North Korea invites tourists over for a St Patrick’s Day pub crawl in Pyongyang

North Korea invites tourists over for a St Patrick’s Day pub crawl in Pyongyang


  Party lovers have been invited to a St Patrick’s Day booze-up – in North Korea   Kim Jong-un will allow a celebration in capital Pyongyang in March next year after a UK-based tour company were given the green light to offer pub crawls around the city  Smiling Grape Adventure Tours have been given permission to mark the occasion in the hermit state  The Cambridge-based holiday firm will take a group over to enjoy a tour of the city’s best pubs, bars and microbreweries in March 2020   And revellers who brave the trip will ever be given tours of some of North Korea’s vineyards to sample local wines – making them the first western visitors to do so, reports the Daily Star    Matt Ellis, the director of Smiling Grape Adventure Tours, said that despite sanctions, there is a booming beer industry in the country  “The drinking culture is big in North Korea,” he said.  “A shortage of fuel due to the sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs makes it difficult for beer to be shipped around the country, so there are many microbreweries  “Microbreweries are everywhere – hotels, restaurants, bowling alleys, karaoke bars and department stores ”  The tour boss even said the local residents would get into the spirit and mark the day dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland  He said: “The North Koreans have many celebrations similar to St Patrick’s Day throughout the year, from the birthdays of the leaders to significant dates in the country’s history  “As in Ireland, North Korea uses these holidays to celebrate its cultural identity  “I’m sure experiencing an Irish celebration will be quite new to them, but the North Koreans are friendly, kind and inquisitive folks    “When you visit you will find the people are warm, welcoming and will ask many questions about your life ”  North Korea’s most famous beer is Taedonggang, which is named for the river that runs through Pyongyang  And if it tastes strangely familiar, that’s because the brewery was founded with equipment from the defunct Ushers brewery of Trowbridge, Wiltshire  “This is a much more funky, full-bodied and bitter style than the beers of South Korea,” Mr Ellis explained  However, North Korea’s wines are reportedly not quite as good, with them mostly being used for medicinal purposes  “As Western drugs are scarce and medical supplies suffer from chronic shortages, the North Koreans turn to traditional medicines as an alternative,” he added  “There is the awesome looking snake wine, which has a dead snake floating inside the bottle and is produced to cure short-sightedness and hair loss ”  However, anyone who goes should be careful about any drunken antics that risk offending the country’s thin-skinned leader Kim  Despite allowing foreign visits, North Korea has on several occasions arrested tourists and sentenced them to hard labour   In 2015, American student Otto Warmbier  was arrested and imprisoned after allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel  He fell into a coma shortly after his sentencing and never regained consciousness, and died within a week of his return to the US in 2017  Asked about the wisdom of taking tourists for a boozy trip to the country, Mr Ellis said: “We will be mixing with the locals in the microbreweries, pubs, bars and restaurants  “It is well known that alcohol can bring people together as well as helping to bring their guard down  “With lower inhibitions from both sides our guests can learn much about their lives in this fascinating and isolated country ”  The tour, which departs from China, will run from March 15 to March 20, 2020, and is priced at £1,295

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