Posts Tagged With: Dandong

Weekend Excursion: Tiger Head Mountain Great Wall of China

We has breakfast at the hotel and then took a bus to Tiger Head Mountain, an area that has the most northern Great Wall. We hiked up the Great Wall at different speeds. I was near the end. I walked slowly and enjoyed the scenery of the North Korean scenery.

Looking at the Peak–A Long Way to Go

This view is still of the Chinese side of the river. Along the wall had small farms growing corn and cabbage.

The Great Wall is Great, But Nature Always Wins

This was about half-way to the top. This Great Wall was constructed during the Ming Dynasty, so in the last 400 years of so. The part of the Great Wall that we walked up had been repaired, but this part of the wall has been left to crumble. What a sight and what a view.

Tiger Head Mountain’s Peak

At the top of Tiger Head peak was a watchtower where we could climb stairs to the top. From there, we could see an endless landscape of flat North Korean farmland and distant mountains. While I was at the top, I was extremely happy. Not only had I succeeded in climbing up the Great Wall, but I was with close friends whom I could share this experience with. This entire weekend was filled with fun and laughter. I haven’t been this content with life in a long time.

North Korean Countryside

There was a village in the distance. A village that hosted the farmers that toiled the land next to the Yalu River. The thin river split the two countries. A few thoughts went through my mind while I looked out at the scenery and the village…boundaries seem so arbitrary when you see them firsthand. This river splits China and North Korea, but the land is exactly the same. There are no thick black lines that line the borders, only a thin, wire fence. The farmers that toil the borderlands view the earth as a means to live…I wonder how do they view the border?

Trailing the North Korean and Chinese Border

We hiked down the Great Wall and trailed along the edge of the mountain back to the entrance. The trail put on right next to the Chinese border fence. So close.

We took a bus back to Dandong and hopped on an afternoon train back to Harbin. We arrive at 2:00am in the morning, looking forward for no classes the next day.

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Weekend Excursion: Night on the Town in Dandong

Sunset over Dandong Cityscape

We arrived in Dandong, put our luggage in the hotel, and then had the night to ourselves. Me and a group of classmates ate at a North Korean barbeque restaurant. There was a large metal pan in the middle of the table where we cooked our own meats and vegetables. I don’t know what they put in that food, but it was delicious! I apologize for not taking any pictures, I did not bring my camera.

We then took a long walk along the river that borders North Korea. At this point, it was night. The buildings bordering the Yalu River on Dandong’s side were lit up with neon lights. However, the opposite side of the river was pitch black. We once in a while saw a dim light in the distance and stopped to look at it. We would guess what it could be: “a fire?” “a public restroom light?” “a home?” Strange how two cities so close to each other can have such disparities in development. The dichotomy was really quite bizarre.

Here is a photo that shows this difference in development: The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge

(http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/photo-day-bridge-nowhere)

“A Bridge to Nowhere”

The asiasociety.org blog calls this photo “A Bridge to Nowhere.” But, of course, it goes somewhere…it’s just at night that place disappears into the darkness. I do want to make the point that just down the river, both sides of the river look the same–same darkness, same development.

I had a great night. I walked along the river for 2-3 hours with friends. We laughed, danced, and talked with locals. We went back to the hotel and prepared for our next day’s adventure: The Tiger Head Mountain Great Wall.

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Weekend Excursion: Farm Homestay and Bingyu Ravine

This was the farm hotel that we stayed at. A few classmates and I hiked up the hills around the farm, the hills of trees were endless. Most of my classmates slept on a kang, a large, hard mat that fits up the five people. I fortunately was given one of the special suites with my RA, where we had a thin mattress that fit two people.

We woke up early the next morning, ate breakfast (CET brought cereal and Nutella!), and then set off by busto Bingyu Ravine (冰峪沟).

Natural Stone Pillar Jutting out of the River

We arrived and then took a boat to the park. The stone masses in and around the river were mesmerizing. When we banked into the park, we walked as a group to the other side of Bingyu Ravine to take a boat ride around the scenic river-view of the towering karst mountains.

Bingyu Ravine’s Karst Mountains

After the boat ride, we walked by a practicing Buddhist temple and then split up in our own groups to enjoy the park. I joined a group that planned to go hiking up one of the karst mountains. The steps up the mountain were incredibly (almost dangerously) steep. Hiking up the mountain was quite exhausting, but the views were worth it.

Almost to the Top–Where the Karst Mountains Seem to Never End

After a ton of huffs and puffs, I finally reached the top to a pavilion called 观日亭 (guanriting-sun observation pavilion). I felt so relieved, proud, and happy to reach the top and to see the smiling faces of my fellow classmates. There was a small Chinese pavilion with a tiled roof and red columns with a few seats at the top. I walked through the pavilion to see the view and was in awe.

At the Top–Thank you Fulbright

We quickly hiked down the mountain and met up with our classmates. We took a boat and bus back to the farm for lunch and then took a 4-hour bus ride back to Dandong.

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Weekend Excursion: Dandong and Living in Chinese Countryside–Liaoning Province

CET Harbin staff set up a weekend trip for us to visit Dandong, a city that borders North Korea, and experience an overnight homestay in Liaoning countryside. Liaoning Province is south of Heilongjiang Province (where Harbin resides). We left Harbin around 7:30pm and took a 12-hour overnight train to Dandong. We then began our weekend adventure:

When we arrived in Dandong, we set off to see the Korean border. We boarded a boat on the Yalu River (which splits the two countries’ borders) and coasted along the shore, taking a closer look of the North Korean shore. I felt somewhat silly looking so intently at the other side of the river–“Wow! That’s North Korea!”–But, it’s only one itty-bitty sliver of what North Korea is. However, the country is such a mystery to me. So, even seeing the coast was intriguing.

The Korean city that we were peering into is called Sinŭiju. While I was there, no one told me. They just called it North Korea. After thinking about that, it’s quite strange. Dandong isn’t ambiguously called “China,” it has it’s own identity and local customs. It’s a small part of the gigantic whole that is China. However, this small North Korean town seems to not have its own identity, it was “North Korea” from the tourists’ eyes.

The Broken Bridge

A broken bridge once connected the two countries (one bridge next to it–Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge–still connects to North Korea). It was an iron truss bridge of 3,098ft in length. “Both bridges were bombed by American aircrafts during the Korean War. From November 1950 to February 1951, the United States used B-29 and B-17 heavy bombers, and F-80 fighter-bombers to repeatedly attack the bridges in an attempt to cut off Chinese supplies to the North Koreans. The bridges were repeatedly repaired. The 1911 bridge was left destroyed and only the newer 1943 bridge was repaired and used at the end of the war. The North Koreans claimed that they did not want to rebuild the broken bridge so that the United States could not deny the fact they destroyed it. Four spans of the old bridge remained on the Chinese side of the river, giving it the name the “Broken Bridge” (断桥)” (Wikipedia).

The Broken Bridge is now a tourist hotspot for curious visitors to get a closer look at the mysterious North Korean riverbank. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to check it out. It’s interesting to be in a country that has good relations with North Korea. Harbin (and Dandong) have many North Korean restaurants and shops speckled around the city. In the U.S., you would never see this. We have no way of experiencing North Korean culture, we only see photos that occasionally appear in newspapers or news channels. Those photos only show narrow aspects of North Korea: its backwardness and militaristic government. In Northern China, I get to eat their food and meet Chinese that are of the North Korean minority group. Though it’s still not much, it’s more than what I experienced in the states.

Me and Sinŭiju (North Korean town) behind me. During the boat trip along the coast, the North Korean border did not have much development.

After the boat ride, we took a bus out to Liaoning countryside to an area called Ke Mountain. Scattered within its forest and peak  were Daoist temples. We visited the mountain to observe the traditional Chinese architecture of the temples.

Hidden Dragon in the Forest

Red Wishes and Bells

When I visit temples, I normally see trees or small “bell pagodas” wrapped with red sheets filled with wishes. I do not know what this is…I called it a “bell pagoda.” I’ll be sure to ask next time I visit a temple!

Temple Built into the Mountain

This is the temple at the peak of Ke Mountain. It was such a sight to see the old roof tiles with plant-growth and the use of the mountain to connect the temple with nature. While walking through the tranquil forests and taking in the temple’s environment, my spirit really does feel refreshed. In large Chinese cities, I seem to lose myself, get stressed, and forget about how beautiful China can be. In America, I am a city-girl…In China, my heart is in the countryside.

Local taking a break at the peak. 

After Ke Mountain, we took a bus to a farm where we would spend the night. We ate a large dinner (white fish, corn, sweet potato, local vegetables, pork, and chicken) and then spent the night singing karaoke and dancing next to the tall bonfire. We ate s’mores, celebrated a classmate’s birthday, and chatted late into the night. It was a good day.

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