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near Harbin, Heilongjiang (China)
The Harbin ice sculptures and palaces are a world class attraction, the largest and most spectacular of its kind.
The admission fee is relatively high, however seniors (+65) discounts are available, including for international visitors (for senior discount bring passport to ticket purchase hall and show it again with the discount ticket at entrance gates).
The saved track includes a 15 RMB taxi ride (booked by mobile phone app) from a hotel in the south-east part of Harbin City to the Ice Palace grounds. The actual walking is only 3 or 4 kilometres, and rated moderate difficulty due to frequent ice stairs and surfaces, and normal arctic winter conditions.
Recorded on evening of January 3, 2019 at approx minus 26 deg. Celsius. Dress as if in Siberia, Nome, or Yellowknife, or at least prepare hot water thermos, instant heat pads, and ear protection. Many have impressive parkas (often fashion brand versions). Ocassional Mao style khalki-green army parkas and hats are also on display. There are hot soup (40 RMB) shacks where one can sit down and get warm. The track had to be cut short due to mobile phone battery drain and camera freeze up, due to cold. It gets even colder later in the evening.
There were dense departing crowds later in the evening, and a wait in cold for regular taxis. These may be fixed price (we were offered 50 RMB to downtown). The phone app taxis don't come under these conditions.
Alternatively, the adventurous and fit can pile onto crowded 2 RMB buses which only have one other stop, in the middle of downtown Harbin. After a hot drink near the downtown bus stop, a cell phone taxi was obtained relatively quickly.
It's easiest to view the route using the "Open Street" or "Open Cycle" Maps available in Wikiloc. The default Google Map doesn't work in China or is not properly geo-referenced (apparently an unresolved issue between Google and China). There is also a Heilongjiang Province free Wikiloc map download, which facilitates navigation and the recording of new Wikilocs in the Province.
Using a mobile phone ride-hail app we quickly got to the event for 15 RMB, much cheaper than the normal hail taxis. The app shows the car location and progress on map view, its arrival time, and allows easy payment from a mobile phone using WeChat Pay or Ali Pay (need local bank account to set that up).
Walking from taxi drop off to the ticket purchase hall.
Ticketed visitors on the day were far below capacity, possibly due to early January date and the onset of extreme January cold. There was also lots of activity and bigger crowds outside the ticket gates.
After purchasing ticket proceed to the entry turn-styles. The interior is less crowded and more relaxing than the crowded areas outside the ticket gates.
The iconic ice bridge, and nearby ice castles.
Cathederal and Chinese zodiac sculptures. Additional large castles were still under construction in this area (early January, 2019). There are short ice slides in this area; much larger and longer ice toboggan slides are located to the south of the ice bridge.
A proper bell platform near here.
Waypoint is at the hot soup shacks, very welcome at -26 deg C. [40 RMB for a basic instant spicy noodle with pork soup.]