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Harbin for a few days

View Jilin 2018-2019 & Greece trip, 2018 on baixing's travel map.

My schedule so far is only one day a week, so I headed to Harbin for a while. Thursday morning, I went to the railway station to pick up tickets to Harbin. There were no seats until 11 a.m. and I had forgotten my iPod charger, so I went back home to get it before I left.

The directions to the hostel were very clear and simple, so I got there on the bus with very minimal problems. I checked in and got a whole dorm to myself. Then I went and walked around in the "Russian" area. I went home a little underwhelmed because everything was tacky and brand new, aside from a few remaining heritage buildings saved by the government.
Heritage buildings
The beginning of Zhong Yang Street
A few preserved buildings
This is Stalin Park
In the morning, I went back and ambled around the park which is the site of the Ice Festival in winter, Zhaolin Park.
The famous Russian church, St. Sophia's was also disappointing, but what can you do? It was closed for renovations.
I went back to the hostel still a little underwhelmed by it all, so I decided to take it up a notch and venture out to the southern suburbs to see the former site of a germ warfare lab established by Japan in the 1930s. It took at least an hour to get there in sometimes atrocious traffic, but holy it was intense and worth the trip. There was a lot of information in English and it's always incredible to learn about underreported events in history.

The architecture of the entire place immediately plunged me into a state of deep depression, even before I took a step inside. What's left of the prison and labs are solemn and stark, with walkways to meander around the remains, similar to those at the Terracotta Warriors site in Xi'an.

I'm not a big fan of dark tourism, and it wasn't my intention to visit this place at all, but boredom and curiosity got the best of me, so I went anyway. Being entertained by other people's misery is immoral and distasteful, but I suppose a museum such as this one is essential for the preservation of history and the awareness of the public. I believe that a few of the exhibits pushed the shock factor a little too far, namely the statues and dioramas of various kinds of torture inflicted on the "maruta", human logs as the Japanese called them. But how else can you fill such a museum, besides displaying endless salvaged scientific implements and showing endless footage of witness testimony. What else is left but plastic reproductions of terrified people in gas chambers, or men tied up to trees with icicles dripping from frozen solid limbs, am I right? I dunno, I went back to the hostel thoroughly emotionally and physically exhausted and fell right asleep.
A neighbourhood slightly to the east of me was also recommended in the Lonely Planet, but I disagreed. The Temple of Bliss was typical of every other gleaming new Buddhist site plunked down anywhere in China, and I took the wrong road to the Confucian temple, but I'm sure it was also more of the same.
For some unexplained reason, the amusement park was also recommended, maybe because of its age? It was built sometime in the late 1950s and it's still going. I took a ride on the overpriced ferris wheel, because what else was I doing here for so many days? According to Wikipedia, it's the world's 20th tallest ferris wheel as of time of writing.
I took a nap and then headed back to the old Russia area to pick up tickets for the chamber music concert that night. While waiting for the show to start, I happened upon a night market, where I chowed down on barbecued oysters, squid and beer for 35 yuan ($7).
The concert was very cute and they sang a lot of classic Russian opera songs, including the one from Tetris. I couldn't control the giggles when they sang Edelweiss in English, their accents were adorable "blaaiiss my homerand folevuhh" but their vocal talent was amazing. I can't imagine spending a lifetime honing your singing voice, only to end up singing for tourists for pennies. It really is a little sad when talent is unnoticed and hidden like that. I guess there's not a whole lot of demand for European opera singers in China? I don't know.

The Synagogue where the concert took place
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On the last day, I took a little architectural tour of the other side of the railway station. There seemed to be more evidence of Russian architecture here than anywhere else. It really was amazing to think of the great influence Russia had here, when they occupied the area. There are huge buildings preserved in quite a wide radius of the town, huge department stores and old churches, hotels, offices and factories all have an "eclectic" Russian feel.
After another nap, I headed to the pedestrian shopping street to snack on the famous Harbin ice cream, (that actually tastes like milk) as well as some sweet potato chips. On the way back, my bus got hit by a car, so we had to wait around for about half an hour while traffic was redirected and another bus came to pick us up. I went to sleep early again and woke up early to catch the train back to Jilin.

Posted by baixing 09:52 Archived in China Tagged harbin heilongjiang

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You are not far from North Korea That might be an adventure
flights to Valdavostic from Harbin and do the Russia Korea Japan ferry might take more than the 6 days you have?

by Steven Torry Rappolee

I've already taken the Korea - China ferry. Might go to Japan later though, I'm not sure. I don't really feel like getting a Russian visa this year... maybe next year, I don't know.

by baixing

This is the best travel blog ever!
I like the foodporn best of all I miss the Beijing Donkey sandwichs
Here is the Russia Japan ferry if you ever change your mind


by Steven Torry Rappolee

that was amazing. Thanks for all the great info. Amazing seeing the Russian architecture
That was a huge ferris wheel!

by Marian Brown

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