Lions, Tigers, and Even the Occasional Liger

Harbin – Land of Snow and Ice

Yep, that about sums it up!

So, why take a holiday to the frozen tundra of northern China, so northern that it’s nearly Russian? But really, why not?

Since the main attraction is the snow and ice sculptures, we bounced out early morning on Saturday to see the cobbled streets and our breath on the cold air. Bundled up, we waddled along a bit like penguins, sliding along the icy streets. The way we moved looked like Mario in his penguin suit, if I do say so.

The architecture in Harbin is a mixture of contemporary (on newer buildings), Russian, and Chinese. The blend can vary from street to street, but where we were, in the older section of town (in a hotel that looked like our room could have hosted a smoking convention for all the ash in the carpet and cigarette burn holes in the curtains), Russian architecture appeared to dominate.

Our early excursion took us down to the water, past the celebratory monument to the people of Harbin who beat back a really bad flood in the 1960s and, and to the wonder that was winter in Harbin – dog sleds pulled not by huskies but by lean, shaggy dogs, ice slides, snowmobiles, and the like.

They do exist!

That morning, after an interesting Chinese-buffet breakfast (fried things, glutinous things, and oily things), we schlep out to the Siberian Tiger Park. This amounts to a bus ride through various enclosures with – you guessed it! – huge, hungry tigers. In case tigers weren’t enough, very large lions also lurked about. The best part of the trip was watching the tourists – they were so eager for a photograph, they were snapping at anything that moved – including the huge crows.

We waited for feeding time, but that was a bust. The Jeeps came, all decked-out with armor – but the tigers didn’t really eat anything. They just kind of meandered over lazily.

There were quite a few large cats at this park, but no bears, sadly enough. Afterwards, all I wanted was either a hot tea or a hot coffee – stat.

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