BEING FROZEN AT THE HARDIN ICE FESTIVAL!
Harbin is the place to go if you want to wear more clothing than you’ve ever done in one sitting and STILL be chilly, as well as witness a massive, well-fed Siberian tiger tear into a chicken up close. At least the Harbin ice festival and the Siberian tiger reserve are worth a visit!
We had the opportunity to visit this frigid city in the far north of China, close to the Russian border, in February, when the temperature was around -20 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s the ideal location for Harbin’s Ice Festival. We’re in for a treat!
Heilongjiang’s capital city is Harbin (literally, “Black Dragon River”). It’s rather intense, isn’t it? ), China’s most northern province. Harbin has a strong Eastern European architectural and cultural influence because of its proximity to Russia and its previous life as a city under Russian rule. The city’s notable features are these enormous brown, supposedly “Russian” bread loaves, which are sold everywhere as a local favorite. Stale as stale can be found in large amounts of it. The “bread soda” tasted exactly like you’d expect it to, so it was fun to try. It was a strange experience.
Arriving at the airport, we were already prepared for the Harbin ice festival and for walking around town in numerous layers; we wore multiple pairs of socks and caps as well as gloves and scarves. It wasn’t that horrible on our way to catch a taxi in the windy night air. Slowly, the cold creeps up on you.
Your feet will be the first to feel it. As you wear thick wool socks, you’ll be able to see through your thick cotton socks, and finally, the thin ankle socks beneath all of that. Then comes the numbness and burning. How can this be fixed? Don’t stop moving forward. It’s never a good idea to sit still for any time.
In the relatively mild tri-state region, we had never witnessed anything like this before. We all felt it, even those who grew up in the Catskill Mountains (Dad). A three-inch-thick sheet of solid ice blanketed the entire road as soon as we got into the taxi.
It looked like they were taking a leisurely afternoon drive along the freeway on a smooth, traction-free surface. As the vehicle sometimes veered down the slippery road, our driver remained calm as a cucumber. As the storm raged around us, we clung to our chairs for dear life. However, we saw that no one drove faster than 40mph, and everyone kept a safe distance from each other. As a result, I was relieved.
After a chilly start, we arrived at our first destination:
The hotel was very warm thanks to the central heating and soundproofing.
The next day, after a good rest and a fresh coat of makeup, we went to see the Saint Sophia Cathedral, an ancient Russian Orthodox church. Beyond the world-renowned Harbin Ice Festival, the city offers a wealth of other attractions.
The roads and sidewalks are both covered in ice, so be aware of this before you get out of your car. There was no salting of the roads or sidewalks in Harbin because it would have a huge environmental impact; according to a taxi driver we spoke with, salting the roads and sidewalks is not permitted in Harbin it would have a significant environmental impact.
Because of this, going down the street was a bit of a risky proposition. But we made it safely to our destination. In my opinion, the Cathedral was stunning. China now has a little bit of Europe.
We couldn’t eat the candied fruits they were selling outside since it was too cold.
Zhongyang Street, Harbin’s primary pedestrian thoroughfare, is far from the Cathedral.
We became more confident as we strolled on the ice. It was similar to swimming, but you were learning to walk on ice instead of water. The funniest part about this is…
Right. In any event,
Walking down Zhongyang Street, you can truly get a feel for the city’s East-meets-West vibe.
That night, we went to the Snow and Ice World, the epicenter of the Harbin ice festival, where you should plan on spending no more than an hour because you need to go when the ice structures and sculptures are illuminated, which means after the sun has set and you’re feeling the chilliest.
There is a seemingly never-ending cycle of singing, dancing, and acrobatic performers near the entrance of the Harbin Ice Festival, so unless you have a superhuman tolerance for the cold, you should head directly there.
Seeing that the bejeweled performers on stage had no one paying attention was disheartening. The applause was sparse after each performance, which lasted anywhere from five to ten minutes. As you looked around, you began to realize that everyone was there for the same reason: warmth.
Over an hour passed without us noticing despite our best attempts. Walking up there is exhausting due to all the cortisol regulation and the tense, careful sliding. So, yeah, we’d tell any traveler to do that. After seeing Harbin’s ice city, retire to the auditorium’s plush seats, soak up the warmth generated by the audience, and doze off for the day. It’s just what I needed.
You can also go to the ice bar and drink some ice cold beer while sitting at ice tables. It’s possible if you’re into that sort of thing.
These “Modern Cafes” were also scattered throughout the park, and our approach was to run from one to the next so that we could huddle in the glory of the electric warmth for brief, ten-minute intervals while touring the remainder of the park.
Our sprints were punctuated by stops to take in some of the ice sculptures, climb the ice castle, or take a spin down the ice slides.
While ice skating, make sure your bottom is protected by your gear. When you put on your winter coat, it’s like riding a roller coaster. It’s embarrassing to put on your trousers in front of everyone, and an eight-year-old at the top of the slide complains that you’re taking too long. During the winter, it doesn’t appear that any crickets live in Harbin, but if they did, you would hear their cackles of humiliation! So, you know…put on your coat.
Now let’s go on.
The Siberian Tiger Reserve awaited the following day. Many tigers live there.
It’s not uncommon to see giant tigers lazing around all day in their strong, silent family group, eating and drinking as they choose.
As in Jurassic Park, you’ll go about in a big metal bus with bars on the windows, learning about this location in the style of Dr. Allan Grant and his young grandkids. (This didn’t appear to be the case.)
Nevertheless, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to see a fully grown Siberian tiger, which was impressive.
There were a surprising number of cats, considering it was January, and they were in the middle of nowhere. Even if lions were designed for ice and snow, it’s unlikely they’d have regular meetings with their big cat cousins on the opposite side of the world. Naturally, their coats got thicker as soon as they arrived at Harbin.
But it’s hard to imagine they’re having fun with it.
That’s just the way China is…
You’re going to find some negative implications or things that just seemed to fall through the cracks in the midst of all that growth, progress, and improvement. That’s a bummer. The lions, in particular, deserve it.
It is possible to take a skywalk at the end of the trip for a bird’s-eye view of the park.
It all became extremely real all of a sudden.
As we were up there snapping pictures and watching the tigers play, a big blue dump truck drove out into what was left of the park. As soon as the truck arrived, all the tigers rose to their feet and rushed toward it, following it until it came to a halt at the vast, frozen watering well.
The truck’s rear lifted slowly, and the hatch popped up. Since it was so far away and the object that fell out of the vehicle was white, you couldn’t determine what was happening.
But then it appeared. Goats make identifiable noises when they’re in a difficult circumstance.
The rest of the story is probably a no-brainer.
Mother Nature’s relentless wrath.
Because this is China, guests may also purchase real chickens to feed the tigers, in addition to the small show. Two German men threw the chickens into the pen, and the tigers pounced, each vying for a piece of feathery goodness in the chaos.
Because of this, some zoological practices in China differ from those in the United States.
Tiger feeding isn’t something we agree with, but like with many things in China, things are done slightly differently.
After the traumatic encounter with a tiger, it was time for a hearty meal.’ It was difficult to forget about the goats and hens in our lives.
We ended at a restaurant known for its unique fish stew, which is cooked in a giant, wide pot built into the table itself.
As a hearty winter supper, it’s a local favorite. You walk in and pick out all the raw items you want to use in the soup, such as vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, noodles, and so on. Afterward, your selected ingredients and your fish are cooked together in a Harbin-style hot pot in front of you.
After lunch, we had to head to the airport.
It was a long wait at the gate, and we were finally able to arrive home in Beijing at 1 AM. As for Harbin’s famous Ice Festival—extreme weather, Sino-Russian cultural mix-up, a live-action Big Cat Diaries film adaptation, and bread soda?—was a truly fascinating location to see. All the things that are completely new to you. We’ve also nailed the art of walking on ice.