Harbin for the CSCO and Tiger Feeding
Trip Start Aug 16, 2007
5Trip End Mar 02, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Lorenzo's meeting in Harbin was just the excuse we needed to join him on a trek to northern China. Harbin is in the north eastern part of the country, not too far from the Russian border. When people talk about going they usually go in the winter for the large yearly ice festival. It certainly looks like that would be great fun for a visit especially with children as there are lots of ice slides and the like.
When we first arrived I wondered how we were going to occupy ourselves for 4 days. Harbin is a small industrial city of about 4 million. Lorenzo left for the conference and I took the kids off to the museum. It was closed and wouldn't be open for another 2 hours so we headed off to the Temple of Bliss - a much better stop. This is a large Buddhist temple complex. The kids spent the next 1 ½ looking at the wildlife namely four chipmunks and a couple of rats. It's really was the Temple of Bliss.
We had not been to a tiger park like this before! We bought our tickets at the front entrance. Mai, Lorenzo's secretary was with us as moving around China can be very difficult if you don't speak the language. Along with our tickets we saw a list of possible LIVE animals to buy for the tiger or liger feedings (cross between a tiger and a lion). I was thinking, "Can you buy a zebra??!!" While waiting for the bus a couple of huge tigers came up to the fence looking for food. They were so big and predatory. You could have easily put your finger through the fence for a tiger feeding.
The bus drives through the safari park as you view the wildlife. We were on a bus with a large group of Chinese tourists traveling together. Tigers were everywhere but the real action was when a menacing white SUV with bars covering the whole car came up to our bus and positioned itself so we could all see. The driver had four tigers circling the car and jumping on top of it. The driver used his trusty Bic lighter to try and keep the tigers away from his door long enough to open it and throw out a live chicken. You can imagine the lighter is very small and the tiger very big but it eventually worked. The tigers were so quick you couldn't even see them grab the chicken out of the air. Our fellow tourists had paid for a few more chickens so there was lots of excitement on our bus. A little later on our route we saw a sad bus filled with Chinese tourist stuck in the mud. There was absolutely no way they could get themselves out of it without a tow. A tractor had come up to the bus but the driver did not want to get out and hook the cable to the bus. These tigers come running at the sound of a car door opening. We left the group on their hot bus and moved on to a pond feeding. A duck was thrown into the water where it outsmarted a tiger so the big guy eventually gave up.
On the last day I took the children and rode a cable car across the Songhua River to the Taiyangdao Gongyuan - Sun Island Park for those who don't speak Mandarin. The children again found great entertainment collecting bottle tops on the beach for 2 hours. We then took a dragon boot back across.
Lunch was at our favorite spot for jiaozi (dumplings). These are a specialty of the north. Our favorite stuffing's were celery and pork and coriander and pork. We went everyday! There was no Zagat guide for this city so when we found a place we could eat at, we ate there!! We got to know the staff and the kids loved it especially when we discovered that they served potato stick (French fries).
Our hotel was less than stellar but we managed to find the best room in the place and made the most of it. Our first room looked as if the hotel meals were served off the floor. Needless to say breakfast became an issue as the hotel's spread was simply disgusting - no other word fits. We'd had several bad meals in row and were feeling a little desperate as our almonds and granola bars were not going to cut it that morning. We caved and for one day only did what all crazy Americans do - we went to McDonalds. This was our children's first visit to the esteemed eatery. After 8 years of holding back we dived into an Egg McMuffin and fried hash browns. I wish I could say we all loved it but we were happy to get back to Chinese street food after that.
For two dinners we went to a very nice restaurant where food is displayed downstairs (mainly live seafood). You move down the row of food options with your waitress and select your meal. They then cook it fresh and serve it to you in a private room upstairs. This food is beautifully presented and very fresh - no Crisco replicas here. You choose your seafood live from the tanks and from a wide assortment of shellfish in baskets. The room usually has a TV and maybe a bathroom if it is big so it's perfect for the kids. A high school friend of a colleague from M. D. Anderson hosted us for dinner. We had a very nice evening and learned about China's space program as he is an engineer and works on China's "Rover".