Thursday, February 14, 2013

On Ice

The crowning jewel of Harbin in winter is, of course, Ice and Snow World (Domestic Goddess disagrees - she liked the Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Expo.  You can make your decision when I get around to making that post).  I guess if you're going to be ridiculously cold, you might as well do it in style, and they do. 

I took a quick spin around the park, started debating whether or not I actually wanted to go down any of the ice slides, and then saw the guys with the beautiful arctic foxes.  Aside from a slightly funny shaped head (compared to a regular fox, anyway) they were gorgeous, and before I had much of a chance to question the ethics behind making these animals pose with tourists, I had one in my arms and its Chinese handler was snapping pictures for me.  The privilege cost 20 kuai, but I guess they've got to earn their keep somehow, so I didn't mind too much.
I couldn't help thinking about my niece, the Princess, either.  As you might infer from the nickname I gave her, she is obsessed with all things princess right now.  In fact, I can't decide if I should send her the sky lantern I bought for her, or make her wait until I can be there with her to see her set it off - she may not be in love with Tangled anymore by then.  Anyways, I think she would have loved Ice and Snow World.  There were these large sculptures of some of the Disney princesses, but even more, I think she would have loved seeing the ice castles.  Heck, I'm not much of a girly-girl but I loved seeing the ice castles - there was something about them that was just magical.

See what I mean?
Ice and Snow World is best at night.  I didn't mean to go so early - I thought I would check out Polar Land, and then walk over, but when the taxi drove me over there, I realized they were not within walking distance.  Or rather, not what I consider walking distance when it's -25 C outside.  So I was a flake and told the driver that where I really wanted to go was Ice and Snow World.  Which he didn't understand because I was speaking English, but with heavy use of the word bing and lots of pointing, he got the gist of what I wanted.  And it was pretty neat seeing the ice by day, and watching the sun set.  I even decided that as long as I was wasting time I might as well go down the ice slides.  And after them, I decided to find out what this Harbin theater thing that started at 5 o'clock was.
Before the performance got started, there was an auction, which struck me as really amusing.  The paintings were beautiful and not too expensive but I had no use for any that big, so I just enjoyed following the auctioneer - "Wu-shi kuai?  Wu-shi kuai!  Yi-bai kuai?  Yi-bai kuai?  Wu-shi kuai, yi.  Wu-shi kuai, ar...  Yi-bai kuai!"
It's one way to keep an audience from getting too restless, that's for sure.  There were also waitresses that came around the theater to try and sell drinks and popcorn - I didn't end up having any, myself, but I was tempted and liked the idea - reminded me of the service at Avenue Q when Babysis and I went.

Something else I realized while watching the show?  The Chinese do not make the most appreciative audience.  They had skaters in these kung fu outfits doing freaking flips on skates, and they didn't clap.  I was amazed - I can skate going forward, and that's about it.  If I so much as try to skate backwards, I am likely to end up with a bruised tailybone.  If I tried to do a flip, I imagine I would decapitate myself on the blade of my skates.  Or if not me, definitely someone else.

The best part of the performance was this sort-of love story, with the girl doing acrobatics.  For the big finale of their act, she twined herself up in a silk ribbon and then let herself fall, twisting through the air as the silk unwound from her body.  I would undoubtedly have broken my neck.  She got to the end and simply hung suspended until her lover came and "caught" her.  It was beautiful to watch.

In my next life, I hope to be a little more graceful.

In my next life, I also hope to be a little more technologically literate.  I did something and my whole post just disappeared, and Ctrl-Z didn't make it go away.  I had to close out the tab and burn some incense to the Tech Gods that it hadn't saved after that.  Luckily, it hadn't.
When I got out of the skating performance, the whole park was lit up like a birthday cake and it was COLD!  I am, on reflection, very glad I didn't decide to come here when I was living in Shanghai.  I would have died.  I think I managed to get a little frostbite on my inner thighs in spite of my precautions (including buying heat packs to stick inside my long underwear).  Only living in Mongolia could have prepared me for that kind of cold.  I walked around this wintery fairy land snapping photos for most of another hour, and probably should have stayed longer - it cost more than $50 for admission - but dang it, I was cold, and the fact is, the sculptures were so big that it was hard to line up really cool, artistic shots of them (Zhaolin Park was much better for that).  So I wussed out and went back to the hotel fairly early.  And was completely okay with that.

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