We left Yabuli without going up a single ski slope. We felt so sad and short-changed. We should have verified what were the sights we had to forgo when we opted for the two optional tours the day before. I had seen pictures of awesome panoromic views at the top of a Yabuli ski slope and they were magnificient. What was the point of coming to Yabuli if we did not experience the cable car ride/ski chair ride to the “top of the world”.
Sadly our Yabuli visit was limited to “childish” and “smallish” theme parks at the base level of Yabuli. The only glimpse of a ski slope was at a distance far far away from the outside of Yabuli International Hotel where we stayed for a night.
Breakfast at Yabuli International Hotel
The breakfast spread at the hotel was very good. With many varieties to pick and choose. We had a delicious breakfast. Our guides told us to enjoy our breakfast as our next breakfast at China Snow Town would be “pathetic”.
Harbin ShiLi Hualang
Shili Hualang was the third of the five optional items that our whole group had agreed on, “ShiLi” meant “ten miles” and HuaLang meant “picture gallery” it was a name given to a stunning scenic place. The journey to ShiLi HuaLang would take about 1.5 hour over a distance of 70 km.
The journey was pretty smooth, we were travelling on well maintained roads. The sun was bright and shining but we knew that the outdoor temperature was close to -15°C. It felt wonderful and luxurious to sit in the cosy warm of our bus and enjoy the lovely scenery that went by.
When we were near ShiLi HuaLang, Alice our Harbin guide told us to put on as many layers as we could. She had already told us the evening before so this morning I had put on two heat-tech inner tops (one ultra warm and one extra warm), a cashmere top and a heat-tech pullover. Sitting with four layers were “too much” (too warm) so a short while into the ride I had to take off one layer. Just before exiting the bus I added two more jackets ( a fleece jacket and a down jacket) over my four layers.
The huge “Chinese words” at ShiLi HuaLang said BingXue HuaLang. “BingXue” meant Ice & Snow. Whatever was its name we were looking forward to visiting it. Before we entered “ShiLi HuaLang” we were told that for the next two hours in the park there would be no toilet facility. So we should go for a toilet break at a nearby eating hall before proceeding.
Just near the entrance, our guides told us to take a seat on one of the many tubes on the ice ground. These tubes were chained together in three rows which were tied to the back of a tractor. My first thought was ‘cool’, thinking that the tubes-tractor contraption was our mode of transportation into ShiLi HuaLang. It was not the case, it was just a silly loop ride/trip where the tractor dragged the tubes in a circle for about 5 minutes and we were back at the start again and told to get off for the next group.
We were next brought to a the “tube merry-go-round”. Oh dear…another “kid’s play”. It did not look fun but it was either we joined in the “fun” or stood by the side and waited for others to complete their “fun”.
Finally we walked through the huge stone archway into the park. The name of the park was 中国雪谷童话乐园 (Zhongguo XueGu TongHua LeYuan) which translated to China Snow Valley Fairy Tale Theme Park. Now we were confused. Where was ShiLi HuaLang? So maybe ShiLi HuaLang was also called BingXue HuaLang or Zhongguo XueGu TongHua LeYuan.
Our group of eleven and our two tour guides were assigned a Theme Park Guide who would bring us around the park. Some parts of the park was pretty scenic and there were a few different types of dwellings (exhibits) for tourists viewing. The Theme Park guide did not stay with us all the way. After about 30 minutes we lost him!
Our own guides (Dynasty Travel guide and Harbin guide) brought us to a place where the snow was very thick. The depth was up to to the knee! The snow was white and fine.
Though the temperature was -15°C we felt comfortably warm. I had six top layers and four bottom layers, though I felt like a round puffy onion my body was nice and warm. To protect my face, the back of my neck gaiter was pulled all the way to my head and the front to over my nose, this way my cheeks was nicely covered. Interestingly the material of my neck gaiter was just a thin nylon elastic cloth and it was already good enough to ward off the chill.
Though I was not cold I had some difficulties was walking on ice/snow. It was easy to miss a step and slip and I slipped several times. I should have put on my “cramp-on” over by snow boots, unfortunately my cramp-on was in my luggage and not put to good use.
The last part of the trail was a route though several enclosures where we had closeup view of some captured local animals (deer, sheep, bear etc).
China Snow Town
By about noon we were done with 中国雪谷童话乐园. If Yat Thong and I were on our own and not with a tour group we would love to spend more time wandering in the park. The park was very scenic and deserved to be leisurely explored.
Our next destination was China Snow Town which was only 18 km further south and the journey took no more than 30 minutes.
Our bus was not allowed into the Snow Town and had to park at a garage outside the Snow Town. Everyone of us brought an overnight bag and left our main luggage in the bus.
Once we crossed the entrance we boarded a park-internal-bus and alighted at the first stop where our “stay” for the night was located. We were lucky not to encounter a huge crowd going up the bus as was usually the case.
From the bus stop to our accommodation was just a short walk. The “accommodation” sector in the snow town had many rows of one storey long wooden houses. These houses were neatly layout in several lanes.
One of the wooden houses was a big eating hall. It was huge with many big round tables. Our group of 11 occupied one huge table and waited for all the dishes to be served. It was definitely another delicious and sumptuous meal.
After lunch was a 2 hours free and easy time before we gathered again to go to a place called 梦幻家园 (MengHuan JiaYuan) which translated to “Dream Home”. During the 2 hours we took a route that brought us out of the cluster of wooden buildings to a higher ground. Standing on the low hill we could see the town and a faraway ski slope.
At about quarter-to-four our group gathered again and our guides told us that we would be visiting Snow Town “Dream Home”. We needed to walk about 10 minutes to the “main street” where “Dream Home” was located.
The start of the main street was marked by a huge stone with rows of rows of inscripted Chinese words. The only words I recognised was “China Snow Town”. The other Chinese words probably gave some description about this place. Too bad there were no English words. The main street was certainly very vibrant, colorful and touristy.
Soon we reached Snow Town – Dream Home. Surprisingly to get into the”Dream Home” entrance tickets were needed. Oop! First we needed tickets to get into the Snow Town and now more more tickets to get into its attraction! Our guides got us the tickets and we walked through the gate of “Dream Home”.
The “Dream Home” was a village exhibit not a live-village. There were many village houses with snow laden roofs and with compounds where tables and stools (I thought they looked like tables and stools) were covered with even thicker layer of white fine snow. These village houses were exhibits and off limit to visitors.
In the “Dream House” park there were designated paths where we had to take. A path led up a platform which gave us a platform for a slightly high view of the village. Further in there was another path that went up a high hill so we went up too. The viewing deck at the top of the hill was fantastic. There we got a wonderful view of the entire “village”. The sun began to sat at about 4 pm and by 4.30 pm the “village” darkened and lantern lights came on. Wow wow wow… it was certainly very beautiful!
It was ashame that this beautiful “village” of the Dream Home was only visible to those that purchased the entrance tickets to get in. The tall wooden walls around this “Dream Home” totally cut off this lovely sight from passerbys walking outside the walls.
In the “Dream Home” and also along the main street we got to see something fascinating. Some visitors were flinging hot water in an arch over their heads and that created an artistic phenomena! A couple of very entrepreneur locals had set up stations at a few locations and charged ¥70 per customer to photograph these customers flinging the hot water. The charge included supply of hot water in a hot water flask, instructions, free practises and finally a photoshoot.
The entire main street was about 700 m to 800 m long. It did not take us too long to reach the end and soon we were back to the start again. We still had 30 minutes to go before we had to meet up with our group again for dinner. So in the meantime we popped into a warm cosy place for coffee and cake.
This was our first cafe latte and chocolate cake in China. The coffee fragrant was passible and the cake was nice. The bill for the two items came up to ¥70. Not cheap by China standard but to be expected at such a touristic place.
At 6pm we were back at the same eating hall as lunch to have our dinner.
After dinner it was only 7 pm so for night entertainment we were told that we could stroll back to the front of the main street and there would be adhoc performance put up by locals. So we put on our layers again and went back to the main street. There was some young men singing over a loud blasting music nothing fascinatingly just something NOISY.
Our stay of night
Our room for two had a long bench-bed that could easily take up 4 persons. Below the thin bedding materials were electrical heat-paddings. Each padding had a adjustable knob to control its temperature. We had to leave a small gap at the window to keep the room from becoming stuffy. In the room was an ensuite bathroom with hot shower. The accommodation at Snow Town was rather basic.