Dandong Xpat

The Gateway to North Korea

Life on the border

Tourists wander around while the bus drive naps...till the next stop

Tourists wander around while the bus drive naps…till the next stop

Some local guys just getting around

Some local guys just getting around

Well life happens here in Dandong and most of it looks pretty ordinary.

Most people don’t pay much attention to the neighbors across the river in Sinijiu or other parts of North Korea.  That is except for tour operators and trade companies which rely on their neighbors. .  Restaurants, especially along the board walk area rely heavily on the tourist trade in the warmer months.  In the winter it’s pretty quiet around here, but very pleasant.

Most street corners have corn on the cob roasters this time of year.

Most street corners have corn on the cob roasters this time of year.

Summer in Dandong

Yes it’s summer here again. The swimmers are in the Yalu River, the iced coffees are being sold and the tourists are here in droves. When I say droves–it’s droves for Dandong but not massive crowds like some places.

People take a boat on the river and stare at what China was once like, 30, 40 years ago. China has come a long long ways since those days.

anyway, my opinion is that you should come too. Take a look at Dandong, glance over at North Korea, which is why people come here…and enjoy a coffee on the boardwalk.

Still swimming in the Yalu River — Fall 2013

Yes it’s true there are still people swimming daily in Dandong in the Yalu River across from the city of Sinijiu in North Korea. At 5 am, yes I’m up then, I usually count 30+ people swimming. On warm afternoons and especially weekends many many more take a dip in rapidly cooling Yalu; fall is coming!

Pictured here is the weekend crowd swimming in the Yalu River.


The Dandong Underground

Yes we’re getting an underground…but not the British type. I’m talking about underground shopping.

For the past few months “Walking Street” has been torn up and also the street near it while construction crews worked on digging holes to create an underground shopping environment.

Many cities have these but many also had bomb shelters leftover from the 60′s to work with and convert them. Here in Dandong on the banks of the Yalu River we did it from scratch. Maybe it will double as a bomb shelter….I’d feel safer.

Anyway we’re still a couple of months way from completion and out-fitting, at least that’s my guess.

Come back in couple of months when it gets colder here and we can shop underground, and if that’s not exciting we still have coffee on the waterfront at

Peters’ Coffee House!

Speaking of colder, it’s cooling off to about 12C here at night—which is great for sleeping.

Dandong International school..it’s really happening!






Yes the Eagle Bridge International School is opening soon in the new city area of Dandong near the new bridge to North Korea. Took a quick tour this morning. I’m impressed.

The new Yalu River Bridge… progress

It’s been a while since I took a trip to the Dandong new city (i.e. Ghost City) to see progress on the new Yalu River Bridge to North Korea, well Hungjingping Island to be exact. Hungjingping is part of Sinijiu city North Korea, directly across from Dandong.

The new bridge’s being built.

I was impressed. The bridge project is moving ahead but is still 2 years away from completion. This is according to our taxi driver; taxi drivers seem to know everything.

The bridge towers are clearly seen from Dandong on a clear. The new bridge is about a 20-25 min drive from the present “Friendship bridge” that connects Dandong with Sinijiu by rail and road. The new bridge will be strictly for vehicle traffic.

As we drove around the new city it did indeed live up to its nickname of Ghost city with I’d guess just 5% of apartments occupied, though many, maybe all, have been sold—again according to our taxi driver.

So make plans now for 2015 to be at the bridge opening ceremony. It may even coincide with the high speed rail (D Train) coming to Dandong, also scheduled for 2015, this is according to another driver of course.

Floods in Dandong…almost.

I’m told that every 10-15 years there is a major flood in Dandong. The last flood was Aug. 21, 2010 so it very fresh is most people’s minds. The past few weeks there has been a great deal of rain, which is unusual for July—we usually see rains in August. So this week after weeks of rain and Thursday coinciding with the highest tide of the year brought back fears of yet another devastating flood. Thankfully we were spared but the boardwalk and river park got a little extra water as the Yalu River spilled its banks.

Enjoy the photos and be thankful the water didn’t get too high this year. I know one business, Peter’s Coffee House, that is particularly thankful having lived through the 2010 flood which saw over 1m of water in their shop.

In Sinijiu things seemed OK, which is good. But further inland North Korea has also been receiving a great deal of rain with report of 1,000s displaced and at least 13 killed to date. The city area of Anju, north of Pyongyang, was particularly hard hit.

New Five Star Hotel for Dandong

For sometime now the Wanda Group, originally out of Dalian, has been working on a new Wanda Plaza for Dandong. It will have the standard office tower, shops, KTV, movie theatre etc. And it will have the not so standard Wanda Hotel—a new class of luxury hotel, so I’m told.

I ran into the new hotel manager manager, in of all places – Peter’s Coffee House, and he told me all about it. It sounds amazing, maybe even better then the current five star Dandong champion, the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The new hotel will be the Wanda Realm Hotel opening December 20, 2013 at 9 am.

Dandong is growing with more national and international brands coming to it’s shores here on the Yalu River, across from the not so growing city or prosperous city of Sinijiu in North Korea.

I plan to be there at the opening of the Wanda Realm.

Summer on the Yalu River

Summer time. The brave are swimming in the Yalu River these days. I say brave because sometimes stuff floats down that river I would not want to swim with. But I do admire those who do swim with the “stuff” daily, even in the winter—for the very few that is.

These days it’s been rainy also so our normal clear skies are not to be right now; hopefully soon.

But still despite the cloudy skies, the river “stuff” summer here in Dandong on the Yalu River is great. It’s not too hot but just right.

So why not come down for a visit and maybe have an Iced Coffee at Peter’s Coffee House.

North Korea and the current war rhetoric

Greetings from peaceful Dandong; yes it really is quiet and peaceful here.

With all the news these days about our neighbour I thought I would put my 2 RMB worth in, good news that is.
In my opinion, all the news you see about the North is mostly a lot of talk. I know it seems like far more but this kind of thing has gone on for years. Granted the rhetoric is a bit harsher these days but in the end little or nothing will come of it. We often have reporters coming to Dandong to get the low-down on things across the river in Sinijiu and North Korea. People come asking about trade, the current situation and we even have the US and Canadian embassies coming here for coffee to “talk”; they tend to end up at “Peter’s Coffee House”. I guess they figure here is closer to the “source” and they might get a better handle on things by coming here.

Let me say no one wants a war and I’m convinced there won’t be one. If anything small happens, and if it does it will be very small, it will be far far from here.

This past week I met the London Times here (UK) as well as an Italian news agency; they drank quite a few Espressos. Last week a small delegation from the US consulate came by; not just because of the good coffee either.

It’s good to remember that it’s China that keeps North Korea afloat. Something like 70% of the North Korea’s trade goes across the Yalu River Bridge that is within 1/2 km of Peter’s Coffee House, which I’m looking at it as I write. I’m convinced that North Korea will do nothing to “bite the hand that feeds it”.

There is a saying for China and the North that they are; “As close as lips and teeth”. I know it sounds funny but that’s the translation. It just means they have been close friends for a very long time.

Right now the China side of the “lips and teeth” is a bit peeved, maybe a lot peeved, with their neighbour and friend. China does not want instability on the Korean peninsula and will do everything to prevent it; believe me they have the capability.

A comment this weekend from Xi jing Ping appears aimed at North Korea. He said’ “No country “should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain”, President Xi Jinping told a forum on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. He did not name North Korea but he appeared to refer to Pyongyang.” See: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/08/us-korea-north-idUSBRE93408020130408

It’s really business as usual here in Dandong. There is no perceptible difference in activity. Tourists are still coming, trade still goes on daily, trains still across the Yalu river Bridge daily and everyday life continues normally.

So don’t worry there will be no no war. It’s just a lot of rhetoric and bluster; ie. hot air. We actually could use some hot air here, it’s kind of cold here today.

I’ve gotta go, there is a hot Latte waiting for me!

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