Today we were supposed to visit the famous Yabuli a ski resort which was China largest ski resort. Though we did not intend to ski, we thought we would be going up by chairlift to the top of some ski slopes and would be able to see skiers in action. We imagined that the view from the top of the ski slope would be awesome!
Nothing that we “thought” happened! We visited two destinations and both places were no ski resort!
We left Volga Manor at 9 am and we reached Yabuli which was about 208 km from Volga Manor just after 1 pm. A direct journey should take about 2 hour 45 minutes, we took longer as we had two breaks along the way, one short toilet break and a lunch break.
At noon we stopped by a “place” to have lunch. It local lunch was delicious and the beverages included Harbin beer, chinese tea and blue berry juice. Apparently blue berry was a famous Harbin local product and many tourists would purchase dried blue berry to bring home.
At Yabuli we again put on our layers before stepping out of our bus. There were many buses already parked in a huge open space. Our guides divided us into three groups and told us to “board” three horse driven sledges. We were going “somewhere” and there were many other tour groups going too, we had to remember our sledge “number” so as not to miss our sledge on the return trip.
The horses dragged the sledges over hard frozen worn out icy roads. Instead of a smooth and scenic ride it was a bumpy full of “knocks” ride. There was not much to see as we were riding through a “forested” area. We finally stopped after about 10 minutes and were invited to visit a typical “local” dwelling.
The “straw roof wooden house” was on the other side of a frozen river. We walked across a wooden bridge to reach the compound of the dwelling. There was a huge “commotion” at the house. It was blasting Chinese music with two “aunties” waving cloth fans and dancing to the rythme of the loud music. The “aunties” in colourful costumes, snow boots and sun glasses seemed to be part of the “props”, representing the local tribes that lived in such dwelling.
Each tourist group that arrived was given a long/thick string of red fire crackers and were directed to a corner of the compound to set it off. Yat Thong had the “honour” to light the crackers. We were wondering what were the loud-music-blasting, dancing and fire cracker lighting all about. Were they done to symbolise some sorts of festival? Too bad there was no explanation!
We went into the local house to have a look. It was just a big room with dirt floor and newspapers as wall paper. Half of the room was a kitchen which had a miller at one end and an ancient cooking stove. The other half of the room had a wooden platform which served as a place for dining and sleeping. There were another two “aunties” in the room and they again they served as props for this local dwelling setup.
We didn’t think that such traditional dwelling still existed, this whole “local dwelling” was put up just for tourists. After the “local dwelling” visit we hopped back onto our horse-driven sledge and carried on with our bumpy ride to our next destination which was just a forest of leaves-less trees.
We were told that in the olden days before paper was invented, the locals would tear off the fine white bark of the birch tree to make paper-like material. There was nothing interesting at this “stop” so we took a couple of photos of the place and went back to our horse-sledge.
The next “stop” looked equally uninteresting so I told the driver that I was not getting down. But he insisted that I should visit the “broken” hut as it was some sort of an ancient thieves den.
The “thieves den” had a “partially underground tunnel. We went in at one end and exited into another building a 100 metres away. At the exit we were “manhandled” by a couple of “evil-looking” robbers who asked for the “safe-passage” password.
Soon we were done with our ride. Apparently we had just went through a “theme” park horse-sledge-ride ( 马拉爬犁 ) that brought us into the virgin birch forest at Yabuli. The ride ended with a tube-slide ride.
The tube slide was on a not-high and not-long snow slide. We could slide as many times down the snow slide as we like. But it was such an “unexciting slide” and I wondered if it was worth the effort of dragging our tubes to the top to make a trip down. This horse-drawn-sledge ride cum tube ride was one of the five optional items (out of seven) that were highly recommended by our guides. And we paid ¥1160 per person for these five optionals. Since we already paid for the tube ride we felt we should experience at least one tube ride.
The walk to the top with tube was not too bad. It was the shifting of the tube to the tip of slope that was almost impossible. Sitting on the tube our feet and hands could not touch the ground so we could only rely on the people behind us to be kind enough to push us over the edge.
冰淩谷 (Ice Valley)
The next “exciting” attraction at Yabuli was 冰淩谷, which meant “Ice Valley”. This was the second optional item that we had paid. We arrived at the entrance of 冰淩谷 at about 3pm and according to our guides was the best time to visit as we would be able to view the place in daylight and in nightlight.
冰淩谷 the ice valley was a place where the trees, shrubs were covered in thick layer of snow. It was not a very large area so in less than 15 minutes we had already explored all that was there to see.
There was still an hour before sunset so we went into a cafe near the entrance for a toilet break, hot tea and rest. Luckily we had mobile data so we spent the wait surfing on our phones.
Finally the sun began to set and we put on our layers again and left the cafe for another walk into the short valley. The lanterns and lights changed the look of the ice and snow. Generally we felt that the “Ice Valley” too short and “mundane”, the whole place felt like a “child’s play”. 冰淩谷 definitely did not bring out any “awe” feeling from us.
Yabuli International Hotel (亚布力广电国际酒店)
After the Ice Valley (冰淩谷) we were done with sightseeing for the day and was off to our stay for the night. Our hotel was 亚布力广电国际酒店 Yabuli International Hotel. It was a huge and grand hotel. Checking in was a breeze and we were into our rooms very quick.
We had a lovely surprised when we opened our room door. Sitting on the floor waiting for us was “Scrat” from Ice Age. “It” was sitting on a note that informed customer of its “cost” if customer wanted like to bring it home.
Our twin room was clean and spacious. The attached bathroom was large and clean too.
Dinner was at a restaurant in the hotel and we were only too thankful. The hotel was nice and warm and we needed only to wear one layer. Dinner was plentiful and delicious and we had great time.