Harbin Travel guide: Tips for sunshiny Asians and more…

Harbin was a last minute addition to my recent Asia tour. I had been exploring my limitless options to spread my wings alongside my message thru my journeys around the word.

And I’m thankful that this time, my two “bodyguards” got a chance to witness and play in the snow with me. (My first virgin experience with snow was with my mom in 2000, the first day of Eid in Rotterdam, I prayed hard that it snowed and it did, after 20 years. We sled, build snowmen, and played, rolled in the snow like a bunch of kids).

Anyway, in this travel, I had to allow them to practice the skill-sets of wanderers, I’ve taught them since young. It was liberating for me to travel carefree as my kids, learn to navigate, be good money managers, socialise with the locals and many more.

And thankfully, the Universe partners with us. The weather has been kind towards us. From 20 degrees slowly descending towards 1 degrees and lastly minus 25 degrees celsius.

Though we had experiences living in Europe in winter season, the temperature has not gone beyond minus 10 for us. And minus 25 will be a challenge we had to learn to adapt. And coming from sunshiny state of Singapore, we had packed a whole load of winter stuff (mostly what my late mom has bought for us). It’s better to be prepared than sorry, right?

My head is really spinning with excitement wanting to share my experiences, but it also felt a little frozen. Need some time to thaw. Meanwhile, let me just type whatever goes in my head…

Tips: Maybe for some of you, these are trivial but for some of us who has the sun all year round, and have not experienced snow in minus 25 degrees celsius, its a biggie.

FLIGHTS
1. Ensure that the flight date you picked to travel into Harbin is not a snowing day. You can check the weather beforehand online. Because we were “snowed out”. I wanted my kids to experience abundant snow fall, cos this was their first time in snow and I actually chose the date that has snow coming in. There was a tiny symbol of snow in the weather forecast.

I was imagining little flakes of snow gently falling on our faces. But in Harbin, that was not the case. It was too much that our flights were cancelled. No flights were allowed into Harbin on that particular day. But luckily, we were given free stays in hotel in Shanghai, a place my eldest always wanted to visit.

2. Have a translator app in hand.
Though I can survive in China with my mediocre Mandarin, when one is tired, and jetlaggy, the translations became ??? And in the airport, no one really speaks English. And for stranded travellers like us, the informations were all over the place. Even the baggages were in different rows and were not shown on screens. We had to keep our eyes open for all rows that emit bags out. When we decided that our bags were totally lost and had given up, suddenly a staff out of nowhere told us to go to row 10.

I have with me screenshots/snapshots of the important words in Chinese. For example: airport, city centre, ” I don’t eat meat” and many more. In case internet connection was fuzzy/not working and my mandarin is sucky.

3. WEchat is also helpful.
I have not used wechat in ages and so I did not download it again. But through the chat, we can translate and communicate with the drivers and the locals.

4. Download maps in China to be used offline before visiting.
Google map is not sufficient. And tourist maps were not in English. I had similar “google map”issues in South Korea as well. These countries have restrictions for Google. Use their local apps for navigation and maps.Research and download before departure.


CLOTHES

1. There is a place for changing into winter clothes in Harbin Airport, where we collect our baggages. There were about 4 or 5 cubicles on the left and the right ends.

The airports are all warm enough. But the moment one stepped out to the bus or cabs, I felt the freezing air. And the winds were not kind.

From the airport to hotel: 
– Balaclava is truly appreciated in weather like this. It covers half of my face, covering the nose and mouth, and neck, only allowing the eyes to peek out in curiosity. OR just put on a winter ski mask, the woolen ones. My eldest put that one, it was good enough for him. No need, ear muffs or even scarf to cover the neck.

– winter hats are a must for us, unless you already had on the winter ski mask that covers everything.

– we figured that we taking a cab right to the doorstep of our hotel and so we dressed only in 1 thermal inner wear and winter coat that covers our knees. But it was still cold.  So dressed in more layers but easy to take out when hot e.g bus, cab etc.

– gloves are a must, I wore 1 pair of normal glove, its not enough. Either wear two normal gloves-normal meaning the woolen ones, the touchscreen gloves etc… But I recommend the snow ski gloves. Waterproof and cosy. One pair is enough, no need inner gloves. My hands are tiny, I grabbed kids (14 year olds) size in decathlon for only $8.

-snow boots and winter socks
We bought winter boots in Decathlon for SG$60, waterproof and they were good enough. The treads beneath was okay because unlike my kids, I was having trouble walking on the streets. It was slippery (one has to walk as if you are rollerblading or you can purchase extra grip pads in Harbin for your shoes.)

– I bought 2 pairs of winter socks cost $5 each at Decathlon but 1 pair is sufficient if one is wearing snow boots.

-Inner thermal wear is a must for both tops and bottoms. From the airport, 1 or 2 layers is enough with the winter jacket/coat to warm us  from the airport to hotel. Cos bus and cabs are warm.

But in Harbin attractions, we wore more layers. 2 thermal inner wear, 1 fleece and 1 winter jacket with hoodie (or a good, down jacket) for top. For bottom, I wore, 2 thermal pants (1 thicker like fleece pants) and 1  pair of jeans. My kids wore either 2 (without thermal) or  3- 1 thermal , 1 thick fleece and 1 jeans.

*And if you do not have winter jacket, like my eldest, he wore 1 thermal inner wear, 2 fleece jacket with zips and 1 waterproof jacket with hoodie (thicker than windbreaker).

** Winter stuff in Harbin is sold at much cheaper rates than in Singapore. (winter gloves only $8 for adults size whereas in Singapore, it can be as costly as 20s and 30s)

GADGETS

I’ve read in many sites about handphones cannot last in the cold weather especially in minus temperatures. For me, I have changed my Iphone to Huawei Pro30. For me, its awesome. The battery last long. Perhaps cos I placed it in a glove, just for the phone. I brought my DSLR and many backups, but I never really use it. My phone can last the whole day without using the portable battery. I did take photo shots in the snow even though my fingers got numb easily. The touchscreen gloves I bought at decathlon for less than $10, is not really helping. Its too cold, and mostly, i stripped to my bare hands to capture the shots from my phone. I rather use the ski gloves.

OTHERS

1. Heat pads – I bought them at $2 in Daiso, the biggest size ones  (palm sized) with 6 pieces in it. I don’t think they were much use. I use them as hand warmers when we were playing in the snow.

2. Thermos flask- I brought along cos my mom always brought it with us when we do road trips in Europe in Winter. Very important to bring along in attractions like Ice and Snow World. Because we were there for almost 3-4 hours and hot beverages and food were crucial to keep us warm (even though we were clothe in 4-5 layers)

Alternatively, you can buy hot drinks and food in the attractions itself. But despite its crowdedness, we get to warm ourselves up (I forgot the flask one day and we were “frozen”) with a little bit of patience.

TICKETS

1. I stayed in the Holiday Inn Harbin Centre. There were no tours but we engaged a driver for 8 hours (Holiday Inn does not encourage cabs but their own fleet of cars with personal drivers) to bring us to the touristy places. 8 hours for $100 SG, to me its a bargain. Because in my experiences with other parts of the world, average is about SG$200 for 8 hours.

** These drivers get tickets of Harbin’s attractions at prices that were lower than online. I suspected there were a bigger syndicate operating these. And these cabbies earned some commission out of these. I only had to pay upon reaching the hotel, after the attractions, to the cabbie.

CY$290 for Ice and Snow world (night) per person. And CY$130 for Siberian Tiger attraction (I should have chosen CY$110 because though I chose no glass but only the iron wire window between us and the tigers, due to language miscommunications (no one speaks english), we were treated the same as those who paid CY$110 and feeding the tigers need ALIPAY)

*but no worries, everything else, can be paid in cash in Harbin, unlike Shanghai (in some food places, they only use ALIPAY and are proud of it:)

HOTEL
Holiday Inn Hotel Harbin Centre. I knew most Singaporeans chose this hotel due to its location and cleanliness.

Location wise: Its close to most attractions but if you are as “lazy” as us, (the winter freezing weather made me extra cautious and lazy and also I got kids to protect-my excuses) who got personal drivers, then it doesn’t really matter. Yes, the Zhongyang street is just across, and it was nice to walk there among the locals, but if I got a personal driver, I rather use one than walk cautiously thru out.

Service-wise? I felt that the service was 3-3.5 though its a 4 star hotel. Lack of english speakers and the initiatives to make me comfortable or rectify the problems efficiently was greatly lacking. I was 1 day late but I already paid for the whole stay, but they gave away my room to another. And I had to wait 20 minutes for them to clean up but even so, the mugs were left uncleaned. Though they said they upgrade my room to penthouse (it was just a typical room with double single beds on top floor-14 with a see-through glass toilet. The view from our window was great but only for 1 day when there was sun, mostly the glass window was frosted)

Breakfast- they had many varieties including vegetarian options for us.

WI-FI- This i do not know. But please pay extra for the high speed internet connection in room. Because my roaming internet speed was even better than the normal wifi in the room. We cannot even surf or browse the net . I purchase the Singtel 2GB for $20 online topup which can be used in various asian countries. I was in Seoul previously and I bought this. But I cannot really use in Seoul, and before I know it, the 1Gb was used (perhaps while I Was twiddling with the settings and turning the roaming on)

ATTRACTIONS:

I had 2 days of free time (cos the rest is work) and I squeeze these for my kids…. but I take time for each attraction, so that we truly enjoy.

First Day
1. Mingdu Ski Resort (3 hours)*
2. Ice and Snow world at night (3 hours)

Second day
1. Nearest Mosque (halal restaurants are nearby) (1.5 hours)

2. Russian Street and St. Sophia Church (1 hour)

3. Songhua River (the not so crowded end) (2hours)

4. Siberian Tiger Park (1 hour)

5. Zhongyang street (after the driver dropped us at the hotel) (2 hours)

*time in brackets were the hours we spent in that attractions

6. I didn’t want to see the museum of torture (UNIT 731 Museum-during Japanese war, the Chinese were tortured and experimented there)  because we are a family of intuitive, sensitive, empaths. Though we have learnt to shield, release and healed, sometimes when tired, we became sponges, and absorp the “energies” still alive there (energies never die). I do not want my kids to experience that, though we did visit places like that in some of our travels.

7. We did not visit Sun Island to witness the Ice sculptures. We had enough. Almost everywhere, there were beautiful art pieces. We even witness some artists doing their ice sculpture in Zhongyang street. It was mesmerising. Such passion, dedication, determination and creativity from heart and soul.

More soon…

My Asia tour covers Malaysia, Korea-Seoul,  China-Yantai, Shanghai, and Taiwan …

Thankful and grateful.

Go. travel in the name of love.
Lina.

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About The Blogger:

Lina Masrina is a soul blogger, intuitive heart coach and healing facilitator. Her passion is to work with people and reconnect them to their truth: being love -authentic, peace, harmony, abundance and joyous. She is a certified law of attraction coach, certified healing coach- Emotion code practitioner, Ho’oponopono practitioner and ATS bali healer (chieftain/kamituo). (But she is not a medium: who deal with spirits, entities and departed ones)

 In her free time, she travels spontaneously; “crashing” lovingly into locals’ homes, kitchens, road trips and even weddings. She is a foodie and has eaten some bizarre meats in the world like porcupine and horseshoe crab (as long it is Halal).

 Her dream is to cover all 196 countries in this lifetime. Her blog is about her everyday peeling her own masks, while exploring vulnerability and authenticity and uncovering miracles of love. She lives in Singapore. But she work both locally and internationally.

Do contact her at linamasrina gmail dot com.

 Disclaimer: All sessions with Lina Masrina  (healing/coaching/consultations) is not counselling, mental health care or medical care and is not intended to take the place of such care. They simply attempt to make energetic shifts in your body that may help you to have a healthier, more abundant, joyous, peaceful, loving life but this is not a medically or scientifically proven process and therefore, no guarantees of results can be given. Use all the information given (on this website/sessions) at your own risk.

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