Aside from Young Pioneer Tours regularly blogging about our budget tours to North Korea and the many new North Korean Tourist attractions that pop up in Pyongyang and other cities, we also try and do the odd piece about the wider issues and interests of the DPRK, so we carry on the Borderlands Series with our fifth part: Linjiang City.
Linjiang City (literally Lin-river city) is a county-level city in southern Jilin province. The city briefly served as the capital of the Japanese puppet-state of Manchukou, led by the last emperor of China, Pu Yi. It has a population of 190,000 people, most of whom are Han Chinese. As you approach Linjiang from the road leading into town, the mass of bright lights create excitement, due in part to it looking like a mix between the worlds biggest Christmas party and Las Vegas. This excitement fades quickly upon arrival when one discovers it is not, in fact, anything like Las Vegas. That taken aside, Linjiang is quite a pleasant town with a nice offering of decent food, interesting scenery, and some great views of North Korea.
By plane: The nearest airport is in Baishan which tends to offer seasonal routes to most major Chinese cities and even a few cities in South Korea. Depending on the time of year the airport is about a five-hour drive from the village.
By train: Linjiang has a small regional train station that services most major cities in the province.
By bus: There are regular buses headed east to Changbai Mountain, as well as west to Linjiang which can be flagged from the main road.
Being a pretty small town, most of Linjiang can be navigated by foot unless you need to head out to the outskirts. If you do need a taxi they are easy to catch, and start at just RMB 5 per trip.
Being so close to Korea there are plenty of Korean restaurants and influences but- generally speaking- it is a Han area with the locals speaking their own regional style of Mandarin.
Linjiang, Jilin Province
- Boat Trips – There are some pretty cool boat trips that leave from the main river bay area on the small tourist island that take you down the coast of North Korea. Prices vary depending on the package, but a simple trip will set you back less than RMB 100, and will provide for some great photo opportunities as well.
- Border Views — Walk along the riverfront on the tourist island and admire the views into North Korea.
- Historical Site — A short drive out of town you can visit the last place that Emperor Pu Yi lived following his arrest at the end of World War II — although it consists of only a simple plaque rather than anything particularly flashy or touristy.
- Statue of Chen Yun – Another great Chinese historical site, this statue commemorates Chen Yun, one of the eight elders of the Chinese Communist Party, and one of the very few politicians to avoid being purged despite finding Chairman Mao slightly too left and Deng Xiao Ping slightly too right. A short drive out of town and you can also visit Chen Yun’s former residence.
- Linjiang Yalu River Bridge – If you are a geeky collector of DPRK–China bridges then this one is a classic! It connects Linjiang with Chunggang County in North Korea. During the Korean War this bridge was used as one of the connecting points for the Chinese Volunteer Army. These days it is primarily used for trading. It is possible to sneak down to the farmland on the riverside for a better look.
- Korean Food –This might appear to be stating the obvious, but everything from Bibimbap to Korean BBQ (and even dog!) is available, cheap, and of great quality.
- Street Food – Depending on the season Linjiang offers some fantastic Chinese style street food, including typical street fares like BBQ and even a few more rare finds like balut (fertilized duck eggs). In the mornings there are easy-to-find markets offering breakfast delights.
- Coffee and Pizza- This pleasant restaurant/coffee bar– while not exactly reinventing the wheel when it comes to western food– has some decent dishes at fair prices, even offering a cheese-filled fried chicken dish.
- Magic Club (on the main bridge) – This KTV/Nightclub is quite a treat, and if you have never experienced a rural Chinese nightclub this is an absolute must if you visit Linjiang. Magic Club has private karaoke rooms as well as a central room complete with old Chinese crooners singing badly and necking bottles of beer for their adoring fans. If you’re lucky, they might even scroll a “Welcome Foreign Friends to Linjiang” across the projector screen in your honor.
Being rural China there are plenty options to suit most budgets and tastes but, again, very little that is exciting or worth writing home about. Fortunately in Linjiang they are a little bit more relaxed about which hotels are allowed to host foreigners.
- Jaijai Hotel – Our favorite place when we are in town, Jaijai hotel has extremely friendly staff and a mix of room types reminiscent of a 1970s adult film. Despite its strange (or perhaps enjoyable, depending on your taste) look, it more than does the job. Rooms start at about RMB 120 per night, but prices do go up in the summer.
- There is a street just off the main road full of pink lights and pretty ladies that offers a full night’s accommodation for as little as RMB 80. Although on the one time we did stay on this street we found a bra on our car the next day… you have been warned.
- Changbai Mountain International Hot Spring Hotel – The closest thing to a western style high-end hotel, although the rooms are fairly mediocre and slightly overpriced.
- Baishan – takes about 2 hours by bus and costs RMB 10 for a ticket.
- Borderlands Tour – It is possible to join a tour with Young Pioneer Tours along the borderlands of North Korea going through Linjiang.
- It is possible to carry on further down the borderlands without dipping up to Baishan, but generally speaking you would need your own transportation.