Story Of “The Worst Building In The World”: The Ryugyong Hotel

Picture of the worst building in the world the Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea.Ah the Ryugyong Hotel. For years I’ve seen pictures of it on the internet, posted as a strange curiosity by people all around the world. It’s weird, unfinished structure looming over the landscape of North Korea like some futuristic anthill.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this though. The Ryugyong Hotel was supposed to be the pride of North Korea, a shining jewel in the skyline of it’s capital city, Pyongyang, and a testament to the nation marching ever forward.

Forward and upwards actually.

See, back during the Cold War the North Korean government wasn’t too happy about a South Korean company building the world’s tallest hotel, so they decided to do the Cold War pissing contest thing and…build an even taller hotel.

Once built, the Ryugyong Hotel was to be a palace of decadence and debauchery. Where the rich and powerful from both inside and outside of North Korea could come hang out and talk money in a setting more to their liking than the soul crushing one that 99% of North Koreans are forced to exist in.

A picture of the Ryugyong hotel in North Korea with a woman exiting from a door in a building in front of it.The hotel was supposed to have 3,000 rooms with things like casinos and nightclubs, plus eight floors at the top that rotated.

Construction of the Ryugyong Hotel ran into many problems though thanks to teeny tiny issues such as not being able to get all the materials they needed and faulty building methods. Oh, and the whole running out of money thing.

When the Soviet Union fell in the early 90’s North Korea found itself in an economic crisis and was forced to halt work on the hotel.

So it just sat there, a big, ugly embarrassment to North Korean officials who were so used to being able to play pretend and gloss over evidence of problems in the country.

They hated it, but on the other hand they weren’t willing to actually admit defeat and tear it down either.

North Korean officials did their best to fake like things were still coming along at the hotel, albeit very slowly. Reportedly some officials even liked to pretend that the hotel was occupied when foreign dignitaries were in Pyongyang. Their strategy? Send people into it and turn the lights on and off at night. You know, the lights in the unfinished, crumbling shell of a building that didn’t even have glass on it’s windows. Yeah.

Closeup picture of windows being put in the Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea by an Egyptian telecom company that struck a deal with the government.Over time the Ryugyong Hotel became a weird curiosity for outsiders with it’s freakshow appeal, and people soaked up reports of the oddities and problems of the building. Like the rusting construction crane that had just been left at the top, and how some of the elevator shafts didn’t even line up.

Eventually the Ryugyong Hotel became known in the media as ‘The Worst Building In The World’. Other nicknames for it were ‘The Phantom Hotel’ and ‘The Hotel Of Doom’.

It sat like this for 22 years (that’s 22 years of fake light flicking lol) until an Egyptian company decided that it wanted to construct a 3g mobile network in Korea.

Picture of the new Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea after being updated and the outside finished.This company committed itself to fixing up the Ryugyong Hotel, doing stuff like putting windows on the building, transforming it at least on the outside from a creepy anthill into a futuristic rocket ship of a building that looks ready to launch from the ground at any moment.

And whaddya know, suddenly the North Korean government decided they’d grant this same Egyptian company the right to build a mobile network in the country.

As far as I know the Ryugyong Hotel isn’t actually open for business though, as the inside is still pretty sparse. Not that I would ever think of visiting either way of course. Even putting aside the whole horrible North Korea thing, there’s no way in hell they’d ever get me to step into one of those elevators!

June 27, 2013

How Iceland And Greenland Ended Up With Such Messed Up Names

Picture of a Jackie Chan meme about Greenland and Iceland having names opposite to their climates.

Yes it’s true, the country called Greenland is covered in ice and snow, whereas Iceland has rolling fields of green.

But why did things end up this way?

Turns out that there’s good reasons behind the seemingly opposite names. Well, maybe ‘good’ is too strong a word…

Picture of Eric The Red of Norway an Iceland stepping on to the shore of some land.So Greenland got it’s name from a guy called Eric The Red, who was quite a shady character it seems.

Originally born in Norway, Eric The Red and his family were forced to leave when his father committed manslaughter and was banished from the country.

They all settled in Iceland but things didn’t go well there either for Eric. This time it was he and not his father who had the problem though, he got tangled up in some big disputes and ended up battling…then killing…several men.

Afterwards he was put on trial and banished from Iceland for 3 years.

So he got on a boat and spent the 3 years of banishment sailing around and exploring a pretty much unknown area that was near Iceland.

When his 3 years were up he went back to Iceland and immediately started talking up the new land he had been exploring.

Picture of the icy snow an mountains of Greenland, with a noticeable absence of green.Apparently a master of PR (or is that BS?) Eric The Red made sure to um, let’s just say exaggerate the positive qualities of this new land and not mention the downsides.

He named this new land Greenland, knowing that many folks living in a place called Iceland would be inspired by the paradise vision such a name would inspire.

His plan worked and he was able to recruit many people to follow him to the new land and establish a settlement.

Now as far as Iceland goes, there is a story that says Iceland was given such a forbidding name as a way to discourage too many people coming around, especially Vikings who would be looking for places to plunder. But apparently this is just a myth.

Picture of Floki Vilgeroarson setting out on his journey to discover Iceland.Turns out Iceland was named by a guy called Floki Vilgeroarson, who seems to be on the opposite scale of Eric The Red as far as honesty is concerned.

Like Eric The Red, Floki also originally lived in Norway. There he had heard rumors about a far off and interesting land, and so he decided to take some of his family and friends on a journey there to see what it was like.

It ended up being a journey of loss for him. Sadly, one of his daughters drowned near the Shetland Islands. And another decided that she didn’t want to go to the land in the west and ended up getting married at a stopover in the Faroe Islands.

Despite all this Floki still wanted to find his way to the rumored land. He faced a huge problem though, as he was setting off from the Faroe Islands he no longer was sure which way he should go.

Floki releasing three ravens near the Faroe Islands before he goes to Iceland.The story goes that had brought three ravens with him and decided to release them in hopes that they would show him the right way to go.

The first one flew back to the Faroe Islands. The second one…well it flew straight back into the boat and refused to go anywhere. Oops.

But luckily he had brought three ravens because the third one did something useful and flew in a northwest direction and never came back.

Floki felt that this was a good omen and that there must be land that way, and he was right.

He found a land in the midst of summer, beautiful and quite warm.

Picture of green grass an clear waters in Iceland.So imagine his surprise when after staying there for a while a bitterly cold and soul crushing winter hit. He and his little group of family and friends experienced much hardship that winter, and on top of everything all his cattle died. This was not the most fun journey he’d ever made to say the least.

While waiting for the spring to come Floki hiked up the highest mountain near where his group was camping, and there he saw a large fjord full of drift ice. It was there that he decided to name this new land ‘Iceland’.

After spring came Floki hightailed it back to Norway. Because of all the negative experiences he’d had in Iceland he told everyone back home that it was not a good place to settle. He didn’t want anyone to waste their time going to a place that was that bad.

Problem was, he had only seen a small slice of Iceland and not the greatest parts that’s for sure. Later settlers were able to find and experience the best of what Iceland has to offer.

So there you have it. Greenland, a place 3/4 of which is covered in ice, was named by a guy who wanted to trick people into thinking it was full of warmth an greenery. And Iceland was named by a guy who mistakenly thought it was full of ice an wanted to make sure nobody was fooled into thinking otherwise. Pretty interesting how that worked out, don’t you think?

June 3, 2013

Captain James Cook Sails Again, Kind Of…

Picture of a wax figure of Captain James Cook in a tour boat in Sydney, Australia.“Oh hai, didn’t see you there Mr. Strangely Dressed Captain Guy.

Buy hey since I’m here, I’m wondering if you could take a moment off from staring bravely into the distance and point me towards where the bathroom is on this boat.


When I first saw this picture I thought this guy was part of one of those history boat tours where someone dresses up like a famous person of historical significance and pretends to be them the whole tour.

You know, pointing out different landmarks and attractions while copping a fake accent and dropping in well-timed historical references.

But I was wrong.

Turns out it is actually a wax figure of Captain James Cook that was brought out and given a boat ride to celebrate some events that were happening in Sydney, Australia. Specifically the opening of a new wax figure museum and the launching of a new boat for one of the cruise companies there.

Picture of a boat with a wax figure of Captain Cook on the top sailing near Sydney, Australia.The tie in with Captain Cook is that during one of his famous voyages he observed a transit of Venus across the Sun which only happens once every couple hundred years …and that same transit of Venus was happening again around the time of the big events happening at the two businesses.

Sooo, yeah. But really any excuse is a good excuse to do something as quirky as take a wax figure out for a boat ride.

And if you ever find yourself on a boat in the waters by Sydney, Australia, keep an eye on the other boats. You never know when you might spot a waxy ghost from the past.

May 3, 2013