Having just got off the K27 train, you are now in Dandong, border city to North Korea. Once termed “Andong” 安东, which meant “eastern peace” the city was renamed to its current name 丹东 meaning “the red east“, following its role in the Korean war. The city is small and not grandeur. However for the 2 hours or so free time you have before boarding the train to North Korea, it makes some quick and interesting viewing. Or, if you come beforehand for a longer stay, there are a few more things to see.
Things to see and do
Most notable in Dandong is the scene of the Yalu River where China faces the DPRK. On the riverside, a 10 minute straight walk from the station, you can see what is known as the “Broken Bridge”, the remaining half of a bridge spanning the river which was bombed by America during the Korean War. The remaining half has been restored into an accessible tourist attraction. Here, you can see across the river and gain your first glimpse of North Korea’s boarder settlement, the city of Sinuiju, noting the contrast between the two countries. If you are interested in something much more scenic, a few miles upstream (which can only be reached by a tour company or taxi) stands the restored Hushan (tiger mountain) Great Wall. The wall is the little known most eastern segment of the Great Wall of China, where the border with the DPRK is reduced to a mere stream. If you have time to go there, it offers a tremendous view of the humble North Korean villages and fields along the border. It’s a great hike and experience. Besides the Wall and the Broken Bridge, there are also numerous opportunities to go for boatrides along the Yalu River. This experience offers some very close up shots of North Korea and its people, even sometimes resulting in interactions between the locals and the boat!
Heading on to the DPRK
Most travelers, however won’t be stopping long and it will just be an off the train, look around and back on the train experience for them. For these people, then its important to prepare quickly for the DPRK. First, it’s always a good reminder that North Korea does not have ATMs or any access to the global financial system. When in Dandong, this will be your last opportunity to get cash in reserve for the trip. As you never know how much you might spend or need there on optional things, we recommend this. There are ATMs near the station you can use. However, only ones from nationally accredited Chinese banks, such as “The Bank of China” “The Agricultural Bank of China” and so forth will work. The city’s local bank, the Bank of Dandong, is not able to service international withdrawals. In addition to cash, use the shops around you to get any last minute supplies, essentials or snacks for the journey!
Once back in the station. Your guide will give you your train ticket and North Korean visa. From here, you re-enter the station through security and show your ticket to the staff. Once this is done, you then proceed upstairs towards customs and immigration. Here, you will need to go through an exit process, filling in a Chinese exit card and showing your passport and visa to the border guard, who will waive you through. During this time you will likely encounter North Korean people for the first time, returning home from various business ventures. You will walk through into a duty free area which sells alcohol and cigarettes. This is useful for your guides in Pyongyang.
When ready, boarding will begin and the train will depart. The journey to North Korea is about to commence, first up is customs and entry of course…