1. It’s easy to visit but almost nobody does
Despite being just over the Chinese border and available as an extension on your tour or even as a quick-and-easy day trip, only 300 Westerners visited Sinuiju last year. This makes Sinuiju by far the most accessible of all the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ cities in North Korea. An entry permit for a day trip can be arranged in 10 working days and is possible for anyone except journalists and nationals of certain countries.
2. It’s not Pyongyang
If you’ve only got a limited amount of time for your North Korea tour and getting out into the provinces is difficult, adding an overnight stay in Sinuiju is an easy way to give yourself a broader perspective on life in North Korea. As the largest city on the Korean side of the China-DPRK border, it’s a great opportunity to see a different side of life in North Korea without creating a logistical headache.
3. Visiting Bonbu Kindergarten
This kindergarten is famous throughout the DPRK for its performances. Many of the students here have performed in the Mass Games and are expected to participate again in this year’s shows. Aside from touring the kindergarten and seeing the children perform, it’s also an easy opportunity to make a difference by bringing gifts of candy, toys, and children’s medicine that will be shared amongst the students.
4. The Sinuiju Art Gallery
Not only a fantastic place to view some truly exceptional North Korean art, almost all the pieces are for sale except those that depict North Korea’s Leaders. The prices are much lower than what you’ll pay in Pyongyang and there’s something for everyone, from pleasant mountain scenes and cityscapes to more unusual pieces such as the “Tale of Hunting Yankees”. If art is your thing, you’re sure to find something to liven up your living room here.
5. You’re much more likely to interact with locals at the hotel
The last three times i’ve stayed overnight in Sinuiju, I’ve seen more locals at Dongrim Hotel than at any of the hotels in Pyongyang. With a third-class twin room costing around 22 USD for local Koreans, it’s not out of reach for many of the city’s population. Many Koreans also stop by to use the swimming pool or other facilities.
The locals here also tend to be much more approachable than the black-suited traders, diplomats and other officials you’ll see at places such as the Koryo Hotel. We’ve had groups join in with a company volleyball game, have got to join in with a wedding banquet and go swimming or play billiards and table tennis with very excited locals. It’s also a common stop for locals doing their wedding photos, so it’s quite common during spring and summer to see wedding couples and their entourages at the hotel.
6. Pomhyangi Cosmetics Factory
Pomhyangi means ‘spring fragrance’ and is the most sought-after local brand of cosmetics and toiletries. While the tour of the factory itself tends to be a little basic, the cosmetics here are actually quite good and reasonably priced, with a big discount in the factory store over other retailers. While North Korean cosmetics haven’t made an impact like South Korea’s brands have, this is the brand that the Moranbong Band use and their skin looks pretty great!
7. Being one of the few Westerners to look the other way over the border
Thousands of people stare over the border from Dandong to Sinuiju and wonder what mysteries lie across the famous Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge. Few seem to realize how easy it is to cross the Yalu river and find out for yourself. It’s now possible to walk right down to the riverbank and look up at the shrapnel damage that is still evident on the bridge, wave at the crowds watching from the Yalu River Broken Bridge and take a moment to appreciate how few have seen what you’re seeing.
Explore Sinuiju yourself on either an overnight extension or a day trip from Dandong!.