Yet the great majority of visitors to the DPRK do end up passing by on the highway on their way to Kaesong and the DMZ. This is a shame as Sariwon has its own distinct atmosphere, with its many pastel colored apartments, historic sights, and agro-industrial infrastructure rising from the flat land. Sariwon is also home to one of the most enigmatic hotels in North Korea: The March 8th Hotel (3.8려관 | 3.8旅館).

Indeed, today is March 8th, otherwise known as 'International Women's Day'. Happy International Women's Day to our readers, by the way! The hotel itself is classified as third-class — most other provincial hotels where foreigners stay are rated as second class — and has 24 rooms available. The rooms are actually quite comfy and equipped with electric blankets in winter. While the remodeled exterior appearance of the hotel is uncharacteristically modest for colorful Sariwon, but the interior decorating is something else.

Hotels of North Korea Award: Best Interior Decorating

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Upon entry to the hotel lobby, one first notices the large wall paintings, one of which depicts an imagined meeting of foreign visitors, decked out in their traditional dress to visit Korea. The other wall paintings are of famous Korean scenery in the region. One then slowly becomes aware of the eccentric furnishings all about lobby and dining hall. Ornate grandfather clocks, pseudo-baroque armchairs, and pseudo-classical sculptures, all of which seem entirely out of place and appear as if they have materialised at random from some kind of space-time distortion with poor tastes.

Their actual origin is, as for most things, is pretty mundane. A South Korean furniture magnate, presumably with ancestral ties to the Sariwon region, invested in the hotel and helped endow the place with his peculiar tastes. Not all of the decor comes from afar. A yellow marble, mined in nearby counties, adorns the washrooms.

Look at that furniture

The bookstore in the lobby is excellent and has many rare books, long ago sold out at other hotels about the country more frequented by visitors. The building next door has a ping-pong room.

The food is also pretty good, and having lunch in Sariwon is a good way to see the place if you do not have time to spend the night. The ability to spend the night in Sariwon allows for much more in-depth and comprehensive exploration of the DPRK's southwestern region.

Yet the days of the March 8th Hotel's monopoly on the Sariwon tourist market may soon be over. A new hotel is under construction at the entrance to nearby Mt. Jongbang. Will foreigners be allowed to stay there? Here at Hotels of North Korea, we still can't wait to find out.

Hotels of North Korea Award: Best Interior Decorating

The Dining Hall

You can stay at the March 8th Hotel on a custom private tour in North Korea. Where else can you stay in the DPRK? Download Koryo Tours' 75-page guide to travel in North Korea (it's free! Yay!) and has descriptions of all the fascinating hotels in the country open to foreign visitors.

This blog was originally posted on 8 March 2017.


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