When you mention Harbin everyone thinks of the Ice Lantern Festival which takes place from 5 January until the end of February. Those dates are very flexible and depend on global warming – sometimes ice starts falling off he sculptures at the beginning of February and you have to be very careful not to get too close to the ice exhibits. The opening ceremony is on 5th of January in the afternoon when the lights are officially switched on, followed by a fashion show, Chinese dancing and music. Preparation for the Ice Lantern Festival begins in December when large ice cubes are cut from the Songhua River and transferred to Zhaolin Park ready for artists from all around China and recently world, to make sculptures of dragons, temples, waterfalls, taking you through Chinese folk tales. The combination of illuminated lights inside the ice block of different shapes give you amazing spectrum of colours and sets you imagination racing.
After a few hours of walking around Zhaolin Park we decided to get some warmth in the restaurant which was actually a tent with a big heavy rubber door to keep the warmth inside. We decided to go to the Tibetan tent which was very cosy and very warm inside. The lights were smouldering, sending us off to sleep. After taking two pairs of gloves, a balaclava and Russian hat, thick woollen scarf and
waterproof jacket (that was just the outside layer of my clothes!), I ordered a nice hot Tibetan Tea. The combination of ginger, green tea and sugar fried in a pan then covered with hot water is very soothing, sending heat through every small vessel in your body. We looked at the menu and between choosing a juicy yak steak and soup back in the hotel-decided to go for soup.
On the way back to the hotel we visited the Ice Sculpture at the World of Ice & Snow Show. This show used to be a part of the Ice Lantern Festival at Zhaolin Park but with the years it has grown so much that the organizator decided to move to the Sun Island. Every year has a different theme – this year was Russia with all the sculptures fashioned in a typical Russian style. Among them were replicas of some of Russia’s most famous architecture, such as the East Palace, and Moscow’s Red Square.
So in the middle of the show we could see the Red Square built from ice and illuminated. The Basilica was in the most prominent place and by the time we decided to take some shots our camcorder was so cold it gave up. You have to carry your camera between your skin and vest. Once you decide to take a photo it takes all
your acrobatic skills to get the camera out from underneath all the layers. Once the camera is out you need to free your hands in order to press the button and don’t forget it’s cold, your hands are trembling. When I showed all my photos to my friends they questioned my ability to take straight photos, not realising what I had to endure!
How to get to Harbin:
The best time to visit the Ice Lantern Festival in Harbin is in January. You can either get there by flying from Beijing to Harbin or by train but please note the train tickets are not confirmed until 10 days prior departure. You need to stay 3 nights in order to see all attractions. There are lots of good hotels around but I would recommend the Gloria Hotel as its centrally located and price is affordable. For more information please email Tara at tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com or check our website at www.ReadyClickAndGo.com