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avant-garde_chauvintist wandering through the garden of ideals

Welcome to Heilongjiang -- the cool province and a ski paradise

CHINA | Saturday, 2 February 2008 | Views [845]

My trip around the China paradises began in the Russian winter. Harbin, renowned for its Ice Festival and ridiculous climate, is closer to Russia than Beijing. Closer to Russia than almost any other place in China. Basically close to the freezing border of the Russian wasteland that consumes the northern portion of the Asia continent.

It was cold.

I'm getting hazing on the details of the weather. Once it gets to a certain negative temperature, it all seems to run together into one frozen block of time. But suffice it to say that it was +eight shirts, +five pairs of pants, +three pairs of gloves and socks, +two scarves, +my camera almost froze. That is about -30 in Celsius. I have no clue in Fahrenheit.

Harbin is in Manchuria. It was at one time it's own country. Then it was part of Japan, before China procured it. It's inhabited by Manchurians, Koreans, and Siberian Tigers.

We arrived and started looking for a hotel. As the typical travelers of the early twenties variety, we had made no plans. And as it is the prime time to visit Harbin (what with the ice carved up to look like the Pantheon that doesn't melt in the blistering sun), everything was sort of expensive. We sort of struck gold (or I guess the hotel did) and found a decently priced abode for our two days in Ski Paradise.

We visited as many sites as possible in those two days, racking up a bill of about Y600. It was by far the most expensive portion of our month long voyage. Mostly because of the taxis.

During the day, taxis are reasonable. A nice 20 kuai divied by three people is easily doable. But when the sun goes down (around 4:30pm) havoc ensues and one is ensured of paying in excess of Y80 to go a lesser distance.

In broken Chinese, I inquired about the meter and why it was ticking so damn fast one afternoon. I received an answer that I partially understood to mean that the extreme weather means the taxis burn fuel faster. So no one in Harbin travels after a certain time (4:30pm) because it's just too expensive. THAT would have been nice to know.

In all, Harbin was nice, but certainly not my favorite. I enjoyed the ridiculous nationalism of one taxi driver.

In Chinese:

Taxi man: "Where are you from?"

Me: "The United States. You? France?"

Rip off master mind: "No! NO!"

Me: "Italy?"

Learned to spot foreigners early: "NO! China! Northeast China!!!"

I enjoyed the all-too-tacky expensive that the town will go to to make ice light up. I enjoyed learning that I can bear extreme weather.

But I don't think I'll enjoy it again.

Tags: On the Road


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