Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Song of Fire and Ice

Two years ago my roommate in Shanghai went up to Harbin for their Snow and Ice Festival.  I've been jealous ever since.  So jealous, in fact, that I decided if I was getting a visa for Shanghai and hopefully Tibet, I might as well get the one-year visa and make 2013 the year of Chinese travel.  Yes, I know that kind of makes me ass backwards.  In fact, I do a lot of things ass-backwards...have you forgotten that I am the American girl, taught belly dance by an Aussie in Korea, who moved to the middle east only to learn the Korean martial art of hoi jeon moo sool?  Yup, that's me.
So I booked the ticket and the hotel, and got the visa over Christmas vacation, since the Chinese embassy here apparently only issues single-entries for non-Mongolians.  Lit had been kind of interested in going with me, but it turned out to be more expensive than she wanted to pay...although I must say that even with Fedex and the fees to expedite processing, my one-year still cost less than two single-entries.  I consoled her by promising we'd go see the ice sculptures here, at Sky Department Store.  One of our colleagues went over Christmas, and she had some really cool photos of the sculptures AND reindeer.
Well, this was the only reindeer to be found.  That was a little depressing, but hey, it gives me a really good reason to stick around after school one summer and make the long, LONG trek out to the taiga to see the Tsataan.  Because I really, really want to, even if it means a couple of weeks on a horse.
Anyways, back to the present.  Lit, Five, and I arrived early, and did some shopping in Sky before meeting the others for dinner at Mr. Wang's in the Chinggis Khaan Hotel (very good, but pricey!).  On the way in, we saw the sculptures by daylight, and they just aren't as impressive as when they are lit up.  The shopping was good, though - they had nice avocados and apparently those Russian caramel bon-bon thingies I love so much are being ordered in, this being the second time I found them this week.  During our food drive assembly that afternoon that candy is apparently a part of Tsaagan Saar, the Mongolian New Year, and I'm guessing this is why I'm able to find my favorite goodies (which is not as good a thing as I make it out to be, since I'm supposed to be establishing new, good habits). 
The ice sculptures were magical.  We had fun on the slides, sitting on Santa's lap, and giving bunny kisses.  I couldn't believe how smooth they were, like glass, and how they didn't feel that cold (at least not at first).  The picture of Domestic Goddess sprawled in the red....thing....above was taken after we had realized that it had a plant frozen inside the ice.  How cool is that?  (Pun totally intended, there).  I had to wonder where the blocks of ice for the sculptures came from.
Well, we wandered through a winter wonderland for about a half hour before the cold and the drive to get over to Hennessy's for the quiz (first time since we got cheated - still don't think it's that great a quiz but I do love me some trivia) drove us away.  It was pretty amazing and a good dry run for my aforementioned trip to Harbin next month - I've already thought of at least a half-dozen things I need to do or to pack before then.  Expect more ice pictures three weeks from now.

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