Liaoning is one of the three provinces in northeastern China which were traditionally known as "Manchuria". The three biggest cities, and tourist attractions, are the capital Shenyang (former capital of the Manchu empire, before they conquered the rest of China), the modern port city of Dalian, and Dandong, on the North Korean border. Many tourists pass through Liaoning on their way to Harbin's ice festival, or to catch a ferry to South Korea or Shandong. But Liaoning is worth a visit in its own right.
Liaoning is bordered by Jilin province to the north, Inner Mongolia to the northwest, Hebei to the southwest, the Bohai and Yellow Seas to the south, and North Korea (across the Yalu River) to the southeast. It includes the Liaodong peninsula, with Dalian and Lushun at its tip. The centre of the province is a wide plain, with the Liao River running through it. Low mountains run southwest to northeast on either side of the plain.
With an area of over 150,000 square kilometres, Liaoning has a population of over 42 million people. The population is mostly Han Chinese, but there are many Koreans and Manzu (Manchu) as well. There are some natural areas, but most of the province is used for agriculture. Industry in Liaoning is well developed, especially in Shenyang and Dalian.
The three largest cities are Shenyang, Dalian and Dandong.
China has three "Golden Week" holidays per year. People get a mandatory two or three days off work for each holiday, and workers' companies can grant them the rest of the week off, making each holiday a total of 7 days. As you can imagine, having almost 1.4 billion people with the same days off can make travelling at these times arduous to say the least.
Travelling during the Spring Festival/Chinese New Year is incredibly difficult. Chinese New Year is China's Christmas, so the millions of migrant workers and students flood back to their home towns. Everybody else takes the opportunity to spend their hong bao (gifts of money traditionally given at CNY) and go travelling. Most of the time, since you are only allowed to purchase train tickets 6 days in advance and must be present in the city of origin, sometimes only standing room tickets are available. Be aware! The Spring Festival is undoubtedly the busiest time for the Chinese transportation system. Flying will avoid the crowded trains, but book early and expect to pay higher prices. All the main tourist attractions will be crawling with tourists (worse than usual), so unless you like crowds, it's best to avoid it altogether.
Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, so the date changes each year. The Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday is 7 days long and usually starts on New Year's Eve.
The two other national holidays are October 1st, National Day, celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China and May 1st, which is International Labor Day. Almost all Chinese get the two holidays off and many take the opportunity to travel. If you want to avoid the crowds, fly, but it should get a lot less busy towards the end of the week.
The climate of Liaoning is temperate, with warm to hot summers and cold winters. Dalian, in the southern tip of the province, has a more maritime climate, with warm - not hot - and humid summers and less cold winters. Summer temperatures in Liaoning average 24 °C, and -10 °C in the winter. Winters are very dry, but even in the warmer months Liaoning sees only moderate rainfall, except for some coastal areas which are more influenced by monsoon-like weather in July and August.
There are trains to all major cities of Liaoning. Several daily trains connect Shenyang and Dalian with Beijing and Harbin. Trains between Beijing and Pyongyang travel via Shenyang and Dandong, but in order to cross the border you need to arrange visa and guides beforehand.
Major highways connect Shenyang, Dalian and Dandong to other parts of China.
Dalian is a major international seaport, and ferries go to Incheon in South Korea, as well as daily to Weihai and Yantai in Shandong Province, and less regularly to Tanggu (the port of Tianjin) and Shanghai.
Trains connect Shenyang with Dalian and Dandong.
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