beijing and harbin

harbin has always been on my top list for 'must-visit-city' during winter.. especially during winter time, because i heard it's just amazingly beautiful and ridiculously cold. from 2012 winter holiday i've planned to go there but simply no accompany makes me cancel the trip.

so, since i found someone who also wanted to go harbin as well, here we go!

they are two sisters from thailand.. friends from the university. ruth and may.
at first, may (the younger sister) didn't want to go because she simply afraid of the cold. but with some good words and some bully, she agreed to come with us.
ruth and may

at first we planned to go to harbin by train. it'll take 6hrs from hangzhou to beijing, then 9hrs from beijing to harbin. it was a lot of time but i thought it's ok since there were three of us. but then when i looked for some tickets and stuffs, i found this cheap airplane ticket from hangzhou to beijing, which was even cheaper from the train ticket. so we decided just simply flew from hangzhou to beijing and took train from beijing to harbin (because no cheap airplane ticket at the moment).

we went to beijing at 24 january, planned to stay only two nights (since the first night we arrived at beijing it has been midnight). 
on the second day we went to the tiananmen 天安门 (because you haven't been to beijing if you didn't go there) and an old street. i kinda forget the old street name, but it was just ok.

may, erica, ruth, the guard, and mr.mao

on the night we planned to go for outdoor ice skating, and yet when we arrived there it's been too late that the skate has been closed. the outdoor skating is on Shichahai 什刹海. so we decided to go back on the third day.

the weather was nice in beijing, around -5˚C at noon. so the third day, as we planned, we went back to the outdoor skating and play for around 2hrs. the place is originally a lake. and because the winter in beijing is quite freezing, the water freeze as well, let the people to play on it.
the fee is not expensive, for the shoes you can rent for just 20RMB for as long as you want until the lake is closed. they also have a place for depositing your stuff (so you don't need to carry while skating) for only 5RMB. on the ice, they also rent out a skating chair, for you who can't skate or afraid to skate without something to hold on, or simply just to rest on the middle of the ice if you are tired. or, just like the chinese, to put the things they don't want to put on the deposit box and carry all the way while skating.

it was fun after all, we even get a little of our sweat out. the sun was bright. and so it was a good day.

after skating, we went to the famous wangfujing 王府井 just to spend the time. we got our train on midnight. so we'll spend the night on the train and woke up the next day in harbin. the train was ok, i spent most of the time sleeping. and on the train, there was this notification on how's the temp out and inside. and it was written like internal temp 21˚C, external temp -21˚C. scare the hell out of me for a bit. and when we arrived we went out of the train, and the first wind that came to my face was painful. the cold is piercing to the face. and i can feel my snot frozen.

as we arrived at the hotel, everyone was so sleepy because the sleep in the train was never be a good sleep. and may who (supposed) set the alarm at 1.30 pm mistaken and making it to 1.30am. so everyone was sound a sleep and may and i pretty much woke up at the same time, and it was already 4pm. we woke ruth up and set ready to go out. the closest spot to our hotel was the St. Sophia Church. by the time we were there, it was already 5pm and the church was closed. so we took some picture outside the church, and the architecture was magnificent! 

the next spot to go is the ice festival in the zhaolin park 兆麟公园 and it was all walking distance. we walk along the central street 中央大街 with some ice sculpture in the middle of the street become exhibition. not forgetting it was like -24˚C and it was freaking cold! once we arrived at the zhaolin park, we bought the ticket with our student id (the power of student id! half price!) for 100RMB. once we got there, somehow all the electric devices were short in battery and everyone got nothing to take pictures (at that time we had like 3 handphones, 1 DSLR, and 1 power-shot camera). and like everywhere in china, there were some photographers we could hire to take photos of us. we had no choice but to hire one of them to take pictures for us or else it's gonna be a waste to be there (right now i'm still kinda confused of how their camera can be fine but ours were running out of battery). the photographer we hired was a middle-aged woman. the first price she said to us was 10RMB/pic. we didn't want to print out the photos so we asked can she just use our SD card and give us lower price. so we agreed with 5RMB/pics and she took 30more pics of us. it was a good result after all.

on the second day in harbin, we went to yabuli ski resort 亚布力. we went there by one-day tour because the place itself quite outside the harbin city and it took 3hrs by bus. we spent in total 860RMB in total (include the transport, the ski, the stuffs for the ski, tour around the village, lunch, and fun!). in yabuli  they also offer a ski coach for 200RMB/2hrs. we didn't take it because we almost got no more money left so whatever will be will be. it was fun, not so much photos from the camera because walking with the ski shoes and the sticks were already a challenge for us, so we didn't want to risk the SLR to skiing along with us. most of the photos were taken by iphone. it was tiring and it was cold. but above all, it was fun!

because without failing you can't success

it was around -17˚C when we skiing but it's either the clothes or the ski itself that didn't let us feel cold. or at least not as cold as it was on the previous day. we got back to the city just right for dinner time. we had some local dish that is ok, and back straight hotel. it was a tiring day. the third day and the last day in harbin, we went to this famous ice sculpture festival in sun island scenic area 太阳岛. the hotel guy said we better go there at night, since on daytime we only can see white. but we had no choice since we had to fly back to hangzhou at 4pm that day. so whatever will be will be.

so we went there by taxi. the ticket price was 120RMB because it was daytime. and it's gonna be doubled at night. it was still ok to be there at daytime, since the people are less and you can take a lot of pictures with some strange pose without people looking at you. and on that day, it was also as not as cold as the first day we arrived. it was only -10˚C and we were happy. 

i guess it's inappropriate to sit on that, but we just had fun :)

the photos was taken by the security guard who has been to singapore (so what?!)
from the sun island scenic area, we were heading back to the city and it was already around 12pm. our flight was at 4pm so we planned to go to the airport at around 2pm. there was still time, so we decided to go back to the church to see what's inside.

a little bit history about the church. the church is the largest eastern orthodox church in the far east. it was built by the russian on 1907. the byzantine style church is so beautiful, it is said to look as if it had been made by God's hand. in fact, st. sophia means God's wisdom. (http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/heilongjiang/harbin/st-sophia-church.htm)

i was a little bit shock when there was the sign to buy ticket to get into the church (like since when do you have to pay to get into the church?! but well, it's china after all!). it was 20RMB and 10RMB for student, so it was still ok. once we got inside, i myself felt disappointed because the church was just a museum now. there were hanging some pictures of harbin on old time on the wall. so it was just like that. but still, on the outside it was a beautiful architecture of the past.

after finish visiting the church, we went back to the hotel to take our stuffs and headed straight to the airport by taxi. it was a fun (and freezing) journey with them and a fun (and freezing) experience as well. can't wait for the next destination! :)

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