This might be a late coming trip to China and for so long we did not have a strong motivation to visit and only did so when we were planning to visit a country to experience winter at its extreme coldness. Needless to say, this time our travel map pointed to Harbin 哈尔滨, China a less travelled place.
Having experienced the coldness of Iceland and Finland last year, we were really looking forward to this trip and after 7 hours of direct flight by Scoot Airlines, we knew we were approaching Harbin as the beautiful landscape coated in white greeted us.
What an unexpected surprise! Everyone did not expect to disembark in such a manner and were rushing to the transit as cold temperature of -17°C swept over us. Up in the rural areas, the temperature were as low as (-45°C)!
The first sight of mainland China greeted us at Harbin Taiping International Airport. Before arriving, we prepared our itinerary with chinese characters included in case we needed to ask for directions. And yes, we tried our best to speak like locals as well. A little compliment when a local commented that we should be from Shenzhen or Guangzhou from the way we talked.
The usual taxi fare from airport cost around CNY150. You can either request the driver to 打表 (turn on the meter fare) which is a cheaper option or quote a flat rate. We requested to 打表 but the driver claimed the meter was spoiled and quoted us CNY240 to our hotel!
In China, traffic jam is called 堵车 ( duche / dŭchē ).
The journey from the airport to our hotel took about 40 mins. Admiring the interesting sights along the way.
Holiday Inn Harbin City Centre
Most of the visitors in Harbin were on group tours and we were one of the few who travelled by ourselves. Well, we told the taxi driver we were only paying him CNY200 instead of CNY240 and he took it and said 没事 (no problem) which we learnt the locals also used these words often in their conversation.
We booked Holiday Inn Harbin City Centre during our stay as we done our research that it is located in the center of Harbin and is directly in front of Zhongyang dajie 中央大街 (Central Main Street), where it has galore of restaurants, cafes, bakery and shoppings.
Big & Small M were glad to escape from the cold.
A glimse of our room which is a bit crampy but we guessed most of the time we would be outdoors so we were fine with it.
Misty view from our room. We took a breather to unload our luggages before hitting the streets!
Address: China, Heilongjiang, Harbin, Daoli, 经纬街90号 邮政编码: 150010
Zhongyang dajie 中央大街 (Central Main Street)
Known as the ‘Eastern Moscow’, Harbin has been regarded as a unique and exotic city. The most exotic place in Harbin is the Central Street, which is the longest and largest Pedestrian Street in Asia and is akin to the Orchard Road of Singapore. It was first built in 1898 named “China’s Big Street” and was renamed “Central Street” in 1925.
The Central Street spans over 1.2km and it is less than 100m from Holiday Inn Harbin City Centre.
One advantage of visiting Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街 is that it is a long and straight stretch of road. It won’t be easy to get lost here.
Time for lunch. We were recommended by the locals that this chinese restaurant is a must-try as the dishes are prepared and smoked over woks.
Choosing a live fish.
We ordered 2 dishes – steamed fish and beef stew mixed with tofu, carrot, potates and cabbages.
Before savouring the dishes, we had to wait 20 mins for them to be fully cooked. A timer was put in front of us.
Long awaited hot piping Harbin delicacies 🙂
The dishes were really nice especially the fish although the beef tasted a tad saltish. Big M wanted to try this restaurant again before we returned home.
It started to snow when we stepped out of the restaurant. What a beautiful sight as if we are in a fairy land 🙂
We spent the rest of the day exploring Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街. This place is kind of touristy and we do not recommend shopping except for trying the local delicacies if you are feeling peckish. Big & M at this store selling bingtanghulu which is a traditional Chinese snack of candied fruit originated from northern China.
One of our favourite bakery, Bomele Cafe in Harbin.
It has many beautiful selections of pastries and cakes which we find that Singapore pales in comparison to Harbin in our humble opinions. As we couldn’t take many pictures inside the bakery, you have to be here to see the amazing designs of breads and cakes. What a high standard Harbin set!
The staircase leads us to the 2nd level where there is a cafe.
Small M wanted to explore the balcony but the ground was too slippery due to the falling snow.
Address: 45 Zhongyang St, ZhongYang DaJie, Daoli Qu, Haerbin Shi, Heilongjiang Sheng, China, 150010
After a brief walk, another bakery and cafe caught our attention.
Look at the interior deco of this cafe. So cute!
The streets were slippery and they had a ball of time playing. Daylight is limited during winter and the sky was beginning to get dark.
We were just walking on the streets and getting soaked in the atmosphere.
Jinan International Shopping Plaza | Euro Plaza
This is Jinan international Shopping Plaza or Euro Plaza which sells international brands. A good place for us to have a rest after being out in the cold.
Some picturesque spots within Euro Plaza.
Can’t resist but to try out the beef noodles to share among ourselves (CNY15).
Harbin may be a place less-travelled but it has opened our eyes to the rest of China in terms of their progress and development. It is a far-cry to the laid-back impression that people have.
E-payment has already become a norm here and almost everyone is using it. We feel that Singapore is lagging so much behind..
The food in the mall are freshly prepared and cooked in front of you.
Cute selection of beverages.
We thought some of the packaging looks cute and bought them home as water bottles.
Katong Laksa in Harbin!
Address: ZhongYangDaJie 69Hao JinAn GuoJi GouWuGuangChang Jin ZhongYang ShangCheng, Harbin, China
When we left Euro Plaza and stepped onto the streets, the place was filled with snow.
A cheap or rather free form of entertainment for Big & Small M – playing with the snow at (-24°C).
Street vendors out in the cold selling winter items.
Mykal Mall sells branded items and has an upscale supermarket. The products are more expensive. We did not find any interesting eateries inside.
Address: ShangZhi DaJie 75Hao ShiTou Dao JieKou, Harbin, China
Saint Sophia Cathedral 圣索菲亚教堂
The beautiful St. Sophia Cathedral in Harbin is the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the Far East. It is 53.3 meters (175 feet) high and occupies an area of 721 square meters (0.18 acres). In November, 1996, it was listed as one of the Key Cultural Relics under State Protection. It is about 2km from our hotel.
Designed by a Russian architect, the main central building has a standard large dome, just look like other featured buildings in Russia, towering & spacious.
Many visitors were out here taking pictures and enjoying the snow.
Address: 88 Toulong St, Daoli Qu, Haerbin Shi, Heilongjiang Sheng, China, 150010
We had a long flight and thought we pretty covered much of our itinerary for the day. As we walked back to our hotel, we passed by Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街 and it was still bustling with activities and shoppers late at night. The Chinese were really brave as many of them were eating ice cream even though we were out in the extreme cold. One good thing was that they do not have to “rush” themselves to finish the ice cream as it is not going to melt!
Piping hot beef skewers.
We tried the fried squid and chicken cutlet. They tasted yummy!
So much delicacies to try but our stomach were full. One last item we tried was the meat balls before we returned to the hotel and rest.
Stay tune on our upcoming blog posts on Harbin 哈尔滨.
Just travel and such. Click here to follow Katong Kids Inc Facebook Page to stay tune on the next travel post.
All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.