Standing at the top of the tallest slide in Pyongyang’s Munsu Water Park, clutching a rubber ring and watching the water gush through candy-coloured loops to a wave pool below, it’s easy to forget you’re in North Korea. The crystalline rooftops of the indoor pools sparkle in the afternoon sun; swimmers frolick in fountains and are pummelled by waterfalls tumbling from artificial rocks. Others look on from the terrace, licking ice-creams and tapping at their smartphones, surfing the strictly controlled national intranet. This could be Florida or Dubai, if it wasn’t for the unnervingly lifelike waxwork of the Eternal Chairman, Kim Jong-il, standing in the lobby in his trademark safari suit and Cuban heels, welcoming visitors with a cheery beam. A couple of hours in this unlikely fun park was one of the few moments of respite on a week-long architectural tour of Pyongyang, a seven-day package holiday for the hardened monument-phile. I had met Nick Bonner, the man who organises these tours, at the Venice architecture biennale last year, where he curated a surreal exhibition of paintings by North Korean architects, depicting their vision of the future of tourism in their isolated land. There were space-age scenes of hoverships… Read full this story
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