North Korea

Off to North Korea! I had a free day during my TDY to Shenyang so why not check out DPRK? There are approximately 1,000 trains from Shenyang to Dāndōng, the Chinese boarder town with North Korea, so booking a train was relatively easy. This was my first try using for train tickets. It was fairly easy with an app purchase via Visa and simple display of ticket on phone to window attendant at train station along with passport. I forgot to show her both tickets and had to go back and get the other printed. This was quite humorous to the officer checking tickets at the train station. Nothing a few hand signals couldn’t handle.

Shenyang Rail station is remarkably similar to other China stations except with the much more comfortable lounge chairs complete with charging ports (for a fee of course).

Also on display where remarkable copies of a Jeep/FJ Cruiser (aka “BJ40”) and Land Rover (aka “Land Wind”).

Boarding a train in China is much like entering the Six Flags gates first thing with hundreds of pre-teens. Thankfully the train boarding gauntlet free-for-all is more fun whilst reading odd T-shirt slogans.

I’ll let him know.

I also admire mermaids.

After arriving one minute early Mr. Chairman pointed the way to DPRK.

Didi (China’s Uber) arrived 3 minutes later and just like that I’m off!

The east end of The Great Wall (DPRK in background) in Huashan was about thirty minutes away.

Don’t think the soldiers had hand rails back in the day.

Not sure why the cannons are pointed at the wall?

This about as close as one can get to North Korea without taking some lead.

The heat index was north of 110 and about 25% of the 477 steps had 24” high steps! Needless to say I was a bit sweaty. It was worth the climb, though! Cheers!

Back in Dāndōng, I walked to the end of the Yalu River Broken Bridge. Which is next to the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge. Both have an interesting history. In November 1950, the USAF sent 134 planes to bomb the bridge during the Korean War. Then the river froze and Chinese forces and supplies could easily scamper over. I bet the guy in charge of that mission got promoted! The bombers came back to finish the job in February. Two of the bombs (there must have been plenty) are still on display at the end of the bridge.

Well, that pretty much crossed off all the things to do in Dāndōng. I had a few hours to kill so I wandered through the only place I could find with AC, a mall. Although it was very nice, I was the only one shopping which allowed the sales folks to give me extra attention. Chinese mall employees are trained better than a bird dog and rarely give much more than a few inches of daylight between the customer and themselves. This created a bit of an awkward situation given I was covered in sweat from my earlier jaunts. I tried to look interested as they did their best presentation in Chinese.

I grabbed a Frapachino and sandwich at Starbucks and headed to the train station early. Big mistake! The train started boarding only 15 minutes prior to departure and the waiting lobby had no AC. An hour and half later I was back in Shenyang.

Overall I would do the trip again. Only next time will be in Winter! And who knows, I might even be able to cross the bridge then (that is the working one)?!

The Road Trip that never was …

We are supposed to be spending a long weekend in the mountains in a town called Ta’if. But in between Jeddah & Ta’if lies Mecca. If non-Muslims are found in Mecca they can be executed. We decided that didn’t sound fun so we opted to use the non-Muslim bypass to get around. This route doubles the travel time since it adds an additional 70 miles to the trip. We got about 8 miles from our hotel and the road was closed so we literally had to turn around and go home because there is no other road up the mountain. Quite frustrating but we didn’t let it get us down and enjoyed seeing a truer picture of Saudi Arabia outside of the city! Which means lots of camels, sand, & tents…

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water park built into the mountains.

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thousands of buses to take pilgrims into Mecca.



the Koran held up by machine guns.