North Korea in the fall:

Surreal photos of the secretive state

Instead of the awe-inspiring mass dance performances and military parades in the capital of the mysterious nation, Ngo Quang Minh, a photographer from Hanoi, turned his lens on the serene picturesque countryside of North Korea in the fall.

Ngo Quang Minh, a photographer from Hanoi, has visited North Korea twice. While most visitors from the West travel to North Korea by air before landing in the country’s capital Pyongyang, Minh had the chance to roll through the reclusive nation on a cross-border train from China.

The train leaves China’s border trading hub of Dandong Province at 8:30 a.m., running south to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and arriving at the central railway station at 6:30 p.m. From his last trip in September, Minh brought home more than 3,000 photos he captured during the scenic rail journey.

Autumn in North Korea lasts from September to the end of October. This is the best season for tourists to visit the country, when the air is breezy and the rice fields turn into carpets of gold.

Life in the countryside remains calm and seems untouched by the political storm that has been swirling over the peninsula in the last few months.

Only about 18 percent of North Korea’s total landmass, or approximately 2.2 million hectares, is arable. The country's sparse agricultural resources create huge pressure on its farmers to feed a population of more than 25 million people.

Under its Public Distribution System, farmers in agricultural regions are required to hand over a portion of their production to the government, which then reallocates the surplus to urban regions that cannot grow their own food.

There were reports of severe food shortages in North Korea in the early 1990s. It was not until 1998 that it started to slowly recover; yet most citizens are purportedly still suffering from a serious lack of key proteins and fats in their diets, according to a U.N. report.

In recent years, the government of Kim Jong Un has adopted a new crop-distribution policy that allows farmers to keep nearly one-third of their grain harvest.

Although tourism in North Korea is tightly controlled by the government, visitors from Asian countries are offered more transport options to enter the country. The train route Minh took has become one of the most popular, thanks to a steady stream of tourists from China.

There are several travel companies that offer autumn tours to North Korea. The full package includes a visa, round-trip train tickets, in-country transfers, hotel accommodation, meals and tickets to tourist attractions.

Minh notes that tourists should avoid taking pictures of locals without their permission or if they look uncomfortable in front of the camera. “If you follow the instruction and try not to break the rules, you will have a really enjoyable time in North Korea."

By Ngo Quang Minh, Vy An