Freedom is close to zero, you'll most likely spend every night in Pyongyang and all your accommodation, guide, transport (tour bus - although there is a metro system you get to ride on as part of your tour - the deepest in the world no less - all public transport is off-limits) and food will be pre-paid and provided for you.

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To/from China there are many ferry routes from East coast cities all heading to Icheon (most popular are to/from Dalian, Dandong, Qingdao and Tanggu/Tianjin for Beijing.

To/from Japan, (to/from Busan) for Fukuoka and Shimoneseki is easy and you find both fast (jetfoil) and slower crafts.

Few destinations hold as much traveller kudos as North Korea.

Pyongyang, despite reputably being the least visited capital on earth and North Korea's stance as the ultimate 'hermit state' firmly intact, it is however far from difficult to visit and tour.

The economic super-powers of Northern Asia are changing fast (China in particular). Highlights: Sun Moon lake and the surrounding area, Taroko gorge, Alishan mountain range, the whole of the East coast is a delight with amazing mountain and coastal scenery as well as interesting aboriginal areas. Some good beaches in the Southern part of the island, although not on a par with other parts of Asia such as Thailand or the Philippines. Not much of a scene outside of Taipei for those who like to party. Japan is intriguing, confusing and always fascinating - few destinations in the world will have such a lasting impression on you.

Cutting-edge modern and rural-tradition sit side-by-side. Lowlights: To get the most out of a trip to Taiwan you really need your own transport. Japan with a little cash, care and a rail pass is truly one of the highlights of Asia and world travel and very easy to include on many round-the-world tickets or as aside trip (by ferry) from China or S. Highlights: Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Mt Fuji, Himeji castle, the public baths, iconic views of Mount Fuji, the learning experience of a visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki plus lots of great places off the tourist trail.

The 'real' city and around is best gauged from the tour bus window or train window (if entering/leaving the country by train) - this is the North Korea you expect, not all of which can be beautified for foreign visitors and signs of distinct poverty are obvious.

There is a lot that can be written on North Korea, all is interesting simply since it is North Korea, but at the same time there is very little to say that is interesting if it was not the hermit state it is.

Korea, which is as nationally proud as you would expect from this long lineage and its position surrounded by three super-powers - not to mention being a country split in half- was isolated from the west for thousands of years and retains a culture and customs that will continually surprise and entertain. Food is amazingly spicy and distinctive, eating seems to always involve plenty of people and alcohol and is for many visiting one of the main highlights.