Book– There Are No Gods in North Korea
Author– Anjaly Thomas
Previous Works– Almost Intrepid
Author contact– www.anjalythomas.com
Publishers– Niyogi Books
Number of Pages– 235
Blurb-The uniqueness of the book lies in the simplicity of narration and the author’s real life experiences as she goes about her solo journeys around the world. These journeys do not dwell on destinations, but life moments which define the purpose of travel and create the richness of experience, leading her to a completeness not experienced by any other form of entertainment. Be it freezing in the cold in Turkey, capitalising on the kindness of strangers in Mongolia, redefining the limits of individual freedom in the iron-regime of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or whether it is about learning to give, take or being humble or, most importantly, whether it is about being able to shed prejudices and being able to adapt and accept change the author’s journeys to random countries around the world will take the reader to a new level of understanding travel. It will instil a sense of responsibility and the importance of being a part of the world we live in.
There Are No Gods In North Korea is a candid tale of travel from the pen of a bagpacker with the spirit for adventure.
The book starts with her journey to DPRK ( Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea), where writers and journalists are strictly prohibited from entry, she fakes her occupation as a teacher and despite the warnings from her near and dear ones who were a bit learned in regards with the country, she packs her bags for the experience.
She makes a few friends amongst the travellers and gets to know that what the media says about North Korea is anything but false.
Amongst the numerous bans on tourists ‘for their own safety’, a keen eye helps her observe the real country. The ghost town, the crumbling economy, the biased literature, the phantom stories, the fake laughs, she figured all of them. The government’s effort to paint a false picture of happiness and superiority brings out the feeling of disgust in her and the end of her journey gives her solace.
As she leaves the province, she is left with hopes for the people she interacted with.
She ventures into the Gobi desert to live among the nomads and falls in love with the simplicity of the people, for their beliefs are naive and wants minimal. As the Mongolians leave an impact on her, she starts for Uganda and is welcomed into the King’s favourite wife’s hut for a cup of tea.
The matatu ride that leaves a sack of dust on your face, the river Nile, the angry sun and the kind people made her adore Africa more than ever.
She visits Turkey and tries out couchsurfing where she was welcomed by a wonderful host,broken plates, pretty shoes and pottery.
Istanbul turned her into a tourist where she lusted over a coat and met a lady who changed the way she looked at people and her initiative Travel & Relief was founded.
She entered China as a daredevil, keen on eating scorpions and doing some climbing but the sight of the street food and the people around turns her culinary ambitions into a nightmare.
She flew to Kenya to smell lions and became a Masai bride, she made use of her Travel & Relief belongings and proved to the reader that Africa is the most beautiful country even if it’s wild, dusty, hot and underprivileged.
If you have some wanderlust in you buried under the list of reasons why you cannot fulfill you lust,.then this is THE BOOK for you. It will make your travel wishes come true in your imagination as you get a portrait of the lands that don’t give you hopes and expectations like the tourism videos, but a realistic picture of the country that gives you reasons why you should travel to them.
You cannot help but fall in love with this book. It’s not only written from the traveller’s point of view but also written with the skills of a good writer.
It’s the kind of book that connects you with the author. You don’t just know her story, you know her. You know what she thinks of new roads, unknown destinations, friendly strangers, delayed flights, disgusting sights etc.
You see those places you always wanted to see, through her eyes. You don’t see just the famous blocks of rocks made into monuments, you get to know the lesser known places as well.
That’s the beauty of this book, it makes you live what she has lived. You get to know what she thought of people, all that she saw and thought have been honestly penned down, probably without any flinch of what might the reader think.
The traveller says how people can be kind to tourists and how being brave enough to take risks ( couchsurfing) can open up gates for memories to flow in.
Travelling isn’t just about going to places, it’s lot more than that. It’s about meeting new people, trying new things, digging into food with hands after successive failure with chopsticks (somewhere I expected it to happen).
It’s a book which should not be read all at once, it’s supposed to be taken one chapter a day so that you experience the travel for a longer time.
Cover- 4 stars
Title- 3.8 stars
Blurb- 4.5 stars
Plot/Content- 5 stars
Writing and Presentation- 4.5 stars
Overall- 4.5 out of 5 stars
There Are No Gods In North Korea could have been named better as it’s a lot more than just DPRK
But somehow she can’t be blamed for just 60 pages of North Korea, the country hides a lot from the regular non North Korean eye.
Anjali Thomas’s initiative Travel & Relief aims and encourages travellers to provide for a few requirements of the locals such as food, medicine, toothpaste, toys etc to those who cannot afford it.
Reviewed By– Banaja Prakashini
The Book is also available on Kindle