Harbin's notorious feature: COLD

Harbin Travel Blog

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The view from the heliongjang university dorm

I took the cab for the long trip to Xi’an airport at 5:30am for my 8:15 flight to Harbin. The long 4hour flight took a 20 min stop at Quindao before flying again. I somehow knew I was now in the Heliongjiang region when I noticed how everything went white and frozen down below. After all, this province of the of The Black Dragon River is most notorious for its below freezing temperatures, both in Fahrenheit and Celsius. Bordering Russia, it's home to the northernmost and one of the coldest cities in China -- Harbin. Higher than the infamous cold Russian city, Vladivostok, temperatures average the -20C range, and can plummet to as low as -40C. (well that’s over 50degress lower than the average temp in my country!)


This frozen city in winter used to be just a village a century ago, but was dramatically changed upon the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, a branch of which, the Trans-Manchurian, links the northeast of China.

Ice Bars on side walks
From then on, Harbin served as the midway point between far-off destinations in both Asia and Europe.


But what makes tourists want to come and freeze their asses in the Siberian winds of Harbin are the world famous ice and snow festivals which occur annually from Jan5-Feb5. China has somehow turned the region’s most notorious feature • the cold, into a one of a kind winter wonderland.  I after all, came to China for this very reason. I wanted to experience the mercurial extreme Harbin’s got to offer.

As I caught my first breath of  Harbin air at the airport, I realized how cold -18 really was.

Zhongshan Daijie
I had to wrap my scarf on my mouth just to keep some warmth on my nose or else I fear id get a nosebleed. The 20 Yuan airbus shuttle took me to a bus stop at Xue Fu Road where I was to take another bus going to the hostel.


I took the cab instead, too eager to get some warm heat, but as I showed the taxi driver the address, he dropped me off in a university entrance. Waaaahhh!! There was no way I was ever going to get lost again, I thought. Most especially not in Harbin where the -16 temperature sets with the sun at 4pm.  Worse that Shanghai, Harbin was a place where most foreigners would choose to study Mandarin, practically because no one spoke English at all! I had the taxi driver drop me at a hotel nearby but when I asked for a room, they said they were fully booked. The hotel receptionists didn’t speak a word of English too, and I was basically begging them to refer me to some place to stay for the night.

Russian souvenir shops along Zhongshan Daije
They scribbled something in Chinese and asked me to show it to the cab driver, who then brought me to the 200 yuan a night, Heliongjiang University Dormitory for foreign visitors.  Clean and warm I found myself clinging to the heater in the next 20 minutes before I headed down to continue my search for a cartographer.


Again, I felt hopeless as the receptionists could not decipher a word I was saying and all I asked was, “Which bus to take to go to the Ice and Snow World?”. I felt as though I was in one of the worst possible scenarios a traveller could experience, not being understood, no directions, didn’t know where I was on the bloody Chinese Map, and most of all, all of the above in sub arctic temperatures. All too suddenly, a French exchange student popped out of nowhere and boy, my eyes must have literally glowed, too glad to see the first foreigner since I arrived in the city. He apparently was one of the last foreign exchange students left in the campus as everyone had gone home for the 5-week spring festival.

Flood Control Monument
Henry was an angel as he helped out me for the rest of the day, accompanied me to get my train ticket for Beijing on the 24th, and look for a cheap inn nearby where I could transfer the following morning.

Sunset came at 4:30 and we decided to go back to the dorm to chuck on freshly brewed coffee (a hard-to-find drink in China) at his room, which coincidentally too, was right next to mine. Having the hot drink and a good English conversation unbelievably revived me back to my travelling mood as we went on and on with the directions (He gave me Harbin Map in ENGLISH too!!!!! J) and endless stories of his life in Harbin in the past 5 months. He was to go back home to Paris in two days time, so I felt too lucky I caught up with him that day. I guess luck has its way of catching up with the more adventurous travellers, like me who ventured on to this frozen city, with nothing but the brave old soul.

The central street end at the Gloria Inn Hotel


Dumplings, Harbin’s specialty dish, is what we had for dinner at a restaurant nearby. For 55 Yuan, We finished 3 dumpling plates (about 15 pcs per plate), a deep fried bowl of pork coated in breading, and 2 cans of Coke. Of course I insisted on paying for the meal, having Henry saved my day was priceless. As we walked back to the dorm, I noticed a vendor selling Ice cream on the street, and I wasn’t at all surprised to see that they were just scattered on a table top., after all, this was Harbin.




reikkowen says:
basta pinoy! lol... i saw this everywhere in manila the last time i was there. =)
Posted on: Feb 23, 2008
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The view from the heliongjang univ…
The view from the heliongjang uni…
Ice Bars on side walks
Ice Bars on side walks
Zhongshan Daijie
Zhongshan Daijie
Russian souvenir shops along Zhong…
Russian souvenir shops along Zhon…
Flood Control Monument
Flood Control Monument
The central street end at the Glor…
The central street end at the Glo…
now thats not your ordinary frost…
now that's not your ordinary fros…
photo by: mabby