It feels a little weird, writing about my winter vacation and the time I went to Harbin, since it’s almost 30 degrees outside now… =D But this is completely my fault, and you will have to excuse my lateness with this post, I will do my best to remember all the details about this unforgettable trip! ^_^
The whole winter vacation I didn’t really have any chance to travel, because I was already late with booking tickets and hotels, so I just stayed in Beijing. I am not going to lie, that was a pretty boring winter vacation. =D But, it was very cold outside, so I stayed at the dormitory and studied/watched movies/tv shows. Finally, at the end of the vacation, I had an opportunity and decided to go to Harbin for the Ice Festival!
I bought my first train tickets in China and for that I used a program called cTrip. This is a really useful app (site) that Chinese people use for buying train/plane tickets and booking hotels. The only thing you need is a credit card, because when you buy tickets online, you don’t have the option to just reserve, you have to buy them via your card.
I bought fast train tickets (G type), which are the most expensive. But it takes only 5 and a half hours to get to Harbin and the price is 306.5 yuan each way, so it is worth it, actually. Of course, you could always use a normal speed train and buy a sleeping bed ticket, but I didn’t want to risk buying a ticket like this, because it takes a lot more time to reach the destination and I didn’t have many days until the start of the semester.
So, 613 yuan both ways for train tickets.
For booking a hotel, I used www.booking.com which I highly recommend! You have many options about hotels, you don’t need any Chinese (for people who don’t know Chinese), you are fine with using English only. You choose the hotel of your choice and you make a reservation. When you arrive, you just need to show your reservation details and you are done! Note: some hotels may want a deposit (usually from 100-200 yuan), so keep that in mind!
I paid 160 yuan for 2 nights.
I arrived at 18:05 in Harbin West Railway station. The hotel I booked was 15 minutes away from the train station, so you don’t need any transport to get there. It was close to a big mall and many restaurants and fast food places.
It was already late, so I just ate dinner and prepared to get up early the next day.
I got up early in the morning, and directly took a taxi to Harbin Ice and Snow World, which is the largest Ice and Snow exhibition in the world.
The ticket was around 240-260 yuan for an adult. You need to be a bachelor or master degree to get the discount for a student.
Because it was already almost the end of February, and it was getting warmer in Harbin (of course, -17 is not warm at all, but for these beautiful structures it is), most of the sculptures were beginning to fall apart, so I was a little disappointed. =( They weren’t as magnificent as I expected them to be, but they were still amazing! (I don’t want to sound too disappointed)
Amazing, isn’t it!
This is the ice playground. You can rent a sleigh, or just use a plastic bag to slide down! (but be careful, because it is very slippery!)
When you feel too frozen and you decide to take a little break, there are small cafes which serve free tea. (the tea was not very good, but the most important thing was to escape the cold a little and drink something hot)
Next stop was Harbin Polarland!
It was less than 5 minutes away from Harbin Ice and Snow World, so you don’t need any transport to get there.
The entrance fee was 160 yuan (this includes two performances: a beluga and a sea lion show). Make sure you check in advance the times for the shows, they are definitely worth watching!
The place inside is warm, there are a lot of places to sit and rest, things for eating are also available.
You can see many animals, such as polar bears, penguins, wolves, foxes, belugas, sea lions and many more!
This was the beluga show:
You need around one and a half to two hours for visiting the Polarland.
After that it was time for the main attraction of Harbin – Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.
The admission fee is 300 yuan. (and here again you need to be a bachelor of a master degree student to get the discount)
Keep in mind that the queues are very long and depending on the time you go (especially if it is around 5-6 PM) you will have to wait a long time.
I went at around 5-5:30 PM, because I wanted to see the structures being lit up.
And the darker it gets, the more beautiful!
The place is huge, so you can spend a lot of time there, enjoying the sculptures, playing in the snow, skiing, sliding or just walking around. Keep in mind, that at night, it gets even colder, so you should be very well prepared with clothes and warm drinks. You need to get inside from time to time, just to unfreeze your limbs. There is a place with lots of different types of food and also drinks, so you don’t need to prepare food in advance.
After you decide it is time to go, there is a specific place where you can take a taxi, keep in mind, that there will be a lot of people and you will need to wait around 10-15-20 minutes. But at least, you will be assured that this is a legal taxi and not a black one which will charge you a lot of money.
Day 1 is over! It was long and exhausting and very, very cold!
Day 3 (final one):
For the final day I decided to go to the famous cathedral in Harbin – St. Sophia Cathedral. It is the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the far East.
But before getting there I took a walk around one of the most famous shopping streets in Harbin. The architecture is very similar to European architecture. You will see many Russian shops and bakeries.
That day felt even colder! There was an awful wind, because of which it felt like -18 degrees! But even the cold cannot stop people from having fun and enjoying themselves! ^-^
And some Русский хлеб (Russian bread) as a conclusion! =D (delicious)
Finally, my trip to Harbin was over.
I spent around 1700 yuan:
613 yuan for train tickets; around 30 yuan for transport in Harbin
160 yuan hotel
around 700 yuan for attractions fees
around 150 yuan for food
don’t forget 200 yuan for a hotel deposit
Of course, it is always a good idea to have a little more money, just in case.
That concludes my Harbin trip.
I had an amazing and unforgettable time. Once you see unique structures like this, you will always remember them. I strongly recommend visiting the coldest city in China – Harbin!
If anyone has any questions or you need more information regarding this trip, you are always welcome to send me a message. (Facebook, gmail) I will be more than happy to answer you and help you get the same amazing experience as me!