Monday, 4 February 2008

Harbin

Harbin city, capital of Heilongjiang Province, is one of the most north-eastern Chinese cities and lies very close to the Russian boarder. My parents, brother and I went specifically for the Harbin Ice Festival. Established in 1985, it runs for a month from January 5th.
Some photos from wandering through the city centre.
I'm guessing it gets quite hot here summertime, hence the palm trees, though they did look a little strange along side the ice sculptures.
The river is completely frozen over and becomes one massive playground for all things ice-related.
Even the food stands were icey; frozen toffee-covered fruit kebabs on ever corner.
But back to the sports, there was crazy ice-slides (as pictured below), ice skating, chair skating, sleigh rides, ice buggies (also below), kite-flying and more.
But we passed it all up, opting instead to walk across the river to the ice and snow sculptures. Very cold, recommend spending the 20 RMB / €2 on the sleigh...
First stop, the snow sculptures. Sadly, you really won't be able to get a clear idea of the scale of these sculptures, or just how incredible they actually are. They were about 5m high and beautifully detailed.
They start off as big compacted blocks of snow, like this:
Get drawn onto, and slowly but steadily chisseled away until you end up with something spectacular, like this monster of a snow sculpture...
To give you some idea, these are pieces of coral that are at the base of the mega sculputre above (very end of each side), as you can see they alone are about 4m tall.
Here are a few of my fave's... don't ask me what they are, I haven't a clue!
From the snow sculptures we then took a short taxi to the Ice Festival.
A city built entirely from ice. Massive slabs of neon-illuminated ice. It's like a transparent illuminated lego-land. Totally mad and utterly fantastic.
Above is Westminster Abby in ice.
My mum and brother standing at the base of the tower centerpiece of the city, so you get a little bit if an idea on the scale.
And the top of the crazy tower.
Great Wall of Ice...
A SNOW FOX! OMG I loved this little guy. Foxes are my favourite animal ever, and this little snow fox was just the coolest. I so want one. For 10RMB / €1 you can pick him up and have your pic taken. And oh, yes, of course I did.
My bro amongst iced Greek-ruins...
A few shots of the view from the Greek Acropolis, showing the whole ice city.
Then looking back up the hill to the Acropolis.
Plastic LED fairy light trees. Beautiful.
Mum and Bro...
A truly incredible winter wonderland. From there we took our frozen tooshes back to the hotel to defrost. Our hotel had fabulous decor.
Day two! Tigers! Yes, just out of town there is a Siberian Tiger (and a few other big cats) wildlife park and sanctuary. With the best tiger sculptures I've ever seen. The Harbinians really like their sculptures.
And such variety of styles, too. Something for everyone.
Not sure which I like best...They're all fab.
Loaded into a freezing cold very dodgy mini-bus we headed out on safari.
Tigers as far as the eye could see! And let me tell you, these kitties are HUGE.
And beautiful.
Now, moments after this was taken a 4WD screeched in, the driver then threw a live chicken onto the roof of the car and seconds later the tiger jumped up onto the car, snavelled said chicken and then took it off to de-feather and wolf it down. A little freaky.
Tiger bunker. Scary. Seriously, there's about twenty-odd cats down there.
Last night before we took off we checked out the older more traditional ice sculptures.
Loved this frog and dragonfly.
Eagle vs Shark? No, no, giant octapuss attacking shark.
And that was Harbin. Very cold. Very kooky. Lots of sculptures. Totally brilliant.
We took the overnight train up to Harbin, approx 400 RMB / €40, but the tickets back were horrifically expensive, so we flew back down to Beijing. Harbin was pretty bloody cold, about zero to -15 degrees C. We weren't very appropriately dressed but somehow managed. Lots of 'body warming tea', tea with 5 or 6 thick slices of ginger in it did help.

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