Sun Island Park, Harbin
Within the Sun Island Park, there is a Russian theme village. The entrance ticket is a mock of a Russian passport and inside, you can find Russian style buildings. Enter the buildings to see how a typical Russian house may be decorated.
Pretty touristy but if you're already on the island, pop by for some pretty sights. I think it actually may look nicer in winter than in summer. Also the houses are pretty small so if there's a big visiting crowd in summer, it could get suffocating.
Snow sculptures are not aided by the colourful illumination of night lights and the method of carving and sculpting is very different from ice sculpting. Really, I forgot the explanation but I think there are a few varied methods to achieve different effects on the snow.
Some of the projects could be gigantic and the snow festival has attracted competitors from various countries. Best of all, walk through the island covered with soft white snow. Not so pleasant is the smell of exhaust from vehicles transporting the snow around the park, but you can avoid them.
Held on Sun Island on the opposite side of Songhua River, the Snow Expo features snow sculptures, the largest ones are storeys high and panoramic.
I also saw slides here, but I think you need to pay to go on them.
Admission 100 RMB, or 50 RMB if you have a student card.
Surprisingly enough this place isn't mentioned in the LP for China but if you have kids or are here in winter it makes a lovely place to spend a couple of hours. I live on the opposite side of town and it costs a maximum of 30Y to get there so for visitors in town make sure the cabbie uses the meter and don't pay more than 20Y. You can often agree on the price up front but I find that taxi drivers will only really do that if you demonstrate that you are not a tourist. By that I mean, you can speak a little chinese and they are not picking you up at a hotel. I guess the idea for them is that tourists have no idea and are there to provide as much money as possible. The entrance fee is 70Y for adults and kids under 5 are free. But, only one free child with each adult. You can buy snacks there at the end of the journey. What you do is follow a path around the place but after the whales you can walk back up some stairs if you want to look at particular things again. It was quite pretty inside but relatively small. It was amazing to get so close to the animals. Each adult ticket gets a free gift and even though I received mine I am still not exactly sure what it is.
When you leave there wont be any taxis out the front but you can walk about 50 metres back to the main sun island entrance road and they are there. I was directed towards a private vehicle by the 'guard'. The driver said 'taxi' when clearly he wasn't. However, it was really really cold so I tried my luck with him. He initially said 40Y but I point blank refused and said thirty (san shir kwy is 30Y) and he said yes straight away. I am pretty sure it is open everyday as most tourist attractions are but double check over spring festival.
When at Sun Island Park, seek out the Ice Sculptures Building (哈尔滨冰雪艺术馆 Harbin bing xue yi shu guan) regardless of the time of the year, but especially in the summer to cool off and to at least get a small sample of what Harbin is really famous for. It's basically a giant freezer with all sorts of amazing ice sculptures. IIt's a lot of fun and a nice cool off from the summer heat. Inside they have an ice slide that you can go on for Y10. I highly reccomend paying the Y10 for the quick ride because it's actually quite fun.
Admission is an understandable Y50 - we could hardly imagine how much power it would take to run that enormous freezer 24 hours a day during the summer. You rent boots for Y10 - and optional leg and arm covers are available for a price if you're dressed in summer attire. Long thick jackets are loaned for free.
In the summer, Taiyang Dao is a huge open parkland, where Harbin people come from the day to get away from the city.
I is quite thickly forested with beech, larch and birch trees, and at any time of the year, walking through the forests here is pleasant. Kids love it.
But it is during the winter that this place really lights up, as it is the home for the Annual International Snow Sculpting Festival.
The Festival actually creates a large number of quite small sculptures (about 2 metres square), because presumably the competitors all work from a standard block of snow.
Near the entrance, there are a group of maybe eight vast sculptures that are just awesome. The first reaction is that these simply cannot be sculpted from snow. Frustratingly, we were so amazed by one - of King Neptune riding a chariot among nymphs and dolphins - that we completely forgot to take a photograph of it!
Among the trees, previous years snow sculpture winners have been immortalised by being cast in concrete, a clever way to sustain the art for ever.
In the park, several snow houses have been created, and inside you can get coffee or hot chocolate (served in soup bowls). It still puzzles me how they can keep these buildings warm without the snow melting.
Just to the north of the sculpture competition area is a frozen lake, where you can try your hand at all kinds of activities, including sledding, sleigh riding, tobogganing and husky dog rides.
This place really does live up to the cliche of being a winter wnderland. However, be warned that this place does seem to be even colder than anywhere else we visited.
They have a fairly good website in Chinese, but the photos should give you an idea of what the park is like. Yes the website is the standard Chinese design with every element bouncing, flashing and moving about the page (and oh....the appalling music!!! Aaaargh!!!!), but it does show you the sculptures!
I suggest setting off for the Sun Island in the afternoon. See the sculptures in daylight. They should look different when the lights are turned when it is dark.
Sun Island (Tai4Yang2Dao3) is across the main city of Harbin. To get there, you can walk across the Song4Hua1Jiang1, which is frozen during the month of January. The Island is pretty big. There are road signs (in English) on this island.
The snow sculpture exhibit is just a small part of the entire island. Entrance fee to the snow sculpture exhibit is 60yuan per person.
One can also do horse riding, snowmobile inside the exhibition area. All these at a cost of course. A 30-minute horse ride costs about 120Yuan per person.
This park is just across the street from the Ice World.
Although its name is "Sun Island", the park displays on winter an interesting exposition of figures carved in snow.
We visited this park during the day and I found it to be more interesting than the freezing Ice World from the evening before.
The most comfortable of the three Snow and Ice extravaganzas, because you can enjoy the sights during the day, when it's a bit less cold.
This is Sun Island Park, the spot for the snow art. It looks less exciting on pictures than the ice art, but that is not true in real life.
Part of the fun is watching the craftsmen working on the sculptures
Sun Island Park (Taiyangdao Gongyuan): On the north side of the river, there is a recreational area covering 3800 hectares. The sun island park is in this area and contains gardens, one of them called the Japanees frienship garden (Ironic name?), and severa atractions for young and old: A water world, a crocodile taming and show center and so on. All those attractions are closed in autumn, winter and early spring.