Sino-Korean Border Road Trip

The day after our long detour from Ji’an we set off back to Dandong. We had planned to start driving down the Sino-Korean border from Linjiang. Unfortunately we ended up 90km off course so we would only get to do it from Ji’an.

This is a drive I would recommend anyone. The border is essentially a river going through a mountain range. There are few cities, especially on the Korean side. This means it’s a great route to see the natural side of China.

Along the way you can see North Korean villages and rice farms dotted along the river. Often they’d have mountains behind them. I wondered how much contact they had with the outside world. I saw a lot of bicycles in the countryside in the DPRK. There were some vehicles most of which seemed to be transporting goods or military. I imagine a lot of people riding between villages on bicycles. Perhaps to get to the nearest small town where there might be a school or a market. It would be interesting to see what country life is like in the DPRK. Unfortunately this seems to be one of the things the country wants to keep secret for now.

At one point during our drive we had to drive through a check point. Two soldiers carrying Chinese rifles signalled us to stop. These weren’t policemen; this was a military checkpoint. There wasn’t any trouble – they just checked our passports and let us through.

I guess there must be several checkpoints along this border on both sides. I thought about people who had fled North Korea. Would they avoid civilisation? This area had wide rivers and heavily forested mountains. You could take a boat at night but then you would have to destroy it so patrols wouldn’t find it. Then you would be faced with the prospect of difficult and uncharted terrain. Walking through one of the largest countries in the world and living off the land. It would be an impossible feat.

This is why they would need help from the Chinese side. Fake documents and long distance bus travel seems to be the way they do it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why travel inside China is made so difficult.

Shortly after the checkpoint we came across one of China’s many “scenic spots”. A small area for parking was provided, allowing people to stop to take pictures. On seeing how impressed we were with the view our driver pulled in to park.

On the way I saw the Great Wall of China for the second time. Dandong has a tourist area where you can see more of the wall. I still haven’t been on the wall – I need to get this off my bucket list before I leave China.

We made it back to Dandong and needed to sort out our hotel. Unfortunately the communist style hotel we stayed at last time was fully booked. We booked into a nice hotel instead. Our driver took us there and left.

The hotel looked nice. Unfortunately appearances were deceiving. The rooms were tiny and the beds felt like rough cardboard. The shower didn’t have hot water. Somehow this fancy hotel was worse than the cheap communist one.

Well we were back in Dandong. And we had a beer festival to go to. At least we’d be able to drink ourselves to sleep.

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