Dandong, the largest Chinese border city, on the banks of the Yalu River, is on the border between China and North Korea. Its strategic location makes it the prime port city and trade route for North Korea where the average import of goods from the United States is estimated to contribute 468 million dollars to the local economy.
With a population of 2.45 million, according to the 2010 census, Dandong is home to the east end of the Great Wall of China and is believed to date back to the start of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC).
Dandong was heralded as the Best Tourist City for 2001 and the Cleanest City in 2005 by the National Tourism Administration.
It is an ideal location for visitors desiring to experience and learn about the North Korean lifestyle. Many North Koreans are seen daily conducting business around the city. Vendors can be found on almost every corner selling Korean stamps and other propaganda materials.
Not only do visitors have the chance to glimpse North Korea across the river, but they can sample North Korean signature cuisine dishes such as a very pungent sweet and sour delicacy featuring wild mountain vegetables. Another popular dish is a seafood barbecue whose main ingredients are yellow clams and prawns.
Located in the southeast of Liaoning Province, Dandong is west of the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with the Yalu River in between, east of Anshan City, south of Benxi City and north of the Yellow Sea. Dandong City is 220 kilometers away from the provincial capital of Shenyang, and it takes about three hours by bus to be there. Dandong City covers an area of 15,222 square kilometers with the area of the city center being 834 square kilometers. It has a population of 2,430,000. The area code is 0415 and the postal code is 118000.
Dandong serves as a port for China's industrial center of Shenyang. There are opportunities to travel to and to get as close as possible to North Korea. Many Americans are familiar with Dandong's sister city of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Among Dandong's many unique tourist attractions is the Korean War Memorial Museum that affords visitors the opportunity to gain a new insight into the Korean Conflict from the Chinese viewpoint. In 1993, to honor the 40th anniversary of the Korean Conflict which to the Chinese is regarded as the Effort to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea, three new areas were developed to display aircraft, tanks and other military paraphernalia used during the battle. One interesting feature adjacent to one of the museum buildings is a statue of military leaders Mao Zedong and Peng. Exhibits at this museum differ greatly from those on display at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A visit to Fenghuang Mountain affords the breathtaking experience of viewing cliffs, caves and unique vegetation. One outstanding feature of this mountain, regarded as sacred in Chinese culture, is Zanyun Peak whose summit rises to an elevation of 836 meters or 2,508 feet.
Another place definitely not to be missed is Li North Korea Flavor Restaurant where guests dine on authentic Korean cuisine served by Korean table attendants. While dining, guests are regaled with native song and dance performances.
The Youyi Bridge (Youyi means friendship in English), which represents the relationship between China and the DPRK, spans the river, magnificent and steady. If you walk along the river, you can enjoy the picturesque scenery in the urban garden and along Binjiang Avenue. It impresses the soul to gaze over the landscape of the DPRK.
Since collecting souvenirs and visiting native shops is a part of most tourists things to do list, Dandong's Guomen Park area is the ideal place. Dandong, known as China's Azalea City, has many vendors offering everything from freshly cut azalea flowers and bonsai to products made from them. One of the most unique items in this genre is delicate silk fabric created using azaleas during the screening process. The most popular Korea souvenir, stamps, is reasonably priced here but not so in North Korea shops catering to tourists.
For those who enjoy attending festivals, there is less of an opportunity in Dandong to miss out because a festival of some kind occurs every month of the year. A highlight of late April and early May is the Hekou Peach Blossom Festival to welcome Spring, enjoy photography contests and dishes whose main ingredient is peaches. In the spring, a multitude of birds fly over the marsh and the peach trees are in full bloom at the estuary.
When the autumn comes, maple leaves make the Tianqiao Valley a colorful world, and the maidenhair trees along the roads decorate the city center with gold.