Yanggakdo Hotel is situated on an island in the Taedong River which flows through the capital, Pyongyang. There are great views across Pyongyang but no comment needs to be made about location because it is irrelevant - visitors to the DPRK are not at liberty to wander freely and are ferried to and from the hotel and all places in between by their designated bus and with their designated guides.
The hotel is large - 43 floors - but I cannot envisage a time when all rooms are occupied. It has a revolving restaurant on the top floor but there was never an occasion where we could use this.
We travelled as a family (2 adults, 2 children) and were given a huge suite on the 42nd floor. We did not ever see any other guests on this floor. The suite comprised of an entrance hall, 3 bathrooms (2 of which were en suite), 2 good sized, comfortable bedrooms and a large living room.
The hotel is very clean and comfortable. You will not really have many causes to encounter staff, save the waitresses in the restaurants and the elevator attendants, but they are all smiley.
There were dressing gowns in the hotel room and there was a TV (whilst we barely had time in the hotel during our stay our children did manage to watch a North Korean cook programme!). One day a pair of socks and a t.shirt accidentally got placed on top of the laundry bag - the items were washed and back with us by the time we returned to the hotel room that evening. The bill nearly gave me a heart attack until I realised it was in the Korean local currency (everything else in the hotel is in Euros or Yuan). So, should you need anything laundered... I recommend here as being a good place to get it done!
There are several restaurants in the hotel. The main restaurant which is relatively Western which is where all tour guests eat breakfast and dinner. There is also a Korean restaurant which our guide organised for us to eat in one night as a treat... I would not recommend it - whether you got food or not seemed to be a lottery! I am not really sure how you would go about trying out one of the other hotel restaurants if your guide does not organise it because meals are included in the package and language is a barrier, also.
There are shops inside the hotel. One sells books, a few postcards, badges etc... (the prices for these items are the same in all shops that tourists are allowed to go shopping in!). Whilst we were there the Mass Games were on and the hotel shop had a couple of hand painted posters.
Another shop sells packets of tea, bottles of water etc... NB you take your items to the lady at the counter who writes a receipt. You leave your items, take the receipt & pay and then take the receipt with proof of payment back to the original counter where you can then collect your items!
There is a bar and the North Korean draft beer they have is very good (wine was not available). The bar is divided into cubicles and each tour group has a meeting in one of these on their first evening to go through the trip's itinerary. Payment is in Yuan at the entrance of the bar.
Downstairs there is bowling, a swimming pool and apparently other entertainment and facilities. However, our itinerary was so full packed that by the time we returned to the hotel of a night we were all ready to sleep... and there is no time for messing around in the morning! (we were 2 minutes late for our itinerary meeting on the first time and this warranted a telephone call to our hotel room to advise us that we were anticipated downstairs!!! NB if you are staying on a top floor you need to leave time for the lift to stop at almost every floor on its way down... getting a straight run is nigh on impossible)
There is a fish tank with a very sad turtle :-(
There are cameras all over the hotel... who knows what purpose they are for but, rest assured, despite being allowed to wander freely around the hotel, by the time (no matter how early in the morning) you get down into the hotel lobby, one of your guides will already be there waiting for you!
Alarm calls for the morning can be arranged through your guide but mobile phones can be taken into the DPRK now so we used those and did not therefore use this service. I would, however, anticipate the service to be efficient and very punctual!
It was, overall, a very comfortable stay and there were no power cuts.
(the windows in the hotel rooms slide open... worth doing around 6am to hear the eerie music pumped through the empty streets of Pyongyang).
This is where most tourists in Pyongyang end up staying. The Yanggakdo Hotel was opened in 1995 as a deluxe hotel. It's one of the three "Super First Class" hotels in North Korea by the time of my visit. I suspect "Super First Class" is equivalent to 5 star, although it felt like 3 and half star to me. While far from luxurious, it was fine.
The hotel is situated on Yanggakdo Island in the middle of the Taedong River. Yanggakdo means "goat's horn". Relatively isolated, with the only connections to the rest of the city being two bridges, the hotel seemed a perfect spot to house foreigners.
As I was clearly aware of the shortage of food here and didn't expect much, I thought the food was pretty satisfactory.
I tried the massage. It wasn't as cheap as in China, but I just wanted to know how a massage by a North Korean masseuse feels like.
The hotel rises to an overall height of 170 meters and sports a slowly revolving restaurant on the 47th floor. The rooms were big with incredible views stretching from the heart of Pyongyang to the distant countryside.
It features a variety of restaurants (serving Chinese, Korean and Japanese food), coffeeshops, and bars, plus a casino and Macau Restaurant in the basement. Beer was available (and payable) at lunch and dinner. The hotel's basement contains a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a barbers, a casino and a "gentlemen's massage club" run by a Chinese company with an exclusively female staff.
We arrived here in the dark but were still able to make out the guards carrying riffles at a checkpoint at the entrance. We then drove to a large building with the words "Service Centre" on a sign above 2 large doors. Our guide got off the bus and collected our keys and told us to meet back at the Service Centre in 15 minutes for dinner. We then went off on the bus past large villas. I shared one large villa with a couple of guys on my tour. We each had a room to ourselves on the upper floor and had to change our shoes into slippers left by the entrance door. My room was very large and looked like it hadn't been decorated since the 1970's - lovely floral carpet, 2 queen size beds and a white wooden wall cabinet unit with lots of mirrors. The room came with a TV, fridge and under floor heating but the pièce de résistance was found in the bathroom - a very deep hot-tub bath that fills with hot salty water that is meant to contain minerals. I used it before I went to bed after we had eaten and it was delightful.
The whole area features around 20 large posh villas that used to be holiday homes for North Koreas top officials. They are connected by small roads that are lined with trees and border flowers and everything looks like it has come out from Beverley Hills. The main Service Centre building contains a games room, karaoke room, billiard tables and a large restaurant where we ate. There are also large fridges in the restaurant that contained such luxuries as cans and bottles of coca-cola, Twix, bounty and kit-kat bars that we just hadn't seen anywhere else! This place is just crazy when you compare it to what the average North Korean lives in.
Hot-tub mineral baths in every room, games room and luxury items in fridges!
We stayed the night here, at the Kaesong Folk Hotel, in the middle of the old part of Kaesong which was spared bombing during the Korean War. It's a beautiful place with small traditional houses surrounding small courtyards and the whole complex has a little stream running through the middle of it. You don't have conventional beds here but instead, you sleep on the floor which has underground heating. Rooms come complete with a small fridge and a TV. My bathroom was the best looking one in the world and I couldn't get any water to come out of the shower, yet alone get any hot water. I also found three large bugs in the bath!
This is said to be one of the best tourist hotels in Pyongyang and it didn't disappoint. My tour party of 12 had rooms on the 39th floor which offered great views over the city. The hotel itself is one of the highest buildings in the city and is built on an island which means you can't get off if you feel like taking a walk. My room was very well decorated and clean and tiny, everything you expect from a western style 4-5 star hotel. I had a TV which actually had BBC World news as one of the channels, a fridge, safe, 2 single beds etc. The bathroom even came with hotel named little bottles of shampoo and soap etc. See my next tip on the hotels amenities.
Ha! Well, where to start. Fairly normally inside but then you can't escape from it. Apart from that it has a bowling alley, swimming pool, billiard tables and ping-pong tables in the basement, 2 or 3 shops selling food and drink and non-food items such as clothing and even old walkmans, a souvenir shop selling traditional Korean dresses and jewellery, a bookshop selling propaganda, a bar on the ground floor near reception, a casino, a Korean style karaoke bar, four restaurants including a revolving one with a bar on the 47th floor and a 9 hole mini-golf course.
I've stayed in this hotel for five nights on the occasion of a business trip. I've seen some other hotels in Pyöngyang but this is the one that I would recommend. Good restaurant(s) with a surprisingly good choice in food. Clean, guests are of course completely surveyed - unable to get e-mail connection in the business centre.
Conveniently located in the middle of the town. Has among others a brasserie type restaurant serving good local beer - something I did not expect in this country.
Paradise for foreigners (compared to the rest of the country). But always remember where you are.
* Location: Pyongyang City Center, nearby Railway station
* Floors: 45
* Rooms: 500. Suite, deluxe, standard rooms. International phone, tv, refrigerator in each room.
* Warm water supply : 24 hrs a day.
* Restaurants: 5 restaurants of unique design, banquet-hall and dining rooms for private parties. Snack bars, revolving restaurant on the 45th floor.
* Other facilities : souvenir shop, ginseng shop, book shop, post office. Swimming pool, sauna, massage room, beauty saloon, 200 seat cinema, casino, karaoke hall, billiard saloon, conference hall, meeting rooms.
A hotel review from Pyongyang might not be seen as very relevant because a visitor is not allowed to chose his own accommodation anyway but nonetheless the hotel was part of the Pyongyang experience. The place itself is fine, similar to a large unpersonal business class hotel anywhere in the world. One difference is that you usually don't ask yourself whether your room is bugged or if it stands someone and observes you from the other side of the mirror. If my room was bugged or not I can't say but I'm certain that some rooms are.
This hotel gives a nice sea front view in Wonsan. Facilities are alright except the unusual hot bath ration. Apprarently, hot water is not served in the toliet all the time, in fact we are given an hour of hot water (once at the evening and another in early morning) for two of us to bath. The timing is co-ordinated by the tour guides.
This is a 300+ room hotel that is is along the Chollima Street and also known as Changwangshan Hotel. It has a wonderful location and if you lucky enough to get the freedom to walk about nearby, there are plenty to see. It is surrounded with the Ice rink, Pyongyang indoor Stadium and the People's Palace of Culture. WIth little more walk, you get to see a lake as well. And more importantly for folks who love to take a snap at the famous female traffic directors, it is at the cross junction beside the hotel. Facilities wise, the TV reception was poor and this can be very annoying as there's nothing to do after 8, you are "trapped" in your room and desperate for something to do.
Nothing to complain. Power was running all the time, water was hot (not necessairities in North Korea!) and our room was cleaned well.
Details about the hotel: 48 Stories, 1001 rooms, various restaurants, shops, casino, etc.
Unexpected... the Ryonggang Hot Spring House offers a thermal spring which is good for your health and keeps you warm in winter.
What a suprise... lack of power, no hot water. At least we could use the Sauna for free.
Also due to the lack of power the restaurant did not open and we had to eat in a very tiny dining room. The hotel room looks like after a time travel... funny.... old phone, old TV....
in winter? They have a Sauna.... food was allright, too.
Almost similar to other motels in the world. Pretty clean, convenient, and hot water is supplied.
Air is so cool, so Air conditioner is not needed even at the humid and hot korean summer.
Bed is not provided, so enjoy the Korean Ondol style. (One thick mattress, sheet, and pillow)
The Haebangsan Hotel is a "tourist class" hotel. You will be closer to real life than in a luxury hotel, such as the Koryo or the Yanggakdo, i.e. chances are that the majority of the other guests are Korean. "Closer to real life" will also include that water is turned off over night between 22h00 and 7h00.
The hotel is very close to the city centre and thus makes an evening walk (with your guides) through central Pyongyang a possibility.
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