A Travellerspoint blog

Beijing to Harbin

semi-overcast 1 °C

Well we decided to go to Harbin, which is to the North of Beijing, up towards the Russian border. The attraction was the Ice and Snow Festival which had just officially finished but was still open. We caught the night train, which was a little daunting at Beijing station because everything looked written in Chinese and we weren't sure which platform, however we made it onto the train. We arrived into Harbin around 7am and it was bitterly cold for us. Getting a taxi was difficult, we were offered rides from the touts out front, the first guy offering to get us there for 100 Yuan, it came down to 50 Yuan but we decided to go with a metered taxi which ended up costing us 9 Yuan. Well worth the standing in line and confusing conversation to work out where we were going with the driver.
The initial impression of the city was that it was cold, dirty and not very exciting, this didn't improve much. The hostel was located in a pretty run down area, but we didn't feel unsafe. The hostel was pretty big and I think there were maybe only 2 or 3 people staying here as well as us. The staff were great, they were really helpful, getting us tickets and wrote in chinese our destinations so we could give it to taxi drivers, however not so helpful when Mike wanted a cold beer or glass of wine.
Off we went to the Ice World to see the sculptures. It was so cold I think it must have been about -15. The sculptures were amazing, they were made from huge squares of ice constructed around a from with lighting inside. A lot of the sculptures had walkways through, some had slides in the ice. Most of them were closed off because the ice was starting to melt.
Went to the old Russian Church called Sophia the next day to have a look, It was a lovely Russian structure and very decorative. Inside was set up as a museum, but it was a bit disappointing as the museum wasn't about the church but about the history of Harbin and it was all written in Chinese. We were looking for somewhere to eat when Mike saw a heap of people rush to a little street stall when hot food was brought out from inside so he lined up along with everyone else. What a score they were the most delicious little cakes, hot and with a gooey jam centre. He bought about 12 of them for about 4 Yuan. (About AU 75cents)
Went to Central Street, which is classed as an Architectural Museum, protecting the history of Russian influence of the buildings. It is really a shopping district now. We went looking for the Chinese/Russian Markets. We went to use a subway to cross under the road and stumbled upon an underground shopping mall. It went for blocks and had 2 or 3 levels underground. It was mostly clothing and was packed. It is so cold here that it is obviously the place to go. We also found one that was a supermarket, with fresh fruit and vegs, meat, and dry goods. It all looked really fresh.
We decided to head back to Beijing on the night train. It hadn't gotten above 1 degree and we had enough. But all part of the adventure.
Andiamo. Patti

Posted by mike1967 15:32 Archived in China

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Better come home, Pat! We're sweating here. Take care and stay safe. Lil and Stan.

by lilyq

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