Harbin (or Haerbin) is not your typical Chinese city. Situated in China’s northeastern-most province of Heilongjiang. A fairly large industrial city, it is filled with Russian-influenced architecture. Meaning, ugly Soviet-style buildings dominate the cityscape. Its no wonder, because Russia is only a stone’s throw away. Although the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sophia is quite nice.
To make our visit all the more pleasant, it was the peak of a frigid winter, where icy Siberian winds ensure the temperature is a chilly -30°C. But we were here for a special reason: Harbin’s world-famous International Ice and Snow Festival.
In Zhaolin Park, various small structures introduced us to what this festival was all about. Every year, teams from all over the world come to create magnificent masterpieces from ice. Huge blocks are stacked and carved to create all sorts of imaginative structures.
There were some wicked ice slides, including a tube-riding monster!
At night, these ice creations are lit up from within with a multitude of colours, transforming the park into a winter wonderland.
Inside a warehouse was a competition display of ice sculptures.
Some were incredibly cool (pardon the pun).
Across the Songhua River, the biggest event is the Ice and Snow World, where huge ice block sculptures dominate this huge area.
Kids would love it here. There’s something about snow and ice that’s brings out the kid in everyone!
The centrepiece was a photographer’s delight. But beware, the icy temperatures are not a camera battery’s friend. We kept our camera and spare battery tucked in snugly inside our many clothing layers for warmth. They barely survived to the end of the night!
Visited 10th to 12th February 2014.