July 24th; 370km; Dandong to Tonghua
Speedboat Tour of the North Korean Border
Today we woke up to sunshine and blue skies, which was perfect as we wanted to visit the Yalu river which acts as a border between China and North Korea. Once we got to the river front we parked up next to a few other motorcycles which looked like they had clearly been on the road a while. They were all dusty and packed up with gear, flying little Chinese flags. Turns out it was a group of 4 travelers from Guizhou who were part of a Chinese motorcycle forum called Motorfans (a forum Buck updates our progress on regularly) and had been on the road for a month already. We chatted with the super friendly guy who was looking after the bikes whilst his fellow bikers did a tour of the border, and he gave us some great tips on roads in Inner Mongolia and where to visit.
We then did a 30 minute speedboat tour on the river with 3 Chinese-Americans from San Francisco who brought with them a box of cigarettes to give to the North Koreans. I had no idea you could pass things over the border, but our guide seemed to think nothing strange of the request and took us close to the other shore so that we could throw the cigarette packets to a soldier carrying a rifle on the river bank. We also gave some to a guy hanging out on a boat (I actually missed, of course, but he didn’t seem bothered and fished them out of the water) and another guy selling trinkets to tourists on another small boat. Apparently one box of cigarettes is worth as much as a month’s wage.
The Best Roads in Dongbei
We set off to Tonghua on some of the best kept country roads we’ve ever been on in China. We took the 201 and it was well paved and very well maintained, with yellow flowers planted along the border almost the entire way. Well done Liaoning Provincial Council. The roads were also very empty, which was a great plus as we wound our way around lush green mountains and fields in the sunshine, it was an idyllic and totally unexpected experience. We did run into a brief downpour for which we stopped under a bridge where we made some local friends who asked us the usual questions; “how much is the bike?”, “how fast does it go?”, “where are you from?” and “where are you going?” (always in that order). We rode around 370km that day, not really stopping for lunch as we were enjoying the ride and wanted to keep ahead of the rain clouds. This also put us back on track with our 230km average, meaning we could afford a rest day once we got to Harbin, which was around 600km away.
All in all it was a great day on the road, certainly one of the best we’ve had so far on this trip!