After strolling down the river, we hopped onto our bus for a short drive to the optimistically-named Sun Island in the middle of the Songhua. The ice festival relocated here a few years ago after outgrowing the downtown area. Our first stop was a park hosting the annual international snow sculpture competition.
Take another look at these photos. That is not cement -- everything is carved out of snow (except the big boulder with the Chinese characters on it). Remember the snowmen you used to make as a kid? Thought yours were pretty good, did you? Well, this place will put your best creations to shame!
Apparently teams come from all over the world to compete, but apart from a few, obscure mentions of prizes near a couple of the sculptures, there were no signs or explanations. Too bad, since they were so magnificent we would have loved to know more about who made them, and how.
But just viewing them was pretty spectacular:
February, 2005 begins the year of the rooster, so naturally a huge one stood front and center in the park. Sami found a sculpture of her own Chinese zodiac sign, the pig!
Remember, this is all MADE OF SOLID SNOW! I wish we could have seen them being made, and its too bad that photographs can't really convey their size, splendor, and detail.
If you ever go to an ice festival, remember that extreme cold drains camera batteries really fast. We learned the hard way, so I had to be sparing in my use of the camera - but the power never lasted long enough to do justice to what we saw.
I used the remnants of juice in my extra battery to snap a few shots of the girls zipping down an enormous snow slide:
Despite our warm clothes and the hot chocolate, we all needed to thaw out. Fortunately it was time for lunch!
The CCC bus took us back into town to a fabulous jiaozi guan – a dumpling restaurant. Dumplings are, of course, easily found in Beijing, but are also popular throughout northern China. These Harbin-style jiaozi were fantastic. Hot and juicy, plate after plate of various kinds arrived at our table to go with accompanying cold sliced meats and vegetables. Having stuffed ourselves, it was time to get back on the bus.
Next stop: Harbin’s Siberian tiger