Going to a place where the temperatures drop below -35 degrees centigrade was never really high up on my ‘to-do’ list. But there I was, on a plane and on my way to Harbin, one of the northernmost cities in China.
Thankfully, I guess, it only reached -20 degrees centigrade whilst I was there, but the part of me that wanted to sit cosily inside by a fire had to take a back seat. There were places to explore in this winter wonderland!
After walking half a kilometre across the frozen Songhua River and watching the quad bikes skate across their newly frozen racetrack, it was time to head to one of Harbin’s main attractions: the Ice and Snow Festival!
As the largest festival of its kind in the world, the park features colourful temples, palaces, and even giant fish made of the cold stuff! I think this picture speaks for itself...
I'll tell you what is a strange experience… eating an ice cream that never melts! With temperatures colder than a freezer, you never have to worry about losing half of it on the floor!
Of course, another highlight for me was the spectacular Harbin Grand Theatre. Designed by MAD Architects (that’s their name, honest!), I would say the originality of the building rivalled that of the Sydney Opera House. Sadly, I didn’t get to see a performance there, but it was interesting to see their list of ‘rules’ to be followed for performances, including “No children under 1.2m are allowed into the theatre,” and “Please do not applaud during each movement.”
Just before my fingers fell off, I thought I’d have just enough time to visit the tigers in the local tiger sanctuary. It was wonderful to see them roaming around in big enclosures. I thought I’d give throwing a live chicken into their enclosures a miss, though… there are some things I don’t think I could ever get used to.
After an hour, I thought I’d head back into the warm so that I could feel my toes again before heading back out haha!
I ended my arctic adventure with dumplings and a frozen (oh dear…) Tanghulu - a fruit kebab - outside St. Sophia Cathedral. The old Russian Orthodox church truly made me feel like I was back in Voronezh for the Shakespearia Drama Festival!