Eight interesting facts about North Korea’s airline

What do you know about Air Koryo? Probably not much. The state-run airline for North Korea, it’s the only realistic way you can fly into the country, unless you have some sort of crazy commando resources at your disposal. Of course, there’s a lot you have to do before booking your ticket, and getting a visa can be quite difficult for Americans and other westerners. If you do make it through the red tape though, you’ll find yourself with more options than you realized.

So, ready to book your trip to Arirang and sample the beer and pizza of the most reclusive nation on the planet? Here’s what you need to know about the airline that will take you there:

%Gallery-105693%1. More destinations than you’d expect: the Beijing-Pyongyang route is the one for which Air Koryo is “famous,” but the state-sponsored airline actually connects to eight other cities: Moscow Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Shenyang, Shanghai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Kuwait City. Of course, if you want to use these cities to enter North Korea, you’ll still need to jump through the many hoops necessary to secure a visa.

2. Road warriors don’t get squat: are you a frequent flier to North Korea? Well, don’t expect much in exchange for your loyalty. While airlines around the world offer rewards programs, a mileage run on Air Koryo is worthless, as the carrier doesn’t have a program, according to a comment it made on its Facebook page.

3. A new home: as of July 15, 2011, the airline’s new terminal at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang is open for business! The airline claims on Facebook, “The new terminal features modernised facilities for luggage, security, customs, border control and the list goes on to an extent.”

4. Mongolia may be next: it’s always hard to tell when Air Koryo is going to add a route, but this comment to a prospective customer offers some hope: “Flights to Uanbator have been tossed up for a while now, since there is a decent amount of DPRK citizens traveling to Mongolia for a number of reasons. Also vice versa. We havn’t [sic] heard of any flights for August, but we will make some inquiries.”

5. Kuwait’s on the map for a reason: it may not be as busy as the New York-to-London route, but Pyongyang and Kuwait City seem to comprise an important city-pair for Air Koryo. According to the person operating the Air Koryo Facebook page, “Between 5 and 10,000 North Korean workers currently reside in Kuwait. These numbers change weekly with the flights by Air Koryo now enabling the DPR Korean direct flights to Pyongyang.”

6. True dialogue in social media: social media marketers have always discussed the importance of “dialogue” via social media, rather than generating revenue. Well, Air Koryo is a fantastic model. A user responded to the above claim about North Koreans living in Kuwait, “‎between 5 and 10000″ … Wow, that is an accurate answer !” The airline’s intended range was probably “between 5,000 and 10,000,” but the fan appears to have a fetish for the exact. Showing a bit of style, Air Koryo replied, “We’re [not] exactly demographers here, so exact figures are beyond us. Sorry.” The missing word in the response makes the whole exchange even funnier.

7. Online check-in: okay, this is not in Air Koryo’s future, probably because the carrier has a different set of priorities. According to SFGate: “‘You kidding right?’ Air Koryo responded. “There are many things to do before even looking at ‘Online check-in’ such as actually creating a website.’”

8. Don’t expect much love from the cabin crew: in the United States, you only need to worry about bad serviceand the occasional meltdown. In North Korea, the flight attendants will great you with such pleasantries as “I hate America!” But, they do follow it with, “What would you like to drink today, sir?”

Sir?! Now that’s service!

[photos via Wikipedia]

Photo of the Day – Temple of Heaven

Today’s photo, taken by Flickr user toffiloff, transports us to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China. The photographer’s perspective, gazing up from the bottom of the stairs at the magnificent Taoist structure, seems to reinforce the building’s spiritual force. A solitary bird in the upper right of the image, floating gently in the breeze, adds an additional layer of visual interest.

Have any great photos from your recent travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Photo of the Day – Chairman Mao Portrait

History is all around us, particularly in a country like China. Whether you’re walking along the magnificent Great Wall or gazing in awe at the Forbidden City in Beijing. Today’s photo, taken by Flickr user Trent Strohm, offers us yet another unique glimpse of China’s remarkable history: Chairman Mao, leader of the Chinese Revolution. Trent’s inclusion of the soldier in front of Mao’s portrait adds an interesting visual story to the photograph. It seems to be telling us the ghosts of China’s past are ever-present, asserting their watchful gaze over the present day.

Have any great photos from your own travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Video of the Day – Learning Chinese in Beijing

Do you remember the first moment you arrived in a new city? If you are anything like me, everything about a new place seems strangely fascinating, from the unfamiliar smells and sounds to the new customs you discovered and captivating language. Today’s video, which follows the journey of a student as he begins to learn Chinese in Beijing, feels a lot like that first moment. This beautifully produced video is actually part of a series produced by a language company called Education First. So yes, it is an ad for their language courses – but the spirit of joy and discovery in the video feels very true to travel form.

[Via Core77]

[Thanks Jon!]

Daily Pampering: Private cigar rooms at Davidoff Lounge, Ritz-Carlton Beijing

cigarsCrystal chandeliers and red velvet furniture adorn what is possibly the most exclusive cigar bar in Beijing. But why would you simply hang out at the bar when you can have your own private room?

The Davidoff Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing, attracts the discerning type, just as Zino Davidoff had intended it to be when he opened the world’s first cigar lounge in Switzerland back in the 1920s. Since then, Davidoff branded lounges have been catering to the world’s cigar affectionados.

The four private rooms at the Ritz-Carlton, Beijing, Davidoff Lounge were all designed by separate artists, allowing guests who want to purchase a private room the opportunity to pick one that suits their tastes. Grab one of the fine cigars and rare cognacs, and then settle into your private room for something truly unique and special: karaoke. Because really, what’s a good cigar and cocktail without your personal rendition of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”?

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The Davidoff Lounge offers some of the rarest single malts you’ll find in Asia, perfect for those needing to loosen up a bit before grabbing the mic and choosing their song of choice from the touch-screen TVs located in each of the rooms.

Just to rent one of the four private rooms costs ¥2888-3888 (approximately $430 to $590 USD). Cocktails start around $12 USD and the cheapest bottle of wine will run you around $68 USD. If you’re craving a cigar, puff on a Cohiba or a Davidoff for around ¥300 (approximately $45 USD).

Rumor has it celebrities including Jackie Chan have made an appearance at the Davidoff Lounge …

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.