Never in my life did I think that I would survive such a negative temperature, -22°C to be precise, let alone make my way to the acclaimed Harbin Ice & Snow Festival 2017!
Since I was on vacation in Shenyang, China (two hours away from Harbin by high speed train) over the New Year’s, my friends and I thought that it would be the perfect time to visit the highly raved ice sculpture festival – and I’m so glad we did.
While the site was still a work-in-progress for its grand opening on 5 January 2017, it was already packed on 1 January 2017, with visitors from various parts of China and around the world.
Lines had formed outside, so it’s best that you get tickets in advance to beat the queue. We joined a 2D1N tour, which was a good idea as getting into the arena was a breeze. The tour guide collected the tickets for us and all we needed to do was follow her through the entrance.
Upon entering, we were greeted by a sleigh drawn by a reindeer and found out that you can pay a small fee to ride on it just to have a tour around the place. We thought the best way to explore was on foot though, and that way we could take our time at the various sculptures.
For the uninitiated, the Harbin Ice & Snow Festival is an annual winter event that features larger-than-life ice sculptures, replicating iconic buildings and landmarks from around the world.
Each ice block (resembling LEGO bricks) used to build the sculptures are from Harbin’s very own frozen Songhua River.
The sculptures are illuminated with different colours, making the entire set-up very dreamy and surreal — almost like you’re in an 8-bit wonderland. Imagine seeing the Great Wall of China (pictured above) in that light.
Every sculpture is fully interactive; you can scale the stairs to have a bird’s eye view of the place and even wander through every opening between the sculptures.
Some even have slides for kids and of course the kid in us insisted on having a go, but you’ll have to wait in line for a good half an hour or so for the longer ones.
What looked to me like the majestic Angkor Wat in Cambodia, caught my eye from afar. It was even more spectacular up-close, justifying the amount of people lingering for longer than usual, just to get the perfect shot for Instagram.
If the frightful, below-zero degree temperature is what’s deterring you from visiting, I’d say you’re missing out on a pretty incredible experience.
Witnessing an event of such magnitude is more than worth the blistering cold, numb fingers, dripping nose, and watery eyes. Once you’re there you’ll forget these inconveniences and the only thing that’ll be a pain is getting your phone or gadgets to not die on you in the crazy, freezing conditions.
While you’re there, don’t walk by these carts selling bing tang hulu (冰糖葫芦), or candied fruits, without buying one. The weather acts as a natural freezer, and you’ll find the fruits frozen when biting into them.
Get the strawberry ones! They reminded us of the Ichigo Bliss that used to be sold in MOS Burger.
Now that you’re in the know and if you happen to be planning a trip to China, I’d say make time to head down to the Harbin Snow & Ice Festival 2017. The event has already started, and will last through the end of February 2017.
Don’t despair if you miss this year’s winter festivities as it’s not too late to start planning for next year. The festival promises to be bigger and better in 2018!
Dates & Time: 28 December 2016 – 28 February 2017, 9:30am – 9pm (daily)
Tickets: RMB300 (about S$62), non-inclusive of tour package
Harbin Snow & Ice Festival 2017: North bank of Songhua River, Songbei District, Harbin 150000, China | Tours | Website | Facebook
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