Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Day 3

Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
Trip End Mar 17, 2013

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Where I stayed
Gfour Holiday Hotel Harbin
Read my review - 2/5 stars

Flag of China  , Heilongjiang,
Saturday, January 26, 2013

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I stayed in my room until around 3:00 today. I then started trying to find a way to get the to Ice and Snow World, the largest venue of the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival and the only one I haven't see yet. It's the portion of the event that has made it famous.  If you've seen pictures they were probably taken at Ice and Snow World.

I first checked with the travel agents in my hotel.  They were sending people over at 6:00. I didn't want to go that late so I went looking for the bus stop I was dropped off at two days ago.

I eventually found the bus stop I was looking for. It turns out that the same bus route I took two days ago also goes to the Ice and Snow World venue. I was directed toward a special bus that was loading up. The deal on the special bus is that you ride for free but you have to buy your ticket to the Ice and Snow World from them. I bought my ticket and settled in.

The ride over was through heavy traffic. Somehow I had eaten up much more time than I expected and it was nearly 5:00 and already dark when the bus dropped us off. The drop-off point was on the other side of a busy highway, on the other side of an intersecting highway and nearly a half-mile away. We all set off for the entrance.

The entrance was mobbed, in marked contrast to the event last night at Zhaolin Park. There were a bunch of corrals set up to enter. I tried getting into one of them but was chased off. I tried another one and was chased off again but this time the person pointed to the corrals at the end of the line. I tried a line there.  This time I was let into the corral and, a short time later, into the event.

Ice and Snow World is like a large theme park built of ice. There are dozens of buildings and sculptures lit mostly by colored fluorescent lights inside or under the ice.  Some of the buildings are over 50 feet tall.  There are a bunch of ice slides that you can go on.  You can pay to ride around in a horse-drawn sleigh.  You can have your picture taken holding a fox.  You can see the winning sculptures from an ice carving competition.  You can go see a couple shows in permanent buildings at the site.  One was a sort of Cirque du Soleil on ice that included a bunch of people on German rings, aerial acts and women on skates that were at least a foot tall with normal-sized blades stuck on the end.  There were outdoor ice skating performances.  And the furries I had seen at Sun Island made another appearance again dancing to Gangnam Style.  I saw some signs that had the word Cosplay in English and everything else in Chinese that may have been talking about the furries.

It was -26C (-15F).  I had to take my gloves off a lot to operate my camera.  After about three hours of the cold I needed a break.  I had to put my camera into my backpack in order to prevent it from icing up when I go inside, which, unfortunately, required me to take my gloves off my already painfully cold hands.  I went into one of the Modern Cafe outlets scattered around the site.  I wanted to eat but their menu was pretty limited: hot dogs, hard-boiled eggs, corn-on-the-cob, ice cream (you don't have to worry about it melting), drinks and little else.  I sat in pain for a while as the blood returned to my hands and then headed out in search of a bus back to town.

I quickly found a bus just outside the entrance.  I got on.  It was soon sufficiently packed that we headed for town.  After we arrived I went to my hotel and left my camera in my room and then started hunting for a restaurant.

I remembered seeing a Russian restaurant by the name of Tatoc that seemed to be open late.  I went there and headed inside.  I was told it would be a five-minute wait.  I was given a menu to look at while I waited.  About 30 minutes later I was seated.  Then the waitress told me I could only order from the set menus and, since I was alone, there was only one set menu I could order.  It wasn't remotely close to vegetarian so I left.  I don't know about the food but the service was certainly authentic Russian.

After wasting over a half-hour in Tatoc my restaurant choices had become even more limited.  I noticed another Russian restaurant that I hadn't seen before.  The sign on the door said they were open until midnight but when I went in I was told they were closed.  More authentic Russian service.

My next try was a Pizza Hut.  I arrived just a few minutes before 10:00.  The door was still unlocked but I was told that I was too late and than they close at 10:00.  Like the taxi quote a couple days ago, this was also indicated by a hand signal.  The signal for 10 around here is apparently a clenched fist held vertically in front of your chest although I thought in China the hand signal for 10 was forming a cross with your index fingers modeling the written character for 10, which looks like a plus sign.  Everyone seems to assume you know what the hand signals mean.

I went into a restaurant called RBT near the Pizza Hut.  They had some English translations on their menu but nobody there spoke English.  I ordered the only thing I could find on the menu that seemed to be vegetarian.  When the food arrived I discovered it wasn't vegetarian either.  I was given a bowl of rice that was placed to the right of the bowl of soup in front of me.  The server placed a ceramic spoon in an indentation in the rice bowl so it is now under my right arm as I ate from the soup bowl with chopsticks.  I soon bumped the spoon.  It fell on the floor and shattered.  Someone quickly showed up with a 10 yuan ($1.66) bill for the spoon.
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