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Published: January 12th 2010
The first view of the festival
This gigantic building was built in the parking lot outside the airport. It is as long as the terminal building and just as tall. Gave us a hint of what was to come.
We had heard lots about the Ice Festival. The main thing was that is was VERY cold. It wasn't as bad as it could have been but it was cold enough that I was glad I finally bought a set of long underwear.
It was tough to have to go on another road trip so soon after our Beijing Christmas trip. OK, so it really wasn't tough!! We left New Year's morning so I guess we could say we hadn't been on a trip since 2009.
Beijing was a self-directed trip. For Harbin, we chose to go on a Fairy Trip. Fairy is the Chinese wife of one of the teachers who happens to run a travel agency. She organized the hotel, bus, taxi and meals so all we had to do was dress warmly and enjoy.
After checking into a 1905 vintage French hotel that had been restored very nicely, we headed out to the Festival. The snow sculptures are best seen during the day when the details are more obvious. We got there just in time to see them in daylight and then in darkness too. A totally different effect when they are artificially lit. I
The Front Entrance
This massive building is just the entrance to the Ice Festival. We have included lots of pictures (many without captions) at the end of the blog to give you some idea of the size of the buildings as well as their number.
am glad we saw them both ways. The snow sculptures are in one sense more impressive than the ice sculptures. They are generally smaller but they are truly carved and the detail is absolutely unbelievable.
We stopped at a local restaurant for supper and warmed up. We were in a room with a "fire place" (see pictures) but for some reason had to move to another room. The fireplace actually heats the sleeping platform! "Warm up" is a relative term. This second room was definitely cooler than the first but still a lot warmer than being outside.
Back to the bus and off to the Ice sculptures. We were suitably impressed by the big building made of ice that we came to but when we discovered it was just the entrance and there was an Ice City on the other side we were absolutely amazed. There were exhibits such as the Forbidden City, Coliseum in Rome, skyscrapers and countless other displays. All were lit-up internally so the effect was awesome. We did stop at a yurt to warm up with a "hot chocolate". This was one of the few places where we didn't get value for money. Twenty
The weather was not as cold as it could have been. And, at least it was sunny, especially at night!
kuai for a paper cup of powdered drink that wasn't even completely mixed. To say it wasn't so hot was true in more than one sense. But it was out of the wind and somewhat warmer.
The hotel was a four star and while it was no Kempinsky, it was pretty nice. Large room, bright, great bathroom. All the comforts of home. Actually a lot warmer than our apartment! A breakfast buffet was included in the price and was a nice combination of Chinese and Western offerings. The number of staff in the breakfast room always amazes me. One fellow seemed to be assigned to watch me. Every time I turned around, there he was to help me out. The self-serve toaster is easy when you know how it works but I needed lessons. Same with the coffee machine. My assistant was always prompt to help and we had a few good laughs.
Saturday we walked to a nearby park where they carve statues out of blocks of ice. There were more snow sculptures there and, while the park was a lot smaller than the one we saw the previous evening, it did have its own charm -
Forbidden City. Harbin style
Not quite as big a Beijing's version but a pretty good imitation.
and several ice slides that Dianne enjoyed.
We went on what was supposed to be a short walk to St. Sophia's Church. We made a couple of wrong turns and walked a lot further than we were supposed to. We did get to see more of Harbin that way but it was good to finally see the Church. It has been turned into a photo exhibition of the development of the city. Harbin is one of the few cities in China that never had walls. The pictures go back to the early part of the 1900s and were very interesting. Few English signs but still pretty neat. especially because I was able to buy a Russian fur hat. Can’t say for sure what it is made of because the label is all in Russian! But the ear flaps come down and are very warm. Just what I need for Victoria!
After lunch, we got to wander the pedestrian walking streets. We poked into lots of shops most of which are marked "Russian goods" or something like that. I was afraid to look at the prices of their Russian hats but did see one label that was almost four
Feeling bottled up?
Harbin is noted for its beer so it wouldn't be fair to not take a picture of this icon.
times what I paid so I felt good about that.
We had dinner in a Russian restaurant. The food was good but it was the décor that was amazing. The walls and ceilings were completely covered with elaborately carved word. Gorgeous. We capped the evening off with a walk to the other end of the pedestrian street which took us back to the river. There the winds were more noticeable and we didn't have any trouble calling it a day and heading back to the hotel.
Sunday was bright, sunny and cold. We bussed to the river’s edge and wandered around the activities available. More ice slides, ski-doo rides, dog-sled rides and self-propelled sleds. Lots of fun but the highlight came at 10:00 when we all gathered in an open enclosure surrounding a swimming pool cut into the river ice. I don't know how they keep the water open but they do. And a couple of dozen swimmers came out to demonstrate how crazy some people can be. One fellow lay down on the ice and his buddy doused him with water from the "river". Then he got up on the diving platform and really played it up
This shot gives some idea how big the snow sculptures can be. The ice buildings are impressive but they are mostly blocks of ice with neon lights in them. The snow sculptures are huge blocks of packed snow carved into shapes of unbelievable detail and beauty.
for the crowd who cheered him on wildly, He did a back dive into the frigid water and leisurely swam to the other end. We all hoped they had nice hot showers in the change room.
After lunch, it was time to check out and head for the airport. An uneventful trip until we got to the door of the plane. Apparently they decided at the last minute the plane couldn't land in Dalian because of snow so there was no point leaving. We were stuck there for about 7 hours before we left on the 1.5 hour flight home. At least they fed us in the airport. The roads were pretty bad in Dalian but not as bad as some we have seen in Alberta. There were over 50 teachers delayed by weather. Only 7 actually didn’t make it for Monday classes. It would have been a nightmare if 50 teachers didn’t make it to class on Monday.
We arrived home about 12:30 a.m. tired but happy.... now to rest up because we leave for Canada in two weeks!
(scroll down to see more pictures. There are two pages of pictures for this
This one spoke to me
I felt a real affinity for this sculpture. Yes, that is corn I am pointing at!
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