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Disney in ice [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2010-2-11 13:58:32 |Display all floors
china daily

Harbin's world-famous shimmering ice festival is truly worth the risk of frostbite, says Mike Peters

There is a crazy man in Harbin, trudging in big boots along a snowy path through a fairyland ice city. His hands are freezing - it's -29 C and it's only 7 pm - and though he has sturdy gloves in his pocket, he won't put them on. The down-packed fingertips would prevent him from taking more pictures.

And what pictures.

There is a miniature Forbidden City - if you can call an ice palace "miniature" when you can climb life-size steps and walk around the colorfully illuminated rooms inside.

There is a Coliseum, bathed in green light and pulsing with a hip-hop beat that the Emperor Diocletian might have enjoyed. To our left is the huge head of the Sphinx, an ice carving as tall as a four-floor building, with ice slides that deliver screaming teens (and more than a few adults) down four slick chutes from the statue's eye level back down to the ground.

I am that crazy man roaming around this Disney-like dream land. I can't stop taking pictures. But nature will save me when my common sense fails. My camera shutter eventually freezes (half open), and I put on my gloves and run to the hot-coffee tent.

Harbin's annual Ice and Snow Festival, which opens the first week of January and ends this year on Feb 28, in Heilongjiang province, is a fantasy of iconic buildings made of ice and folk legends sculpted in snow. Plan a trip and veterans who have been there will repeat two words over and over: "cold" and "beautiful".

Both are true, but the beauty is so eye-popping that it's well worth bundling up against frostbite to see the shimmering spectacle.

"Most visitors can't translate 'minus 30' into 'What should I wear?'," says Dave Hadley, an English teacher in town and editor of The Haerbinger magazine. "You need layers, and lots and lots of socks." Noses, ears and hands need good coverage, too.

Hadley notes that while other ice festivals around the world depend on ice-carving artists to put on a show, many of the works here are local. "The theme is determined, and then designs come together," he says. "Many of the structures are developed by engineering students here in Harbin."

The resulting carnival is dotted with booths selling food and folk souvenirs and a chance to have your picture taken with a huge white yak. A Harbin beer bottle, carved out of ice and nearly as tall as the Sphinx, has a heated pavilion at its base, where hot chocolate, coffee and tea are understandably in demand. If you want to show off your hardiness, have a cold beer.

From the city, there are several ways to get to the festival. If you are trying to do everything in a day, start with lunch and a stroll along Zhongyang Dajie. This pedestrian-only street is the heart of the city's Russian legacy, with interesting shops and food.

About three blocks to the east is the Church of St Sophia, a lovely red-brick Russian Orthodox landmark with a distinctive green "onion" dome. The inside is now an architecture museum.

While there is still daylight left, take a quick taxi ride across the Songhua River to Sun Island Park. Go to the snow sculpture park first (admission 150 yuan, about $21.9) and see the huge and amazingly life-like reproductions of folk musicians, heroes of China, including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, temples, gates, archways and other structures big enough to step through and explore. Worth noting: Public toilets inside the park are closed for winter; there are working toilets at the park entrance.

Then at twilight, head for the ice venue (another quick cab ride or a 20-minute walk, depending on how cold your feet are at that point). At night the ice park (admission 200 yuan) glitters in colored lights like a kaleidoscope, and visitors can skate, play hockey or watch a figure-skating show as well as gawk at the huge ice city.
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Post time 2010-2-11 13:59:15 |Display all floors

Step-by-step guide to Harbin's best sights

china daily

When snow birds flock to warmer climes in Hainan, bolder travelers head to the spectacular Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, in northeastern Heilongjiang province.

Think Beijing is cold? Think again. There is a place where not blinking fast enough can make your eyelashes seal together with frost. Here, people don ski masks not to rob a bank, but to keep the tips of their noses and the apples of their cheeks warm.

Travelers arriving by plane (a mere 90-minute flight from Beijing) or by the comfortable "Z" overnight train can start acclimating themselves to the cold with a daytime stroll down Zhongyang Dajie (Central Street). East meets West along these cobblestone pedestrian walks where shoppers can browse through a vast array of trendy goods housed in century-old buildings. Harbin's residents are known as much for their exuberant hospitality as for their excessive drinking and liberal fashion sense.

The Ren He underground mall and Sophia Golden Sun shopping center offer an extensive choice of clothing and accessories, from basement bargain prices to upscale Korean-import ones.

A trip to the Central Street area is incomplete without a stop at the Modern Ice Creamery. Locals pack the narrow dining hall and can't seem to get enough of its secret ice cream recipe, regardless of the season. For a more substantial (and warmer) meal, go for chun bing - vegetable and meat dishes wrapped in pancakes - at Lao Chang Chun Bing.

When night falls, a winter wonderland comes to life. The main attraction this time of the year is the Ice and Snow World, where ice sculptures are set across a large park area just north of the Songhua River. Giant blocks of ice are farmed from the river, hauled to the site, and built into world landmarks familiar to the frequent traveler.

When you have tired of gaping at the sculptures with awe, or of rubbing your hands and stomping feet to stay warm, head to the many igloo tea shops scattered around the park. Other attractions include ice slides several stories tall, dance and music shows, and cheesy photo ops with snow foxes.

An hour in the Ice and Snow World leaves most travelers chilled to the bone. A dinner of hot pot can never seem more welcome. Cai Zhen Ji hot pot restaurant serves up the style and selections of Beijing's Ding Ding Xiang, but at second-tier city prices. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So, when in Harbin, remember to order plenty of Harbin Beer and baijiu for endless rounds of toasts with friends.

Following a day exploring icy man-made wonders, a nature expedition of sorts makes for an interesting diversion. The Siberian Tiger Park was once a dingy little zoo where morbid tourists could purchase live cows and watch the feeding frenzy from the safety of an iron-barred bus.

It is easy to get to from the ice festival by taxi or bus. The park houses about 100 of the less than 500 animals that remain in the world. While the intent of the park is conservation, it's hard to imagine how tigers trained to wait for tourists "on safari" to drive through and throw chickens could be reintroduced to the wild.

The World Bank recently urged an international tiger-conservation congress to ban private tiger parks, so this entertainment may be worth seeing while it lasts.

Winter swimming has been a longstanding Harbin tradition, drawing many enthusiasts who rave about the health benefits of polar plunging into -30 C waters. The less adventurous can stand on the sidelines and watch as middle-aged swimmers strut their stuff on the frozen surface of Songhua River before diving off a platform made of, you guessed it, blocks of ice.

A panoply of less extreme diversions can be found on the banks of the Songhua River, just outside the polar swimming hole - dog sledding, horse carts and tops spun with long whips. The strangest contraption here, which attracts a surprising number of customers, is a chair set atop sharp blades, which a rider can propel using short ski poles.

To celebrate the bravado of two days of traipsing through ice and snow, finish with a meal at Da Quan Shao Kao, where everything from enoki mushrooms to larvae, as well as the more conventional lamb chunks, comes on a barbecued skewer. A few more rounds of ganbei and you might start to think that the cold isn't all that bad for a winter voyage!
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Post time 2010-2-14 15:48:59 |Display all floors
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