September 3rd, 2007 – by: hauteboy
Ah.. so our stay in the DPRK finally was coming to an end. Today we would be taking the train back to Beijing, nearly 23 hrs. On our way out, I noticed a DHL truck outside the hotel, the only Western company I had seen the whole time here. The train station was quite busy when we arrived. Some kids were playing volleyball (common sport here, most factories will have a volleyball court) without a net. We had a last group photo, then said our goodbyes to our local guides, they would not be joining us on the train.
The train left on time at 10AM. Our group had the first three cabins in the car that would be going all the way to Beijing. The cabins were nice and clean. We set off through the countryside, past more corn and rice fields and small villages.
For lunch we went down to the dining car, which had the omnipresent photos of the two Kims. Around 3PM we arrived at SinÅiju, the border town. This took awhile to complete formalities, the NK customs officers came in our cabins and searched through our bags, our cabin was first. They also took our cameras and looked through all the pictures. After our cabin though they stopped searching as thoroughly! Afterwards we were allowed to get off the train while customs went through the other cabins. There was a bar above the train station here that had a microbrewery! It was pretty good too. Finally time to get back on the train, where we also got our cell phones back from our KT guide.
We cross the Yalu river into Dandong, China. The old bridge is still here, only reaching halfway across the river.
It was bombed on the North Korean side by the Americans during the war. We stopped at the train station here too for immigration and we could tell we were back in China as there was a Super 8, McDonalds, and people coming on the train trying to sell us stuff! I bought $1 of North Korean currency (the only I had seen) for like $3.. quite a markup. We looked in vain for Kim Il-Sung pins but didn't have time to find any. Finally we set off for the overnight train to Beijing, it was already nearly 5PM; the border formalities on both sides (with time change) had taken almost 3 hrs. The rest of the train trip was uneventful, most of it was dark so not possible to see anything. We passed through Shenyang and Tianjin before arriving at the Beijing train station at 9AM to chaos. I kind of got separated from the rest of the group, but found them again at the front of the station. We all said our separate goodbyes and left our own ways. I had made a reservation at the Park Plaza, so headed there to shower and change.