If you have the opportunity, witness winter swimming by the local elderly. It is a sport that requires precaution, specialised training and adequate warmup lest you freeze to death. The locals entertain the crowds that cheer them on by waving and posing for photographs.
In the park where winter swimming is designated to take place, you can also ride the snow mobile or more cruelly the dog sleds (not really for it). Or play on the ice slides. Not really for intensive sports, more for good family fun.
take a 2hour train ride up north to the ski village locally known as Yabuli. 40RMB
amazing beginner's slope! go to the farthest ski resort. lotsa people though but the slope's great, distance is longer than others.
back to harbin, take the daytrip that brings you to LongTa (dragon tower), Sofia church (Russian orthodox), winter swimming spectacle (not much), PolarBearLand, snow sculpture and ice sculpture. we got it for 100rmb/pax, lunch incl.
if got time, take a walk at the walking street. lotsa small russian souvenir shops - dont be fooled by the russian chocolates. they're not as good, but the cheapest u can get from the grocery should be less than 10rmb.
buy the russian dolls too! called TaoWa in chinese. But shop around first before making a purchase. and haggle!
The russian influence on architecture is all over the place, so have ur cams handy.
temperature? was there during the lunar new year, so it dipped as low as -22deg, and at Yabuli it dipped -30deg.
In late November 2005, the water in Harbin's Songhua River was polluted by an industrial accident and the city stopped obtaining drinking water from that source. Harbin's winter tourism was consequently affected by the scare over the (non)availability of safe drinking water.
Almost half a century ago, this monument was built to celebrate the embankment's success in holding back the flood waters, saving many lives.
This place is a must see on anyone's nightlife list for Harbin. It is essentially a Russian style disco with chinese DJ's. the DJ's really know how to get the crowd jumping and what I love most of all, they have two poles on a stage for drunken revellers. The bar has two floors and the mezzanine level is great for checking out the dancers below. The local beer is cheap and I suggest buying a jug between one or two of you rather than a single beer each. A Heinekin was 40Y for a bottle. You can buy snacks like popcorn and this is really popular with Chinese people. The place gets pretty full on the weekends and usually expats visiting from elsewhere in China end up here on their night out. There is no cover charge and you can leave your jacket for free. The funniest thing about going here in winter is that in the coat room everyone is stripping off their long johns and boots and putting on their dancing gear. Periodically some Russian dancers will put on a bit of a show and this is a real eye opener. Discos in Harbin tend to be a little like a high school disco and some will even stop towards the end of the night for a game or two on the dancefloor.
If you visit Harbin in winter with kids then at some stage you will want them to have a good run around. If you have trouble finding somewhere every Carrefour (supermarket) has a little play area where the kids can jump on trampolines, go on slides, in ball pits etc. The cost is about 10Y for one child. It is possible to leave the kids there while you do your shopping as long as you have a mobile contact number but make sure the kids go to the toilet first as the ladies running the place can't speak english. Usually they have art and craft activities here as well. Take some water as the kids usually get pretty hot and thirsty.
Just randomly got the business card for this place and went to check it out. Very slick but also good chill out lounges. The card really intrigued me, it says 'come to be better'. The dance floor was small but the DJ was great and it is easy enough to get into the groove. The drinks were standard chinese disco price but we had the long island tea special for 20Y. It didn't taste that strong but after 4 or 5 I was the dance master. A great mix of expats and locals here.
Harbin is Chinas northern city. Four Saesons. Very cold to mild summers. Long growing seasons for the corn and wheat fields. Harbin area has a lot to offer. I took trains and Planes!! Taxies also helped. I made friend with taxie drivers at every place I went in China. Just pay their salary they need and the rent they pay to the taxie company. Throw a little extra for the wife and Kids and you have a great safe tour guide. It worked for me. I had a couple of taxie guys. I let their wife and kids come on Long had Lunch and dinner and it all went real smooth!!
You need a open mind going around China. Lots of old stuff. This is the real people. They like it there. Harbin has old and new areas. I stayed around the Shangrila Hotel and the Large river area. I went up to QuiQiar and down Shenyang. People up north are like people in Alaska!!
I took the train almost everywhere. I went from Harbin to Qigihar the most northern city. Looks like Alaska and the Alaska people. Also went from HArbin down to Shenyang and to Tanjin to Bejing by train. Played poker with a couple of men and ate weard food. Drank lots of beer again. What else can you do for 8 to 9 hours on a train. Look at goats next to me.
Wow! What an adventure!!
The great thing to do when in Harbin is getting foot massage - especially when you have some frostbites in between the toes! It's a wonderful feeling cos I get to free my sored, cold, numb feet from the tightly-bound boots and the many socks I wore to prevent the cold from getting into my feet or else I'll have rheumatism! Gosh, that would be a pain!
Anyway, I chatted with the guy who massage my feet and got to know that he was from Hainan island - "kaki nan" i.e. own comrade coming from the same homeland since my maternal granddad comes from Hainan island, somewhere in a place called 'Chaye', which I think is what the place calls according to my mom. In fact, there were two of them who comes from Hainan. I talked to him and his colleague, who was doing the foot massage for my colleague next to me in some broken Hainan dialect. They smiled, nodded and laughed at my broken Hainan dialect - well, at least it was understandable! Anyway, I asked them why they came all the way from the South to work in the North. They said that there was better opportunity in the North. I thought it was funny cause most people would rather go to the south! I, then asked again how they coped with the cold, freezing temperature in Harbin since they come from a tropical place; they replied they were not used at first to the climate but later adapted to it. Well, overall the foot massage session was a great experience and also a relief for my weary, cold feet - it gave me the leap and bound effect; i just hope i don't fall flat when I do that!!
At the back of the former church of St Sophia, deep underground below the concrete plaza (Why use stone when you can use ready-mix, eh?), is the excellent urban development museum of Harbin, showing how the city has developed and how it is going to develop in successive 5-year plans. That's how things are done round here. Central planners dictate what is best for you, and you nod.
However, as in Shanghai, Harbin's planners are taking a big step forward in providing a lot of information on new zones and how it will all work. Given that it is difficult to attract investment to a city so incredibly cold, it will be interesting to see how much materialises over the years.
A huge scale model dominates the spaces, complete with little working model railway and sections of the city that slide up and down as the narrator talks. It's all in Chinese, but it's all understandable.
It is worth going down to the lower level, because there is one room dedicated to Habin's historical development, including some nice models of the older buildings and some brilliant old Russian maps. Digitial photographs of these old maps are probably still the only decent detailed maps of the city.
The Children's Park in Harbin is almost as old as Harbin itself, having been developed as a garden area for the China Eastern Railway in 1925, before being incorporated in the Nangang Park in 1953 after the Communists won the city.
However, it was on the 1st June 1956 that the park railway was opened, operated ever since by the city's children. The trains rumble around the park's 17 hectares during the summer months along a 2km long narrow-gauge track. The whole thing is directed, operated and manned by children from the city's primary and middle schools.
In the depths of winter, the trains do not operate, but the park remains a focal point for local people. A river which forms the southern edge of the park ices over, and ramps are built for skiers and a smaller slope is used to slide down on inflated inner-tubes.
Even with thick snow on the ground and long icicles everywhere, with the wind whipping through the bare branches, Harbin people, young and old, crowd the park to walk, chat, exercise and have fun. There is simply nowhere better to see the real Harbin (or indeed, the real China) than in the park.
A year after the disastrous 1957 flood in Harbin, the authorities constructed the thirteen metre Flood Control Monument column in the big plaza on the riverbank where Zhongyang Jie ends at the levee by the Songhuajiang. The pools of water, frozen in winter, mark the height of the 1957 flood, which was surpassed by the rising waters on August 20th 1998.
In winter, the Flood Control Monument plaza is the centre for a lot of activities, including horse and skiddo rides n the river, skating and ice hockey, toboggan and ice slides.
When it gets too cold, the lobby bar of the Gloria Inn hotel opposite serves coffee and tea!
Yabuli Ski Resort is about 250km away from Harbin city. The bus ride is about 3.5hours long. I followed a local tour group there. Costs about 280Yuan per person. Gives you only 2 hour ski time. Equipment included in the cost. You have to pay 1Yuan to keep your shoes at the resort.
another busy street worth to walk along. a river crosses the street where stand some bars along the riversides and here maybe the only nightlife location in Harbin. Also there's a cathedral in the street.
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