North Korea is a truly bizarre and comical place. Wendy Simmons introduces each chapter with quotations from Lewis Carroll to perfectly heighten the sense that you have passed into a distorted world: one in which the ridiculous is commonplace, the normal is surreal, truths are lies, and reality is whatever the Party says it is. Wendy was assigned 'handlers' and a driver for her entire stay. Her every waking moment was meticulously planned in pitiless detail. Any deviation was cause for furious 'discussions' among her handlers on how to deal with it. These hiccups led to the most revealing and disturbing facets of this vacation.
An unplanned trip to a soccer game seemingly sends the whole nation scrambling to pull together what supposedly was a regularly scheduled league game. Wendy arrived ten minutes late and is shocked to find an almost empty stadium. Her bewilderment spikes when a phalanx of 400 people suddenly show up 15 minutes later to swell the total attendance to 420. The entire trip felt orchestrated in precisely this way, feeding the paranoid suspicion that an entire segment of the population is employed with the sole purpose of deceiving tourists like you. Yet these obviously staged 'spontaneous' events, intended to show the nation in its best light, consistently revealed a nation that struggles daily to believe its own lies.
I read this book in one sitting and have seldom laughed so hard.— Conrad Silverberg
Most people want out of North Korea. Wendy Simmons wanted in.
In My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, Wendy shares a glimpse of North Korea as it's never been seen before. Even though it's the scariest place on Earth, somehow Wendy forgot to check her sense of humor at the border.
But Wendy's initial amusement and bewilderment soon turned to frustration and growing paranoia. Before long, she learned the essential conundrum of tourism in North Korea: Travel is truly a love affair. But, just like love, it's a two-way street. And North Korea deprives you of all this. They want you to fall in love with the singular vision of the country they re willing to show you and nothing more.
Through poignant, laugh-out-loud essays and 92 never-before-published color photographs of North Korea, Wendy chronicles one of the strangest vacations ever. Along the way, she bares all while undergoing an inner journey as convoluted as the country itself.