Yanggakdo Hotel is the hub of tourist activity in Pyongyang. There are a few other hotels, one we almost had to move to because of VIP crowding at Yanggakdo, and then an overnight trip was scrubbed due to flooding, so in two trips this is the only hotel I have experienced in North Korea.
Throughout the Victory Day weekend the comings and goings are various VIPs made for great people watching.
The hotel occupies an island in the Taedong River. Guests are free to roam the grounds but not to leave the island. The hotel is perhaps most memorable for it dysfunctional elevators with minds of their own, slamming shut, sinking below floors, and more surprises. Getting to the rooftop breakfast can be quite a challenge as the stairway entrance to the top is often locked. There is also the hidden fifth floor, which I did not visit but a groupmate did and was promptly chased away, followed soon after by a spooky call to his room.
The building is little-changed since I visited in 2010 however the golf course was ripped up to make way for stalled new construction.
The cavernous lobby includes Unjong Tea, and leads to the main tower and several restaurants. In a separate wing is a bookstore, gift shop, and banquet halls. The 3rd floor has a tailor that can whip up local fashions.
Down from the lobby is the neglected casino, an Egyptian-themed nightclub closed during my visit, and the Macau restaurant. As I understand, locals are not permitted to gamble and this basement is walled off from the separate basement entertainment center.
Down a side stairway from the lobby on the opposite side of the building is an underground warren of entertainment facilies and the Pyongyang Cold Noodles restaurants. There is a back entrance with parking for privileged locals to drive up, with traffic primarily to the spa.
The rooftop revolving restaurant is aging poorly.
The rooms are basic. The foreigner floors have international channels like BBC, though no CNN, and no North Korean challenges while the guides say the floors for locals are the reverse.
Wake up in the morning and usually you see gray. Sometimes, however, a show is about to start.