Tuesday, January 11, 2005

My Name is "Dances With Ice and Snow"


Just came back from a three day tour of Harbin, somewhere out in northern part of Beijing and near the Russian border. 41 students, 90% Filipinos, some Indonesians and a Korean and Japanese, out to venture into the colder reaches of China. We rode the train, total travel time: 12 hours. The tempreture dropped drastically from a cold -10C to a freezing -25C. Everybody was dressed for the weather: thermals, two shirts, sweater or two, peejays, two socks, two gloves, scarfs, earmuffs and wide variety of headgear. Constant griping about the cold rang intermittantly throughout the trip.

But not me.

With a smile on my face, I only wore thermals, a shirt and a jacket. I've walked and skiied in this simple attire for the whole trip, even taking my top off to pose for some unbelievable pictures that even the Americans gawked at me and even took some pics also. With internal body heat, resistance to cold and snow, I am invicible. Nice.

Well, nearly invicible. I still get frostbite, but only in the ears and fingers, in about 30 minutes without gloves or hats. Still, it was enough to make me earn the nickname Snowman, or "Dances with Ice and Snow". Cute.

As I've said, Harbin is near the Russian Border, and the place is a nice blending of the south and north. There are shops with Chinese and Russian names, and the locals both speak the languages, even if the community is 95% Chinese. Turns out this is actually a vacation resort for the Russians.

Back to the trip, we were just in time for the Ice Festival, and we saw massive sculptures of ice and snow, some reaching two or three stories high. Nothing special though, just something to be ooohed and aaaahed at. Then on the second day, the fun started when spent the day frolicking in the snow. The first half we spent skiing on the slope of some unpronounceble chinese mountain. I didn't care though. It was my first time skiing, and I took to the sport like a duckling trying fly. My first trip down was a blur. Travelled at 40miles per hour, 1 kilometer down. Sure, after that I fell down once or trice, for fear that I might hit someone down the line. I mastered the art of speed skiing...now if someone could only teach me how to turn or, more importantly, brake and stop...

Afternoon saw us divided into groups, the larger half opting to go sledding down the slope again while the smaller half got ready for some snow hockey. Now, if it was ice I'd probably join the folks up dragging a sled but since there was no skating involve, grabbed a stick and trooped down the arena for some serious puck bashing. Flashback from the High School days where the reigning movie was Mighty Ducks and me and my friends tried to recreate adn play the game with some brooms and a very slippery floor. Both experiences have something in common: they are absolutely fun fun fun...

Night saw us bowling at the hotel, nice way to tone down the excitement by knocking down pins. Beaten my old record in my Manila days in Megamall Bowling of 107; got my highest ever of 137. Nice.

Next day was the tour of the churches, then lunch at a Russian resto, then shopping in the afternoon, then dinner at a local dumpling place, before leaving for our trip back to Beijing. Beijing dumplings are more tasty though. Since there were a lot of leftovers, the gang wanted a dumpling eating contests. Four groups, four tables, no time limit. In the end, two tables were tied since everything was eaten to the last lumpia wrapper and it came down to two contestants, me and my buddie Golden Sun. Ten dumplings, all "Saozi" (veggie ones) and no time limit. I lost. Well, I kinda gave up in somewhere in the 5th dumpling and saw I couldn't eat another one. Later in the trip home, I found that overall he only ate around 30 dumplings while I ate somewhere in the high 50's. Ah well, congratulations to him all the same. I'll never look at a dumpling the same way again...

The train trip home was a blast, what a way to end the tour. A Korean versus a Indonesian. The Battle: Cursing in the Filipino Language. It was fun watching them spit out words like "Putang Ina" and "Pakshet" in totally different tones. The Indonesian won in the end, since our language and theirs are much closer then the Koreans. Fun eh?

Harbin turned out to be a trip and a half. Now if it only were a little warmer...

State of Mind: Defrosting Mode
Now Reading: Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook 3.5
Lowest Ever Temp Recording in Harbin: -40C
Most used phrase by the tourist guide: "You understand my mean? Then everybody get off the bus!"


Post a Comment

<< Home