Harbin Part 1

Trip Start Feb 27, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Heilongjiang,
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Harbin Municipal Government were geniuses in 1999.  They created an idea which enticed people to come to a city, where the average winter temperature is -16.8 degrees Celsius, in the height of winter.   They made the idea of travelling so far north, it is only a few hours away from the China-Russian border, attractive. By creating the International Snow and Ice Festival, they persuaded so many gullible tourists to overlook the weather and the distance to travel to their town and spend a few days.  And here we were, three friends who were completely enchanted with the images and stories of the Ice and Snow Festival, that we were travelling 8 hours on a train, kitted out in jackets thicker and puffier than our bodies, ready to take on Harbin.

It is such a popular destination at the moment, that finding train tickets was incredibly difficult.  Usually in China, train tickets are released 10 days before the train leaves, but at the moment, as Chinese New Year approaches, such is the competitiveness with tickets, that the tickets are released 20 days beforehand. We were unaware of that fact, so when we cleverly sat down 10 days before our intended departure date to book tickets, we had very limited options. Buying seats on the day train was our only real choice, but we were so keen to go, we didn't really care if we had to stand the whole way there.

We were travelling there to see the Harbin International Ice Festival, which was of course created in 1999. This year between 7000-10,000 workers (depending on what report you read) helped to create magnificent structures made of ice. 590,000 square feet of ice and 492,000 square feet of snow were used in the process, one which we hoped would be worth suffering through sub-zero temperatures to see the completed product.

I hear at the moment back home in Melbourne there's a heat wave, so it seems like my family and I are both experiencing extremes in temperatures, though at opposite ends of the spectrum.  There was a 70 degree Celsius difference between Melbourne and Harbin, with Harbin freezing at -28, and Melbourne sweltering through 42. It was so surreal to receive pictures from dad of candles melting outside from the heat back home, while I was so cold that it was painful.
My first impression of Harbin was just that-- it was cold.  So cold, that each time I ventured outside, my breath was lost for a second, and my chest stung at the first instant of the cold air.  The first day we arrived in the late afternoon, so we didn't plan on doing anything in particular.  We discovered that our hotel room had windows which inconveniently allowed the air to seep in through the edges, so we stocked up on pillows and blankets for the night ahead.
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Lyn on

The monochrome landscape was striking, with all the vegetable growing structures facing south.

Joan Jay on

It certainly looks cold in Harbin if the clothes you are wearing is any indication, but how wonderful to be able to see it. Mum and Dad were both very impressed with the beauty of Harbin. Not long to go now...love nanna

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