Leaving the comfort of the NUO, it was time to meet our tour guide from Koryo Tours at Beijing airport, we were briefed and ready to fly into the Democratic Peopleโ€™s Republic Korea.

There are many sources of information about this country, but honestly, I hadn’t done a whole lot of research myself, I wanted to experience it all through my own eyes, with my own brain and make my own interpretations. I understand fully that what we see would not be the full extent of what happens behind the tour groups view, but wanted to experience what I could with an open mind.

Getting onto the plane, was the start of the surreal-ness. It was an old style plane interior, it felt tired even though it was only 8 years old, worn felt material covered the tops of the seats. The stewardesses were dressed in 60s style immaculate outfits as they warmly welcomed us to the plane.

The view over Beijing was beautiful, we were soon souring the skies, on the 1:30hr flight to North Korea. It didn’t feel like any old flight, everyone seemed excited, but nervous in a way, nobody knew what to expect. They were served a Korean burger and a glass of juice. I didn’t ask for a vegan option.

The in flight film showed a concert of some sort, with Koreans playing instruments, children dancing, and army personnel marching in a stadium. I am not sure what exactly it was.

We soon landed and escorted to the notorious security and customs, with our 3 pieces of paper filled in, and visas at the ready.

The man checking my passport got 3 of his colleagues to check to see if they thought the photo was me which has happened a few times on this trip. Seems I have changed in 7 years. I must admit, at this point my heart was in my mouth – would they send me back? I got through in the end, and it was time for the next stop.

We were warned numerous times that they may check our electronics and any reading materials we had, including magazines, books, anything about North Korea, the Kim family, memes, the apps on our phones etc. They did none of this, except take my phone, iPad and camera, but didnโ€™t look into them further than the home screen.

The quickest and most efficient airport I have been to, everyone seemed to stay in line, the officials were clear and precise on where to go and what to do, and were soon in the very weird looking arrivals hall, meeting our Korean guide Pak Un Ha (Una for short) and a man known only as โ€˜the teacherโ€™ or โ€˜Mr Johnโ€™.