Thursday, January 19, 2006

More Harbin

In the afternoon we were taken to the Russian Market. It wasn't what I expected. I was picturing a large, outdoor market. Instead it appeared that we were dropped at a random street corner and given an hour to roam. The market, in reality, was a Russian section of town with many small little shops. With the weather as cold as it was I think I would have been just as happy staying in my hotel room staying warm. I did enjoy going into a couple of the shops and found a Russian stacking doll for a good price.

We were then off to the Ice Festival (or whatever it is really called). I don't really know how to describe it except to say that it is a little city made out of ice. Ice castle, ice churches, ice bar, ice Cartier (but only holographic jewelry), and various other structures, sculptures, and attractions. Neon lighting is placed inside the ice so that the buildings can be seen at night. When it is first getting dark and the lights go on it has a tacky Vegas kind of feel. As it becomes darker, it becomes less tacky and more amazing.
Here are some more pictures.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Ice Garden
After visiting the church, we went to (what I believe is called) the ice garden. It has sculptures and other things made out of ice and snow. Bet you never would have guessed that! The bundled up figure with the red scarf is me by one of the huge entrance gates. Throughout the garden there is a collection of various flowers frozen in the ice. They were pretty to look at. The fish who got frozen made me think of how my hands felt when I removed them from my gloves in order to take pictures. Towards the center of the park was a display of the ice sculptures different teams had created. Some were quite impressive, some not as much. All were better than I could do. It was a challenge to take decent pictures as the sculptures were clear. I just couldn't do them justice. I liked the ballet dancers that a Polish team made. I thought the man trying to pull the tree out of the ground was neat too. Very unique (as opposed to just a little bit unique).

There were also some slides in the ice park. You have to watch your step since the stairs are made of ice just as the slides are. I went on one of the shorter slides because (1) it was the first one we encountered (2) it was free and (3) it didn't have too many stairs. Later we came across some larger ones. They cost (though hardly anything) and had a lot of stairs. By the time we got to them my hands and feet were cold too and I just wanted to try to keep as warm as possible.
Russian Market, Ice Festival, and Snow Festival pictures and commentary coming soon.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, Winter 2005
Getting there and St Sophia Russian Orthodox Church
The trip began in the hotel lobby. We boarded a van and headed for the train station. It was a crowded, busy place and I was glad we already had tickets and a guide to follow. Toting luggage around and finding our compartment was a workout. It took awhile to settle in, with four of us to a compartment. I got an upper bunk. I was pleasantly surprised with my warm, thick comforter and fluffy pillow. The train left at 7:00 pm and by 8:30 we were going to sleep. I managed to sleep until 1:00 am. That gave me time to use the bathroom (a bit scary, but not the worst ever) and get organized before we arrived shortly before 2:00 am. Once again, a shuttle was waiting to take us to our hotel. It didn't take long to get into my comfy bed and drift off to sleep.
After a buffet breakfast we got ready to brave the cold. With all the layers I had on it was hard to move. They were necessary as it was COLD outside! As we walked towards the chuch, we passed an elderly man playing an instrument (I don't know what it is called) on the sidewalk. His gloves were so thin. I couldn't believe that he could keep them warm enough to play.
Outside the church there were rows of small ice sculptures. I also enjoyed the trees, complete with faux apples. Heaven only knows how cold it was outside and fresh fruit is growing on the tree? I don't think anyone bought it. Good try though.
The church looked out of place in China. It is no longer used for church services, but has been made into a museum. Still, it is an impressive sight. The inside is not in very good condition, but there are some nice pictures. The history of the church was all written in Chinese, so I can't really say much about it. It isn't hard to imagine that it was once very beautifully decorated.
After touring the church/ museum, we saw vendors selling bird feed so that people could feed the pigeons. The birds were landing right on people's hands, arms, shoulders... I thought that China had this whole bird flu thing going on. Can't pigeons carry that? Should one really pose kissing a pigeon? I decided to pass. I had to admit that the little kid in the picture is really cute. With all that padding you could fall down and not even notice. I wonder how to say you've fallen and can't get up in Chinese.
More Harbin pictures coming soon!

Thursday, January 12, 2006


The river is a perfect place to skate, sled, walk, ride a bike, or fly a kite. I will be going to Harbin for the Snow and Ice Festival over the MLK holiday. If it is this cold here I don't know that I want to think about how cold it will be there. It is even further north than Shenyang and stays below freezing more than half the year. Hopefully I will get some great pictures and it will be worth it.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Carrying the camera has paid off.

I've started trying to remember to bring my camera with me more often. It seems every time I forget it I see something cool. Having it with me doesn't guarantee that I do see something cool, but hopefully it will pay off.
Walking home from buying groceries I saw a school group doing some drumming and dragon dancing in front of a newly opened store. There are two people under each dragon and they were pretty good at moving on all fours (as in above pictures) and also at having the front person jump up on the back person's shoulders to get the dragon standing up high.