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Harbin - Jilin

Two hours apart, yet two totally different cities

overcast -9 °C
View Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival - Harbin 2014 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Central Street is known as the Architectural Art Museum of Harbin and runs right outside our hotel, so we were very well situated for a morning stroll today, taking in the façades and ice sculptures, cafés and shops of this popular pedestrianised avenue. This is the place to see and be seen, especially in front of the ice sculptures, which are really just frozen adverts.

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We bought some of my favourite Portuguese custard tarts and some Russian chocolate - I had no idea Russian chocolate was so yummy!

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As it was positively balmy weather out today – a mere -12C – we decided to do what the locals do and eat an ice lolly while strolling. It is said that the cold ice cream actually warms you up, but I am still not sure about that concept.

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My glasses have been totally useless on this trip - the steam up as soon as I put my camera to my eye and then freeze. And I can see very little without them, so it has been a bit like a blind date this trip...

Bullet Train to Jilin
A few weeks before leaving the UK, we had notification form the local agent that our train had changed from High Speed to Bullet, whatever that means. High-speed rail in China may refer to any commercial train service with an average speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) or higher. China has the longest high speed rail network in the world with nearly 1.5 million passengers every day.

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The whole thing was amazingly well run. The station is huge and modern with underground parking so you don't need to venture out into the cold. To enter the waiting room, you go through airport style security and your train number, boarding gate and platform is displayed on electronic boards. You wait in the warm and comfortable lounge until your train is ready to board and then you are off.

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Plenty of legroom on the train and comfortable seats, but the temperature inside is way too hot at 22C when you are dressed for minus ten or more. It was unbearably hot and I fell asleep almost immediately.

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Mind you, I didn't miss much, as the scenery was uninspiring – totally flat, snow-covered ground with the odd naked trees.

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Jilin
Jilin is the second largest city in the province of the same name and is located south of Harbin (the province borders to North Korea). The city was originally a fortress, and it was an important ship building city during the Qing Dynasty. During World War II, the city was taken by Russia and has never fully recovered from the damage caused by the occupation. The city has a much more Chinese feel to it than Harbin and the hotel is surprisingly in a totally different league to the last one.

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For dinner we went to a local restaurant serving a famous fish dish from Jilin, and I have to say it was the best meal we've had on this trip. The fish was presented to us in a bucket, still alive, then served with vegetables and chillis in a chafing dish full of hot oil.

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The only complaint I had was the beer was served in such small glasses - we found that all over Harbin too.

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After dinner we went to watch dancing in the local park , a very popular pursuit especially for older people. It was a slow, deliberate movement, a cross between Tai Chi and line dancing. At -12C outside.

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I am having major problems with little laptop at the moment – every few minutes the screen goes completely white. There is obviously a loose connection somewhere, and so far I have managed to get it back again, but if you suddenly don't hear from me any more, don't be alarmed.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:23 Archived in China

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Comments

Ahhh, we did a smilier "what people perform Tai Chi in Unison" version at the Lama Temple in Beijing.

Not sure about th ice cream bit either…be equally cold inside as outside is perhaps a closer description ?

by Homer Gardin

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