It would be 30+ hours from the time we left Shanghai, not knowing what I was about to experience when I step off the train in Harbin. I knew it would be cold, and that was about it.
The International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival was the main reason for taking this 30 hour trip north, to one of the coldest regions of the China. We read about the Harbin Ice festival online and in guidebooks, but had no idea as to what it would be like. While I shall do my best to explain, the real value of the festival is in the photos.
The city of harbin celebrates ice in all its forms during the winter. They've been doing it for decades (with the exception of the cultural revolution) and now have one of the four biggest ice festivals in the world.
Everything at the festival is made out of huge blocks of ice. This is the entrance to the 13th Annual Ice and Snow World. Even here you can already see how the buildings dwarf the spectators.
What makes this so impressive was that they have lights inside the ice to make the whole place seem like a colorful circus of frozen goodness. While it is still impressive during the day, you must go at night for the real "wow" factor.
Centered in the middle of the grounds was the Russian style building which was several stories high. You can walk on and around the structure as well. Just be careful, it is slippery ice, after all.
Russian and Chinese flags decorated the whole area. This years theme was centered around a Chinese and Russian partnership. This partnership that China shares with its neighbor to the north is most obvious in Harbin. While walking down the streets of the city you notice Russian gift shops and Russian Restaurants. It's not surprising as the Russian border is only a short train ride from here.
With temperatures being so cold, you can only spend 30 minutes walking around before going inside to warm up with a hot beverage. If you come from abroad, you likely warm up with coffee or tea. If you're local, you have an ice cream. If you're Russian you will have vodka.
Strolling around the Harbin Ice Festival you are confronted with nonstop excitement and it is overwhelming. This is a must for anyone visiting China during the frigid months of January, February and March. It will be the highlight of your trip.
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