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Maes

Best context-sensitive ad I've ever seen.

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In all seriousness, I've been interested in going there for a while now. Just out of sheer morbid curiosity.

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My father had visited China in 1989, when it was still hardline communist, and maybe just a bit more relaxed than currents accounts of NK travellers.

For example, he and his colleagues of the Geological Institute were always followed by a Commissar, and there was a heavy ideological debate when my father bought some bottles of coke on the Great Wall from a vending machine, which was strictly off limits to Chinese citizens both ideologically (it was prohibited) as well as materially (it cost two days worth of salaries for a Chinese), it was there only for tourists.

He made the "mistake" of offering them to the Chinese colleagues, which got into a heated argument with the Commissar about the obvious ideological implications of accepting a "dirty, capitalist drink". They finally settled for accepting them, but not drinking them in public, to avoid "provoking" the Pure People of the People's Republic of China. They were taking their Communism pretty seriously, back then.

Other examples: like in Eastern Europe communist countries of the time and NK today, tourists were only allowed shopping at special shops, and were even given special money that could not be spent elsewhere, and ordinary Chinese citizens were prohibited from accepting and possessing such money. However, this plan was not perfect, as only banknotes were "special": change was always given in normal local coins, and so my father could buy stuff from the streets, as well.

I bet that traveling to NK will result in pretty similar experiences today.

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Travelling in NK is even more restricted. You're not permitted to talk to the regular people at all. The tour is tightly controlled and photographing at the wrong time can get you in scary trouble.

Many Chinese people still have trouble accepting gifts from foreign tourists. I ran into this problem when a very nice family wouldn't let me pay for my share of dinner (I had more money in my pocket than they made in a month). They also wouldn't let me pay cab fare, or accept a $5 bill as a souvenir.

My friend and I solved this problem by giving the girl a pile of our left-over cash in those red envelopes Chinese people can't refuse. I think that almost killed the poor girl. We could see her trying to figure out what to do and getting pretty distressed about it.

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