Spending 2012 christmas Day in Harbin

Written by Jan 8, 2013 00:36
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“If it is not the end of the world, I will salute the absent dawn in a hopeful manner.
If tomorrow still comes, I will come to seek the Ice and Snow Fairy-Tale World.
It is the end, it is the beginning.”

My itinerary:
December 23, 2012 Songhua River – Central Avenue – Old Chang’s Spring Pancake - St. Sophia Cathedral
December 24, 2012 Maomao’s Smoked Meat – St. Sophia Cathedral - - Qiulin Company – Daquan’s Barbecue

December 25, 2012 Sun Island – Ice and Snow World – christmas dinner at Europa western restaurant

Total cost: around CNY 2000
Transportation: CNY 576 (soft berth from Dalian to Harbin and flight from Harbin to Dalian.)
CNY 120 in Harbin City.
Lodging: CNY 200 (Lucia International Youth Hostel).
Food and specialties: around CNY 700
Entrance fee: CNY 120 to Sun Island and CNY 160 for the Ice and Snow Word (both are concessionary tickets for students)
Clothes: scarf, gloves, hat, warm outerwear trousers, sweater, long down coat.

December 22, 2012
I took an air-conditioned train from Dalian to Harbin. It was a bit hot on the train. I chatted with my friend Cui about our work, dreams and lives for almost half of the night.

December 23, 2012
Thanks to the air-conditioner on the train, I didn’t have a good sleep because it was too hot. After a while, passengers got up at the first light and started to brush teeth and wash their faces. I couldn’t fall to sleep again so that I stood at the corridor to appreciate the sunrise.

Before setting off, I paid attention to the temperature of Harbin. According to the weather forecast, the temperature would fall to its lowest level on December 23, 2012. My friends laughed at me and said I would cry after getting out of the train. I smiled and told them that I was expecting to experience the extreme weather in Harbin.

The train reached Harbin at 07:20. I put all my clothes and wore my scarf, hat and gloves and then went out of the carriage. The LED screen on the platform showed that the temperature was 31 centigrade degrees below zero. I breathed heavily on the platform. Immediately, white frost appeared on my nose and eyelashes. However, I didn’t feel much cold. I thought my excitement expelled the coldness in my body.

After I got used to the cold temperature, I walked out of the railway station, looked for my direction and went through the underground passage to find the bus stop. Several minutes later, the bus came. I got on and arrived at the youth hostel I booked in advance. Everything went smooth.

In fact, I planned to book Kazy Int'l Youth Hostel or North Youth Hostel. Many visitors recommended these two hostels. Unfortunately, I was told that all rooms were already booked solid. Thus, I had no choice.

To be honest, Lucia International Youth Hotel was cozy and their staffs were very kind. I was a bit hungry. Thus, I bought a bowl of instant noodles. The staff boiled water for me to boil my instant noodles. I found there was a post-card wall. Dozens of post cards from other countries were put up on the wall. Among them, I saw a post card from Sri Lanka. I had been dreaming of going there many times.

I accidentally found a hand-painted map of Harbin. The tourist sites, transportation mode and restaurants were all marked on the map. I took a picture of the map with my cellphone and used it to guide me during my trip. It was very useful, indeed!

Do all youth hostels prefer to raise cats? I have seen many cats in many youth hostels. But none of the cats I saw before was bigger than the one I saw in Lucia Youth Hostel.

My friend Cui and I finished sorting out our backpacks on the bed and then went out to explore Harbin. We walked along the street and finally reached the Songhua River. The river was fully covered by snow and ice. We saw no one on the river except that a few boats floated on the river alone.

“It’s time to have lunch.”, my friend Cui shouted. I took a look at my watch. It’s 11:30. Yes, we should have lunch first so that we could have energy to resist the coldness. Cui suggested that we should taste Old Chang’s Spring Pancake. So we went to the Central Avenue to look for Old Chang’s Spring Pancake. We walked the length of the Central Avenue but didn’t find it. Then we asked a local for help. He told us it was located on another street next to the Central Avenue. Thanks to him, we found Old Chang after walking twenty minutes outside.

We walked into Old Chang but noticed there was no guest inside. The waiter explained that it was one of Old Chang’s branches. Since it was located on the back street, many people didn’t know its existence. He also told us there was a branch on the Central Avenue. (Ok, we found it later. It was a small room with small signboard. No wonder we didn’t see it).

I was told that northeast people cordial. The waiter at Old Chang made me believe what I heard. He knew that we weren’t locals. So he recommended their specialties and taught us patiently how to eat spring pancakes. What a kind guy! But his kindness couldn’t help us resist coldness in the restaurant. Thus, we asked him to take us to a private room.

When we entered Old Chang, our feet were numb with cold. After lunch, we felt warmer. Cui still felt cold and suggested finding a warm place to have a rest. I looked at the map and found there was a Pizza Hut not far form the Old Chang’s Spring Cake. So Cui and I went there to have “afternoon tea”.

Tip: Do wear thick socks and warm shoes. If your feet are warm, your body circulation becomes better. As a result, you won’t feel too cold.

Cozy environment made us sleepy. Cui and I slept almost an hour in the Pizza Hut. It was nearly 16:00 when we walked out the Pizza Hut. We had planned to appreciate the sunset on the Songhua River. It was too late because it was dark outside. Standing outside of the Pizza Hut for a second, both of us became sober immediately.

“Time to stroll on the Central Avenue. Rainie, don’t you notice that the night view of the Central Avenue is wonderful?”, Cui asked. “Yes, it’s beautiful very much.”, said I.

We found a local famous brand ‘Modern’ on the Central Avenue. It was created by a Jewish in 1906. The ‘Modern’ popsicles has been popular for 100 hundred years. Why is it still popular today? Their popsicles contain more milk and egg compared with other popsicles. Meanwhile, they don’t use expanding accelerant.

Cui and I bought two ‘Modern’ popsicles. We both encouraged each other to finish them. It was 31 centigrade degrees below zero. We were afraid that our tongues were stuck to the popsicles and couldn’t move away.

Tip: ‘Modern’ popsicles are not packed in bags. Instead, they are just put together in a big plastic box. Those who care hygiene too much can ignore ‘Modern’ popsicles.

Except popsicles, Modern also offer original yogurt. I bought a small cup of yogurt and a small piece of bread and then ate them together. Well, I should say that ‘Modern’ yogurt is not my type.

Why did I eat yogurt with bread? The locals told us that yogurt and small bread were a perfect match. Originally, Cui and I planned to buy Lie Ba (big bread rolls in Russian). The shop owner who sold ‘Modern’ yogurt told us “Better to enjoy yogurt with small bread”.

As we ate yogurt and bread, Cui reminded me that we should go to visit St. Sophia Cathedral. Finishing ‘Modern’ popsicles and yogurt, we walked to the cathedral. It was built by Russian at the beginning of the 20th century.

It was getting colder at night. We just stayed there for a while. Cui suggested we take a taxi back to Lucia Youth Hostel. It was a nightmare to catch a taxi here. Anyway, we got on a taxi. The driver told us he was going to take another two passengers. We agreed!

The road was icy so that the driver couldn’t drive fast. It took much longer time than we expected. Getting back to the youth hostel, we started to write some post cards to our friends. Then we discussed tomorrow’s itinerary. Considering today’s tour, we didn’t arrange a tight itinerary for tomorrow. We couldn’t stay outside more than an hour. Staying outside for an hour, we had to stay at a warm place for another hour.

December 24, 2012
The standard room we occupied was cheap because there was no window. It was total dark after turning the light off. Since there was no window, the temperature in the room was quite high. A nice place to sleep.

We didn’t know when we got up because it was still dark in the room though it was daytime outside. Today, we didn’t arrange many sites. Our mission was to taste local food. Thus, we got out until 11:00.

Our first destination was Maomao’s Smoked Meat. When we got there, we saw every waiter and waitress wear a red christmas hat. OMG! It was christmas Eve! We ordered a small portion of smoked meat, two pancakes and a small dish of sauce and a small dish of onion sections. The waiter recommended us their specialty. It’s an earthen pot of soup. According to the waiter, it was boiled for 24 hours. We couldn’t figure out how long it was boiled but we did know it was delicious.

After lunch, I suggested visiting the St. Sophia Cathedral again. A flock of pigeons flew over the cathedral and they didn’t seem to fly away. I was curious. Did the cathedral have magic to keep pigeons around? As we approached the cathedral, we saw some people sell pigeon’s food. A woman stopped us and tried to sell her bird food to us. She said a small bag cost CNY 3. Sorry, we had no interest in pigeons. We went away quickly.

Our next destination was Heilongjiang Provincial Museum. Cui said “You can learn about a city when you visit its museum”. She was right. But the museum was closed. It was Monday. The museum was under maintenance.

It was too cold. Cui and I walked into the KFC and stayed there for a while. Then we went to Qiu Lin (a famous local food company). There Cui and I bought red sausages and Da Le Ba (long bread rolls). Afterwards, we took a taxi to a local grill taste local roast meat. It was a four-floor transparent building. From a distance, we saw many people enjoying themselves very much. Harbin beer was famous. We ordered a bottle but didn’t drink it up. It was too bitter to drink.

December 25, 2012
Cui didn’t decide to visit the Sun Island. I convinced her and we finally made the trip. I forgot that I lost my gloves yesterday so that we went to several shops and bought a new pair of gloves at last. We hired a taxi to take us from the Central Avenue to the Sun Island. It cost us CNY 18. The taxi driver was kind. He drove slowly on the street so that we could take some pictures in the car.

The admission fee to the Sun Island was CNY 240. Student with valid ID or documents were admitted at half price. 2013 Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival was to kick off at January 5, 2013. Most of the snow sculptures were not finished yet. We saw the sculptors sculpture snow figures. It was a really difficult job. I should say that the admission fee wasn’t really expensive.

We spent an hour in the Sun Island and planned to take a taxi to the Ice and Snow World. The taxi driver told us we could walk there from the Sun Island or take No. 29 bus. Thank you, taxi driver! We walked to the bus stop and took No. 29 bus to the Ice and Snow World.

We noticed that a guy on the bus sold entrance tickets to the Ice and Snow World. According to him, we needn’t pay for the bus ticket if we bought the entrance tickets from him. Cui confirmed with the bus driver and then we bought the entrance tickets from him. A men and a woman with their kid didn’t buy the tickets. They were afraid of buying fake tickets. Thus, they paid CNY 6 for bus tickets and planned to buy the tickets when they got there.

We were a bit nervous when entering the Ice and Snow World. What if we got fake tickets? Thank goodness! We entered the park successfully. The Ice and Snow World was under soft operation. The admission fee was CNY 190 for the adult and CNY 160 for students. From January 5, 2013, it would be formally open to the visitors. As a result, the admission fee would increase, CNY 300 for the adult (CNY 330 during public holidays).

Each entrance was guarded by a group of ticket inspectors. One ticket inspector found that there was something wrong with Cui’s student ID card since there was no steel seal on her photo. She was required to make up CNY 130 to buy a ticket for the adult. Behind us, many people with concessionary tickets were required to buy adult tickets because there was something wrong with their documents.

Tip: The Ice and Snow World is worth a visit. Better come here before 15:30. Thus, you may have a chance to appreciate the ice and snow sculptures in the sunset. Really beautiful´╝ü

The temperature reached its lowest level before the sun set. We discussed to find a warm place and take a rest there. According to the map printed on the entrance ticket, there were KFC, Shangdao Cafe, ‘Modern’ Café and other catering areas. Unfortunately, they didn’t let the visitors stay for free. In other words, you consumed and then you could stay inside. We entered the ‘Modern’ Café and ordered a cup of coffee. The waiter served us very quickly. We felt surprised when seeing the coffee. A paper cup with water and unknown coffee powder.

“It is worse than Nestle Instant Coffee! How is it worth CNY 20?”, said Cui. I told Cui that I would reason with the manager immediately. She stopped me and said “Stay calm! Make yourself get warmer. Then we leave!”

Tip If you do not want to get cheated, follow the map on the entrance ticket to reach the tourist center. There you can stay as long as you can. It’s totally free.

We stayed there until it was totally dark outside. The lights were all on when we got out. We found there was long slide which was totally different from what we saw in the kindergarten. We had much fun on the slide.

1. There were a ski resort and a small amusement park to the Ice and Snow World. Both are opened for free. You can experience riding a bicycle on the ice in the amusement park.
2. Keep rubbing your hands if you feel cold. Or you can put your hands on the lamps to get warmer. Remember to keep your hands distant from the lamps so that your hands won’t get burnt.

According to the workers in the Ice and Snow World, the ski resort is actually an area of the surface of the Songhua River. The ice used to make the sculpture is taken from the Songhua River.

Cui and I both felt tired after we got out of the Ice and Snow World. We stood near the entrance and waited for the taxi. 15 minutes passed and we didn’t catch one. Then we went to the bus stop to get back by bus.

It’s christmas Day. Cui and I decided to taste Russian style dishes. We entered Europa western restaurant. It was well decorated. We ordered Borsch, Cream pumpkin Soup, christmas Turkey Pizza, Prawns cooked in Urns and Mushroom with White Sauce. To be honest, the taste of the dishes we ordered were not as good I we expected.

December 26

It’s the end of our journey. We were leaving today. Harbin Airport was far away from our hostel. It cost more than CNY 100 by taxi. Thus, we went to the Civil Aviation Mansion to take the shuttle bus. It cost CNY 20 per person.

Tip: Considering of the icy roads and traffic jam, I suggest you take the shuttle bus as early as you can.

 More Harbin Travel Reviews
1. Spending Chinese Spring Festival in Harbin FUJITA_SAKI Feb 1, 2012 03:37
2. christmas 2011 in Harbin THURSTON from UK Dec 29, 2011 01:42
3. Ice Festival Interesting, Expensive DANEK from USA Feb 12, 2011 22:36
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