header Yanggakdo

Yanggakdo The Most Luxurious Prison in North Korea

Travel North Korea: Powerful and Prosperous Nation An experience at Yanggakdo, the “premium class” hotel in Pyongyang. We stayed at this property for all three nights on our North Korea adventure.

Highlights

  • Running hot water and electricity.
  • Two-star amenities.
  • 2nd Tallest Building in Pyongyang
  • A number of activities available to kill time.

Experience

We stayed along with all the other tourists (possibly in the country) in this main tourist hotel for three nights on our organized tour. As one of the best hotels (if not THE best) of one of the poorest countries in the world, it strives to keep up appearances, though its true nature shows through the details.

For its purpose as a high class prison and holding cell for tourists, the hotel serves its purpose quite nicely.

The hotel is also used as the reason/excuse to hold your passport for the duration of the tour.

Location

Yanggakdo is located on an island in the middle of the Taedong River. It is also conveniently isolated from the rest of Pyongyang providing a natural boundary for those attempting to see the city.

Room

Our room was on the 9th floor, which was a comparably clean floor. It was behind a an extra door which was never locked.

The room had two twin beds with a TV and phone which both looked like they were from the eighties. The blankets were old and not very comfortable.

The bathroom was very basic, but functional, though the water from the shower would leak onto the floor. This must be a known problem as we were told that any leakage into the main room would result in a fine. No amenities available.

I would expect to see a room like this in a 2 star establishment.

Service

Service was lacking for the most part, though most of our requests had to be asked through our mandatory guides. The reception doesn’t seem to speak English and I’m not sure if we are suppose to talk to them anyway.

We requested a wake up call for two nights and only got it once.

Restaurant service is better with quite attentive waiters though they avoid contact with the guests.

Activities

In order to keep up an appearance of the best hotel in Korea and to entertain (poorly) the guests, there are actually a wide range of activities available.

  • Casino: The Chinese run casino is small but has a few of the standard table games and a sad looking hallway of slots. The exchange rates offered are terrible and outdated.

  • Table-Tennis: On the activity floor, there are a couple of tables in a room with a refreshments bar.
  • Karaoke: A small dark room with plenty of empty chairs, is the karaoke option. We didn’t check the song list.
  • Billiards: The smokey billiards room was the only one with some actual guests during our visit. The hostess actually rain out after we left to see if we wanted to play.
  • Swimming Pool: There is a small lap pool and spa available as well. The service was extremely pushy and unfriendly.
  • Bowling: There is also a bowling alley with three lanes.
  • Shopping: There are a few shops and a book store that is worth checking out, though an tourist will be escorted to at least a half dozen book stores before the end of their tour.

Dining

There is one main banquet hall for the majority of meals for a tour, but there are also other options. There is a Chinese restaurant and a Korean restaurant on the first floor and a revolving restaurant on the top of the building.

Summary

For such a poor country and restrictive government, the hotel provides a respite from realities outside of its doors. Most tours do not give an option of which hotel to stay at (unless it’s a private tour) and most visitors don’t come to North Korea for the hotel stay, so there’s no real point to compare hotels. This is probably the best place to stay until the Hotel of Doom (Ryugyong Hotel) is operational.

David De Clercq

About David De Clercq

Founder and writer at World-Adventurer.com, David is on a mission to travel to every country in the world and has less than 10 countries left! He loves new adventures, unique cultures, historic landmarks, and luxurious hotels. Follow along as David shares a journey of a lifetime!