Sunday, 18 January 2009

Harbin, the Second Post!

So I am still in Harbin for a short while more before my flight this evening. It's snowing outside so I really don't feel like wandering the streets. Plus I did everything and went everywhere I wanted.

I visited Center Street, the Flood Monument, the Songhua River, Sun Island, Snow and Ice World, Zhaolin Park, St. Sophia's Cathedral, The Temple of Heavenly Bliss, and an Ice Bar. There are three other tourist places in Harbin I can think of; the Tiger Park, Dragon Tower and the Germ Warfare Museum, but I went to those when I was here before.

So the day I made my last post, I got myself a big bowl of beef noodles for dinner and thought about Kellie. (You were with me in spirit!) With my belly full of warm noodles to fight against the cold, I hailed down a taxi and asked him to take me to the Snow and Ice World, the main ice event. When we first crossed the river and I saw the glowing ice structures raising up on the horizon, I was in shock. It really was unbelievable. The entrance gate alone was a massive ice wall.

The Snow and Ice World was sprawled out over a huge rolling landscape. I went in a sort of circle and made sure to see everything. At times in was frustrating because it felt like it was all too much. My eyes didn't feel big enough to see everything and I couldn't back up far enough from each sculpture to fit the whole thing in my camera frame. There were ice pagodas, a giant ice Harbin beer, and lots of ice duplicates of famous buildings. There was also a Bird's Nest (the Beijing Olympic Stadium) made of snow, and a snow Boddhivista. I made sure to go down one of the many ice slides (and my poor tush still hurts). I took a bunch of videos and pictures and cannot wait to post them.

There are a few drawbacks to traveling alone. Some things are just more fun with someone else. They had all sorts of stuff that you could do at the snow park, like sledding, snowmobiles, horse drawn carriages...things I just didn't feel like doing alone. Also, I like taking pictures of people, not just sights. And there was no one to take pictures of me! Luckily a couple asked me to take a picture of them, so I asked them to return the favor. I have one picture of me at the event I have been waiting for 4 years to go to. Bah. Ah well.

Eventually I saw the whole park and would have gladly walked around again but my poor footsies were freezing even with three layers of socks and fur lined boots. I had a fun cab ride back chatting with the driver.

Yesterday I went to St. Sophia's Cathedral, an underground mall and then the Harbin Buddhist temple (the temple of Heavenly Bliss). I really love temples. I think I have been in more temples in my life then churches.

Then my attentions went entirely towards finding an ice bar. It was the last thing I wanted to make sure I did while I was in Harbin. My research online led me to believe that the ice bar I was originally looking for was on Center Street. I walked up and down Center Street twice. No luck. I also heard there was an ice bar in the Harbin Shangri La Hotel. I found the address and headed off. Jackpot! The hotel had an "ice palace" restuarant and an ice bar.

I tried to have dinner at the ice palace. First of all I got weird looks from the waitresses when I assured them that yes, it was just me. Alone. The only food the offered at the palace was hot pot. I tried to order the cheapest set and they said you needed at least two people to get that one. They tried to sell me one that was twice as expensive. Frustrated, I left the palace and went to the bar. Another oppertunity when traveling with someone would have been helpful.

The bar was pretty cool. The bar counter, shelves, stools, tables and chairs were all made of ice. I am pretty sure it was colder in the bar then it was outside, which is hilarious. I got myself the two drinks I figured were essential to order. One Harbin beer and one shot of vodka. Vodka really does taste better when it is ice cold. The foam of my beer actually froze to the side of the glass. Ha.

I had been sitting for a short time when a woman sat next to me at the bar. What shocked me was that she was alone. Like me! I asked her where she was from and we got to talking. Karen is originally from Australia but lives in Hong Kong. We toasted our vodka and talked about visiting the Snow and Ice World. She was fun to talk to. We exchanged information and parted ways. I took a cab back to my hotel. The cab driver surprised me by saying "Welcome to Harbin!" in English. I laughed and thanked him in Chinese, which led to a conversation in Chinese. He asked me how to say all the tourist places in Harbin in English. He asked me when I was leaving and if I was going to take a taxi to the airport. When I said yes, he said he wanted to take me. I asked how much, he gave me the same price that I was charged from the airport. And since that driver charged me in front of a police officer (if you remember my last post) I figured it was the right price. I said sure and told him what time to meet me at the hotel. I'm guessing he either just thought I was interesting or wants me to teach him more English. Either is fine with me and now I don't need to worry about waiting for a driver.

Anyway, that's really all for now. I should be arriving in Shanghai around 11pm if my math is correct, which means I will probably be back in my apartment around midnight. Then it's time to post Harbin pictures and start packing for my visit home!

Expect a Harbin in pictures post soon!

Much love,


Pete said...

Harbin taxi drivers >>>> Shanghai taxi drivers

Stu used to save the name and number of this taxi driver on his phone in case we ever needed a ride anywhere because he was so nice to us. I really wish I was there to join you in all of the fun you are having. I recall those random conversations with Harbin people all the time. Good times! Anyway, have a safe trip and IM me when you get a chance.

kj said...

thank you for the beef noodles!! it woulda been fun causing trouble with you... we'll have to go back together sometime. its still at the top of my things-to-see list...