Koryo Museum + Outside Museum: Ginseng and Stamps
While you are visiting the Koryo Museum there are two shops, one within the museum complex and one just outside of it worthy a look.
The museum’s gift shop (picture 1) is located within a small and pretty courtyard within the museum grounds. Get your ginseng fix here. The Kaesong area is renowned for the quality of its ginseng and while this shop has on sale a number of other trinkets and the like its primary product is ginseng and ginseng derivatives. Ginseng (picture 2) is a herb that has been used for thousands of years, especially in eastern countries, to improve people’s overall health. Perhaps of particular interest to readers of advancing years, ginseng is adjudged one of the most effective anti-aging supplements currently available.
Outside the museum complex is a rather unprepossessing building (picture 3) the plainness of which belies its relevance to the tourist as possibly the best philatelic shop in North Korea (location, location, location means nothing in opening a business in North Korea). This shop is certainly worth a look if you want to pick up some stamps for your own collection or as presents for others. In addition to stamps, it has a decent selection of art, T-shirts, local ginseng products and a reasonable range of propaganda postcards and mini-posters.
I picked up a beautiful hardback book of thematically displayed stamps (picture 5 - arts theme with Pyongyang Grand Theatre as the background) some smaller stamp sets and individual stamps together with a selection of propaganda postcards (picture 5). And, before you ask, no, I do not know what the cards say but I could, as I am sure you can, make a fair guess based on the pictures.
For those who have joined me on my tour of Kaesong from the main page this is my last review. I invite you to return to my Kaesong page now and leave a comment as I greatly appreciate the feedback. Thank you for joining me. I trust you enjoyed reading my reviews as much as I enjoyed writing them.
What to buy: Ginseng and Postage stamps
What to pay: Very reasonably priced - payment in hard currency cash
Folk Hotel Gift Shop: Korean Movies and CDs
The Gift shop at the folk hotel had the usual array of souvenirs on offer - celadon pottery, books about the sights of old Kaesong, but the highlights for us were the selection of DVDs of North Korean film, and Korean Music.
The music on offer was usually of a military or patriotic nature, full of stirring marches and more reminiscent of Russian patriotic music than anything from the Korean peninsula. Though I am sure that there were some versions of the popular folk son 'Arirang' to be found
I settled on the 30th volume of songs from the Korean Peoples Army Merited Chorus (dissapointing to have miised out on their earlier stuff!)
Koryo Museum Souvenir shop: DPRK stamps and postcards
I was delighted to find some propaganda posters, and some delightfully incendiary postcards, complete with guns pointing at the evil USA, Japan etc.
I was not lucky enough to secure the magnificently incongruous Princess Diana and other British Royal Family stamps. One was tempted to ask - Why??
What to pay: Not much
- Museum Visits
Every outdoor stand you see in tourist locations in Kaesong has pretty much the same few things for sale:
A selection of North Korean booze, three flavours of two-years-past-the-sell-by-date cola, warm bottled water, ginseng products, and cookies.
They charge in US$, and generally will not give you change. They'll tell you to buy untill you've spent your money, so take lots of $1 bills for drinks if it's hot out.
- Beer Tasting
Kaesong Folk Custom Hotel: Souvenir shop
Every stand you see in Kaesong has pretty much the same few things for sale:
A selection of North Korean booze, three flavours of two-years-past-the-sell-by-date cola, warm bottled water, and cookies.
The souvenir shop at the Folk hotel has a much better selection. Books, music, paintings, embroidery, pictures, etc...
Not many of the books were in English, but I managed to find a few... bought "Japan's War Crimes-Past and Present". Figured it wouldn't be frowned upon coming through South Korean customs... I was looking for a Kim Jong Il lapel pin that all the North Koreans were wearing, but had no luck in purchasing one.
Also got a flag pin for my bag, and a bottle of ginseng booze. Shop prices were relatively cheap.
book $4, pin $1, bottle $13
What to pay: Whatever you buy, expect to use US$. I had an older bill refused, take newer issued bills.
- Beer Tasting
- Historical Travel
Move over Viagra
What to buy: According to the glossy North Korean guidebook old Cliffie found in Pyongyang, the ginseng grown around Kaesong has "an invigorating and fatigue-relieving effect which increases mental and physical efficiency and is especially effective in promoting health and longevity". Old Cliffie could have done with some after a night on the Taedonggang beer!