Terrified of my upcoming trip to Harbin.
Incidentally, Wikitravel has become my go-to travel source.
The exhibit in Zhaolin Park, known around town as the “other” show. I suspect that the sculptors and structure-constructors whose work is on display here need to “graduate” before they can have their work featured at the main event on Sun Island.
Still, I found this one charming in parts, largely because it was much less crowded than the other one, but also because of discoveries like that bizarre dragon emerging from the ground (not a sculpture, by the way) and that halfly-anatomically correct equine creature of some sort.
One of the highlights of Harbin is the food. At the top are some classic Dongbei* dishes. Bottom left: sugar glaze-covered fruit on sticks (known, I just learned, as tanhulu), which were ubiquitous. (I would have added “frozen” to the list of adjectives, but that should go without saying at this point.) I finally worked up the courage to try one on my last day — strawberry. It tasted exactly how I expected it to: like frozen fruit drenched in corn syrup. Somehow they sell like hotcakes should.
* The Chinese word for northeastern China, better known to most of us as Manchuria. Interestingly, when you Google “Dongbei,” the first page that pops up is Wikipedia’s entry, despite the fact that the word “Dongbei” doesn’t even appear on the page.
Some highlights (+ a few lowlights) of the Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair, or SIISSAF, as no one called it. The theme of this year’s whole Ice & Snow Festival is the “Tourism Year of Russia” in China, so naturally the SIISSAF featured sculptures of famous Russian writers, evocative village tableaus, quaint dachas, and alleged anti-Stalinists performing backbreaking manual labor in a Siberian gulag.
After finishing up with the snow sculptures, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the Songhua River, which separates Sun Island from the main part of Harbin. In front of us: an unlikely beach — a popular spot, I suspect, in the months when it’s not 5-below — and a quarter-mile or so of frozen water. Behind us: an unfamiliar route and some taxis eager to gouge white-faced tourists. We decided to cross.
The Songhua was the first frozen body of water I’ve ever seen, much less walked on. Crossing the river was probably the most surreal experience of the trip, which is saying a lot.
Harbin boasts some Asia-class Engrish.