Contained in the ‘kitsch and psychedelic’ accommodations in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang
An amazing new book opens the doors to some of the “Frozen in Time” hotels in North Korea – complete with neon karaoke rooms, revolving restaurants, and great bars.
The publication gives a fascinating and extremely rare glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle that some tourists are allowed to enjoy in the secret regime of Kim Jong-un.
For author James Scullin, who has visited the rogue state eight times, hotels have always been the highlight of his travels as they gave him the opportunity to meet people in relaxed, if often unusual, surroundings.
“So much of the world is now globalized. There are so few places to go that have a bespoke culture and look and feel that way, ”he said.
The hotels in Pyongyang – by Scullin and photographer Nicole Reed – give readers a glimpse into some of the capital’s most glamorous and often dated places to stay.
The couple spent five days together in the sprawling city, photographing 11 hotels and the people who work within their walls.
Melbourne-based Scullin was able to use his former tour guide connections to obtain visas and government permission to visit places currently reserved for tourists.
“I chose hotels as the centerpiece of the project because access to the hotels is not really a political issue. It means the project was possible without undue bureaucracy,” he said.
He revealed that one of his favorite spots was the karaoke rooms at the incredible Koryo Hotel.
“It’s very cheesy and psychedelic. There are three different types of floor tiles and each wall has a different wallpaper, ”he told MailOnline Travel.
“It has pearls that hang from the ceiling and exude a 1970s vibe, while the futuristic swivel chairs at the bar look like something out of the Jetsons.
“It is interesting to imagine that someone has not designed this space in an accredited way without ever traveling overseas or being exposed to other countries that are not North Korea.
“I wanted to personally explore these hotels, but also document these hotels in Pyongyang that serve international travelers.”
Hotels have plenty of five-star amenities, and pools were “almost everywhere,” but room service isn’t available and Wi-Fi is rare.
And despite the fact that all of the country’s hotels are state-owned, each one clearly prides itself on having its own identity.
“Creativity exists under all circumstances,” said Scullin. “The hotels are essentially an excuse for someone to let these ideas out.”
“North Korea is pretty uniform when it comes to clothing, behavior and street life.
“In these hotels, however, individuals have been licensed to design dining rooms, lobbies and karaoke rooms in unique ways.
“This is also from people who have not been particularly exposed to the rest of the world, which means that much of the aesthetics are without influence.”
Scullin lived and worked in Beijing when he ventured to North Korea as a tourist in 2012.
“I’ve always been interested in countries with a Soviet past. They have such different cultures and aesthetics than we do in the West, ”he said.
“The fact that North Korea is so isolated also makes it fascinating to see how a country outside of the globalized world is developing.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was republished with permission