Written by Zoe Stephens
Yanji is located in the East of China in the Jilin province, and home to 400,000 inhabitants. It’s not your average Chinese city, with most its population of Korean descent. This centrally located city has a strong Korean-community feel, and with shop notices and road signs being written in both Chinese and Korean, you’ll be confused as to where you actually are. It is home to the largest group of ethnic Koreans (expatriates from both North and South Korea) in China, most of whom however hold Chinese citizenship.
Getting off the tourist track is easy here. The only foreigners you’ll see around will be those using Yanji as a convenient transport hub between China and North Korea, as it is conveniently situated close to the border. It is also used as a transport and trade hub by locals.
It’s not a tourist hub, partially due to the fact that there’s not all that much to do there. But in a way, that’s kind of enticing itself. One of the best things you can do in the city is to just explore and soak up a completely different culture and vibe to anything you’ve experienced before.
That saying, we’ve put together a list of things for you to do and see to help you make the most of one day out in Yanji (because you probably don’t need any more than one day.)
What to Do
If you fancy going for a stroll, and you’ve already covered as much of the city center a possible, the Yanbian University (延边大学; Yánbiān Dàxué) has a large, open campus perfect for just that. Plus, it offers a backdrop of a forested hill and an excellent view of the city. You can find it here: 977 Gongyuan Rd.
If you’re spending a couple of days in the city (for whatever reason) it’s an idea to check out the small amusement park next to the Yanxi. St bridge. Here you may find more beer stalls than rides, but it promises an interesting day out!
Nowhere else can you find the ‘Cold Noodle’ as authentic as this one. This Korean-Chinese fusion cuisine is sweet, cold, and spicy at the same time. Your taste buds won’t know what hit them at first, but it will have you going back for more! Find the sign “冷面”.
If cold noodles aren’t your thing, there is plenty of other options in the way of Korean food, such as Korean BBQs and Shenjitang.
Rise of the South Korean style coffee shops! They’ve completely taken over the city here, and you’ll be spoilt for choice on where to drink your latte and read up on your China Lonely Planet. All with their own quirky style, make sure to have a look around before picking one that takes your fancy.
Karaoke is popular throughout China, but even more so in Yanji. You can’t move for the KTVs! The city even has a grungy underground beatboxing scene.
#1 Activity: Visit North Korea
One of the most popular reasons why people travel to Yanji as a tourist is to enter into North Korea.
Whilst Pyongyang and other southern regions are popular amongst tourists traveling to the DPRK, YPT offers tours to Rason and North East, famous for being tours that take you well off the beaten track in an already sparsely visited country. You will get a closer look directly into the rural life of North Koreans and North Korea’s only Special Economy Zone.
Rarely does one get the chance to see the ‘real’ side of North Korea, but with Rason’s relaxed atmosphere and very few other tourists, this is as close as you’re going to get. It’s the only place in North Korea where you can visit a market as a tourist as well the only place where you can exchange hard currency for DPRKorean Won at the bank (and at real rates too!). You can then also spend it in local shops and at the market – not many people can say they’ve done that! Also on the itinerary is getting a DPRK debit card, chatting with students at the Foreign Language School, visiting factories, drinking at local watering holes, and more!