Like I said I went to North Korea, I personally found that a lot of things like the VICE pieces on the country did not match my experiences. Other adventures of note include climbing mount kilimanjaro, Japan/mount fuji, many tours across the US, Bolivia, Peru, a massive trip across Europe and currently I am getting ready to go to Iran and hike across Iceland so I could provide info on how I am getting ready for that if there is interest.

My Proof: Here is a picture of the mass games in Pyongyang, a painting a smuggled out, and my proof If the mods need a picture of my face both in and out of North Korea I can message that to them but otherwise I would like to retain my anonymity.

So without further ado, what are some things you guys would like to know?

Edit: Here is a trick you guys can know if you go to North Korea. Everyone talks about the "5th floor" like it is something special hidden and secret. Well it is not the only "secret floor" on the hotel. There are several throughout the Yanggakdo hotel in Pyongyang. I was not able to figure out all of the codes (I was a little scared after being accused of being a spy and running into a soldier) but if you are in the hotel push both of the elevator buttons and wait. The first elevator is a decoy, don't take it. Then another elevator will open up and there are all the missing floors (at least when I was there, they change it). If you press the button nothing happens so there is a key combination for that as well but I did not have time to crack it, but if you go to North Korea you might be able to use that to get in places that are off limits (do with that knowledge what you will)

Edit 2: Ok It has been 3 hours plus I need to study a little bit. If you have asked questions or want to ask new ones I will get to them and answer you. OP will deliver!

Edit 3: I found better proof my boarding pass from Pyongyang to Beijing on Air Koryo and my DPRK visa I had printed off Here you go!

Comments: 326 • Responses: 90  • Date: 

bobbythewhale58 karma

You're taking your time to give lengthy, insightful answers to peoples questions. Thank you, stranger. You're doing AMA right :)

Derpese_Simplex34 karma

Thanks, friend!

BessieBooBoo46 karma

What was the food like? And I noticed that you said that the VICE documentary on North Korea was incorrect in many ways. Can you elaborate on this? I'm very interested. Thanks! :)

Derpese_Simplex46 karma

I haven't forgotten about your question, it is not a short reply so I will get to it in a couple of minutes after I answer a couple of other questions.

BessieBooBoo15 karma

Thanks! :)

Derpese_Simplex28 karma

Ok here I go, bear with me as I type I want to phrase this correctly and am not super fast at typing.

Derpese_Simplex61 karma

Again I am not Shane Smith or anyone from VICE so I can not speak to their motives or know first hand what their trip was like. That said I heard from one of the western guides from Koryo Tours that much of their pieces were faked. On the "VICE guide to North Korea" there is a big scene where Shane Smith was seated at a table in a big room with tons of place settings out and just him there to eat. He comments about how weird it is and how it is all a show and all that stuff. Well that guy from Koryo was in the building leading a tour (Shane according to him was also on a tour, you have to be) when Shane was there and he said that the reason that there was so many place settings was that Shane had come down early for breakfast and made it seem like the place settings for all the other guests on other tours were part of some weird show that just was just for them. This made sense to me as that was the exact same room me and everyone else in the Yanggakdo Hotel ate at every single morning for breakfast in Pyongyang. Later on at the Mass Games he made it seem (to my recollection, which could be wrong) like there was almost no one at the mass games, like it was somehow just him and a couple of other people there. Maybe that was the case, maybe he caught a weird night or made some weird deal to get a private showing but when I was there it was PACKED the whole side of the stadium opposite the performance was filled (my night could have been an unusual night, who knows) and as far as where they sat, it was nothing special anyone who wants to pay 200 euros can sit there but you get just as good of a view and much less expense by going one level in cost lower. Continued below

Derpese_Simplex54 karma

Another big scene was when they visited this rest area and played ping pong with a seemingly lonely worker. They paint this picture of needless waste of potential and expense just to put on a show leading to people just sitting in unneeded structures for no reason. I do agree that there is some of that and while we did visit that exact location several times (it was kind of a pit stop and sold snacks and drinks mainly) the thing that really bugged me was how they shot her as they left waving to the camera and I must give them credit that it was very effective at conveying the lonely feeling that they were trying to convey (who knows maybe she was lonely that day) but one thing to realize is that EVERYONE waves in North Korea if you wave at them, sometimes it takes a little bit because of the shock but they all wave and smile. I am talking old ladies, whole columns of soldiers, kids, strangers, etc. they all did it. Though in Pyongsong they were so surprised to see white people that two bikes crashed into each other because they were looking at me.

In the end I don't know to me there are so many stories a person could do in North Korea without twisting things like it seemed to me that they did in order to make a more compelling story. The whole thing just sort of turned me off of VICE and made me really question the authenticity of the stories they cover which is unfortunate because their pieces cover some really interesting and important topics.

Derpese_Simplex30 karma

Oh and finally the scene in the most recent VICE season with the DPRK was crap where they tried to pay with a card at a store. You can totally pay but thanks to international sanctions you can't buy things with credit cards, that seemed shady.

d0uble0h27 karma

Did you try to convince Kim Jong Un that you knew Dennis Rodman so you could play basketball with them?

Derpese_Simplex30 karma

No though I was invited to go with him on his last trip

fetuslasvegas9 karma

Can you expand on this? How did you get invited to go with Dennis Rodman?

Derpese_Simplex14 karma

Koryo Tours ran a trip and I got an email telling about the trip.

RoneyPones23 karma

Any times where you felt like you were in real danger in North Korea?

Derpese_Simplex35 karma

Yes, once with the drunken soldier interaction and the other when I said the worst things possible and got asked if I was "an American intelligence agent" other than that I felt totally safe.

Denton9117 karma

Gunna need to hear this story I'm afraid OP!

Edit- The "American intelligence mishap" one.

Derpese_Simplex26 karma

Ok here I go, bear with me this will take me a long time to write and I am a slow typer.

Derpese_Simplex37 karma

First I want to say that I did the totally wrong things and I am surprised that I made it out alive but that it was totally 100% my fault. This is because I have had a unhealthy fascination with North Korea since I was a freshman in high school (almost 30 now). So when I had the chance to actually meet real North Koreans I decided to just ask them everything, and in my zeal for finding information I did not think clearly about where I was and what in the fuck I was doing. (continued below)

Derpese_Simplex37 karma

It started in some factory and we started talking about their nuclear program and their military capabilities (like their massive amount of artillery along the boarder with the south) and about the military in the South and all of that. We talked about how the nuclear issue is not just about North Korea but international proliferation and how we have to object to DPRK nukes (which we would do anyway because of political realities in the region) in order to fight their spread globally. And then in passing I said something very very stupid. I talked about an article I had read from r/NorthKoreaNews that discussed the contingency plans this one Chinese general put forward that basically said that if pushed too far China could push in from the North over through Un and instal his older brother Kim Jung Nam as leader (you have to think of the DPRK as an absolutist monarchy and not a communist country, where the general are nobles but everything stems from the authority of the god king in theory (though practice deviates from that significantly at times)). continued below

Derpese_Simplex32 karma

Anyway so I told him about this and he for obvious reasons got interested very quickly and asked me questions about it but then let it go. Then a day or so later he was asking me for information about other things, and me information about him and his country, he brought it back up again. I again full of stupidity, told him that yeah that might also explain the massive build up of troops and tanks along the boarder (I forget the Chinese town I told him) to the North because in the end the last thing China wants is a US backed unified country with US bases along its Northern Boarder. It also does not want to get into a direct fight with the US because of a North Korean problem so in order to avoid all of that they might invade from the North in order to avoid having to deal with all of those problems and just change leaders. I told him all of that. Then I said something even stupider. Continued below.

Derpese_Simplex43 karma

I asked him if he was an intelligence agent. I was cocky and had heard that the guides were so I asked. His demeanor changed and he said what makes me think that. I told him I had heard that all the guides were and that if they were it would make sense as it would be a good way to get information about the world for the foreigners who come there. He then intimated that he might be and wanted to know what I thought of the other DPRK guides. I told him I don't know, I was just wondering about him. Again if you are shouting at your screen I understand why. Well that didn't stop me either. When we stopped at the next thing that Kim Il Sung had once seen in passing in WW2 I asked about the failed currency reform (which is largely thought to be the result of Kim Jung Un himself) and was it really as bad as I had heard it was. He said was I trying to get him in trouble and then he pulled me aside and asked if I myself was an "American intelligence agent." I was shocked (though I shouldn't have been) and said no I am not, they don't make enough money (I told him they made about the same as teachers, I don't know if that was true) unless they work with computers which I know nothing about. He seemed to buy it, or at least let it drop for a few minutes. At the next stop however literally every step I took he took as well, he was a perfect shadow, which was very scary. The whole time he would then ask me probing questions about finances and personal life (probably in order to find a hole in my story) and I answered them but eventually as he kept on about finances I resorted to just saying that it was a very rude question and refused to say anything else. Eventually he stopped but when we went back to the airport to go back to Pyongyang (we had been around the Chinese border to the North) the full reality of how fucking stupid I had been finally set in and I got terrified and wondered what in the fuck was going to happen to me, would I make it home, would I end up being tortured or used as a political pawn? This was not helped by the fact that on the domestic flight to Pyongyang the plane kept hovering over a certain area for several minutes. I was certain then that I would be arrested or the plane would land in some field and I would be taken off. Thankfully I shut my fucking mouth for the rest of the trip (only one day left) and made it on the plane and got out but I can honestly tell you that the moment I landed back in the US was one of the happiest moments of my life. To make things worse after I returned I looked on /r/NorthKoreaNews to try to find the article and tried searching online about the Chinese contingency plans to verify it, but could find nothing and am not even sure it was even a credible piece that I stupidly almost risked my life for, I still beat myself up for that and will not ever make that mistake again.

Edit: I found the article, I wasn't full of shit

richardjohn52 karma

Wow, remind me never to go travelling with you.

Derpese_Simplex26 karma

Yeah I fucked up on that one.

stia22 karma

Wow, you sound like a real moron!

Derpese_Simplex28 karma


Derpese_Simplex13 karma

I will post it after I answer a few other questions, that is a really long story full of me doing literally everything I shouldn't do.

whatever2132722 karma

You stated earlier about a drunken night in NK where you ended up at some sort of checkpoint. What happened and how do the people there treat drunk people?

Derpese_Simplex47 karma

Oh yeah that was intense. Well that night we were in Nampo at some resort for the local elite (all of the rooms looked really old school communist style luxury, I am not sure I know how to articulate why they just had that vibe) and so we were divided into these 5 buildings and met at met at one of them for dinner and a clam bake. Well after dinner and tons of soju and vodka we all went back to someone's lobby and talked until about 1am. As things were winding down I head back to my place and find that all the doors are locked and the lights are off. I head back to the party and they give me the bright idea to go back to the welcome center (where dinner was) and see if someone can let me in. I walk the quarter mile over there and it too is locked and dark. I say screw this and try to make my way back to my place but I make a wrong turn. This is due to the combination of massive drinking and the only light around coming from my tiny little flashlight. Anyway so I keep walking for about a mile when suddenly in the darkness I hear the unmistakable sound of a North Korean soldier's whistle (one of those sounds that just let you know "you fucked up") and shouting. I try to play it off and walk back away but that just results in louder shouting and louder whistles so knowing that tourists have been shot in the past I try to ease the tensions (continued below in additional comments)

Derpese_Simplex49 karma

In order to defuse the situation I shine my light on my face and empty hand which I wave as I happily smile and say "hello." I walk a few feet, making sure to not point the light in his direction, and repeat the process. At this point I want it to be very clear that I am not a threat, I have nothing in my hands, and I am happily cooperating. I do this so often on the way to him that as soon as I get there the first thing he does is wave really big and say "hello" back at me. This makes me think phew at least I wont be shot today. His face however quickly gets more serious as he performs a highly articulate display of pantomime (I am sure the gun slung across his back made me a better listener) where he tells me that he wants to know what is in my pockets. I attempt to low ball him since I know we have now arrived at the extortion portion of the evening. I pull out my room key from my left pocket and show it to him saying something about how I don't have anything. Eventually his attention shifts over to my right pocket which just so happens to have a fat stock of 80 $1 bills (getting change in North Korea can be problematic). I pull out the money, trying to cover them with a piece of paper hoping he wont see it, which he does. He then grows more animated and demands that I give him my money. Understanding how this kind of thing works I peel off $1 and give it to him and put the rest in my pocket and start to leave. He instantly starts yelling again. Not wanting an extortion to expand into a murder I happily return. I look very confused and penitent as I return and when he points at the pocket with the money I give him a big smile and a thumbs up. I then repeat my low ball offer and give him another $1 bill. He takes the money but then gets a strange look on his face. It is an expression that I have never really seen before that was a mixture of confusion (supposedly for why he can't express to me that he wants the entire stack) and reverence for the US dollars he was holding in his hands. After taking some time to figure out what to make of the situation he puts the money in his pocket and seems much happier with me. At this point I start to leave, however after I get a few feet down the road my drunk brain after having been totally absent from the situation decides that is the time to show up. I then walk back over to the soldier, this time both of us are all smiles.

Derpese_Simplex43 karma

I then ask him for a picture (which incase you didn't know is the absolute worst thing to try after someone extorted money from you, they don't like photographic evidence) he then starts smiling and waving. He wasn't shaking his head, he wasn't frowning, he seemed happy, he was waving just like he had when he had said "hello" earlier, and so I was very confused. I ask the question again and I get the same response. I am deeply confused so I attempt to raise my camera up to see what happens since it seems like a possible yes, or at least a I don't understand. The moment he sees my camera rise up he dives hard to his right like someone had started shelling the area. Knowing I had really, really fucked up I profusely apologize and leave the area which thankfully I was allowed to do without getting shot or having to pay more money.

Derpese_Simplex39 karma

I eventually got in my building by banging on the door until two very pissed off north korean ladies let me in.

3ch0cro13 karma

That is an awesomely scary story.

Only question is how the hell did he not notice a fat roll of $1 bills?

Derpese_Simplex18 karma

They were flat and I had a lot of other shit in my pockets

sqectre22 karma

Do you have any sense of how the rise of the internet has affected the government's attempts to culturally isolate and control their citizens? Or, did you ever get the feeling that some of the North Koreans you interacted with knew the world wasn't as the government portrays?

Derpese_Simplex38 karma

That was very sad our DPRK guides had all been abroad and desperately wanted to travel as we did. One day we all were talking about it and I really saw sadness on his face when he wished he had the freedom to move around as we did. Beyond that people in North Korea do have cellphones so they are not totally closed off. I Think a lot of North Koreans know a lot about the outside world. Hell one night we got one of the guides REALLY drunk and he did Gangnam style dance. So things are not totally isolated.

sqectre17 karma

I asked in your other thread about the book Nothing to Envy. It's a series of interviews and reconstructed stories about North Korean refugees who endured the famine in the 90s and though it's still a very insular nation, I get the feeling that the passing of Kim Jung Il and the internet have moved the country forward quite a bit since those years.

Derpese_Simplex14 karma

All of the Kims have moved the country forward from the post WW2 destruction and they know that. There is a vibe that there is pride because they feel that they did it on their own (how true that is for everyone I can't tell for sure). There are signs that North Koreans are not near as poor or isolated as even a few years ago. There were way more cars than I expected and people did have cellphones in the open. Oh and no I didn't read that book

Akbd4014 karma

How were you able to get the painting out? Any idea what it says?

Derpese_Simplex39 karma

Well at first it was totally legal to buy and export however mid trip the laws changed and since our North Korean guides were cool with us they helped us kind of get beyond the checkpoint at the airport. No idea what it says.

dcebulsk20 karma

From my limited Korean

"A powerful nation" on top

"The march of the enemy..." something something on the bottom.

Derpese_Simplex14 karma

thanks man I appreciate it

redditofhate12 karma

How can you afford all your trips? Did you get any sweet NK poontang? What was the most exciting thing (that you already havent mentioned in the ama) that happened?

Derpese_Simplex11 karma

No sex with North Koreans, and the rate of STDs there would not make me want to play even if I could.

I set a budget and then look for deals and ways to get cheaper prices, I mentioned more detail elsewhere.

I can't think of anything else at the moment

idunnoaskmelater5 karma

Is sex with North Koreans possible, or do your handlers make sure locals never get a chance to get close to you?

Derpese_Simplex8 karma

Locals who are not on staff is impossible and I guess you could in theory have sex with staff but I would be careful of the consequences for you and most importantly them of having sex. Also apparently there is a very high STD rate so take that into account though I do hear that they sometimes bring in prostitutes for Chinese tourists so maybe you could make something happen.

blackjeansandboots12 karma

Is North Korea really best Korea?

Derpese_Simplex19 karma

not sure I have never been to S Korea

Firebrass1116 karma

TIL that you should go to North Korea first then South Korea.

Derpese_Simplex12 karma

either way. You can go from south korea to north korea via beijing. no problem

[deleted]3 karma


Firebrass115 karma

I'm American, so if I somehow end up in North Korea, I'll just say that I'm Canadian or Mexican. They can't tell the difference.

Derpese_Simplex7 karma

I am American too. They don't care.

istences11 karma

I hate to ask you this, but, do you have any other proof besides what you've posted in the OP that this is all legit?

Derpese_Simplex11 karma

what would you like?

Chillisauces5 karma

passport stamp?

Derpese_Simplex14 karma

Nope there is a little book they stamp that stays (along with your passport) with the guides.

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

I added much better proof in a 3rd edit.

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

I added much better proof in a 3rd edit.

LiThiuMElectro8 karma

What is that story about you being drunk and cross a military check point :O

Derpese_Simplex7 karma

posted it

Zipzabe4208 karma

I am a brown kid who schooled in Tokyo, now in vancuver for uni. Do you think its safe for a brown guy to go to NK? whould they even let me in?

Derpese_Simplex8 karma

Yeah it is safe, as safe as the DPRK is. White is not a help there it is the fact that I am "not Korean" that they pay attention to.

VoldemortsNipple8 karma

What was the most unique experience you had in NK compared to any of the other countries you've traveled to?

Derpese_Simplex12 karma

Seeing the mass games, most surreal experience of my life. I honestly do not have words to express the scale or awesome (in the original sense of the word) nature of the games.

DavyyJ10 karma

Can you explain these games?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

they are kind of a state of the union/history of the country via interpretive dance with thousands upon thousands of performers Here is a video

That background is made up of kids holding cards that they move on command and after tons of practice.

sugnaz8 karma

Another question: did you feel safe there? Specifically with regard to the government.

Derpese_Simplex12 karma

Yes because I knew I only had to worry about the government, no thieves or anything would mess with us however after getting accused of being "an American intelligence agent" that same feeling had me VERY nervous. I will post the story in a few minutes as it is really long.

Derpese_Simplex7 karma

I posted the story

doc_duke8 karma

did you have some interaction with normal dprk people? if yes, what do they think about the world?

Derpese_Simplex24 karma

I was able to have some interaction with locals. We were all under a perimeter that we had to stay in from the guides but if the guides knew that you were not a problem for them (if you fuck up they get the punishment) they would let you have a wide area to walk around. I ended up doing some traditional North Korean dancing with a series of Pyongyang's elderly which was fun and awkward as hell. However they were nervous about communication with locals, one time someone in the group had a conversation in Russian with a random local and he got questioned about what he was talking about. Beyond that the trip had a really weird vibe about it. It was hard to get a real feel of the place or daily life because we were on a bubble that consisted of what the North Koreans visit on their own for their vacations so it is hardly a honest depiction however going between cities you can see starvation and poverty, as well as private enterprise. I think in the end the people there are like people everywhere and just wanted to make as good of a life for themselves as possible and politics is not always super relevant to that.

doc_duke3 karma

cool. thanks for the answer

why iran?

Derpese_Simplex7 karma

because it is there and I haven't been. Also it just seems interesting, I want to go check out zoroastrians. Also I am sure that the semi forbidden nature is an appeal to a certain degree

doc_duke3 karma

when will you go?

Derpese_Simplex3 karma


doc_duke3 karma

stay safe & have fun!

edit: what was the thing with clams? was this evening part of the official program?

Derpese_Simplex3 karma

I don't understand your question about clams

doc_duke1 karma

from your first thread...

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

yeah it was a 5 euro option I took. totally worth it

nashanator177 karma

How do you find such good deals on travelling?

Derpese_Simplex5 karma

groupon, living social, and then trial and error crafting my own trip to various areas. trying various departure cities, airlines, etc Just because all the flights from one city are expensive doesn't mean all are especially if you travel to another city for intl departures.

ChanaC7 karma

I sounds kind of weird but whenever I hear stories about North Korea I think of the novel 1984. Have you ever read it and do you think it is a fair comparison?

Derpese_Simplex17 karma

No I don't think so. While certain things like the constant blast of propaganda is applicable (in the mornings it is on blast across Pyongyang, and from what I hear in people's homes) I do not feel that Orwell really depicted the reality of North Korea. People know bits about the outside world (I hear South Korean soap operas are very popular) but they also have a certain pride for their country as any people do. It is a highly complex nation that can not be summed up by a book on accident. The one piece of information I would give you about North Korea is do not think of it as a communist nation. Think of it as an Absolutist Monarchy wearing communist style clothes. If you hear the word general, think noble and you will suddenly understand more about the on the ground conditions in the country.

AgentSchrodingersCat6 karma

What is the most surprising lie you found out about that is told to the entire population?

Derpese_Simplex16 karma

The gory and over the top depiction of the defeat of the allied powers in the Korean war by just Korea was pretty surprising at the War Museum

j_higgy6 karma

How do people there treat westerners? Do they see tourists often or is it a super rare occasion?

Derpese_Simplex23 karma

Some areas do and some like Pyongsong only very rarely received any visitors. One thing I can say is that I have never met a more wave happy culture on earth. You could wave to anyone (old ladies, columns of soldiers, kids, etc) and eventually after the shock wore off of seeing a tall white guy they would all smile and wave. Though in Pyongsong they were so surprised to see white people that two bikes crashed into each other because they were looking at me.

Edit: This is one of the things that bothered me about the VICE piece because there is a scene (that is shot very very well) where they show a tour guide waving at their bus as they leave and it evokes this air of loneliness that is not representative because like I said literally everyone will wave at you if you wave first.

angryadmin5 karma

I always had an interest in the Soviet military and always figured if I ever got to goto Russia Id also say something stupid that would get me in trouble like "so how effective IS the passive sonar on your new Akula subs?" Or "I heard the autoloader in your T-72's have had problems loading the gunners arm."

Derpese_Simplex5 karma

Yep that is why I got in trouble exactly in North Korea (I posted about it above). So yeah watch out for that, it could all end very badly.

dundux5 karma

What were the locals' opinion on their government?

Derpese_Simplex9 karma

They couldn't talk freely

trippy4life5 karma

What kind of food did they serve? And, in general, do the people seem happy about the situation they are in.

Derpese_Simplex11 karma

In addition to below I had dog stew (sooooo tasty), horrible pizza, good chinese, and just random tasty things. The only time the food was bad was Mount Paektu but then it was a really really out of the way place so I think it was hard to get frequently resupplied, many of the snacks behind the bar were out of date by years.

gigabyte8984 karma

How much paperwork was involved?

Derpese_Simplex7 karma

almost none. Just did it electronically via Koryo Tours website

lettuce994 karma

Should I move to London UK from Ottawa ont?

Derpese_Simplex3 karma

Do you have the capacity to make a good wage and the visas to stay?

gerned3 karma

Im going to Colombia on thursday, specifically Santa Marta. Any advice for me would be appreciated.

Derpese_Simplex5 karma

Never been there. I would say brush up on Spanish and get meds from your md to have in case you need them.

Appypoo3 karma

Interesting read op. Thanks for delivering

Derpese_Simplex3 karma

Thank you. I appreciate it

Gormatop3 karma

What do you do (career)?

Derpese_Simplex3 karma

I am a student currently.

LordJunon3 karma

What was the mass games like?

Derpese_Simplex5 karma


PolarisSONE2 karma

Totally on my bucket list, furthest I've been is Panmunjom and the DMZ. How hard was it to get to NK? I am a Chinese from HK, with Canadian citizenship. I am guess I will have to ditch my Canadian passport and use my China Immigration Card to get a visa somewhere in China, probably close to the border?

And, not related to your NK trip I guess, but I started becoming interested in traveling alone or with a friend or two, and have only made short trips to places I am comfortable with. What is the best way to ensure one's safety when traveling? A trip across Europe, staying in hostels and such, sound amazing, but I am always nervous about thieves or muggers when I am traveling.

How do you get past language barriers? I can only speak 3 languages (two of them being Cantonese and Mandarin, which I guess doesn't count), and last time I went to a foreign country it was super difficult to explore, and it was only successful because I had the help of the internet and lots and lots of planning beforehand. I kind of like the "improvisation" traveling idea, like arriving at a place, having a few places you HAVE to visit, but the rest of the time is just wandering. However, I can't fathom how one can do this if they don't speak the language.

And yes, please do tell how you're getting ready for Iran and Iceland!

Derpese_Simplex4 karma

I usually travel alone. I find it both gives me more freedom and draws me out into the experiences and people around me more which in turn gives me a much richer experience. I used an American passport, a Canadian one would be fine though you might get much more freedom with a Chinese one.

Do not let fear stop you from living the life you want to lead. I have been on countless trips and usually before each one I have a little time where I freak out and ask myself what the fuck am I doing. If you have done the research and taken adequate precautions do not let fear stop you. Have the courage to live the life you want. As far as languages you would be surprised at how easy it is to get around without speaking any of the language though I would make an attempt to learn some just to speed things along and help you out if you really need to know where to toilet is. You just have to get in there and ask and don't be afraid of looking stupid. Who gives a shit if you do, you don't live there so chances of you seeing them after the trip are almost 0.

Iceland I am hiking regularly with weights in the pack I will use and slowly increasing the weight until I am up to where I need to be in capacity.

Iran it is a long and arduous visa process but I have faith that I will get in. The way I hear it is you get a tour company to give you a letter of invitation then you send that and your passport and information to the appropriate consulate (in my case the iranian interests section in the Pakistani Embassy).

I hope I answered anything. If you have any more questions just let me know.

analogue_camera2 karma

Crazy place. I was also there in August. Did you go with Koryo? I took the Late August Tour. No Paektu, unfortunately!

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

yeah I was with Koryo maybe we saw each other

CecilDykeDonnelly2 karma

Sounds like an insane trip, what was the single most shocking thing about n.korea? And why?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

That it is real and not a show. It is so surreal that it was hard to wrap my head around most of the time that yes this is a real place.

maybsofinitely2 karma

Sucks I saw this late, hope you can reply still. Do you have any important advice on how to travel alone and have fun for a first timer? I'm always scared to do it alone probably from watching movies and reading news.

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

The answer is to not let fear get in the way. Do not be afraid to look stupid in trying to communicate people generally appreciate the effort and will try to help. I find that I actually have a better time alone on trips because my isolation draws me out and into the situation. In contrast when you are with anyone else you are drawn into conversation with them and it makes hitting it off with locals and other travelers more difficult. You can also involve yourself in things with more people like hostles or tours or events. Hell even strike up a conversation with a waitress and see what they recommend doing in the city or if they are cool even go try it with them. Traveling alone is awesome don't be afraid to try it out and see if you like it.

canadianpastafarian2 karma

I find it odd that you say you've been to 20-30 countries. How do you not know exactly how many? I've been to 47 countries. It's pretty easy to count them.

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

I don't count them the number isn't really important to me. The experiences are all that matter to me.

_Delvin2 karma

North korea has always been a sort of morbid fascination for me, so first off i just want to thank you for doing this AMA. What is Pyongyang like? Or at least what parts of the city your were allowed to see

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

Pyongyang was fun, totally explore the hotel and everywhere you are allowed to go. I edited the post to include bits about the hotel. Also go down by the water in the mornings before breakfast you can get some amazing shots and see much more of the city and daily life by yourself and just get a feel for things.

sugnaz2 karma

Did you have a sense of what the people there thought of their government? If so, what was it?

Derpese_Simplex3 karma

Not really

anriana2 karma

How much of your tourism money went to the NK government?

Derpese_Simplex6 karma

Unsure, but tourism is an insignificant portion of their total trade and more importantly I felt that there is too much of a veil of uncertainty around that country and while I knew my tour would be no representative "day in the life" style trip I thought (and was correct) that simply being there was going to enlighten me on that country and give me context I never had and could not find in the media who too often times is more concerned about making a story than expressing things on the ground.

itismypassword2 karma

You seem to travel all over the world. What location has offered up the best experience? How often do you get to travel and how do you afford to go on so many amazing trips. Thanks for doing this AMA, your answers have been amazing so far.

Derpese_Simplex3 karma

I look for deals like for instance Kilimanjaro was around $1800 from NYC all expenses included, food, porters, gear, airfare, etc. Beyond that I try to keep a certain amount set aside per month so that I can have cash to travel and I try to find ways to cut corners. For instance my hiking across Iceland will cost $1,500-$2,000 for a month of travel everything included. And I have also been lucky and been able to go to some trips because I know some languages (or at least know them well enough for the purposes of the people on the trip). Anything else you want to know?

ansile3 karma

Even though that's not a lot in the grand scheme thing, as a student that is certainly a lot (for any student I know whose parents don't pay for everything). How do you still afford that?

Derpese_Simplex3 karma

I have investments and money saved up. I would not like to go deeper than that into my finances. But if you have questions about low cost trips I can try to help.

yolo_swagginsxx4 karma

OP sells cocaine, he neglected to mention his many trips to Columbia. That's what I choose to believe because it makes you seem much more mysterious and adventurous.

Derpese_Simplex3 karma

Well I have never sold cocaine but I heard when I worked in a Bolivian medical clinic that you can take some of the concentrated coca tea packets and make a paste out of water and baking soda to use as a topical anesthetic (how advisable that is I can't say, beware of Bolivian medicine in general).

ansile2 karma

I'm not even a student anymore, but even low cost trips I doubt I could afford. I am very jealous of you (NK has been a dream trip for me since high school too) and hopefully I'll get to do some of the stuff you've done one day. :)

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

yeah I am lucky to be debt free...that helps a lot

tsgoten2 karma

Do you tend to travel alone?

Derpese_Simplex3 karma

Usually but not always.

lobsterandi2 karma

Did everyone really have one of the 28 approved hair cuts? Or was that something exaggerated/made up?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

Not sure. I think someone asked that but I do not remember clearly enough to give you an accurate answer.

Firebrass111 karma

Have you even been to the Caucasus Region?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

Well I am going to Iran in august but beyond that no. I was going to go overland from Turkey into Iraqi Kurdistan but chose something else instead

ronosaurio1 karma

Is the Ryugyong Hotel finished yet?

Derpese_Simplex1 karma

The glass one? Not yet.......I tried to get inside but the guides (both western and north korean) just laughed at me.

jcsimpson1 karma

I wanna immigrate to New Zealand from Quebec. I don't just want to visit. I want to stay there. Tips?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

Line up a job first nursing is in demand I have heard. But having an employer help can help in securing visas and such.

RaisedByWolves91 karma

What kind of items could you not bring into the DPRK that suprised you? Also can you take smart phones/tablets etc?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

yeah smart phones, video cameras, massive lenses, etc were all allowed if not by the letter of the law they were by practice. The only thing that I would say to really leave behind would be any books on the DPRK, radios, or Korean language books.

Caveman7751 karma

if you were to travel anywhere for the first time where would it be? looking for simplicity and ease of travel. thank you!

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

Do you want city or nature? Do you want a party or someplace chill? Where are you from etc?

EchoMyToots1 karma

Were the North Koreans strict against tourists like yourself?

Derpese_Simplex4 karma

No they were very cool, I was invited to drink and dance with several. People are people everywhere pretty much.

theway21 karma

ever gone to croatia? My friend and I are going in the spring and could use some tips

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

no i haven't but I hear the beaches are great. Generally with places like that I find that going off the beaten tourist path (croatia is getting increasingly touristy) can make your budget go farther and at times your experiences more rich.

_jhs_1 karma

Why did you go there?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

Always had a fascination with the country

RaisedByWolves91 karma

Hi! What is the process of booking the trip? Also was it expensive?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

Very easy and simple done through koryo tours website. prices vary a lot depending on what all you want to see. Here is the website


What are some weird traditions you've experienced?

Derpese_Simplex4 karma

Traditional north korean dancing is weird.

theflyingarmbar1 karma

What were the various dispositions towards you and how did it vary from people (i.e guards, hospitality workers, the general public)?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

All positive

theflyingarmbar1 karma

Who was the 'highest in command'(government wise) that you got to meet whilst you were there?

Derpese_Simplex2 karma

Not sure I met a few generals I can't tell their rank. Good tid bit though if you are talking regular North Koreans look at their pin and you can tell a lot in ascending order from lowest to highest you have:

Round Kim Il Sung Face

Rectangle Kim Il Sung Face (these occasionally were higher ranking if they were old, from what I can understand)

Rectangle Kim Il Sung, Kim Jung Il

Flag Kim Il Sung (again the older thing might be here too)

Flag Kim Il Sung, Kim Jung Il

That is the best my imperfect memory can provide.

theflyingarmbar3 karma

That's awesome! TIL N.Koreans wear pins that rank them!

Great AMA btw!

Derpese_Simplex3 karma


Facticity1 karma

Hey man. Firstly thanks for all the great answers here, you're doing the AMA right.

It seems like everyone's asking about DPRK (which is awesome) but I'm more interested in your Iceland traverse, since I will be doing the same thing this summer.

I'm wondering if you'd be willing to share some info on your route, and anything else notable that you'd think would be helpful to someone attempting a traverse. When will you be going?


Derpese_Simplex1 karma

I was thinking a modified version of this guy's trip with additional off the path way points and other such things. I am in the initial stages of my planning since I am going in July. I hear there is a way to get goods dropped off for you via their bus service but I haven't ironed out the particulars or how to ensure item security, like I said initial stages here and would love any input from you as well....

How are you training for the trip? When are you going?

How are you working your food? What are you taking?

eratru1 karma

How much did the traveling cost? I want to do it after high school and before college and would like to know how much I would have to save up.

GotFree1 karma

What do you do for a living? Just wondering how you afford/ make time for all these trips. By the way awesome AMA

Derpese_Simplex1 karma

school timing and finances kind of came together to let it happen.

Thanks for the complement I learned from the best on how to do an AMA

elbowcleavage1 karma

I know you mentioned you were a student but do you have a full time job as well? Do you pay rent? I envy your travels. Have you ever been to Cuba? I'd love to travel there someday.

Derpese_Simplex1 karma

I have money saved up. I can't help you replicate my finances just help you get what I do from my travel budget.