The Day My Face Froze

Trip Start Aug 28, 2012
Trip End Aug 09, 2013

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Flag of China  , Heilongjiang,
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

7th Feb - Harbin

The one and only reason we were in China in their winter was because of the ice festival. By convenience Chinese New Year happened to fall around the same time, but the ice festival was the pinnacle of the trip. Hence the 74hour journey! Once in Harbin we eventually arrived at our hostel; Kazy International Hostel where we were staying. The hostel is inside an old Synagogue with a nice big chillout area with tv and chairs and an internet room. We quickly warmed ourselves up with a hot chocolate and made our way to our 4 bed dorm. The door opened into the bed of ironically the only bed filled so he (Hendrick) was awake while we all stampede in to get undressed and into bed as soon as possible. By the time we got to sleep it was 11:30 - the end of our travelling...for a day!

We were up at 8 to get going after a breakfast at 9. We were a bit annoyed at the live comparison of breakfast to our previous meals at our last hostel; they were over the price. We dawdled quite a lot and left at 10 in our layers...our millions of layers: on my legs I had fleece lined leggings and jeans; on my feet 2 pair of cotton socks and my Marino wool big socks (Christmas present from Sarah :); on my top half a vest top, long sleeved top, cotton cardigan, fur lined jumped, down jacket and my new fur lined big coat; on my head a hat, my down jacket hood and my coats fur lined hood! And within the first 5 minutes we'd all bought face mask thing (the thing a lot of SE.Asian wear in polluted places-we found another use for them). To say it was literally freezing would be wrong, it was -26; the coldest temperature I have ever been in. Our journey started by us going to Macy Ds to crack open our hand warmers which we stuck inside of our gloves and shoes.

Walking down Harbin high street was amazing in itself. There were lots of ice sculptures along the street with beautiful buildings and shops along the way. We soon reached our destination: the river. Of course it was under a massively thick layer of ice and just before we were planning to cross there was lots of other options to which we could have used to do so: dog pulled carts (Alsations rather than huskies!), horse drawn sleds, snow mobiles and even cars! We walked which was pretty cool though took a while and soon we were on the other side in what seemed a university but was a business district... Which we then got stuck in! We got to the point of seeing where we wanted to be through a barb wired fence :( So we started to go round but before not long we gave up and got a taxi to literally around the corner for 3 (he did accidentally drive us to the other ice festival first however so we knew where that was for after).

We started by going to Sun Island, Snow Sculpture Festival for 22. The sculptures were absolutely stunning and so intricately done. By the time we'd finally arrived it was 12:30 so we looked at half the sculptures then went for lunch-as always pot noodles. Laura and I didn't get the nicest of tasting ones but in comparison the 2 tiny hot chocolate (more expensive than the noodles) was delicious! We then continued to wonder around the sculptures, the biggest one having some people dancing in front it. We went past some people making a new sculpture who turned out to be of whom obviously knew very little English but knew enough to say to Laura "tonight you have Russian sex"! As flattered as Laura obviously was we all laughed in his face and briskly walked off!

With freezing feet and hands, and though a good like and appreciation for the sculptures we left thinking it was a bit expensive for what you get and got a taxi down the road again for 3. We were now at Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, the only reason we are in China for their winter! 30 entry but it was incredible: we arrived before sunset so were there for daytime, sunset and night time so got to experience it in all forms of light! Sunset was impressive, putting an orange glaze over all the ice and making lots of it seem like its glowing. At 5 we went and saw a show inside one of the big buildings: it was acrobatics, ice skating and magic. Some of it was really impressive, the best bit being a bit of magic when a dove suddenly appeared and flew out of a painting!

But the real spectacle was at night when we walked out of the show. By this point it was completely dark and all the lights inside the ice buildings were on. The most impressive and biggest ice building was the Disney castle, standing I reckon a good 50m tall and lit with lots of different colours. On lots of the sculptures there were slides so of course we went down quite a lot of them. It soon became apparent that by bum had the wrong material on it for these ice slides but it turned out going down on my ski boots with a knee part bent down for stability not only meant I didn't get stuck; I went a lot faster too!

Towards the end of this amazing day, I was starting to suffer. Even with the numerous layers and not actually feeling cold I was uncontrollably shivering and not only my toes, my feet had got to the point of being past cold and were actually in agony. Luckily we'd done all we wanted and couldn't find a bar! so jumped into a taxi and headed back. We conveniently headed back at the perfect time; we got talking to 2 Swiss guys (Gabriel and Pierre) and a German guy (Yans) who were making cheese fondu - OMG! Just to make the day more brilliant. So we sat round that whilst Pierre grated 2kg of Swiss cheese a mate had bought with him to China and Gabriel sawed into the frozen loaf of bread! It was amazing; so tasty and creamy and just simply delicious. A perfect way to finish a brilliant day! The brief visit to Harbin after stupid amounts of travel was definitely worth it and Harbin ice festival was insanely immense. However, I am not made for negative temperatures and don't think I will be venturing to another below freezing climate anytime soon!
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mum on

The ice sculptures all look amazing. Is it a kind of competition?

cats-adventures on

No, not a competition, just do it and make money from the people visiting. Think most of the sculpters were Russian!

Sarah on

Glad the socks were useful, but sounds like you needed more than one pair, your poor toes! :-(

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