The Koryo Hotel does pretty well on TripAdvisor, all things considered. The Internet never—and I mean never—works. The towels are “thin,” the sheet thread count low, and the milk powdered. Watch out for the “giant mutant cockroach snake hybrid“ in the shower. Guests even have to pay for the pool.
Still, the Koryo, a pair of dull beige towers connected near the top by a sky bridge, is the number-one-rated hotel on TripAdvisor for Pyongyang, North Korea. Despite its many faults, it garners three and a half out of five “bubbles,” in TripAdvisor parlance (so as not to be confused with the star systems that signify quality in hotels and restaurants), across nearly 90 reviews.
Perhaps this is no surprise. People come expecting the worst, and with expectations so dismally calibrated, something like hot water starts to sound pretty amazing. Reviewers carefully note that many of the hotel’s quirks—you can’t walk out the front door unaccompanied, for instance—are out of the manager’s hands. (You’ll have to take that up with the Supreme Leader.) It may not be the Ritz-Carlton, the sentiment goes, but considering the fact that you are staying in the marquee property in the showcase capital of the world’s most repressive regime, it may be best to, as one reviewer counseled, “just chill out, have some beers, some expired Oreos from the gift shop and make friends with the other tourists.”