Wednesday 9 September 2015

Travelling with the North Koreans

4am on my last day in Chengdu and I had the unique pleasure of sharing a bus with the team from North Korea. They were full of smiles and very pleasant.

The bus ride was about 50 minutes and I parted with the team at the terminal and tried to find my checkin desk. It wasn't there, I was at the wrong terminal. An 800 metre walk ensued with all my luggage, down the road to the next terminal. I figured the bus driver must have dropped us all at the terminal that the DPRK team needed for their flight.

I checked in and made my way down to the gate lounge. 10 minutes later as I am sitting listening to music the North Korean team start walking in and a few of them see me again and point and smile and wave. Quite a surprise to see them. I did my best to ask them which gate they are leaving from, it was the one opposite mine according to one of the female players. So my flight was called and I got in line to get the bus out to the plane. As I was standing in line a couple of the players waved goodbye to me, they really seemed like very nice people.

Matt Hetherington (me) with the North Korean Team

I got on the bus and they were still in the terminal, I thought I guess I won't see them again for quite some time. So I made my way to my seat on the plane and I'm sitting there relaxing and watching people squeeze by. 5 minutes pass and I see one of the DPRK players. Again the whole team starts making their way past me, smiling and waving again. The whole thing has become kind of comical.

So we fly to Beijing and once we arrive I can be assured we will be parting ways for sure. At the baggage claim I ask them how long it will be to fly to Pyongyang for them. They tell me it is just over 2 hours. They ask how long my flight will be, I tell them 17 hours and facepalm. They laugh a little and then we part ways, this time for certain.

It was a unique experience to be closer to one of the most unique teams in the world, from a country that is really behind closed doors. They were an incredibly pleasant team and I hope I can meet them again in the near future.

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