We were impressed on our first day in Harbin 哈尔滨 and felt that it is one of the ideal travel destinations for famililes with kids without taking long flights. Come Day 2, we had the whole day to explore Harbin and we booked a personal driver from the hotel. It cost us CNY400 for the whole day transport which was considered reasonable.
The car’s interior was new and very clean.
Our driver vetted our itinerary and recommended which were the more worthy-to-visit attractions to explore. Some sights during our journey to the first attraction.
Jiuzhan Park 九站公园 | Stalin Park 斯大林公园
It was still early in the morning at 8am and what better way to start off than to visit the parks. Jiuzhan Park and Stalin Park are located next to each other so arriving here means hitting 2 locations at one go.
One thing we learnt about winter is that the temperature seems to be bearable when it is snowing but come “post-snow”, the cold can be very trying. Big & Small M could barely venture out for 5 mins and had to retreat to the car.
Stalin Park is located on the south bank of the Songhua River. The park is featured by Russian style flower beds and sixteen groups of art sculptures and is lavishly vegetated with flowers and trees. Both parks are quiet and what you find in the morning are locals gathering to chat or exercising.
The river bank of Songhua River is…
These are one of those places for sightseeing, mingling with locals and witnessing their way of life.
Address: Jiuzhan Park, South Bank of the Songhua River, Daoli District, Harbin 150000, China | Stalin Park, South Bank of the Songhua River, Daoli District, Harbin, China
Visitors are attracted to Harbin for winter skiing every year, especially during Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. There are dozens of skiing resorts in and around Harbin and it’s hard to compare which is better. Our take is to do skiing without much travelling. Those who booked through tour groups would usually visit Yabuli Ski Resort which is about 4 hours drive from the city. Yabuli is a large resort but be mindful that there will be many visitors due to its popularity and after skiing there might not have much interesting activities for you to do over there.
This should be the nearest skiing centre from Harbin City which is within 1 hour drive.
Skiing doesn’t come cheap either. It cost us CNY160 per pax to ski and another CNY160 to engage a personal trainer. We preferred not to pay for personal trainers but they were sticking to us like bees and persuading us to engage their services while warning us of the dangers of skiing for the first-timers.
Well, we did engage them eventually and realised that it was better off to do so. The slope was slippery and we got to learn basic skiing skills.
For a start, this skiing centre has 2 skiing slopes. One of them was constructed with scaffolding (left side of the picture) which looked really scary as we were wondered if it was really stable. Good that we were not skiing on that though.
And what a fun we had though we were exhausted at the end! We felt the kids pick up skiing really fast and did not fall down so often.
Our personal trainers were patient and took good care of us. What we observed was that they stick closely to the time. When the hour was up, they would go off unless we were willing to pay them extra which we didn’t.
Big & Small M having fun at this corner. Did we read Singapore as role model?
This was our first skiing experience – expensive, exhausting and enriching. We learnt from a taxi driver that it is never cheap to do skiing but for the locals, they could actually ski at CNY80 which he would not want to reveal the location. Before leaving the ski centre, one of the staff tried to us photos taken during skiing – CNY20 for 1 photo. We managed to bargain to buy all the photos for a total of CNY50.
On our way out, we could see construction for Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. Hard work!
Time for lunch! Our driver brought us to this restaurant.
The restaurant owner tried to convince us to try the fish but the price were exorbitant. Another customer also refused to order their fishes.
What we like was the ambience of this restaurant which was reminisced of mongolia. The dining corner was so village-like and cosy.
The dishes were authentic and really delicious. The portion was huge as well and we could not finish them although our driver was dining together with us.
We are beginning to like China dishes after this.
Sun Island (Tai Yang Dao) 太阳岛
Sun Island Scenic Area is located by northern shore of Songhua River in downtown Harbin. Sun Island Park covers an area of 15 square kilometers and is featured by cultural attractions and natural landscapes. Our next stop was supposed to be Polarland but since Sun Island is just next to it we decided to stop over here to take pictures and explore the vicinity.
A scenic and popular spot to take pictures.
From December to next February, Sun Island Scenic Area is the main venue of the International Snow Sculpture Art Expo. During this time, varieties of ice and snow sculpture statues will be presented for visitors to view.
Address: No.3 Jingbei Road, Pingfang District, Harbin 150000, China.
Harbin Polar Land
Just next to Sun Island in Harbin city, the Harbin Pole Aquarium (also called Harbin Polar land) is a strongly recommended attraction to visit especially for the kids.
It is the first polar land themed park combining animal shows, polar land sights and an interactive experience into one. Upon entering, the first part we had was milk-feeding the kois.
The kois were really hungry and ferocious, nibbling at the bottle tit the moment they got hold of it.
Feeding the sea lions.
“South Pole Penguin’s Island” has swimming and diving penguins, as well as Manpo, the first South Pole penguin born in Harbin.
In Harbin Polarland, we also get to see animals from the North Pole such as arctic wolves, arctic foxes and polar bears.
It has an unique polar beluga subaqueous show which was the highlight of this attraction — The Heart Of Ocean!
Beluga show can be seen both above and below the surface. The biggest starts of Harbin Polarland are Mira and Nicola, beluga whales who perform a romantic “Heart of the Ocean” routine.
Apart from the beluga show, there is also a walrus and sea lion show.
Address: 3 Taiyang Ave, Songbei Qu, Haerbin Shi, Heilongjiang Sheng, China, 150028
Entrance Fee: CNY 150 (including white whales and sea lions performances);
CNY 75 for children between 3.9 and 4.6 feet (1.2 to 1.4 meters);
Free for children below 3.9 feet (1.2 meters).
Siberian Tiger Park 哈尔滨东北虎林园
Next, we travelled up to north bank of the Songhua River to the northwest of Harbin to visit the Siberian Tiger Park. The park occupies an area of 1,440,000 square meters (355.8 acres). It is the largest natural park for wild Siberian tigers in the world at present.
We were looking forward to visit Siberian Tiger Park as this is the only place in the world one can get to see so many tigers roaming freely in the park. There are more than 500 pure-bred Siberian tigers at the park in which about 100 of them visible to visitors. What’s more tigers are already facing extinction which turns out to be an educational trip for us.
The park tour comes in different timing. Visitors will be led to this big bus fenced with wire mesh. The entire tour takes about half an hour in which there is a tour guide inside the bus explaining to us about tigers.
Tiger spotting along the way…
We were wondering why the tigers were so active inspite of the cold weather and realised that they were actually only half-fed at all times so that they would maintain their predator-instinct and keep looking out for food. This was contrary of other zoos we visited where the tigers are fed regularly and doesn’t display much activeness and energy.
Apart from tiger, the park is also home to white tigers, Bengal tigers, lions, pumas, and lynx. No idea what this creature looks like – lion?
Tigers are only interested to feed on live animals. This was the part of the tour where adults had to pay an extra CNY25 per pax to watch live feeding of chicken.
After the bus tour, we disembarked onto elevated walk way to view the tigers. Attendants will be there to ask visitors to feed the tigers for a small fee. A live chicken is attached to a fishing pole which you can dangle into the cage and watch the tigers rapidly kill and eat it.
It was snowing again when we finished touring the park.
Address: 88 Songbei Road, Songbei district, Harbin, Heilongjiang, China | 黑龙江省哈尔滨市松北区松北街88号
Harbin Flood Control Memorial Tower 哈尔滨防洪纪念塔
It was about 5pm and the sky was already dark. The traffic was quite bad at this peak hour.
Harbin Flood Control Memorial Tower is located at the other end of Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街 in which this landmark commemorates heroes who helped the city fight off floods of the Songhua River in 1957. The army built the tower and huge embankments to protect the city from future destruction, and the memorial commemorates the heroic spirit of those who defended the city. The 22.5 m (47 ft) tower has markings to delineate the highest water levels from floods in both 1932 and 1957. Big & Small M were sleeping so we just captured the moments before leaving.
Address: Zhongyang Main Street, Daoli District, Harbin 150000, China
On our way back to hotel, we stopped by outside a convenience store to buy mineral water. An interesting sight of 2 children playing in the snow.
Finally back to the hotel at 6pm. Look at the snow!
We had light dinner in the hotel’s cantonese restaurant.
Lu Rou Fan (Braised Pork Rice) 滷肉飯.
This is Harbin 哈尔滨
We learnt from the forecast that it might not be snowing for the next few days so to make the full use of the night, we had fun in the snow and capturing Harbin local scenes at its best. The roads were slippery and it was not uncommon to see even the locals falling down while crossing the roads.
The building is dilapidated but it brings out so much originality and down-to-earth feel.
A simple eatery that doesn’t look fanciful on the outside but who knows, it may whip up delectable meals when you least expected.
Such restaurants could be found from the side-lanes of Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街.
A random hotel.
A cool sight of a child being towed with a plastic toboggan-style sled.
Soaking under snowy conditions.
Ending the day with a late-night supper – xiao long bao and dumpling soup.
So fairy-tale like!
Yes, this is Harbin 哈尔滨.
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