Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cold, but it's a DRY Cold...

Off we went for two "Ice solid" days of touring the most amazing man-made winter experience ever.  The 13th Harbin Ice & Snow World exhibits became a backdrop for our weekend trip in January.  Seven of us lugged luggage to the Lukou Airport in Nanjing and flew for 2.5 hours north to the Harbin Taiping International Airport -  the largest most northern airport in all of China. 

Here's a brief overview of our bone-chilling adventure and lots of photos:

But, it's a DRY Cold!     -13 C or 7F

Harbin, China is strongly influenced by it's Northern and Eastern neighbors, Siberia and Russia. Being further north than the frigid land of North Korea, to say it's Cold is an understatement.

Harbin City Street
Many of the buildings are capped with Russian-like domes unlike the China we experience in the South. Menus hawk more Vodka and Beer than Tea and Wine. The region is known for their hearty dumplings. More protein, less vegetables. But we didn't come for the food. 

 The two largest venues during this month of Winter activities in Harbin are the Ice Festival and the Snow Festival. 

Day # 1 - Ice World

The first night we boarded the bus from  "H -E - Double Hockey Sticks" to experience the Ice Festival. The crippled bus gassed along and stopped at every Hotel it could find to pick up more unsuspecting passengers.  Each passenger jumped aboard merrily until the fumes, stops and starts either lulled them to sleep or caused severe jaw pain from the tension. After "90 - 100 gazillion minutes" (per Angie,) we were ready to experience some ICE! 

Everything, and I mean everything, was sculpted of ice or constructed of ice blocks. Colorful lights were painstakingly embedded in the ice blocks. They cast bright hues against Harbin's midnight blue sky. Many structures were multiple stories high. Utterly- awe-strikingly-MAGICAL.
The entrance is a wall of Ice

Hard Packed Snow Groaned and Squeaked Underfoot

"Y" is for Yak

Angie and Me

The temperature that evening was -13 C / 7F.  We lasted about 2.5  hours in the frigid splendor. There were stops in warming houses and alot of jumping up and down to keep our warm-blooded frames tempered enough to explore every corner of the expansive park. Appropriate attire necessitated 3-layers of clothing to enjoy our visit.   And enjoy it, we did! 

We waited in line on a spiral staircase (constructed of ice, of course) for a 'demon-drop'-like ice luge experience. Arriving at the top there were two ice slides, side by side.  I chose one slide and the Big Guy chose the other.  An attendant plopped down a small molded one piece plastic sled at the top of the run and motioned for me to sit down. There was NO turning back at this point. Sitting down he directed my legs straight out and mimicked that I should NOT move them from that position.  As I began to cross my arms in front of my lengthened body he shook his head and pulled my arms straight down atop my thighs, again indicating NOT to move them from that position.  I looked at him, he looked at me and he said, in perfect English..."Go!"  And "Go!" I did.  The sled began it's plastic clacking on the hard ice chute, with me in it.  The loss of control was manageable about one third of the way down until the speed doubled.  Clack, Clack, Clack. The sled sped out of it's straight path and began to wobble side to side..still clacking but more quickly. My body wanted to resist this tumble-speed and brace against it if possible. This would mean putting my elbows & legs out. Because the attendant told me NOT to, I forced my legs to remain straight.  My elbows poked out a bit and hit both sides of the chute, but only ONCE before I drew them in tight again. At the end of the run was a wall of powdery snow into which I plunged in and under. I layed completely motionless amid the laughter of those who had conquered this moments before me. Then the attendant barked at me to get up and out of the way before the next helpless sledder arrived.  Two people helped me up and off the chute lane. 

Was it over?            Yes!
Was I injured?         Nope! 
Was I grateful?        Yes! 

My friend, Ky, captured his luge plunge with his Nikon camera - brave soul that he is. Here's actual and accurate footage of the ride that all six of us conquered:  
Please allow time to Load

In retrospect, this 15-second run ranks up there with "One of the Stupidest Things I've EVER Done in my Life."  I'll spare revealing other Stupidest Things for now.

<The following day I received an email that stated because of my age and 'AARP - (American Association of Retired Persons') status, that I surely qualified for a battery-powered wheelchair or scooter.  Now, I could take that one of two ways; the Good Lord telling me, "Slow down, Fool and don't ever go on a luge run again!"  or  "Hell No, We won't Go!" to the aging process deleting the rude email as SPAM and go on living the dream.  "Fiddle-dee-dee," I say.>

Day #2 - Snow World

In an entirely different location was Snow World for Day #2's excitement.  These are sculptures made not of ice, but of tightly packed and sculpted snow.  Mountainous in scale and scope.  We saw them in the late afternoon as the sun was setting.

"One of these things is NOT like the others..."

It's the Year of the Dragon

Everyone has a Job in China

and I mean...


Big Guy - Ky- Matthew

Pete - Golon

First Alto and Second Soprano at the Chinese Opera

China - it's where we LIVE!

Russian Feast and Back out into the Crisp Night Air
There you have our latest travel update.  We enjoyed the sights of Harbin, China as seven expatriates.  Four of us thawed out, shucked the extra heavy winter gear, crammed it all back into our Samsonites and headed back home to Nanjing. Three brave souls decided to stay on for one more day and snow ski even further north.  They report that it was an awesome sun-filled experience.  Sure, it's doubtful that I'll use that Russian-style hat again here in Nanjing, but maybe when we return to Michigan and visit family in the upper peninsula I will venture out into the cold and reminisce about January 2012's adventure to Harbin, China!  I think we earned our bragging rights on this one!
It's ALL about the Maozi! -(Hat)

Thanks for reading,


(Dedicated to my long gone father-in-law who described weather like this as:  "Colder than a witches T#T in a brass brassiere!")


cindytrosin said...

thanks for writing, thoroughly enjoyed this post and pics

Glee said...

Nice to have the exposition to go with Gordon's pictures. I enjoyed the pictures, but getting a little more background really fills it out! So glad you guys are exploring! And I get to go with you from my warm couch.... ;-)

PS Yes, I can hear Uncle Jimmy..Nana had even more colorful sayings, but most couldn't be posted, even with the #@ stuff...