I’m back in China! Coming from Mongolia I was of course confronted with “nice” Chinese culture. Forget about that now. Guess what: things are getting better! I can cope with the disgusting stuff better and I started to like the country. But it took me another 4 weeks of travelling in this vast country.
I think the start in China with, Harbin, Xian, Pingyao, and Luoyang was litteraly a cold one. Beijing is the exception. Everytime I get there, in the fantastic Happy Dragon Hostel I feel like being home. Nice staff, a sunny city, and always many things to do. Such as applying for visa (this time for Vietnam).
Off the beaten track
The story is even getting more positive. While waiting for my Vietnamese visa I decided to go to the cities Dandong and Dalian. Dandong is a small laidback riverside city, just on the North Korean border. I came as close as 1 meter from the border … what a bizarre experience. A barren land … on the background I saw a small town, but no electricity cables, no agriculture, absolutely nothing. And a few hidden Korean military … weird right? I heard loud screams further from a distance. From the Friendship Sino-Korean bridge you can see the North Korean city Sinuiju. From the bridge the view was really good and with my binoculors I saw people walking and taking pictures, children playing on the beach, people who did gymnastics … and a sort of amusement park. You know, I just think that all this was instructed by the regime to show this to the rest of the world. People must do this … making it miserable to see what a border can mean: communism with a golden capitalistic rim on my side and another communist country with an authoritarian regime suppressing people in prison camps.
Close to the city is a less known section of the Great Wall. A beautiful piece where I got the place to myself. To get there the bus went through two police check points. I was lucky since the first time they only checked one side of the bus. The other time they didn’t even want to have my ID. While militaries walk along the river (where I walked to) they usually had a friendly “hello” and “how are you”. I would say damned a lot of luck 🙂
In Dalian I arrived in the evening at the bus station right in the central business district. When I got off the bus the illuminated skyscrapers towered around me. I could feel the vibrant and young vibe. Like Dandong the city doesn’t see many tourists. I cannot believe why they stay away. There are great hiking upportunities and nice trails alongside the cliffs. When I walked there for several kilometres I passed by some desolated beaches which even don’t see many locals. With a sunny day and good temperatures I felt well. An escape from the cities, from mass, from crowds. Only me, the ocean, and the noisy seagulls.
Although Dalian has not much to offer it’s good to walk around a couple of hours in the vibrant city centre. In Labour Park it gets busy with locals; especially weekends. But it is fun to watch the locals spending their time. Young and old seem to have their own activities. While kids are playing around, the older (retired) men take it more seriously. It was lovely to see a man writing with a big wet pencil (about 1 m) on the floor tiles. The trick is to write a poem in old Chinese script. Don’t even try to read it… you won’t recognize a single Chinese character which is used nowadays. There are moment I feel terrible having zero understanding of the language. The exchange of smiles and basic hand gestures can do a lot though.