Sunday, 2 March 2014

Quick Journey to Haerbin: The Oriental Moscow

哈尔滨; Харбин; Hā'ěrbīn. is the largest city at the northernmost side of China and the most bitterly cold at -30 degrees Celsius during winter. Despite being a Chinese city, its Russian flare remains clearly visible through its building structures and cuisine.

How we got there? We flew to Beijing and took a domestic flight directly to Harbin for couple of hours. There are other ports of entry and means to get there. Go to for flight schedules and booking and if you get lucky, some wonderful deals.

Accommodation. China is known to affordable (at least $30/night) hostels widely available at your fingertips. Agoda,,, travelchinaguide, etc. Two basic rules to consider. First would be, someone from the hotel must understand and speaks English (for non-Chinese like us). At some very few hotels, they have signage if they got one. Second, it should be located where the action is (I guess this is a general rule anywhere) - near shops and accessible to public transportation. These 2 criteria may seem easy but when in China, most of the time you'll end up charging it to experience.

Food. Traditional Chinese food and an accent of Russian flavors. Sausages are popular too. No worries, food are safe and clean on this side of the country. But then again KFC, Mcdonalds, Burger King are the widely visible in the metro. And these chains are definitely your savior when you start to crave for comfort food. They always are to me.

Transportation. Airport to city or hotel, cab will do for about Y100, bus is cheaper and fine if you're ready to hunt down your hotel in a freezing dry air. Make sure your hotel's name is written in Chinese characters or wherever your destinations maybe. In getting around, cab would still be the go-to option. If it gets too complicated for the taxi driver to understand where you are going, ask your hotel for car rental with driver or a tour would be the best-est. That's one reason why someone in the hotel should know English otherwise, your discussion will take up much of your already-limited time. It may cost little bit more but hell worth the pennies.

Clothing. On a winter, a 5-layer clothing is just so appropriate to protect your core from freezing. 
1. inner shirt 
2. long-sleeves 
3. Wool sweater 
4. Jacket 
5. Coat. 

3 layers would do for bottom 
1. warmer/leggings 
2. cotton pants 
3. another pants/ski or winter pants. 

Wool socks (2-3 layers), a stable winter face mask, scarf, head and ear covers, trekking winter boots and warm gloves are very much your essentials. 

If extremities get numb still, heat patches can be bought at nearby local grocery stores/stalls. The patches can keep your hands and feet warm for 2 hours or more. Stalls can be deceiving from outside so ask from your hotel receptionist.

Highlights. We wouldn't be in Harbin, on a winter, if not for the Ice and Snow Festival. That's it. It's an amazing display of humongous ice sculptures turned into a small city. The area is not reachable by foot and taxis would not agree (at least in our case) for a one-way trip. We arranged one from our hotel. 

Sun Island, a park located a little outside the city as well, heavily engulfed in snow, also showcases sculptures made from hardened snow. It features a mountain turned into a huge work of art, exquisite arts of ice and snow, Russian huts, some performances and more.

There are refreshment houses in both locations to warm up and eat.

Top: Sun Island White Mountain Lady. Bottom: The City of Ice & Snow 
Other things to expect. The temperature outside establishments and buildings are intolerably cold that if you expose your face without the mask, your nose will start to clog (and get runny afterwards) and your cheeks would start to harden. You will catch thin ice-shaves up your eyebrows and eye lashes if you stayed more than 5-10 minutes strolling around. Your hands will feel nothing by getting too many shots without the gloves. 

Batteries drain quickly and lenses should be taken care of from moist with the sudden change of temperature from outside and into the buildings. 

Google map would be the most reliable source of direction rather than asking locals, and when getting a cab is becoming close to impossible, walking is the next best thing, just make sure you are in the right track. 

And again, since you are in China, the only place you can change to local currency (Yuan) aside from the airport is at Bank Of China which is open on weekends. Hotels always ask for deposit so make sure you have enough Yuan when checking in.

We've been through the famous cities of China and we have started to drift away to the unknown. Every destination is a unique and diverse experience. It's been our third yet we are kept surprised and amazed. Despite all the limitations there are, I think we will never get tired of this huge country and will keep coming back. It is a nation of widely interesting culture, people, sites and most of all life. 

So, heard of Zhangjiajie? *wink...

Til the next journey. Xiexie

Here is a few glimpse of the city. 

St Sophia. A Russian cathedral now serves as simple museum

There are more Russian souvenir shops than Chinese on this side of town

Our Hotel. Very rustic but very good authentic Chinese buffet breakfast

Haerbin Airport

Visited: January 2014

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About Dee

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I was born and raised attune with nature, grew up from the countryside and a strong believer in endless possibilities. I am drawn to adrenaline rush and was never a girly kind but I dig chick flix and plays some music. I started this site during a 6-month distressing/long sojourning away from the corporate world. I gathered all the travels I went and translated them into words. I am not fond of sharing details of my trip and thought looking at the photos I've effort-fully taken was enough. Yet to my amazement reading through it flashes back more wonderful memories like a gush of throwback Thursdays. This is also a good venue to practice writing and to connect. So, thank you for stumbling upon my corner. Sorry I can't update regularly but I hope you'd visit again as my journey continues, find some useful information here and most of all be inspired to go on adventures your own. See you on the road!