Stepping out of Beijing for the first time to visit Harbin was the best decision ever! A couple of Tsinghua friends and I visited the annual Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which has been held since 1963. It was interrupted for couple of years due to the Cultural Revolution but resumed in 1985. Harbin is located in the Northeast China and is influenced by the cold weather from Siberia. The festival starts in January and lasts for one month. Luckily we were able to visit before the end and the weather was bearable (-10 C). The ice is taken from the surface of the Songhua River, then carved by chisels, ice picks and different types of saws to form the sculptures.
We took an overnight train from Beijing to Harbin on Friday night. The trip lasted about 9 hours, so we had a good sleep. A -5 C weather welcomed us in Harbin the next morning. Surprisingly, I was very warm thanks to three layers and the jacket I was wearing. We arrived to our hotel, rested for a little bit then headed over to Zhongyuan Street, which is full shops. This street and most of the city’s buildings embody an European style, something that was really strange since we were in China. Oh well, at least I got a feeling that I was in Europe with a thousand of Chinese walking by my side.
We first visited the Ice Sculpture. It is actually better to explore it in the evening since the night lights are turned on giving the sculptures some color. The park is full of famous and traditional sculptures: castles, a replica of the Forbidden City, a maze, and other famous towers. The park also had slides made out ice, we got three different slides. The biggest one was amazing and pretty scary at the same time. I did not know how and when it was going to stop, neither where I would land. All I saw ahead of me the whole way down was darkness, I thought I was going to get hurt. As long as it was inside the park because they have insurance, that’s what the man told us. After a long trip down the slide I landed on a massive mountain of snow, which was really cool!
The next day we visited the Snow Sculpture Park. We had a nice walk here contemplating a lot of different sculptures. There were also small buildings made out of snow. I have never seen so much snow in my life. It was amazing! Most of them were a bit damage since it was the end of the season but you could still appreciate the form of the sculptures.
Our last stop was the Tiger Park. According to the tour guide, there were more than 800 tigers but did not see more than 200. Since the tigers are placed in big areas, we went through their cages in a small bus. They were pretty calmed and minding their own business. It seemed like they were used to the weird green bus and did not even paid attention to it when it passed by. The most exciting part of this trip was feeding a tiger. We bought a live chicken to so we got a VIP seat at the front of the bus. A truck came out and threw the chicken on a small shelter, next thing we see is a lion charging to grab it. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! The tiger was just a couple of steps away, but then it came really close our window. If it weren’t for the window and the fence protecting us the tiger could have easily grab my hand. This was far the best experience I’ve had with wild animals. I got to see how they interact around each other, specially when there is food and they all want a piece of it. So sad we couldn’t feed all of the 800 tigers.