Homepage Everyday Adventures Work Visit! Contact

Winter Weekend in Harbin
January 28 - 31, 2005

Harbin, the capital of China’s far northeastern province of Heilongjiang (“Black Dragon River”), is famous for – well, for being really, really cold in winter.


In the early to mid-20th century, Harbin hosted an influx of Russians fleeing the Soviet Union. For a couple of decades during that time it took on the look of a small Russian town, complete with an onion-domed church.

The abundance of other pastel-colored, Russian-style buildings makes strolling down Harbin's main streets feel like you’re on the Nevskii Prospekt in St. Petersburg.


Given its history, Harbin has added the title of “Little Moscow” to its claims to fame.

A much more ambitious, spectacular – and successful – effort to lure tourists to Harbin, even in the dead of winter, is the annual Harbin Ice Lantern Festival (called “bing deng jie” in Chinese). Tom and I had heard about this festival when we lived in China in the 1980s, but had never managed to get there. For years afterwards, “going to the Harbin ice festival” served as a kind of shorthand between us to express our shared dream of wild adventures in remote places even after we had had children and embarked on careers.

Since the 1980s, the festival has grown from a relatively small assemblage of ice sculptures in one of central Harbin’s small parks into a huge display of massive, even life-sized ice buildings in a 50-acre area outside the city.

When Beijing’s Chinese Culture Club (CCC), a group we often join for tours and activities, offered a weekend trip to Harbin just before Chinese new year, we promptly signed up. Before we left, we scoured Beijing for the warmest clothing we could find, and grew more excited about realizing our long-held dream of adventures in ice and snow.

Next: The overnight train


Harbin chapter shortcuts: Intro Train Wonders Sculptures Tigers Ice Dreams Sunday Stroll

Homepage Everyday Adventures Work Visit! Contact