North Korea To Turn Grimy Port City Into Beach Resort

Wonsan Beach, North Korea
(stephan), Flickr

Hot on the heels of the Hermit Kingdom building a ski resort out of spite comes news that North Korea is developing a beach resort in a heavily industrialized and militarized bay on the Sea of Japan.

According to a declassified report obtained by South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo, the naval city of Wonsan is being developed into a tourist resort. It current hosts a naval base and numerous heavy industry factories, but has apparently long been a favorite holiday destination of the ruling Kim family.

Viewed in the context of other wacky and nonsensical North Korean projects, building a beach resort in a polluted, industrialized and militarized bay seems about par for the course. But contrary to the perceived isolation of the country, North Korea does welcome several thousand tourists every year, and the Kim regime is certainly aware of the financial incentives of increased tourism. Only a few weeks ago did the country open up a city on the border with China to Western visitors.

But North Korea isn’t going to replace Cancun anytime soon. The development project seems to be stuck while the country seeks $1 million of international investment, which will almost certainly run afoul of current UN sanctions.

Roadside America: PEZ Visitors’ Center, Orange, Connecticut

I have to congratulate the good people at PEZ for their excellent signage. I had no intention of spending any time or money on candy, but when we spotted signs for the PEZ Visitors’ Center in Orange, Connecticut, we thought it was worth a closer look. I was driving from New Haven to New York with my mother and baby daughter (neither of which is currently a big candy connoisseur, but we all loved it), and a few minutes from following the signs off I-95, we were in front of several giant packages of PEZ candy.

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For a few bucks each ($5 for adults, including $2 in store credit), we were soon immersed in all things PEZ. Invented in the 1920s in Austria, PEZ was originally intended as a smoking substitute and the first dispenser was created to look like a cigarette lighter, without the “head” now so integral to the PEZ experience. Introduced to the US market in the 1950s, the US factory has been located in Connecticut since 1974. The Visitors’ Center is a combination museum and store, with windows onto the factory floor, and filled with interactive exhibits and videos about the PEZ-making process and history.The real fun, of course, is selecting your own PEZ candy to take home. You can choose from dozens of favorite characters from Harry Potter to Winnie the Pooh, as well as visitor center exclusives, like a reproduction of the original dispensers. You can also design your own dispenser and select your favorite flavors (they now have chocolate PEZ but peppermint is a thing of the past) to fill it, provided you are partial to stickers and markers for personalizing. As a traveler, I would have liked to see more of the foreign PEZ containers to take home, but there is a large variety on display, and it just may inspire me to visit the world headquarters in Austria, or the dispenser factory in Hungary.

Get your sugar high at the PEZ Visitors’ Center and Factory in Orange, Connecticut.

[Photo credit: Meg Nesterov]

Abandoned Factories challenge communities

Abandoned factories

Over the years there have been factories built to make everything from candles to automobiles. As time marched on, new technology, better manufacturing methods or simply a change in demand rendered once-bustling factories obsolete and forced their closure. Once the lifeblood of a community, abandoned factories remain as a testament to what once was a vibrant business. Now, left for time to take its toll, many of these former backbone operations that helped forge today’s economy sit silently.

UsefulCommunityDevelopment.org
has some ideas for what might be done with these aging structures.

“Creative re-use of abandoned factories in your community can mean that an empty industrial building or complex for which there is no real estate market can live again as lofts, artist studios, unusual retail space, or offices for a marketing firm or other creative business.” the organization says on it’s website.

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Flickr photo (top) by Steve Snodgrass


Industrial Revolution in New York City

Making Cars in the Great Lakes: Inside Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant

Before I left Chicago for points east, I had a chance to tour Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, a complex that finishes about 1160 vehicles a day. A great majority of those are Ford Explorers, pieced together by line workers wearing safety glasses and headphones, working pneumatic tools in a hypnotizing ballet of endless repetition. Whir, whir, whir.

Walking the floor, following pedestrian pathways marked by bright yellow paint, I watched linemen and women raise engine assemblies into vehicle bodies, hang doors and bolt wheels, as conveyor belts ceaselessly inched the unfinished machines ever forward. (A tip: When touring the plant, one steps over the drive-chains running through channels in the floor.)

My tour guide Larry, a dead ringer for Jesse Ventura, even let me jump in a just-finished Explorer the moment it rolled off the line. Videographer Stephen Greenwood, who’s riding along for this part of my ride, captured the mesmerizing shots after the break.

Traveling the American Road – Ford Assembly Plant Tour


Original Hershey Chocolate Factory closing in Hershey, Pennsylvania

Milton Hershey’s chocolate factory, with its iconic double smokestack, is closing soon in downtown Hershey, Pennsylvania.

According to a National Public Radio report, Hershey’s chocolate bars will still be made nearby, in a newer facility outside of town that better accommodates modern manufacturing equipment. The company says global competition is the reason the factory will be shuttered, with 500 jobs lost in the process.

When Hershey built his factory, he followed the lead of British chocolate-maker Cadbury in building housing, community centers and even an amusement park for the chocolate company’s employees.

But in the century since the company was founded, Hershey, Pennsylvania, has become more than a factory town. Its Hersheypark theme park now caters to tourists, and hotels and resorts have sprung up around it.

For decades, visitors to “America’s chocolate center” toured the original factory at the corner of Chocolate and Cocoa avenues along with their visit to Hersheypark.

Today, the factory tours have been replaced by a 10-minute ride at Hershey’s Chocolate World that shows the chocolate-making process in a more visitor-friendly environment. But a monorail ride at Hersheypark still passes the original factory, with a voice-over describing it as “the world’s largest chocolate factory.”

The factory broke ground back in 1903 when the town of Hershey was still called Derry Church. Five years into its operation, the plant gave birth to a candy that Hershey named the Kiss – starting a long tradition of churning out massively popular chocolate products. Hershey now produces over 80 million Kisses every single day.

Before Milton Hershey became the largest maker of chocolate in the world, he made his money with caramel – and was one of the first to use fresh milk in his recipe. The sale of his caramel firm is what financed his chocolate empire. And even though his empire is mostly known for its Kisses and Bars – the various plants around the world churn out almost 200 different candy products, including gum, mints, hard candy and licorice.

One famous product that was made in the town came from the H.B. Reese company – founded by a former dairy worker for Hershey. It wasn’t till 1963 that the Hershey company purchased Reese’s and making the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup a member of the Hershey family.

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Check out these other Hershey sweet destination articles