A Cool Northern Escape
If one wants to visit a Chinese city that bears little resemblance to Beijing, Harbin is the place to go. Its proximity to Russia is exhibited in the city’s exquisite architecture, with Russian Orthodox churches neighboring Buddhist temples in a relaxing, riverfront city. Stalin Park is hardly reminiscent of Soviet Russia but does have lovely, tree-lined playgrounds for kids and cafes for the older set. The Siberian Tiger Park offers a rare look at over 500 endangered Manchurian tigers and is a great place to bring young ones. After a morning of animal watching, the nearby Sun Island Resort, complete with a water park, private boats and lush gardens, offers a pleasant retreat. During winter months, Harbin has spectacular ice lanterns, snow carvings and ice sports.
The Travelers: The English/Indonesian/Australian Turner family – Lewis and Ningsih and their daughters Cassie (14) and Vicky (12).
On the Road: Instead of carefully planning, the Turners simply grabbed a map and started driving, taking the Jingcheng Expressway carrying a full car kit (including a spare tire), packing enough food provisions and taking emergency numbers.
Animal Parks: Bears normally hibernate in these temperatures – but not polar bears! Cassie and Vicky recommend a visit to Polarland, where they saw the bears along with penguins and seals.
Chill Out: Harbin’s winter temperatures can drop to -40°C, which make for great skiing and snowboarding conditions, while summers range in the comfortable mid-20°C range – perfect for an escape from Beijing’s severe summers.