Day 8: Harbin – Snow Festival

Viewing the sunrise from our room

Yat Thong woke up early to photographed sunrise from the window of our room at Harbin SongBei Shangrila. The sunrise was magnificent and could be seen from the comfort of our room. It was a golden ball that appeared from between a dark misty layer and a orangy golden sky far into the horizon.

Sunrise as seen from our room
Sunrise as seen from our room

Lunch

There was no sightseeing in the morning so after breakfast we spent the time relaxing in our room. At about 11 am we left the hotel for our lunch. We were having dumpling which was a popular cuisine of Harbin. Luch was at one of the outlets of 东方饺子王 (DongFang JiaoZhi Wang) restaurant which translated to Eastern Dumpling King in Harbin

Route from hotel to 东方饺子王
Route from hotel to 东方饺子王

Our lunch featured a variety of different “filling” dumplings. The “filling” could be meat or vegetable or mushroom. The dumplings were nice but would have been nicer if there were more filling in between the dough skin. Luckily there were other dishes so we needed not just have only dumpling for lunch.

Lunch at  东方饺子王
Lunch at 东方饺子王

Winter Swimming (冬泳) SongHua River

After lunch we were off to see some “winter swimming” at SongHua River. As far as I could see SongHua River was frozen solid. It had became a long huge piece of barren “land” and many people were venturing out on the frozen surface.

Frozen Song Hua River
Frozen Song Hua River

We arrived at a section of the SongHua River near the bridge to see the winter swimming event. We walked onto the lake surface and came to an enclosure. The entrance ticket fee was ¥30 per person. Just when we were wondering how to swim on “ice” we saw a “swimming pool”! The pool was created by cutting out the ice layer on top to expose the freezing water below.

"Winter Swimming" event ground
“Winter Swimming” event ground

We were early for the swimming event so while waiting for the swimmers to arrive we spent our time playing with the assorted vehicles that were left about for visitors’ “fun”.

Monkeying around
Monkeying around

The swimming event was organised by the Winter Swimming Association of Harbin Municipality. Winter swimming lovers from all over China and 30 countries gathered here to take part in this annual event. This was the 35th year of this event.

Soon the swimmers arrived and we were amazed at their ability to withstand the freezing air. Some of them paraded round the pool, smiling, waving and shaking hands with the spectators that stood outside the barricade. While some leaped into the water, they were definitely having fun!

"Comical diving" at the Harbin Winter Swimming Competition
“Comical diving” at the Harbin Winter Swimming Competition

Ice and Snow Sculptures

During winter in Harbin there were two major ice and snow sculpture attractions. They were “International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival” and “Harbin Ice and Snow World”. Both these attractions were sited on the Sun island and were a short distance from each other. We would be visiting both on the same day.

Ice and Snow sculpture on the Sun Island
Ice and Snow sculpture on the Sun Island

International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival

We arrived at the entrance of International Ice and Snow Festival” at about 2.15 pm and were given about 1.5 hr to finish our visit. The entrance fee was ¥330 per person and was valid for one entry.

Entrance of International Ice and Snow Festival
Entrance of International Ice and Snow Festival

After we walked through the entrance we crossed a wide bridge and came to see a couple of red shuttle bus-train. All of and us and our guides got into the back shuttle and set off.

Shuttle-train at International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Shuttle-train at International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

While travelling in the shuttle we saw several huge size snow sculptures unfortunately our guides told us not to get off and explore. We would only alight at the larger and more important exhibits.

Huge snow sculptures
Huge snow sculptures

Wow! The snow sculptures were huge and could be of the size of the real things they were imitating. It was amazing to see this white fine snow stacked up so high up into such huge humongous structures. It was a wonder they managed to stay up without falling apart!

Humongous Ice Sculpture
Humongous Ice Sculpture

The allocated 1.5 hours for the park was definitely not enough. We had to rush from one ice sculpture to the next. There was no time to leisurely walked around the sculptures to look at them up close. Many of them had to be seen from afar as we had to move on to the next sculpture. We should have been allocated twice the time!

Harbin Ice and Snow World

We reached the entrance of Harbin Ice and Snow World at about 4.15 pm. Which according to our guides were the best time to arrive as we would be able to view the exhibits in daylight, while the sun was setting and after the sky darkened.

The park had a gigantic entrance structure. Entrance ticket to the park was also ¥330 per person. The entrance was made from ice blocks and it was magnificent! Apparently all the ice blocks of this park were taken from the frozen SongHua River.

At the entrance of Ice and Snow World
At the entrance of Ice and Snow World

Sadly we were given 1.5 hour to complete the park. We thought we would need more but we were with a group so we had to stick to the allocated time. In less than 20 minutes the sun set and the sky darkened and the all the ice exhibits colorfully lighted up! Majestic and stunning, magnificent and awesome, Wow! Wow! Wow!

Ice and snow World
Ice and snow World

The park was massive! On my left was a beautiful castle, on my right was a Rome Colosseum, in front the Fobbiden City, etc etc. It was difficult to decide which exhibits to start first. There was no suggested path to go. Very quickly we were running out of time and had to forgo some exhibits. Our most regretful “left out” was some huge exhibits up a slope. There was no way we could trek up (queue) the slope and come down in time to meet our group! We could only view those exhibits from afar and missed the panoramic view of this Ice and Snow World from at the top of the slope.

Ice and Snow World

Dinner in the cold

We had our dinner at the Ice Palace of Shangrila International Hotel, this was not the same Shangrila International Hotel we were staying. Our “stay” was on the northern side of SongHua River. This older Shangrila Hotel was on the southern side of SongHua River.

The Ice Palace was a room that was kept below freezing temperature. So for once during this trip we had to put on many layers, including snow hat and ear protectors in a restaurant for our meal.

Snow Palace Restaurant at Shangrila

Our dinner was hot pot. Every one of us had an personal hot pot with steam rushing out of a little “chimney” on the lid of the hot pot. The room were freezing cold, the hot pot was burning hot while we were warmly wrapped in our cumbersome and restrictive layers, standing around our table feeling hungry.

Hotpot dinner at Snow Palace of Shangrila

Dinner was nice, there was plentiful of slice meat. Eating hot pot in freezing temperature was a novelty. It was fun until the hot steams melted the ice on the ceiling above our table and we get dripping droplets down on us and our food!

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