So as it turns out, North Korea actually does have a pretty decent hotel. It’s located about 2 hours north of Pyongyang in the Myohyang mountainous area. This particular hotel, the Hyangsan, was newly refurbished, and involved an additional charge to stay here as opposed to the standard option.
This is the sixth component of the November trip.
- Singapore Airlines Premium Economy (Sydney – Singapore)
- Singapore Airlines Economy (Singapore – Beijing)
- Hilton Wangfujing, Beijing
- Air Koryo Economy (Beijing – Pyongyang)
- Koryo Hotel, Pyongyang
- Hyangsan Hotel, North Pyongyang
- Tour of North Korea
- Air China Economy (Pyongyang – Beijing)
- Raffles Beijing
- Hong Kong Airlines Economy (Beijing – Hong Kong)
- Singapore Airlines Economy (Hong Kong – Singapore)
- Singapore Airlines Premium Economy (Singapore – Sydney)
Upon arrival, the hotel’s grand scale and decor was very apparent, along with its very new appearance. The lobby appeared glossy and shiny, with mirror-like floors, perfectly heated atmosphere and a serene environment. During check-in we were informed that our original room lacked hot-water supply. They then allocated a new room with hot water, however the bedding arrangement was all wrong. Finally, we discovered they upgraded us to the “Deluxe Two Room Suite”! It wasn’t that much of a big deal though…
(Click on photo for a larger view)
The lobby also featured a small gift store, a bar and a lounge area, complete with local newspapers.
A recreational room was also provided, with pool, snooker and billiards tables, as well as table-tennis. We spent our final night here with our guides and some other tourists.
The lifts were very modern, with LCD panels and responsive touch. Although there were at least 5, only 1 was available, with the others switched off.
A bell hop carried luggage to the room, and placed it on the racks whilst we explored the room. It consisted of two sections: the “drawing room”; and the bedroom. The bedroom featured an ensuite with shower, whilst the drawing room housed lounge chairs and an attached toilet.
Whilst the bedroom looked fine, the ‘drawing room’ was very off in terms of space and furniture. Yes, there were couches and a bar area, but it felt awfully bare.
As I looked more, I noticed that all the amenities were from the Shangri-La! Toothbrushes, combs, writing pads, tissue box holders… EVERYTHING had Shangri-La branding! And they weren’t fake, they were the real deal… But seeing as North Korea’s Hyangsan Hotel is in no way associated with the Shangri-La, I can only assume the items had been ‘stolen’ or ‘purchased’ from an outside source.
The room had air-conditioning which appeared more promising with regards to actual control. However, we later discovered that it was an unchangeable temperature. There were two TV’s, both with international TV, and state TV. As for facilities, there were extensive tea and coffee peripherals, as well as a mini-bar which was only stocked and turned on after we reached the room.
The two room suite had two separate balconies, which was a nice touch, however it was far too cold to be lounging outside.
Unlike in Pyongyang, all dining occurred at the hotel. The restaurant was set up similar to most, but was completely empty when we dined. The quality and taste of the food was actually incredible, as was the attentive service. An attendant always remained behind us, ready to cater to our every whim whilst dining.
Overall, the Hyangsan Hotel was definitely a big step up from the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang, primarily because it’s so new. The clean and polished glass and marble surfaces, opulent decor and serene atmosphere give it a very luxurious feel, and probably has it sitting at 4 stars by Western standards (certainly not the “7 star” rating our guides informed us of). Nonetheless, if you are travelling to the DPRK, I would strongly recommend including a night up in the mountains. It is certainly worth the extra money to stay at the Hyangsan!