Fine dining @ Hekou Scenic Area in Dandong County

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Roughly 2 hours north of Dandong City, in the middle of the Yalu River lies the Hekou Scenic Area on an island just a few yards away from North Korea. Amazing views and unspoiled nature make this island and the surrounding countryside a very popular destination for Chinese tourists. Most of them come to Dandong City to catch a few glimpses of North Korea. Combining Hekou with the Great Wall at Hushan is great one day trip.

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Most residents of the island are fishermen/restaurant owners. They serve their own catch at amazing prices and high quality. The place we chose on our trip to the area was recommended by friends of my wife in Dandong City. The name of the establishment is “Baoping Daguoyu” – 宝萍大锅鱼. It is run by a very nice family and their huge dog.

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The food is excellent, different varieties of fish with vegetables, porridge and local corn bread loaves. Of course the omnipresent Yalujiang beer is not missing.

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The family also offers a holiday apartment for rent in the backyard. 100 Yuan per night for the whole family. Combine this with the excellent food and the amazing views, this makes up for an intriguing holiday option.

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Google Maps coordinates: 40.405254, 124.806892

Phone number for reservations: 15942543727

CHINA 1997: WOODEN PAGODA IN YINGXIAN

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I traveled to China in 1997, not even 20 years old, full of adventurous spirits and ideas. My Chinese was limited, as was my budget. Crappy hotels, long bus and train rides, fun people along the way, excellent food and unforgettable memories, that’s what I remember. It certainly was a different China, but I am truly grateful, that I was able to see and experience it, for it is gone.

The wooden pagoda in Yingxian, a part of Shuozhou city, around 50 miles south of Datong, Shanxi, is famous for being the world’s tallest all wood pagoda. It is located in the 500.000 souls city of Shuozhou, although in 1997 this city resembled a small village rather than a city.

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The view from the wooden pagoda in 1997 shows a village of small to medium sized adobe or clay houses. I still remember the public toilet just outside the pagoda’s premises: A pit with a wooden fence around, left the women and right the men.

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This unpaved road led to the pagoda’s entrance. Bustling, chaotic and already featuring some western tourists, if you look closely. I am sure not a single brick of this old town is still there. What I see from aerial images of Shouzhou and Yingxian, it appears to be a medium sized modern Chinese city consisting of Skyscrapers and medium sized boulevards.

Also please excuse the quality of the pictures. I had no money for a decent camera in 1997.

The wooden pagoda in Yingxian county, Shuozhou city – Google Maps:

39.565058, 113.182178

 

 

 

 

 

 

China 1997: DATONG

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I traveled to China in 1997, not even 20 years old, full of adventurous spirits and ideas. My Chinese was limited, as was my budget. Crappy hotels, long bus and train rides, fun people along the way, excellent food and unforgettable memories, that’s what I remember. It certainly was a different China, but I am truly grateful, that I was able to see and experience it, for it is gone.

It took me 8 hours on an extremely dirty train to reach Datong in the northern part of the Shanxi province from Beijing Station. I remember a lot of blood and syringes on the trains toilet. Next to the Datong train station was a huge hotel, where I was forced to stay. A member of the CITS travel agency met my on the platform, he was waiting for foreigners probably, to usher me to this place. It was OK, though.

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As I walked around the city, I noticed coal dust everywhere, even on the buses. The city’s hutong was still there at the time, also covered in coal dust, but interesting all the same. Next to the hutong was a small temple with a beautiful and serene garden. Absolutely peaceful and quiet.

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I have no idea if this temple garden is still there. It might not be. The hutong is gone, I am sure. If anyone knows, let me know.

Also please excuse the quality of the pictures. I had no money for a decent camera in 1997.

Datong, Shanxi Google Maps: 40.079248, 113.305580

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The Chinese Wall @ Dandong

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Ever fancied to discover and enjoy the Great Wall of China without sharing the experience with thousands of tourists competing for the best views? It is possible in Dandong, Liaoning, where the easternmost part of The Wall has been restored on a length of around 1 mile (1,3 km). Sitting just next to the Yalu River and the North Korean border, this part of The Wall sees far less tourists than its counterparts north of Beijing. Moreover the views on top of the hill, on which it climbs up, offer rare and magnificent glimpses of North Korean life. Walk a few minutes along the border to a place called “Yi bu kua” and North Korea is just a step away.

How to get there? Take a taxi from Dandong to Hushan Great Wall. The ride takes only 20 to 30 minutes. It’s worth it.

Google Maps: 40°13’43.6 124°30’57.8

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Sichuan Hotpot

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Best enjoyed in one of Chengdu’s many excellent restaurants (look for the tables with a hole in the middle), Sichuan hotpot is a true highlight of the region’s cuisine. Divided into spicy and not-so-spicy halves, more or less chili stews in a broth (lamb, beef, etc.), that waits to be filled with raw, thinly sliced lamb or beef meat, tofu, vegetables, noodles or fish dumplings. Depending on what you put in the broth, it soaks in more or less of the spiciness. Tofu especially soaks in the chili broth like a sponge and can get really challenging. Don’t forget to keep cool drinks close by to extinguish the resulting fire.

Still, Sichuan hotpot is the most fun and entertaining meal I can imaging, especially when enjoyed among friends and family on a large and welcoming table.