Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Harbin - Day 6 - Lions & Tigers & Ligers

Today is our last full day in Harbin. Tomorrow we fly out to Guangzhou to complete the U.S. side of the adoption after we receive Emma Claire's Chinese passport.

While I have enjoyed my stay in Harbin and getting to know Emma Claire's province, I must admit that I am looking forward to being able to blend in a little more as Guangzhou will have many other families who are adopting. This morning at breakfast, the manager had the wait staff place a wooden screen around us so we couldn't be seen. Very, very odd. We are still uncertain if it was for our privacy or if it was to shield the Chinese guests from the two American ladies with the Chinese baby. They weren't even shy that the screen was for us. It surrounded us. I could barely push my chair out and squeeze through to be out of our "corner" to go and get a refill of coffee. 

Emma Claire took a nap after breakfast and I ran to Wal-Mart to pick up some baby items. I walked by the fruits and noticed two varieties of melon that I had never seen. I was trying to determine what they were exactly when a older Chinese woman noticed me, grabbed my hand and began a lecture in Mandarin in how to pick the best melon. She was very animated in showing me how to look at the stem of the melon. She then selected one, gave me a thumbs up and placed it in my arms and directed me to the weight scales where a Wal-Mart employee was waiting to weigh and tag it with a price. Somehow I went into Wal-Mart for baby wipes and came out with (what we have now determined thanks to the Internet) a Korean melon. 

In the late morning, we headed out to the Siberian Tiger Preserve, which is a popular tourist destination in Harbin. 
Tiger park entrance.

Emma Claire wasn't impressed much.
 

The preserve is well-known for allowing visitors to purchase live chickens, rabbits, goats and cows and feeding them to the tigers. The growth in Harbin is astounding, and the preserve is surrounded by western style high rise apartment buildings on all sides. 
The Siberian tigers with the amazing growth/sprawl in the background.

You board a bus and drive through the preserve where the very large and impressive Siberian tigers are lounging and waiting for someone to pay the 60 yuan and have a chicken thrown at them. 

A tour bus driving through the preserve.


The size of the tigers was amazing.



They kind of know the meal truck which throws out the live food....

The truck selling live chickens, rabbits, etc.

There are also lions lazing about.



After the drive through the preserve, everyone disembarks for a walking tour. This is truly where the live animal feeding occurs. We saw several people purchase chickens and have them thrown into the tigers and another who opted to have the chicken ziplined to the tree, where it hung until a very large tiger crawled up the tree to retrieve it. Others opted to feed the tigers steak through the protective cage.
 

Chickens for sale.
 


Feeding time.


This tiger made off with the live chicken.

The tigers are truly impressive to see up so close. There are other big cats on display, like a Liger.


After our morning excursion, we returned to the hotel and decided to be adventurous and head out to lunch at a well-known Russian restaurant, Katusha, said to have the best Russian food in China, and next door to our hotel, which we just figured out after a week here. Best news, their menus are in three languages--Chinese, Russian and English! It was great food, much better than the pseudo-Chinese/Russian food we had earlier in the week.

Tonight we went to eat Dongbei cuisine, which is the traditional dishes of Northeast China. Sophie has been a really good sport as Deanna and I have asked to go to restaurants out of her southeast China comfort zone. It's been fun to discover new foods and cuisines with Sophie as our guide. We said tonight that there are many cultural norms when dining out that we as Americans would never pick up on without some guidance, like napkins are an extra charge and aren't free, a lot of sit-down restaurants are pay up front and you get a discount on your food for paying with a credit card instead of cash.

Tomorrow we leave the northernmost "major" city of China and head to one of the southernmost cities. It's a four and a half hour flight, so it will be a first run through with Emma Claire before the long haul flight next Thursday. We're hoping for a nice flight with NONE of the delays typical of domestic Chinese air travel. 









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