Technically I have had my feet in North Korea and I have swept in and out of North Korean waters.
Most tourist journey to Seoul and the demilitarized zone along the South Korean border to get a glimpse of the neighbor state of North Korea. I did the alternative and ventured of to the friendly neighbor, China and Dandong, a riverside city in Northeast China’s Liaoning province. It is North Korea’s gateway to the world and from here you can get a great view of the North Korea Kingdom from across the Yalu River.
Dandong is the largest Chinese border city, facing Sinuiju, North Korea. The Yalu broken bridge is one of the big attractions to this city and next to it you have the new friendship bridge that today is one of the few ways to enter or leave North Korea, it carries automobile and rail traffic. Pedestrians are not allowed to cross. As I could not walk on the friendship bridge to cross over to North Korea, something I would have loved to do, I bought a ticket to walk on the broken bridge, walked as far as it is possible to walk, so technically I’ve had my feet in North Korea. The bridge was built in 1911 by Japanese and was blown apart by the US during the Korean War.
Just outside of the City Center you find the easternmost section of the Great Wall of China. The Tiger mountain Great Wall was constructed to protect against Korea invaders during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasty and is another great place to view the Kingdom of North Korea. This was one of the places I wanted to see during my stay. I climbed to the top to enjoy the view of both China and North Korea. I had to watch my footing on the way as some of the parts are quite steep.
The famous Yibukua “one step across” near the entrance, marks a narrow point in the river between North Korea and China. Though it almost seem as if you could just hop the fence and be in the North Korea, It’s not something I would try out as there are armed soldiers hiding on the other side.
I checked in at the Crowne Plaza that is located just next to the river so a perfect location to see the City. I took a stroll along the River to get a feel of the city and how the local look at the bordering City of North Korea. All along the river they are trying to sell you North Korean currency and other North Korean articles.
On my way to the Hekou Broken Bridge I took a boat trip on the river in a small speed boat. We where sweeping in and out of North korean waters and It is great for photos but entering the boat i was warned not to take photos of the soldiers. I limited my photos to be on the safe side.
Some women soldiers was taking a swim behind these walls and It was something I would have loved to capture with my camera but the warning was still in the back of my head and the boat guide kept telling me to hide my camera so I only took a shot of the walls knowing that the women soldiers where enjoying a swim on the other side.
On the way to the Hekou Broken Bridge we drove along the river seeing the daily life of the local people. On one side the Chines living one life and just across the river the North Korean living a total different life.
Here a Chines fisher and the North Korean farmers and soldiers on the other side. So close but living in to different worlds.
All along the river you find broken bridges reminding everyone of the war.
I arrived at the Hekou Broken Bridge. The broken bridge at river mouth. As I was passing the bronze bust of Mao I found the bridge empty.
Arriving at the end of the bridge I passed a picture of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (R), and North Korean late leader Kim Il Sung. I passed the poster and hit a dead end. A metal fence stopped me from getting any further. It was the end of a bridge that before had been a connection between China and North Korea.
I visited Dandong in 2012 during a business trip to Dalian in China and took the buss from Dalian to Dandong.
Where to stay
The best view of North Korea is from the Crowne Plaza hotel located on the banks of the Yalu River.
For cheaper rooms, the Chinese business hotel chain Home Inns is a good option.
How to get there
Flights are available from Dandong airport to most parts of the country .
From Beijing there’s an overnight train (K27) to Dandong that takes about 13 hours.
Dandong can also be reached by bus from the seaside city of Dalian. The trip takes 4.5 hours. Busses depart from Victory Square in downtown Dalian.