Dandong (丹东) is a city in Liaoning, North East China, situated on the Yalu River. Dandong is most notable for bordering the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea. Consequentially, it is a major hub for trade, politics, tourism and diplomacy between the two countries. Travellers who head to North Korea via train must pass through the city and resultantly, it is included in most tour programs to the country.
History with North Korea
Prior to the Korean War, the historic name and legacy of Dandong was Andong 安东 which translated literally to "Eastern Peace" or "Pacifying The East". This name was symbolic of the Ming and Qing Dynasty's political dominance of the ancient Joseon Dynasty as a tribute state to the Chinese Empire. By paying tribute to China, the Joseon Dynasty effectively maintained its independence. North of the city on the Yalu river was situated the Hashun Great Wall or "tiger mountain", a wall of security and outpost against the ancient Korean dynasties.
However, the name of Andong would soon become redundant as the Empire of Japan occupied the Korean peninsula in 1905 and effectively used it as a gateway to invade Manchuria. Dandong itself became the subject of Japanese occupation until it was liberated by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.
The Korean War
When the Korean War broke out, Mao Zedong feared American dominance of the Korean peninsula as an outcome of the war, when the U.S led UN coalition effectively destroyed the North Korean forces and headed towards the Sino-Korean border, chairman Mao's fears were confirmed. On october 19th, 1950, Chinese troops in Dandong crossed the Yalu river to begin a offensive in defence of the North Korean regime.
During the Korean War, Dandong was the subject of American bombing. Most notably, what is now known as the broken bridge was bombed and half destroyed by U.S warplanes.
In the post-Mao era, Dandong has been a beneficiary of China's rapid economic growth and development. The city emerged as a "boom town" developing a wider metropolitan area with a population of 2.2 million. The city evolved to a major centre of commerce, trade and business with the DPRK, as well as attracting tourists on their way to the country.
From 2011 to 2014 a new bridge was constructed across the Yalu River between the city and North Korea. However, Chinese disagreements with the North Korean authorities over the financing of the bridge left it unfinished on the Korean side, with no future date of resumption scheduled.
Travel and tourism
Getting there by train
There are two ways to get to Dandong by train, one is by the K27 or K28 railway service situated at Beijing Railway Station, the other is the brand new high speed G395 train from Beijing South to the city. The former train is an overnight sleeper, which takes roughly 16 hours, the other takes only 6.
Things to see and do
The vast majority of attractions at Dandong are related to North Korea. Lupine Travel's tour to North Korea runs an optional Dandong day trip for 500RMB, encompassing many of the city's main sites.
The most notable tourist attraction at Dandong is the Broken Bridge a bridge into North Korea which was bombed by the United States in the Korean War. Additionally, there is also the opportunity to take boat rides up the Yalu river and towards the Korean shores, allowing a close up of the poverty and desolation in the country without actully entering as of yet.
North of the city is situated the Hushan Great Wall or "Tiger Mountain", directly facing North Korea. The Hushan great wall is the most eastern segement of the Great Wall of China and was excavated in 1989. Visitors may access the wall, climb up it and from great heights, gaze upon North Korean villages and farms.
Likewise, Dandong hosts the Chinese Korean War Museum, known officially as the war to resist American aggression in Korea. The museum, like all Korean war museums, tells its own version of the story.
Dandong is not an expensive city, it hosts a range of affordable hotels by which tourists can use on their way to North Korea. An extremely convenient hotel which tourists often use is the Ruinxin Dan Tie Hotel situated right next to the railway station.
Besides that, there are numerous other Dandong hotels to choose from  at various ranges and prices. Given the near sole prupose of travel to Dandong is for North Korea travel, availability will not be too difficult to come across.
Dandong lacks a metro system and a sophisicated public transport network. Whilst there are buses, the best way to get around the city if you're not part of an organized day tour is to simply take a taxi, which are not too expensive or hard to come by.