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Listen to Excess Baggage for

19 JULY 2008


North Korea, officially The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has been more or less a closed country since the 1950s and is visited by only about a couple of thousand westerners a year. The recent de-escalation of its nuclear programme has raised the possibility of a more open approach.

Sandi Toksvig is joined by Robert Willough by author of the revised edition of the Bradt Travel Guide to North Korea and keen traveller Doris Richards to discuss one of the last communist totalitarian states where much of the countryside is totally unspoilt but freedom is not what we expect in the west. They outline what the country has to offer to its tourists.

On the island of Borneo lies the Sultanate of Brunei, officially the State of Brunei, Abode of Peace. This hugely wealthy country, an absolute monarchy, attracts a limited number of visitors despite boasting some of world’s most pristine rainforest. Journalist and Broadcaster Rob Crossan visited Brunei earlier this year and brought back a mixed bag of impressions ranging from fascination to weirdness.

Presented by Sandi Toksvig

royal Islamic mosque located in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the Sultanate of Brunei - Photographer: Adrian Armorer

Photo: Royal Islamic mosque located in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the Sultanate of Brunei - photograph by Adrian Armorer 

This week’s guests: 

Robert Willoughby
Author of the Bradt Guide to North Korea The second edition has been published with more accurate maps.

North Korea
Publisher: Bradt Travel Guides; 2nd Edition
ISBN: 978 1 84162 219 4 (9781841622194)
ISBN: 1 84162 219 2 (1841622192)

Doris Richards is a social worker. She travels widely and is particularly interested in visiting places that have been demonised or have a bad press in the west, to inform herself first hand about the reality behind the headlines. Doris has visited Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, China, India, Cambodia, Laos, Russia, North Vietnam.

Doris travelled to North Korea via Beijing in May 2008. In her tour group were well travelled tourists from Denmark, Canada and the UK. Her first impression was of little traffic, few bicycles in the wide streets and a very quiet atmosphere. They didn’t get the opportunity to walk around much on their own but their guides were friendly and helpful. They visited preparations for the mass games North Korea is famous for, as well as local potteries, restaurants and a children’s concert. 

Crossing The Line
Directed and produced by Daniel Gordon – co-produced by Nicholas Bonner

Rob Crossan is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. He has written for Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Time Out, CNNTraveller, The Observer, The Sun and co-presents the BBC disability podcast Ouch 

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Sandi ToksvigSandi Toksvig:
The daughter of a foreign correspondent, Sandi has been travelling all her life more info
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