Situated along the Yalu River within the Liaoning province, Dandong has been a place of military importance for most of its history largely because of its strategic position with the Yellow Sea the only thing that separates it from North Korea. If it wasn’t for this close proximity to the North Korean border, Dandong would hardly feature on traveller’s itineraries at all.
Korea has ultimately had a large influence on Dandong today with a large portion of the cuisine and shops having a Korean feel. This influence creates a harmonious feel; however it hasn’t always been this way. The Yalu Jiang Duan Qiao Bridge reaches out over the Yalu River, a bridge that used to connect China with North Korea. What you will notice when you visit the bridge is that half of it has been dismantled, a constant reminder of the combat and separation of the past.
While you can choose to hike near the border, it is not recommended as the border is poorly marked and inadvertently crossing over the border would be dangerous. So instead many take boat cruises out on the river to get a better look at the bridge and the border. The North Korean border city is Sinuiju, where you are likely to see residents waving as you speed past. You can either rent a speed boat or choose to board a passenger boat to cruise the dividing river.
Dandong’s other main attraction is the Hushan Great Wall, a piece of the prized Great Wall of China dating back to the Ming Wanly Emperor. You can visit the ruins by travelling approximately 20km out of Dandong City toward Jiuliancheng town. From the Wall, you can look out over the Yalu River to the North Korean border.
For a more natural attraction, head to the Fenghuang Mountain, also known as Phoenix Mountain. Be prepared to travel over 50km to get there, but well worth the trip when you get to see one of Liaoning’s famous mountains. Aside from the mountain scenery, there are temples and inscriptions you can feast your eyes on as well as other interesting relics.
If culture is what you are interested in, be sure to be in Dandong in May when the Oriental Silk Festival is celebrated and the International Tourism Festival in September.
Fortunately these festivals are celebrated when the climate is enjoyable. Dandong’s climate is largely comfortable and known to be very pleasant, however this is in comparison to its not so pleasant neighbouring area climates. Winters can get very cold reaching well into the negative figures and often lasts for at least four months. Within the four winter months starting in November, generally only about three weeks are really unbearably cold. In contrast, its summers are very warm with temperatures mounting to 35°C some days.
Getting in and around Dandong can be easily done if you know what you are doing. The main forms of entry are by air or rail as the roads can be long and exhausting. You can fly straight in and out of Dandong through its airport where flight routes include the two main centres of Beijing and Shanghai. Alternatively you can take a train in. The train runs several times a day which is very convenient and takes passengers to places like Beijing and Qingdao.
Once in Dandong, public transportation is definitely lacking so taxis are your best bet for getting around. Fortunately taxis aren’t overly expensive so can be an economical form of transport as well.