Dandong, China: The Gateway to North Korea

I consider myself very blessed because of my assignment in China. Through this I was able overcome prejudices about Zhunggou and ZhunggouRen.

Anyway, another opportunity was to take a sneak peak of the North. I learned from one of my Ates- that she went to Dandong, they saw the North Korea, the difference between China and Korea land… so that really made me curious and for me it was an adventure.

So when I learned that my term is about to end, I asked my SoKor friend – Min and Sir Richard – my ACN colleague to go to Dandong on our last day.

We already learned that slow train isn’t really for us, we took the fast train instead.

We didn’t brought a lot of Mandarin together with us, and it was very hard for us to do a DIY trip because we only have very limited time. When we arrived at Dandong, they have this local travel arrangers wherein they have a lot of cards with prices and of course with Chinese names. We could only see very few foreigners but a lot of South Korean and Chinese tourist… or maybe I wasn’t able to notice other races.

So we paid CNY 299 for that travel & tours agency, that’s for the free coaster to Yalu River and the boat crossing the river. This is my closest encounter to the lands of North Korea. We saw armed troops on their specific stations and barracks, very few people who were just sitting in the riverbanks–just sitting, or maybe those guys are armies too or farmers. The water is yellow to brown and was disturbed with motor boats full of tourists. NoKor is plain, while China is mountainous. You could actually differentiate the progress and developments of these two communist countries. Check out some snippets and imagine North Korea.

After the Yalu River, we told them that we need to go to the Tiger Mountain Great Wall/Hushan Great Wall of China, and they dropped us there and they gave us a phone number wherein we need to call them before 2PM. We just showed them the picture of the Great Wall, and we understood each other, however the coaster went somehwere we didn’t know. So we trekked and that part of the Great Wall and we were able to finish it. It’s just a small part of the wall where you could see China and North Korea unlike the Great Wall of China – Mutianyo, it’s very long.

After the trek, we were trying to reach out the phone number and we were not able to reach them. We felt scammed, we paid CNY 299 for just the Yalu River and the Hushan Great Wall… supposedly we still have a free shuttle going to the bridge… but that didn’t happen. Instead we went on our own way, I just don’t know how we understood each other, but at the end of our Chinese conversation, we agreed to pay him for CNY 50 to drop us at the main city.
And here’s our last itinerary, the Yalu River Broken Bridge-the story of this is very interesting a lot of travelers are able to see what’s on the opposite side of China. On the parallel side is the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge where the cars & big trucks could pass through and not for pedestrians. In the NoKor’s side, there’s a Ferris wheel, buildings that have no tenants, a school, a long slide, and an armies. Also, in my side, there were a lot of travelers and tourists, and locals are selling cigarettes, keychains and other souvenirs.

It was a very melancholic afternoon, or maybe that’s part of the separation anxiety that I felt during those days. The clouds were all in pink and blue from a grayish skies, the place is laid back rather than in Dalian. I could see a lot of North-Korean and other international restaurants. It seemed that Dandong is very lively at night because of the presences of these clubs and restos, while I was very curious of what’s happening on the other side. IDK- but I fall in love to the serenity of this place.

To end our day, we had our dinner at a Sino-Korean restaurant after a very long walk. We really wanted to try a North Korean’s cuisine– but for some reasons, we weren’t able to found somethin like in Shenyang.😉

Itinerary & Expenses:

  • 06:54 Dalian Bei – Dandong- CNY108.50
    • Tour for CNY299 (Supposedly this is a daytour, however, we didn’t understand each other, so none fetched us in Hushan Great Wall.
      • Crossing the Yalu River –
      • Hushan Great Wall or Tiger Great Wall of China
  • Yalu Broken Bridge
  • Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge
  • Korean Restaurants
  • 6:00 PM Dandong – Dalian Bei – CNY108.50

And here’s what I have learned in travelling to Dandong:

  • Research before going to Dandong and prepare your itinerary to avoid wasting your time looking for a place to go.
  • The travel agency costs a lot. If you know a little Mandarin or if you have a Chinese friend, you can actually go here by just asking the locals. You could also hitch or make use of the public transportation (van/coaster), just make sure to let the driver see the Chinese address or landmark pictures.
  • Be extra careful. Do not do anything that is against China & NoKor’s Law. Be a responsible traveler.
  • Always get your train tickets ahead of time. Always bring your passport and your residential certificate.
  • You may even try a North Korean’s cuisine in Dandong.
  • Food & water: They are the least of your concern as this is a civilized city wherein you could see a lot of stores & grocery in it.
  • Take time to explore Dandong especially in both sides of the bridge. You will see a lot.


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