North Korea has long been one of the world's most mysterious domains.
A communist nation with a closed-door policy against outsiders, and one which journalist Adam Baidawi was keen to get inside.
Speaking to MailOnline Travel, Mr Baidawi reveals the story behind a set of captivating images he took there and his week-long quest as an undercover reporter to find out what life is really like for the people who live behind those doors, reports Daily Mail.
"I worked for three years, on and off, to make this story happen," Mr Baidawi tells MailOnline.
"It's not terribly difficult for most people to access a tourist visa. But professional journalists and photographers are blanket banned."
Mr Baidawi booked his trip though an external tour company and didn't disclose his profession.
Still, as a tourist, he says, there's absolutely no way to be alone in North Korea.
"You have two 'tour guides' with you at all times," Mr Baidawi explains, describing them as "meticulously trained" with an "eerily polite" tone.
"You're required to stay in tourist-only hotels," he goes on. "You're isolated from the rest of Pyongyang - isolated from any real, authentic, human contact with locals.
"It's not possible to walk outside the hotel alone. You're not popping down for a morning jog, or exploring the city by sunset."
All sorts of rules of conduct apply when visiting this country. For a start, you can't address it as "North Korea", but instead, "the Democratic People's Republic of Korea".
Mr Baidawi reveals: "There's an understanding that malicious actions have very, very serious consequences.
"Though all of the tourists in our group had very strong feelings about the regime, there was a level of restraint - and, in a funny way, respect. Like it or not, we were guests in their country."
As for taking photos, the rules varied.
"We were told strictly not to photograph soldiers, and, oddly, construction sites," he says.
"They kept telling us, 'Please, please - only photograph beautiful things. Other countries will try to use bad photos against us.'"
Mr Baidawi spent much of the tour in the nation's capital, Pyongyang, which he describes as an "immaculate joyless Disneyland" - and a far cry from the rest of the country, where poverty is rife.
"Away from the machine that is the capital, things get a little messier," he says.
"Those in-between moments that I'd been looking for - the petulant school children and tired farmers and shy, reclusive locals - emerged a little more."
Mr Baidawi visited a number of schools in North Korea - "only the best ones" - where the country's most talented children are taught history in classrooms plastered with violent illustrations of American soldiers, rendered as pointy-featured villains.
"After a few days, you come to realise just how all-encompassing the propaganda machine is," he remarks.
"These citizens are victims of it from day dot. They're spoon-fed a narrative from birth. I saw one beautiful eight-year-old girl burst into tears of passion while singing a song about the country's leaders.
"They have no access to information that presents a different point of view. I felt so, so hopeless for them."
Asked to summarise the agenda being forced upon himself and the rest of his tour group, Mr Baidawi states: "It was an agenda of normalisation.
"At every given chance, it was, 'Hey, see? We have that here too. We're not as wildly different as your government might have you believe.'"
Looking at his photos, however, all evidence seems to point otherwise.
Life in Pyongyang goes on as normal while international tensions simmer between North Korea and the West.
Despite heightened tensions on the international stage, a series of images taken in North Korea today, a day ahead of the Day of the Sun festival, reveal that life goes on as normal in the secretive state.
North Korea upped its warmongering with Donald Trump today in a series of menacing boasts threatening to "ravage" US troops amid fears the two countries are heading for war.
But new images show commuters bustling around Pyongyang's central station, as the nation prepares to commemorate the 105th birthday of former leader Kim II Sung on 15 April.
Pyongyang's Vice Minister Han Song Ryol accused Trump of building up a "vicious cycle" of tensions and warned the US against provoking North Korea militarily. He said: "We will go to war if they choose."
North Korea's military said it would 'ruthlessly ravage' the United States if Washington chose to attack.
The Korean People's Army statement boasted that US military bases in the South "as well as the headquarters of evils such as the (South Korean presidential) Blue House would be pulverized within a few minutes".
Han's earlier comments come as tensions rise over the possibility Kim Jong-un's regime will launch another nuclear weapons test tomorrow as North Korea marks the national holiday Day of the Sun, commemorating the birth of the country's founding father Kim Il Sung.