I wake up super early and pump up for the destinations today. Because of the rain yesterday, today is sunny bright and the weather is wonderful. My favorite season Winter with all the blue sky and snowy land. It’s still around -20ºC so I bundle up at least four layers (thermal wear, shirt, thick jeans, thick sweater and overall winter wear. I feel like a plump ball of energy ready to roll.
A brief history of the ice lantern. In the olden days of the Qing dynasty, the people in Harbin use ice taken from the river and make a hollow inside to place the candles to light up the street at night. The lantern with ice and snow sculptures as a cultural festival started in the 1963 until now with the exception during the Cultural Revolution. Currently, instead of just lantern, the technology enable the colorful LED lights embedded inside the ice, over and under to give the best lighting to highlight the ice and snow sculptures.
I read a lot of recommendation for this, to enjoy the Harbin ice and snow festival is best to enjoy at night because of the light shows. But I know my self. I won’t be able to stand the weather at night and I’m worried about Ziggy since Canon 550D is not weather-sealed. Knowing my camera’s body and my body, I opt to not go there.
Since I’m going solo, I take the #13 bus near the hostel and switch to Jiuzhan Pier – Sun Island (九站码头-太阳岛, Jiǔ zhàn mǎtóu-tàiyáng dǎo) bus. The bus station is a bit farther than I think to the park. I did mention it’s really, really cold. I ended up taking some photos to warm up. Each bus trip is 2 CYN one way.
Harbin is famous for its ice and snow sculpture locally and internationally every year. The first ice and snow festival I visit is the Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo (太阳岛国际雪雕艺术博览会; Tàiyángdǎo guójì xuědiāoyìshù bólǎnhuì). Entry is pricy, 240 CYN but half price for student. The park is large and it take me at most 2-3 hours for sight seeing.
From Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, I take a taxi because I’m sort of lost and have no clue where’s the Ice and Snow World. Taxi is 30 CYN from Sun Island park to Ice and Snow World.
Ice and Snow World (冰雪大世界; bīngxuě dàshìjiè) is another ice and snow sculptures that people rave about, especially the beautiful lights at night. Yet, I found myself amaze for the color in daylight; the blue sky and the white snow and bluish ice.
The Ice and Snow World is large exhibition of ice sculptures, one of the biggest, with the international sculptures descend from various nations and their respective flags. The architecture of ice sculptures are built bigger and larger like nobody business. Granted, it’s more commercialize than the one in Sun Park, more touristy and generally branding galore.
Entry is 330 CYN and 200 CYN for students after 13:30. Since I come in before 12, I get the less expensive price of 150 CYN, with student discount 50% off. One of the perks of coming in early. The other perk is that there aren’t many people, local or tourists, this early. They usually come after dark to see the lights.
Admittedly, I’m going back to my inner child, sliding on ice! It make my jeans cold and wet, but it’s worth it and I warm up on a nearby coffee shop. Most food stalls aren’t great though, I’ve seen many families bring their own ‘picnic’ bag and tea/coffee thermos. Hmm.
Some of the steps are layered with red carpet, which I think it disrupts the color scheme, but it helps with slippery ice. I fall on some of the higher ‘buildings’ because it’s not layered with carpet. Ziggy almost flew outta my hand and my knee hit the ice hard and a little purplish when I check back in the hostel.
I favor the Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo more because the park is much more my alley, but the Ice and Snow World has its perks with beautiful larger than life ice architecture. I love winter season and Harbin brings the snow and ice show very well.