I thought I was ready for the cold. I was excited for it really. Even stepping off of the sweltering plane I found the already negative temperatures refreshing. I thought, “I’m a hardy traveler ready to brave anything.”
Then I thought again.
Harbin is cold. Colder than anywhere I’ve ever been in my life. The lowest we experienced was a windchill of -35℉/-37℃. The unevenly bricked streets are sporadically caked with sheets of ice that will probably be there until mid-July. Additionally, it doesn’t help that the sun sets around 4 PM. In these conditions we spent two hours looking for our lodging…the Kazy International Youth Hostel. In the end, and with freezing limbs, we found it but only after asking for directions five times.
In retrospect I realize we had to ask for directions a lot on this trip.
Our multiple excursions where we ended up lost did reveal some interesting, but not surprising differences between that province and the one we have been living in for four months. Where there are shops without doors in Chengdu, most in Harbin have two to keep the cold, biting wind at bay. Where there are tea shops in the south, there is coffee in many places in the north. Can’t really complain about that though. Also, Tibetan influences where replaced with Russian. Interestingly enough there were few Russian people outside of the tourist district.
Having said that, it is the combination of these characteristics that make Harbin the perfect location for a snow and ice festival.
It also makes for perfect frozen river activities:
As a result of the bitter temperatures, Harbin does food right:
That’s all for now.
Until next time!