Laughing and eating through sub-zero temperatures
It is the traveller, and not the destination, that determines the outcome of a journey. Travelling to China is always a challenge for any tourist who may find himself caught in antagonistic situations that can spoil the trip. SIKS MIKAH listens to how a group of young travellers refused to be perturbed even though they were knowingly being fleeced.
Rachel Chan looked forward to her trip to Harbin, China with great expectation and with that also came great anticipation of the unknown.
Yet, with an open mind and a keen sense for adventure, it didn’t matter if she, and her 3 travel companions, couldn’t fathom what -25C felt like or whether they were able to find their air BnB accommodation on arrival.
In fact, listening to her talk about the trip, it sounded like a disastrous one. A trip reeks of dishonesty, getting lost, overpriced meals and unnecessary charges. But this wide-eyed happy-go-lucky millennial and friends were determined to have an adventure. And so they did.
“I had no idea what -25C was like. The coldest I had experienced was -5C in Tokyo. And my friends kept telling me my warm clothing was not good enough and I advised me to buy some in China.
“I travelled with 2 cousins and a friend. They were adventurous and wanted to try all kinds of food and everything. The arrangement was made through the Air BnB called Xiao Ma. A blogger recommended him in his blog and he helped to arrange for transport to take us to Snow Village and Snow town the next day.
“We arrived in Harbin at night and we took a public bus to our accommodation in town. Even though we had directions it proofed to be quite complicated. Lucky for us, I befriend this man who was on the bus with us. He came home to Harbin from Chengdu for the new year. He took us to our Air BnB but even with him leading the way it was not easy.
“He wouldn’t leave us until he has found the place for us. After leaving us at the doorstep we spent another 30 minutes looking for the key and opening the door. By then the temperature had dropped to way below zero and we decided to stay in to eat instant noodles!”
The next morning Xiao Ma sent a car to them to Snow Village which was a 4- hour drive away. The snow and ice sculptures were the highlight of their trip and they had looked forward to it with great anticipation.
However, “nearly 45 per cent of the sculptures were not ready but we paid a full fare to enter. We had a novel of idea of new year countdown at the sculptures. But we didn’t know that it would get dark by 4 pm. So we went at 3.30 pm on New Year’s eve and stayed till 5 pm as the temperature dipped to -25C.”
The next day, Rachel’s group hiked up a hill to cross over to Snow Town, another destination for snow activities. They trudged knee-deep in snow for 8 hours while their bags were being transported to their hotel in Snow town for 50CNY (RM29) and 10CNY to collect from the concierge.
“Before entering the park to hike, we paid an entrance fee but we also had to pay a fee to exit. Somehow, we just feel cheated all the time. After Snow Town, we spent another night at the Yabuli ski resort and we went there with the intention to ski. Each of us paid 230CNY (RM135) entrance fee and rented gears for 300CNY (RM177) only to ski 2 rounds.
“They didn’t tell us the entrance fee was good for only 2 hours!”
Despite, the group was high spirited and gamed for more adventures. This like-minded and spontaneous four took a 40-min walk across the frozen Song Hua River, after visiting the ice sculpture, back to their hotel. With recommendations from the Xiao Ma chat group on where and what to eat, they were ready to have their fill of local food.
With the Apple map in hand, they moused through alleys and streets in search of local cuisines from Jiao Zi (dumplings), stewed duck noodles in a big pot to pork bones with garlic.
“We also learned from our driver that people used food wastage to show off their status, their idea of having abundance to afford wastage. Seeing how the dishes laid there untouched on the table next to us was really hard to stomach.”
Even though they felt cheated all through their journey, Rachel believes it was the people she travelled with – the spontaneous and adventurous companions – and the people she met that helped her come home with good memories.
Siks Mikah travels frequently & believes that humility opens doors inward and outward.