The train from Pyongyang took us back to Dandong. The first order of business was to find a hotel.
We ended up staying at the last true Communist hotel in China. The staff ran it as a commune, with no one staff member being the manager.
While checking in the North Korean train staff wandered in. We seemed to have picked the same hotel they were staying at! We said hello and shook hands, and given our lack of Korean we just left it at that.
The rooms felt old school and Soviet. They had that style of cheap wooden furniture that was popular in the seventies.
We decided to rest up for a while. Two of us decided to go get some snacks so we went looking for the nearest shop. Half way to the shop we realised that we were on our own. There were no tour guides with us. We never felt controlled or watched while we were in the DPRK, but we felt a little more liberated now we were back in China.
We rested up for a short while then headed out to explore the city by night.
Dandong After Dark
Near the Yalu river there is a monument to China’s victory in the Korean war. It depicts several seamen, showing off their toned muscles that led them to victory.
After a puppy distracted some of us for a short while, we wandered along the river through makeshift market stalls. One of these stalls was selling small jellyfish in key rings. This was the kind of place were you get that messed up jewellery involving live animals you may have heard of.
We settled down in a pub further down the road. We ordered our pints as K-Pop played on the big screen in the center of the pub. We were later joined by a young Chinese man who had more money than sense. He kept buying us drinks, but it came at the price of him constantly offending everyone in our group.
We got way too drunk and stumbled into a taxi back to our hotel.
Chinese People’s War Museum
The next day we went back on our official tour itinerary. The last thing to visit was the Chinese People’s War Museum. This museum teaches people about the South Korean War and China’s role in it. Unlike anywhere else in China, this museum was free to enter.
As we wandered the outside of the museum we could see several vehicles and artillery pieces that the Chinese used in the war.
The museum itself was informative and surprisingly unbiased. It did focus more on the ‘volunteers’ who went to fight the USA during the war, but of course they would. It was interesting to see how they taught the Korean War from the other side.
There were some nice exhibits, including a reconstruction of the trenches and another mural like the one in the DPRK. There were memorials to those who gave their lives defending China. It was here I learned that Chairman Mao’s son went to fight and died during the war.
It’s one of the best museums I’ve visited.
Yalu River Bridge
After visiting the museum we went to see the Yalu River Bridge. This half-bridge was bombed by the US during the Korean War, but only the South side. This technically meant they weren’t attacking China, but of course China disagreed.
The northern half of the bridge remains intact, and you can visit it for a price. This is the closest you can get to North Korea from Dandong without actually visiting the country.
It started pouring with rain as we went onto the bridge, but we pressed on. We walked to the end and I leaned over and stretched my hand towards Sinujiu. I don’t care what anyone else says, but that counts as my third time in the DPRK. Technically.