Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ha-Ha-Ha-Harbin Day 2

(like Night One wasn’t cold enough!)

So are you sensing yet that Harbin is C O L D.??

Yes, it is.  But please know, it was one of the most worthwhile trips EVER…just because it is a location that if I had not come to Hong Kong, I would 

A) Never heard of

B) Never gone to (because I’d never heard of it)

C) Never would have been able to say “Harbin, SURE, I’ve heard of it, AND I’ve been there!” (I have no idea when THAT conversation would ever happen…but…)


We had a 9:30 start on Saturday morning.  Nice after a travel day.

All meals are included in our trips, and the spread at the Shangri-La was wonderful.  If you could not find something to eat there…you don’t eat food…anywhere.

Corey and I went back upstairs to “layer up” and start the day.

Our first stop was the Swimming.



Every day…and I’m not sure how many times a day, a group of crazy people step onto the Songhua River, in shoes and bathing suits…and jump or dive into the “pool” that is cut into the ice.

This takes that “New Year Polar Plunge” thing they do in Seattle to a WHOLE new level.

Let me set the scene.

We step off of our bus and work our way across the parking lot and sidewalks to a set of stairs that leads us past the slides (that’s later) towards the area where this swimming will take place. 

IMG_7694 This is before you go down the stairs.

Verrrryyyy carefully we made our way down the steps ( neither salt nor sand is used to help w/traction).  I side-stepped my way down the stairs (I was trying to avoid head injuries at all costs)

We got to the bottom of the stairs…and walk. It is only after quite a few steps you realize you have left land…and are now ON the river.


HORDES of tourists flood to the “hole” in the ice and stand around a fence.  We are 10 deep, jockeying for a good position to witness this insanity.

The Hole has to be constantly stirred to keep it fluid b/c if not, it would be back to river ice in a matter of hours!

The participants are older adults…in their 60’s and 70’s. Last year the oldest male was 88 and the oldest female was 75!

IMG_7671IMG_7670Here come the men!  You will see they wear shoes!  Because…well, it’s DARN cold and also, when they get out of the water, if they don’t, their feet will…yes, stick to the ice!


There is a crew (those are the smart ones in the pictures that are DRESSED), who’s job is to count the participants and make sure all that enter the water, exit the water. (Safety first??)

The group likes to perform, waving and urging the crowd to cheer them on! 


THEN…the ladies come…

IMG_7686IMG_7684IMG_7683IMG_7682 More waving more diving, more swimming (more craziness!)

We moved off to walk around, go down the slides, not fall!  It is so odd seeing the summer house boats parked…packed in by the ice.  I’m just not sure how the pressure of the river does not destroy them!

Corey and I slid down the ice slow (again, avoiding head injuries), then it was time to make it back to the bus. 

We found we had about a one hour window before feet and hands got uncomfortable.

Next we did a walking tour of the city (Friendship street).  We took pictures…and other tourists wanted to take pictures with us. (I didn’t get any with them, and I’m sad that I missed out).

Here I am wondering WHERE in CA is a “California Beef Noodle King U.S.A”

IMG_7702 There were stalls for nuts, and spices and other things I did not recognize.


We moved down to the river again (walking into the

IMG_7704 this was our destination.  This statue marks the floods that has hit Harbin over the years. 

On the river here are more “ice” escapades…snow mobiles, hover crafts, sled dogs (very sad).  There were also more ice structures. 


IMG_7713     IMG_7712 I thought the net covered with ice was pretty cool.

A group of 21 tourists catches the eye of the Nationals that are also touring.  There was very loud music…so some of the group decided to dance their way through the square.


OK.   THAT hour was up.  We went off to have an amazing “local” meal.  Our guide explained that local food uses more oil and salt…AHHHH, THAT’S why it tasted so good!  O I L (no food pics…sorry)

On our way we passed where we would be going in the evening:

IMG_7726 Just a quick shot from the bus…we would be back.  This is made from man-made snow from what I understand.

After lunch, we made our way to the Siberian Tiger Preserve. We went through part of the park by truck and the rest you move over a walkway to observe them. 

I was really looking forward to this part of our day.  From my previous travels you have seen I love going to reserves and zoos (good zoos, not sad stupid zoos like the one in Beijing).

We first got onto trucks where we jockeyed for position by windows for best shots.

IMG_7758 Just a little nibble …

IMG_7757HelllooooooooIMG_7742 Patrolling the fence line

IMG_7728 “You lookin’ at me??”

IMG_7761 “You’re boring…move on!”

There were all types of cats here. 


These guys were all hanging out. 

We moved off the buses to the “cages” where you could walk over the groups…and if you felt so inclined…could buy a chicken, or a goat, for the group to ummm…devour.

Now, don’t worry, these are all well fed and the Park is supplemented by the Government  for the preservation of Siberian Tigers. 

THIS part was for sport.

First, let me say, some people are just ignorant.  I saw this in Beijing when people would feed the animals through the cages, or throw candy bars to the lions….Here was no different.

One guy decided it would be fun to taunt the animals by holding out his glove…you know…play keep away like you do with a house cat.

IMG_7765 These Tigers are BIG.

IMG_7768 Now, he probably can’t grab you, but one person had already dropped a cell phone, and I’m not sure playing with the wildlife is so smart!

So, someone decided to buy a chicken to be dropped into the ring for the Tigers to grab:

IMG_7773 Here is the victim.  See the SMART person holding out his stuffed Tiger too?  The Tigers are circling below.

It is over very quickly…no pictures of this, I moved on, though I did see the victor enjoying his chicken nugget a little later:

IMG_7776 He was surprisingly left alone to eat.

In the summers you can come back and hold the babies.  Would LOVE to do that, but not sure I can get Corey anywhere NEAR this place again…even if it IS warm!

We continued our walk to see other Tigers.  It was soon time to once again get back to the bus.  We were moving on to the two big moments of the trip.  The Ice sculptures and Ice City.

The sun was beginning to set, and if possible, it was getting colder!


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