A Travellerspoint blog

Snow and ice and all things nice

Heading for colder climes

Back in 1992 my interest in the Snow and Ice Carving Festival in Harbin was piqued by a visit to a lantern festival in Shanghai where I heard about the winter equivalent in North-East China, but back then trying to find information about travelling there proved a little difficult and after a very half-hearted attempt I gave up.

Since then, Harbin as a travel destination has not only moved ever upwards on my wish list, but has become almost 'mainstream', with a number of travel companies going there as part of a group tour. Looking at some of our favourite operators, I was disappointed to find that they only spend one or maximum two nights in Harbin, dividing the rest of the time between Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and Hong Kong. I wanted much more time in Harbin, from a photographer’s point of view if nothing else, and I really didn't want to spend my time and money revisiting (some for the fourth time) these other cities in China. So I set about designing my own trip, which is our preferred way of travel anyway.

Once I started looking into it, I found there was enough in the Harbin area to keep us occupied for a week or so, and with the help of a very nice young lady at China Highlights, I came up with a plan to fit in as much as I possibly could in the short space of time that we will be there.

Talking to another travel friend, Alan, a few months later about our various forthcoming trips, he too had wanted to visit the Snow and Ice Carving Festival, but he also felt discouraged about the amount of time operators such as Explore (we met Alan on an Explore trip to Bangladesh back in 2007) actually spent in Harbin. “Join us” I said. “Great” said Alan. So it came to be that the three of us will be heading to north-East China tomorrow for a week in the cold. And I mean COLD, Harbin is under the direct influence of the icy winter wind from Siberia and current temperatures are hovering around the -20 °C mark. I am packing all the thermals, fleeces, jumpers, hats, gloves, socks I have ever owned...

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The only drawback (in addition to the cold) is that it's a long way to go for just a week, with 3 hour journey to Heathrow, 3 hour check-in time, an 11.5 hour flight to Shanghai with a 3 hour layover and a further 3 hours to reach Harbin (by the time we reach the hotel, we'll have been travelling for over 24 hours). But since when has that stopped us?

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I should be able to update this blog as I go along – both hotels we are staying in have free internet access, and I don't think Travellerspoint is on the banned website list in China. Facebook, on the other hand, is a big no-no in China and access to that (as well as Youtube, Twitter and a host of others) is totally forbidden. David thinks he has managed to get around that however, by setting up a VPN (virtual private network) connection to a proxy server, tricking the Chinese authorities into thinking we have a British IP address. Whether it works or not remains to be seen....

Posted by Grete Howard 07:43 Archived in United Kingdom

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