Saturday, July 20, 2013

Harbin - Day 1

Deanna and I woke up this morning about 7 a.m. feeling pretty good. I was so tired I hardly noticed that the bed felt like I was sleeping on a tabletop. We got showered and dressed and went down to breakfast. The breakfast buffet at the Gloria Hotel had some western options, but for the most part it was a typical Chinese breakfast. It was very good though.
 
The hotel is very busy. There are many travel groups and there are many families here for a hockey tournament. We are quite the novelty being western and have garnered lots of attention and have posed for many photos.
 
After breakfast, Deanna and I walked along the Songhua River. We met our guide, Sophie, at 10 a.m. in the lobby. Sophie flew up last night from southwest China and is a guide for our agency. She will be spending the week with us in Harbin. She took us on a brief tour to show us some of the sights of Harbin and so we could get our bearings.
 
Sophie told us that Harbin is referred to in China as the "Oriental Paris". It really is a lovely city with the Russian-influenced, Byzantine architecture and the cobblestone streets. Harbin has a population of 12 million people. Emma Claire is north of the city, not too far away in SuiHua, which has a population of 5 million people.
 
It was really nice to get out and walk. The weather is about 80 degrees, much cooler than Beijing and southern China, but it is still very humid. We went to Wal-Mart this afternoon to purchase some water and it is not air-conditioned. Deanna and I were dripping sweat and appeared to be the only one's doing so! Sophie was in jeans and never even glistened.

Our hotel.
 
Tour groups for the publishing fair that is going on in Harbin this week.


Some waders and a swimmer in the Songhua River.


St. Sophia church, which is now a museum.


Cable cars that take you to Sun Island.

A ship made from succulents.

The book fair on the main shopping street in Harbin.
 
Later in the afternoon we went for a walk again by the river. We made a friend, Mike, who translates Chinese documents into English. While he writes English, he doesn't get to speak English that often. He asked if we could practice with him by asking him questions about Harbin. We had a nice conversation with Mike about his life in Harbin. We met his wife and 9-month old daughter. Mike also gave us some sightseeing tips and even cracked a few jokes.

For dinner, our guide Sophie, took us to a famous dumpling restaurant. The dumplings were great and we had a local potato dish, which was very good also.
Orient King of Dumplings.

Tomorrow, we are going to take the gondola to Sun Island and visit some of the ice sculptures kept indoors from the winter ice festival.
 

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