Since ice abounds in Harbin, you must go to a legit ice bar.
The only one we knew of was at the Shangri-La Hotel. After a filling meal at a Russian café (they were closing and got the food out lightning fast to us), we walked around main street for while before finding a cab to take us to the hotel. We were able to pile in all five of us – I’ve always wondered what a clown car is like, and now I have my answer! – and jetted off to the ice bar.
The ice bar seems like a “secret” world. You have to ask directions from the hotel staff on how to find it tucked away down the corridors. Opening the door to it is a bit like stepping into a meat locker in an industrial space.
But then, it turns sort of warm and cozy. The bar and the room itself is a bit like an igloo, with giant ice blocks making up the walls and everything in it. Ironically, the décor was a bit Native American, complete with a cow skull on the wall and a teepee. The seats and tables were ice as well, ice blocks with cushions to keep your patookus from freezing.
At first, we ordered mugs of gluwein to ward off the chill. The bottoms of the mugs actually made “coffee rings” in the ice of the tables. Cool. Then, we decided that Russian vodka in ice glasses were necessary. And yes, they were! But, you had to drink the vodka before the “heat” of it totally melted the ice glass. One must be quick on the draw with that one.
After about an hour in the ice bar, we headed back to the hotel and ran into two other friends of ours who had traveled to Harbin that weekend too. We spent some time that evening listening to some guy sing really bad karaoke, but it sure made his girlfriend happy to hear him caterwauling way for over an hour.
A very fun evening in the frosty North.