As the most prominent city bordering North Korea’s northern neighbour of China, Sinuiju is a city many tourists pass through whilst travelling between Dandong and Pyongyang by train, but not a city where people stop to explore. Below are our reasons why you visit this unique border town city of the DPRK.
1. Explore a rarely visited rural city of North Korea
Sinuiju is situated on the DPRK border to China, opposite Dandong city with the Yalu River (Amnok River for Koreans) being the natural border. This city is the capital of North Pyongan province with over 400,000 residents, and first opened to beyond mainland Chinese tourists in 2014 and is a rare stop with only 200 western tourists visiting the city in 2019. This makes Sinuiju and neighbouring Dongrim county by far the most accessible of all the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ cities in North Korea.
2. Interactions with local North Koreans
In Pyongyang, locals tend to keep to themselves and not to intrude on tourists. Here in Sinuiju, the North Pyongan people have a pride in being helpful and friendly to strangers. During my experience here I’ve had lots of interactions with locals approaching wanting to greet or introduce themselves and to ask questions about my visit.
During an overnight tour we arrange your stay at the Dongrim Hotel located in a small rural county one hour south of Sinuiju. This hotel is popular for locals stopping by to use the volleyball courts, the outdoor water park or the indoor swimming pool. It is also common to see wedding receptions held in the hotel’s banquet hall where it’s apart of the Korean tradition to drink to celebrate. This is a perfect opportunity to mingle in a much more relaxed atmosphere and learn more about the Korean culture.
3. Explore the border
Along the Dandong boardwalk there are countless of local residents and domestic Chinese tourists waving and snapping pics towards North Korea as mystery shrouds the hermit kingdom. Being one of the very few foreigners to stand on the North Korean side to look back at China is quite surreal. Comparing the two cities side by side is mind blowing. Dandong high-rises towering over the river whilst Sinuiju remains a city stuck in time. Definitely one of our favourite moments during the tour.
During the Korean War the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge was destroyed multiple times by the US to stop the Chinese supply and aid to the North Koreans. Standing under the bridge on the North Korean side it is possible to see bullet holes and shrapnel carvings.
4. Bonbu Kindergarten
The kindergarten in the city is most famous throughout North Korea for the performing talents of the students. This news was easily spread from the amount of students from here that participate at the Mass Games in Pyongyang each year. During your tour to campus you’ll be able to see classes of children learning songs, dancing, calligraphy and maths. After visiting each class you may visit the auditorium where the students will put on an incredibly unique performance. We encourage our tourists to bring some gifts for the students such stationary, candy or medicine.
5. Pomhyangi Cosmetics Factory
Pomhyangi means ‘spring fragrance’ and is the most sought-after local brand of cosmetics and toiletries in the country. 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 at 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.
6. 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 or elsewhere, and there’s something for everyone, from pleasant landscapes 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.
7. Dongrim Hotel
I briefly mentioned this hotel above but please allow me to explain why this hotel is the swankiest outside of Pyongyang. It was first opened in 2014 meaning it’s modern and in cooperation with a Chinese company meaning they had a proper budget. The hotel is six floors and includes an indoor heated swimming pool, basketball and volleyball courts, cafe, bar, ping pong, massage service, two sauna rooms, Karaoke, billiards and an outdoor BBQ area. So there’s plenty to do in the evening. An outdoor water park was built and opened in 2019 with three water slides.
There’s a hiking trail that leads from the hotel to Dongrim waterfall and takes a little over an hour. The waterfall isn’t very impressive but the hike through North Korea wilderness is very cool. Definitely one of the highlights of the tour.