DPRK NORTH KOREA – SPA, hotsprings and other waterworks in Nampo

During my trip to North Korea back in October 2014 I did a two day trip to Nampo area on the west coast. On the way there over the deserted Hero Youth Highway we made a stop at a cooperative farm. Nampo itself is a rural town we just drove through. Just outside Nampo you can see the waterworks where the Taedong river flows into the Korean Bay. Close to Nampo is the Nampo Ryonggang Spa House where we stayed the night.

The cooperative farm & anti-aircraft canons

On the way to Nampo from Pyongyang we stopped at a cooperative farm called Chongsan-ri, about 30 minutes out of Pyongyang. First we made a bow to the eternal president Kim Il-song at the nearby statue.

At a cooperative farm various families live in groups each responsible for various tasks at the farm. They are guided by the great leader Kim-il Un. At this farm just over 1000 people lived divided into a dozen or so groups each having around 10 families. The work is mainly done by hand so the production per head is not high. They farm various products but the big fields are mainly rice but also various green crops. They have also greenhouses where they grow cucumbers, unions and other vegetables. My visit was in autumn and at this farm most harvesting was already done. It would be great to see the farm during summertime when there is a lot of more work to do.

After we visited the fields I asked if I could see and photograph a bit inside the village. The reason firstly to make some photos of the village but secondly I spotted some anti-aircraft artillery at a hill just out of the village and wanted to get that on the background. I was allowed to take pictures but they brought me to the other side of the village. The only people were at the end of the street probably waiting for me to leave. But luckily I spotted a little girl coming out of a house probably on her way to school. It’s great to learn about cooperative farming and to see how the people live on such a farm. If you visit North Korea make sure you visit a cooperative farm as this is how many people live throughout the country.

West sea barrage at Nampo

Our next stop is the west sea barrage at Nampo. Nampo is a city on the west coast of North Korea where the Taedong River flows into the Korean Bay. From a small fishing village it has grown over the years into an industrial city with its main activity shipbuilding. The city itself is a bit grey and many parts could use a bit of new paint. The west sea barrage or nampho dam was constructed in the early 80’s in a time span of only 5 years. North Korea had put a lot of effort in the construction to show the western countries they were able to achieve this in such a short period of time. Finally they managed. The west sea barrage was built to higher the water level in the Taedong river to make it fresh water and to have better irrigation on the farm lands along the river. The barrage also would allow bigger ships to move up and down he taedong river and prevent flooding as water could not go up the Taedong river anymore.

Next to the dam there is a visitors center showing a movie about the construction and other background information. You have a great view over the dam here. The dam is in total 8 kilometers long and there are a total of three passageways for the ships in the barrage. The visitors center is the only point to get out of the car and to look around. Unfortunately I was not allowed to walk around the barrage. After an hour at the place it was time to continue our journey as it was getting late afternoon already.

SPA house with hot spring

The Ryonggang Hot Spring Spa House is located in a small town called Onchon outside of Nampo. The place is like a resort with various villas with each several rooms and one common building. We started with an early BBQ with clams. They are put on a metal plate and then gasoline is poured over the clams and set on fire. This is repeated several times until the clams are ready. Simply delicious together with some vodka!

After the BBQ it was time for a bath filled with hot spring water. Hot water was only available during a certain time. As the place dates back from the Japanese occupation it all looks quite old including the bathtub (see photo). I did however take a great healthy bath in the very very hot water which is said to heal several skin conditions. The next morning I found out myself that hot water was indeed not always available, the morning shower was cold!

Fully relaxed I went to the common area for dinner by myself (yes!). The whole complex is surrounded by a wall and the entrance well guarded by military personnel. Going the wrong way from the house to the dinner area is simply impossible 🙂 As I travelled alone my dinner was served also alone on a table normally able to fit 15 people. I kindly asked to move my plate and dinner to the same table as the guides so we could eat with all four together. They agreed. I made sure we had enough beer of course for all of us. After dinner we went to the pitch dark pool area as electricity was not working. We got from the property a lamp working on an old car battery to light the pool table. What an experience. Playing a few games with the guides while talking about lots of various things it was time to head for bed. A great day came to an end.

The next day we drove back over the Hero Youth Highway to Pyongyang. This highway has five lanes both ways with almost no traffic at all. This is really strange after a very hectic China just a few days back.

Did you like the article? Comments or questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery North Korea

Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.

Background information on this trip

Beside the above this trip might have been to more places. In the table below the full facts & statistics about this trip with links to related posts.

Dates of travel 2014.09.30 – 2014.10.12
Itinerary Overnight arrival to China with a relax day. Day 2 visited Pekingman site; Day 3 Mint Tombs; Day 4 – 11 to North Korea; Day 12 Back in Beijing with on Day 13 a flight back to Amsterdam.
Related posts CHINA – Going back to Chinese roots at Pekingman site & Ming tombs during Chinese National Day
DPR NORTH KOREA – To bow or not to bow; Pyongyang explored [part 1] [part 2] [part 3]
DPR NORTH KOREA – Spying on the Southern neighbours and the old Koryo dynasty
DPR NORTH KOREA – Spa, hot springs and other waterworks in Nampo
DPR NORTH KOREA – National day in the DPR Korea – happy faces! [subscribe to the newsletter to know when this goes live!]
Hotel Reviews Quarter 4 – 2014
Facts & Statistics Visited a new country and capital: North Korea / Pyongyang. Four new UNESCO sites visited. First time flew a Tupolev 204 airplane and first time flew with Air Koryo. Gathered 25.000 bonus points in IHG program by changing hotels daily. Four new UNESCO sites visited: DPR Korea Koguryo Tombs (Kaesong Area) & Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong (Kaesong)
China Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (1h from Beijing) & Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1h from Beijing, Ming Tombs location)
Tour Operator, Hotels and Airlines used China part and flight: KLM direct flight to Beijing (in Business 😉 and stayed at various IHG hotels to collect additional bonus points. DPR Korea part: arranged through Your Planet Travel, based in the Netherlands but they will arrange tours for everyone. A very good tour operator with direct personal contact and everything arranged in detail.
GPS Map for your reference

2 Comments

  1. Hi I am one of the writter from Korean television show named [Um-Dam-Pae-Sul] and we are introducing remarkable stories about the food to our viewers. We want to use this clip in our show if you don’t mind using it. Hope you see this comment and reply me back. Thank you

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