North Korea’s most famous luxury hotel has reopened after renovations that modernised its 1980s, vaguely Soviet, style.
The Koryo is one of Pyongyang’s best-known and most visible landmarks, with its twin towers in the centre of the capital.
It was closed for several months while the first three floors were remodelled. The guest rooms were not changed.
People entering the hotel are now greeted by a brighter and more up-to-date look that — possibly to the disappointment of many exotica-seeking foreigners — is a sharp contrast with the opulent and vaguely Soviet style of its prior lobby.
The Koryo was built in 1985 under the instructions of North Korea’s “eternal president”, the late national founder Kim Il-sung, who wanted it to be a symbol of the country’s strength and modernity.
It is a popular spot for socialising among local elites, foreign businessmen, diplomats and others who are able to afford its relatively high prices — a cappuccino in its lobby coffee shop goes for about $9 and the cheapest rooms are $130 to $160 a night.
The hotel, located near Pyongyang’s main train station, also features an indoor pool and sauna, several places to eat including a revolving restaurant atop one of its towers, a bookstore and other amenities one could only dream of in a provincial North Korean hotel.
In 2015 a major fire charred its upper floors, though the extent of damage and other information about the blaze has never been disclosed.
In the old Koryo hotel, lighting was funky and fish were for more than just eating. (AP: Wong Maye-E)
At 43 stories, the Koryo has long been eclipsed in height by other hotels.
One of them is the 47-story Yanggakdo, and, tallest of all, the 105-story, pyramid-shaped Ryugyong.
The Yanggakdo is more popular with budget or first-time visitors and is considered a notch or two lower than the Koryo, while the Ryugyong has been under construction for decades and has never been open for guests.
The Koryo’s twin towers (seen from the taller, more popular Yanggakdo) blend in seamlessly with the surrounding environment. (Wikimedia Commons)