North Korea is a destination unlike any other. A visit to North Korea will probably also bring you to Mount Myohyang as this is standard in any tour. It is a nice day trip from Pyongyang and I also did it a year ago during my North Korea trip. I take you to this national park where you find a beautiful temple, nature and an exhibition of all the gifts the great leaders ever received.
Mount Myohyang or Myohyangsan translates to Mysterious Fragrant Mountain. The area is now a national park and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. For the Koreans it’s a sacred place as their ancestor King Tangun supposed to live there. He is said to be the grandson of heaven and has founded the Gojoseon Kingdom over 5 centuries ago. The nature in the area is unspoiled with endless stretches of mixed forest. If you visit in autumn as I did, you will see the leafs turn to a variety of yellow, red and brown colors. The air is fresh as there is basically no pollution which is very pleasant when hiking one of the many trails. It is possible to stay overnight at one of the guesthouses but I opted to return the same day to Pyongyang. If you do so you will have more probability to spot the many endangered birds, plants and other wildlife. The mountain is also home to the Pohyon temple and the International Friendship Exhibition which are worth a visit, I will tell you why.
The Pohyon temple, or Pohyon-sa, is a temple located deep into the Myohyang Mountains. It was founded in the first quarter of the 11th century and quickly became the most important Buddhist temple in now Northern Korea. Unfortunately the US troops had to bomb the area during the Korean War and thus most of the buildings are rebuilt as per original designs. The main buildings are like in most temples located along an axis. As you cannot really walk freely in North Korea, actually a bit here, you will be taken around so that you won’t miss a part.
When you enter the complex through the outer gate and then the inner gate you will see the 13 story pagoda. Although it’s a replica built after the US bombing it is as beautiful as the original. Just behind the pagoda you find the main hall of the complex. It is re-constructed out of concrete and not wood. If you like to photograph like me you can donate something to the monks who are eager to take some money. A 3-5 dollar or 30-50 RMB will do the trick and you are free to photograph what you want. When you walk through the Pohyon complex you will find various shrines, halls and pavilions each beautiful colored and very well-preserved. Even being re-constructed just 40 years ago they are being kept in top conditions, which I can say in general from everything in North Korea. If you add the autumn colors of the trees it kind of made a fairy tale atmosphere. I was given all the time I needed to photograph the complex and when I was finished we continued to the International Friendship Exhibition.
International Friendship Exhibition
Let us start with the security at the International Friendship Exhibition: it’s very tight! It was not allowed to take any phone, camera or any other device that could produce photos. I wish I had a Google glass or an iWatch. As this is North Korea I answered with yes sir, and handed over all my bags full of lenses and cameras. I obey local law; anywhere! The International Friendship Exhibition is located at the Myohyang Mountain just across the street of the Pohyon Temple. It houses all the gifts the great leaders Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and the current leader Kim Jong-un got from other leaders, important business men and other important persons. When you will enter through the thick doors (see photo below) you will be taken first to the balcony overlooking a valley of the Myohyang Mountain. But first, you will bow to the eternal leaders! Here you can have tea for 1 USD/EUR and write a letter to the great leader. I started to write in the Dutch language on how honored I was to visit but quickly I was told it had to be in English so they could read what I was writing. Maybe I wrote something harming to the great leader? After the tea the tour starts but only a fraction can be seen as the gifts are over 200.000 covering almost 200 rooms. I was shown stuffed tiger heads, ivory pieces as large I had never seen, tanks, limousines, paintings, gem stones and a baseball signed by Michael Jordan. It was a pleasure to admire all the gifts and after each room I was again astonished by the treasures. I planned to give a gift during my 2nd visit but this unfortunately the trip was cancelled. Soon, I hope, I will visit again and handover my gift!
To be honest when I started to schedule my trip to North Korea I had the Myohyang Mountain at the bottom of my list. A museum with gifts and a Buddhist temple? It was probably one of the most impressing day tours I did from Pyongyang. The International Friendship Exhibition at Myohyang Mountain is worth a day visit alone! As I’m writing this story and thinking I still need to go a second time to North Korea I might even plan a second visit to Myohyang Mountain and stay overnight. Maybe, or maybe not, but one thing I can guarantee you is that you will be impressed.
Did you experience North Korea or Myohyang Mountain or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!
Gallery Mt. Myohyang
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.
GPS Track Mt. Myohyang
During my trips I make GPS tracks (sometimes they do not show, click download to open in Google maps). Feel free to download them and see how we moved around and see the time frames at the various places. Hope these maps are of help for you when planning your trips.