I asked at the reception desk at the hostel where I'm staying how one might get to the Snow Festival since there was no tour offered this time. They said I could take this bus, then get off at that stop & switch to another bus, which would take you here, then take a taxi the rest of the way. Or I could just walk across the river - half an hour & you're there.
They weren't kidding. I got to the river & found it completely frozen over with a definite footpath leading across. Half an hour & I was on the other side, where I paid 150 RMB (about US $23) entrance to the snow park.
Inside, it looked as if they had randomly plopped down huge cubes of packed snow all over the park, after which the sculptors had at it with their snow chisles. Here are some of the incredible results.
Of course these photos don't even come close to showing how awesome these sculptures are. This last one won first prize in some category or other - it was in Chinese - but I'm guessing it was for being really friggin' badass.
The festival has been open for about a month now, & many of the sculptures are showing some evidence of evaporation. You know how if you leave a tray of ice cubes in the freezer for too long, eventually the ice cubes turn into tiny slivers of their former selves? Well, apparently the same thing happens to snow sculptures.
I found myself wondering how long it takes for the sculptures to completely melt - or evaporate - away when I came across another area of the park. Here, I found that the winners from previous years have been immortalized in concrete, to be enjoyed winter or summer. Here's the overall winner from 2003.
At around 2:00 pm the sun was starting to dip in the sky - we're pretty far north here - so I headed back to the hostel to warm up over a bowl of noodles.
I'd call the trip to Harbin a win. My super duper winter force field did the trick, & I got to see some pretty cool snow & ice sculptures. Now I'm looking forward to the next part of my trip, which involves taking in some California sun - I leave for LA tomorrow.