The fact that North Koreans like getting high on marijuana is probably not a surprise, but I did find the author’s description of the Rason marketplace to be quite interesting:
At one point we bumped into a few of the girls from the massage parlour we’d visited in Rason. They stopped browsing to chat with us, and, for just the briefest of moments, I could almost have believed this wasn’t the strangest place I had ever been.
Things were to get a whole lot stranger though, as we approached the covered stalls at the heart of the market. While the outer yard had been stocked with fruits, vegetables and all manner of seafood, Rason’s indoor market is a repository for every kind of bric-a-brac you could care to think of… and most of it imported from China.
Shoes, toys, make-up, lighters, DIY tools that look around 40 years old, clothing, military uniforms (which we were forbidden from buying), spices, chocolates, soft drinks, dried noodles, bottled spirits, beer and a whole aisle lined with mounds of dry, hand-picked tobacco.
We were just walking past the tobacco sellers when we spotted another stall ahead, piled high with mounds of green rather than brown plant matter. It turned out to be exactly what we first suspected: a veritable mountain of marijuana.
In the name of scientific enquiry, it seemed appropriate to buy some… and the little old ladies running the stall were happy to load us up with plastic bags full of the stuff, charging us roughly £0.50 each.
As it turns out the “special plant,” as they refer to it here, is completely legal. We decided to test the theory, purchasing papers from another stall before rolling up and lighting comically oversized joints right there in the middle of the crowded market. Bizarre as the situation was, it seemed a reasonably safe move – and with several hundred people already staring at us, we weren’t going to feel any more paranoid than we already were. [Bohemian Blog via the Korea Economic Reader]
You can read the rest over at the Bohemian Blog link to include a complete description of the Rason market. I just hope the North Korean that took them into the market doesn’t get into too much trouble if regime officials become aware of this blog posting.