I was hungry when I left Pyongyang. I wasn't hungry just for a bookshop that sold books that weren't about Fat Man and Little Boy. I wasn't ravenous just for a newspaper that had no pictures of F.M. And L.B. I wasn't starving just for a TV program or a piece of music or theater or cinema that wasn't cultist and hero-worshiping. I was. I got off the North Korean plane in Shenyang, one of the provincial capitals of Manchuria, and the airport buffet looked like a cornucopia. I fell on the food, only to find that I couldn't do it justice, because my stomach had shrunk. And as a foreign tourist in North Korea, under the care of vigilant minders who wanted me to see only the best, I had enjoyed the finest fare available.
I suppose there has been nothing like the airports since the age of the stage-stops - nothing quite as lonely, as sombre-silent. The red-brick depots were built right into the towns they marked - people didn't get off at those isolated stations unless they lived there. But airports lead you way back in history like oases, like the stops on the great trade routes. The sight of air travellers strolling in ones and twos into midnight airports will draw a small crowd any night up or two. The young people look at the planes, the older ones look at the passengers with a watchful incredulity.