My Best Experience in China

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Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In the last month and a half I have visited 14 cities all around China and seen more tourist sites and experienced more new things than I can count. However, one event stands out as the best by far. When I saw the Great Wall near Beijing I was quite disappointed, the wall wasn't necessarily bad, but the experience of a Chinese tour certainly lessened my experience. Luckily I was able to give the Great Wall a second chance to impress me, this time a few hundred miles away at the most eastern Section of the Wall in a city called Dandong.
Dandong lies on the border between China and North Korea, and this section of the Great Wall, built during the Ming Dynasty, overlooks the North Korean countryside. I suppose it must be the current and past political turmoil with North Korea that made this event so interesting for me and my travelling companions, who were also Americans. We must have said, "Whoa! North Korea." a few thousand times that day.
We had woken up really early that morning to catch the 4 hour train to Dandong. All they have going there is the common train, which is the slowest of them all. As we rode in the taxi we came up to a large bridge and the Chinese student that was leading us that day explained that the bridge was over the Yalu River. Having remembered my geography and history lessons I realized the Yalu River divided China from North Korea.
Our taxi took us to the foot of a hill on which the Great Wall came to an end. We climbed the hill atop the wall and once more saw the river flowing through the countryside. We all commenced taking pictures and didn't stop until we were on the train returning to Shenyang. After descending from the Great Wall our guide took us down a small trail that hugged the side of the hill we had just climbed.
To our pleasant surprise the path lead right up to the river, which at this point in the border is more a creek than a river. At that point one could easily wade through the waist deep water across the border, were it not for the North Korean soldiers watching our movements from the other side of the river.
Our adventure along the border came to an end at a place called "The One Step," which is the shortest distance across the Yalu. It is more than one step, but it was certainly a very short distance. Two Chinese soldiers stood guarding this point, since many Chinese tourists like to visit this point in the river
Finally we walked along a bridge, which runs parallel to the current bridge that we had seen earlier. The one we walked down is broken about half way across the river. The story goes that it was bombed by the US army during the Korean War, which simply added to our interest in the political turmoil that region had and still goes through. From the bridge we could see a group of workers working on the road, a Ferris wheel, and what appeared to be an elementary school.
If you ever find yourself in Liaoning province with a day to spare I highly suggest you look into a visit to Dandong. Regardless of the political turmoil and poverty the region is absolutely beautiful and worth seeing in its own right.

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