Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter in China: Exploring Harbin


The main reason for the entire trip was to see the yearly world famous ice and snow festival in Harbin. Random ice and snow sculptures can be seen through out the city with three parks hosting their own exhibitions. The smaller but cheapest and closest to the city is at Zhaolin park. We skipped this as it was rather small and we caught glimpses of the sculptures from outside. We spent half a day each at Sun Island Park which primarily has snow sculptures and another evening at Ice & Snow World which is famous for their lighted ice sculptures. I'll leave you with a couple of pictures first but will post up more details on this two exhibitions in upcoming posts.

Entrance of Zhaolin Park

Ice Sculpture at Song Hua River

Before sharing other highlights of Harbin, I do need to talk about the weather. We had clear blue skies and the sun was out while we were in Harbin but the average temperature was an ungodly -25C!. Stealing from Bourdain, -25C feels like our face was stuck to a piece of ice - it's cold and it hurts! We had to completely wrap ourselves up and any part that was uncovered would start to hurt after being exposed to the cold for a couple of minutes.  Talking to the locals, it was warmer than expected when we were in Harbin. Is gets even colder? Yikes!

My advice would be to invest in some good winter clothing. With beanie to over the head, good down jacket, thermals, scarf, thick wool socks, snow boots in addition to my "normal"wear of a sweater and jeans, I did pretty okay and was able to stay outside in the freezing temperature most of the time. Some of my other family members who didn't too well in the cold just simply wore more layers.

Still cold with all the clothing!

Zhou Yang street at night
Right by our hotel was St Sophia Cathedral which was a Russian Orthodox Church. It has now been converted to a museum highlighting the history of Harbin. For a cost of 20 reminbi, I felt it was a good hour or so to spent the time learning about the history of Harbin. There was even some performance by a local choir when we visited.

St Sophia

We spent most of the rest of the time just exploring the main shopping Zhou Yang street exploring the many shops and eateries. A highlight are the many Russian themed stores that sell Russian vodka, jewelery and matryoshka dolls. 

Zhou Yang Street during the Day

In addition to the ice and snow attractions, other attractions in Harbin include Polar Land, which is a theme park consisting of animal and polar shows and a Siberian tiger park. We did not however feel it was worth the hassle and costs of visiting so we just skipped it. For the more adventurous, there's also a ski resort at Yabuli which is a couple of hours away.

1 comment:

  1. The Siberian tiger park was actually quite good when I went a couple of years back. You're essentially on this coach which would drive you around the park with the tigers outside. There was a liger (cross breed between lion and tiger) there too. Interesting stuff.