Dandong is a small city in Liaoning province and it’s among the off-the-beaten-path places to visit in China: it seems an ordinary north-eastern city with grey buildings, dirty alleys and busy roads, but it has something more to offer: the China – North Korea border.
North Korea is the most mysterious country of the world. I’m afraid this is the best thing one can say about this country – everyone knows about its nuclear experiments and human rights violations. But this secrecy is fascinating, isn’t it? Probably you’ll never enter the county… However, taking a look from the border is much easier, and it was the main purpose of my trip to Dandong.
Dandong is mainly famous to be a China – North Korea border city. On the other bank of Yalu river there is Sinŭiju, the North Korea border town, linked to China by the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge zhōnghán yŏuyì qiáo 中韩友谊桥, though very few vehicles have the permission to cross it, and Broken Bridge duàn qiáo 断桥, half destroyed by american army during the Korean War, is perhaps the most famous attraction in Dandong – people can walk to the end and take some pictures of the abandoned amusement park in front of it. And if it’s not enough – and it isn’t: would you ever be that close to North Korea again? – it is possible to sail the river until just 10 meters from the other riverside.
North Korea is a big presence in Dandong: once you know you are on the border, you feel it even when you’re far away from the river bank (where, by the way, I enjoyed taking a walk. It’s a bit macabre, but also very relaxing, and it’s the meeting point of lots of people). Real influence is only visible in restaurants owned by north koreans, but it’s impossible, even for a moment, to forget that odd country lying just few kilometers away, and not to feel afraid, because you don’t really know what’s going to happen so close to the border during the night, when everywhere in North Korea is blacked out, and somehow guilty, because things are so much worse over there, and most of the people have the only fault to be on the wrong side of the river.
Another wasted chance to be just a chinese city, isn’t it? But Dandong has something else for tourists: Hushan Great Wall.