Holy Moly it was cold this year. I only went on the trip this year because my wife didn’t go last year. Anyone who endures a winter in this part of China should see this celebration of…cold. It’s a rite of passage. In other words, I figured that if I had to suffer through it, it was only fair that my wife suffer through it as well. And it was worth punishing myself to go a second time, so that she could get punished, too.
The day we arrived in Harbin, it was -20º Celsius, well below zero Fahrenheit. The whole thing is outdoors, so you really have to be careful how you dress. Dressing in layers is only part of it.
The ice festival is in two parts. The ice sculpture part is best viewed at night, because following China’s idea of good taste, the sculptures are lit up in neon lights. “Gaudy” doesn’t really do it justice: “in your face” is closer to the experience.
The ice sculpture part is crowded, bitterly cold, and frenetic. Just getting into the park was stressful. Traffic was terrible, parking was a mess. Once we were in, we lasted less that two hours, then we were ready to leave.
The other part of the festival is the snow sculptures. That part is in a park, and it’s a lot more relaxing. There are a lot fewer people there, it’s spread out over a larger area, and you go during the daytime.
I’m starting to think that a lot of attractions in China are things that you see in order to say that you saw them, rather than things that you see in order to enjoy them. There’s a folk saying in China that if you haven’t climbed the Great Wall, then you aren’t really a man. There’s an ironic second line that goes after you have climbed the Great Wall, you are full of regret (it rhymes in Chinese).
I’m glad that I went to the ice festival the first time. I endured the second trip. Neither was much fun. It was cold both times.
But I can say that I went.