March Square Shots

Some of the shots from Instagram over the last month.  Check out April in the link to the right.  Enjoy.

A Little More Winter

When a friend and I decided to visit the city of Harbin, China last month, T said it was because I wanted to experience a little more winter.  It has been a rather odd season in Shenyang.  January brought two to three days of 32F followed by two to three days of 15F followed by much of the same.  Weird.  I’d worn my lighter weight down coat for two months while so many were suffering a polar vortex in the US.  For Harbin, I pulled out the heavy duty Lands End coat and the trusty (original pair of) Merrell boots, a few layering items, some hand warmers and the camera, then S and I hopped on a train and headed out.

Located at 44 degrees North, Harbin, or Ha’erbin, China is famous for the annual Ice & Snow Festival, celebrating 30 years in 2014.  We began our tour with a stop at Sun Island Park for the Snow Sculpture Art Exposition.  Many artists create works of snow in this wooded park, the detail and size of which I find difficult to believe, and I’ve seen them twice in the last few years.  We spent the afternoon there, and were even treated to a special show.  You can check it out here at

We moved on to Ice and Snow World.  This year, there were many models of churches and church themes.  The largest monument was modeled after a church in Reykjavík.  There were Gothic archways and pagodas and more.  I am so glad we saw them in the afternoon sunlight and in the LED-filled evening hours.  The sculptures were gorgeous as well.  We went later in February and, with a “warm” winter, we could see some rounding edges on the various displays.  That didn’t take anything away from the view for me.

On Sunday, we hired a taxi to take us around the various sites, including the Siberian Tiger Park, the Temple of Bliss, the Pedestrian Street, then back to the train station.  We were lucky to have a beautiful weekend in Harbin, not too cold, but a nice, winter experience.  You can check out CNN’s coverage,, and get my view too.  Enjoy.

Click on the photo for more details.

Wolong Hu

Wolong Lake is in Kangping County, near Faku, ~120km north of Shenyang.  In 2005, this lake was nearly dried up.  It was revived with “recycled” water; treated sewage water that was first run through cooling towers at the nearby power station.  (I’m not making this up.)  According to Wang Dianwu, chief of the Liaoning Water Conservation Bureau, this project was to restore the lake’s levels and ecosystem in “six to seven years if the heavens (were) obliging enough”.  That means if they got enough rain.  Thankfully, the heavens obliged, I’m sure thanks to China’s cloud seeding project, and I was able to visit this “natural” wonder.

A few weeks ago, my internet trolling turned up a very small announcement of the annual Wolong Hu Fish Festival – this year scheduled for January 18-24, 2013.  While the hubs stayed indoors with the golf simulator, I ventured north in 20F to find out what not-so-much hype was all about.  First of all, 120 km easily becomes more than 2 hours driving in northern China.  One has to navigate the millions of cars in the city just to get out on the motorways for a 80km/hour speed limit.  Then, one might trust their driver who says he has a map and knows where to go, but actually does not, so one might enjoy a very bumpy, must-go-to-the-toilet-now drive down a 1 lane dirt road.  When this adventurous side trip does not yield any fish sightings, or any other car sightings for that matter, we turned around and took the same road back, my full bladder notwithstanding.  Slightly annoying, yes, but this did lead to a fun encounter with a cow herder enjoying the sunny day, and some lovely photographs of donkeys.  Finally, a quick stop for the driver to ask for directions, and we arrive, not 3 hours after departure, at the Wolong Lake Snow and Ice Fishing Hunting Culture Tourism Festival.

This was such an incredible example of how a small county celebrates winter and their livelihood.  There were a few ice sculptures, a sledding hill, ice skating, a fantastic fish broth with tofu and cilantro, tang hu lu (candied fruit), plenty of various grilled meats on sticks, a reasonably clean porta-potty, and walking on a frozen lake.  The big draw is the fish, of course.  You can watch their unique way of ice fishing, then buy an edible souvenir recently pulled from the lake.  After our scenic drive, we were a little late for the fishing.  As it turns out, in order to see them fishing under the ice, one has to walk about 1km out on the frozen lake, out to the middle.  My fear of walking on things that are not completely solid underneath my feet (bridges, sidewalk grates, frozen lakes and the like) made that out of the question.  I did take about 10 steps out on the ice, took some photos, saw a huge crack, and walked carefully back to shore.

This is an annual festival held in January or February each year.  If you’re up for a day’s adventure, try it out next winter.   Enjoy the people, the ice, the fishing, and hopefully, the fish broth.

Lake restoration reference: