New Years in Haerbin
-This is a guest post written by Joel and his wife Chris who are currently studying Chinese in Beijing at 1on1 Mandarin. In this post, they shared their experience and some pictures from Ice and Snow Festival in Haerbin.
To celebrate New Years in China, that is Jan. 1st New Years, my wife and I decided to go to Haerbin and see the famous Ice Festival. Truth be known, it was early December when suddenly one evening while on-line she told me what it cost to stay there at a hotel she found in her whole-hearted effort to get both of us out of Beijing for New Years.
So we took the fast train to Haerbin and while waiting in the train station, this young Thai couple approached us and speaking fair English, they told us they were on vacation and didn’t speak any Chinese. Our encounter with them is a story in itself as I served as there translator to help deal with a group of young men who were staying together in several sleeper units and who had strategically placed there 88 year old grandfather in the Tai couple’s cabin.
Let’s just say it worked out.
We arrived to the expected freezing weather and a light snow, checked into our hotel by 8:30AM and went out exploring for breakfast. After breakfast and a long nap, we went to the famous Zhong Yang Da Jie, shopping street. It was beautiful for the ice sculptures and Russian architecture. It was a fun relaxing afternoon with two stops for coffee and hot chocolate, and the discovery that all Russian stores in Haerbin basically sell the same six things. When you’ve seen one…
We found our hotel staff really helpful. The first morning we asked about how to get to the Bing Deng (ice festival) by bus. They explained well and after a great Russian dinner at the shopping street we found our way to the bus stop, boarded and were on our way.
The Bing Deng (Ice-Lantern show) was expensive but worth the 300RMB admission. The horse carriages inside however, are not worth the 100RMB for the approximate 10 minutes it takes for them to circle around. The ticket seller explained the driver only gets paid by the customers, so every time you stop and get off, these guys beg for money, when you pick up another one to travel a little further you face another driver begging for a tip. O well.
Afterward, we, along with about 20 other Chinese tourists, discovered that the return bus that was suppose to run until late was already finished at 7:30. We all walked together for about 1km to the main bus stop. We had no clue what bus to take back, so I asked the driver where it would drop us. A wonderful Chinese woman and her daughter told us to get on the bus, so we did, and in the end, they had the bus stop at their apartment, hailed a taxi, took us back to our hotel, and then for a walk to St. Sophia’s Church and then back to our room where we exchanged personal info.
Obviously, this was totally unexpected.
This turned out to be a great new relationship. The next day we met the daughter, a wonderful seventeen-year old aspiring nurse with a loving and gracious spirit. We spent the day together at the Haerbin aquarium and met her Mom again for a classic dongbei meal with tons of meat and potatoes. The next day, our last, we spent shopping, visiting the cathedral, buying traditional dongbei snacks to take back to our friends in Beijing, and enjoying the crisp cold air of Haerbin. We met our new friends at the hotel and they took us out to dinner at the exact same restaurant.
Then sadly we had to part and make ready to catch the train back.
It was truly a special experience. Neither one of us would trade it.
My dear wife was right in her ambitions. I love her for that.
Here are some pictures taken from Ice and Snow Festival.