(click on these pictures to see them full size! So worth it!)
We had two more stops to make before we went off to our Hot Pot Dinner (which after the cold of the day and night, would VERY much be appreciated)
After we left the Siberian Tigers we stayed on Sun Island to see the snow sculptures.
We took buses to the far part of the park – here is one of the “buildings” Well, buses is a stretch. The SMART group took the closed-in coach. Those of us who were slow, took the open air “buses”…but Corey and I sat facing backwards, so at least the wind was to our backs as we drove!
The carvings start as blocks of man made snow, and then somehow, an artist envisions something amazing, and proceeds to use chisels, sledge hammers, electrical saws and heaven knows what else to create something amazing.
OK, I did NOT get a picture of a block of man made snow. Let me describe it.
It’s square-ish. White. Well, that about covers it.
SO. from that (a white,cold, wet, square),THIS is created:
We worked out way down to the “coffee” shop where “No Smoking” means no smoking for the paying customers, but the crew can do whatever the heck they want.
We realized at this time our warmers had exhausted themselves and our feet and hands were pretty darn cold. Corey had a particularly bad half hour until we got inside and reinforced our feet with fresh packs.
We all had coffee…many realized the trouble of using “squat” toilets with LAYERS but managed, and took our group photo
A few more pictures of us:
Then we took the “buses” back to the top of the park to get to our big bus. Those of us who suffered through the open bus on the way down RAN to the enclosed bus this time. Hey, we were slow once…never again!
We were now on our way to Ice and Snow World…the highlight of our trip to Harbin. THIS is what Harbin is known for.
Our first glimpses:
It takes 10,000 workers 20 days, at 24 hours a day to dig blocks of ice from the rivers and build this World (lights and all).
Since this IS the main attraction of Harbin, the crowds are crazy. I will admit that no one is permitted to unload their passengers in the street, so the traffic, while not good, is not made a million times worse by tour buses unloading less than sure-footed guests.
The BAD thing is we needed to walk to the entrance. Now, remember, no sand or salt. Just ice that has been heated, iced, re-heated, re-iced from the cars and cold.
And now it’s dark.
A member of our group named the walking technique “The Harbin Shuffle”
And a shuffling we did.
Diane (one of the leaders) got to hold the flag and “lead” our group forward
We stopped here for our next group photo:
We are counted, recounted, then ushered into the Ice World.
Now we had been warned the whole trip to protect our cameras b/c the cold would drain a battery lickety-split. Our guide told us if it happened, to just put it away against our bodies, leave it alone, and it might come back.
I managed a few pictures before BAM….mine went from full to dead in 10 shots
Here’s what I got:
We walked around the park and hired one of the “professional” photographers to take some pictures. They are 20 RMB each (3 bucks maybe). BUT…what they do is drag you ALL over snapping as many pictures as they can, getting you to pose. The thing being…the more THEY take…the more YOU buy!
So we indulged our lady for a bit, then LIED and signaled we had to go (no English here). We were led into a mobile home like structure where CHAOS was ensuing.
ALL of the “professional” photographers were jockeying for positions in front of computer monitors with the clientele close behind to review pics and put on the hard sell.
I am NOT saying anything terrible (and my ExPat friends will back me up, as will Eric our Harbin guide) by revealing that the Chinese like to PUSH. They like to push A LOT !
We have seen this in Hong Kong, been victims, have pushed back, but nothing prepared me for the havoc when commerce was involved. HOLY HECK
Our lady is particularly forceful (she must have sharpened her elbows before work that day…so even with the padding of her big coat she was a force to be reckoned with), and we made it to the front.
After pictures were straightened, etc, here are the words of English our photographer knew: “Take All” (14 shots) “you buy all”. Realizing that the path of least resistance (to being OUT of there) was through our wallet, Corey quickly agreed.
We mowed our way to the next area to pay, where then, our photographer was GONE, out to grab a few more tourists and get them to “buy all” (Can’t judge someone for trying to make a living in THAT climate!)
The other advantage to being, well, us, is that we were the tallest in the joint, so the man who printed OUR pictures had NO trouble getting us our little package.
Out we went, moving our way to the front of the Park. By this time, (40 minutes) my battery had recovered and I was able to grab a few more shots before heading to the bus and dinner.
Our time in Harbin was QUICKLY coming to a close.
This night we went off to a Hot Pot dinner which was FABULOUS! (Hot Pot is a meal which consists of boiling broth you get to cook all sorts of good things in!)
We did learn that when a guide or restaurant says “spicy” or “not spicy” we need to ask.
We went the “spicy” route and had an amazing meal. Spicy meant “tasty” . Sadly, the group that said “no spice” did not have a nice meal.
OH! and you want to know how they cool the beers us?
Yep, left them outside!