Tomorrow will mark my first full week in Shanghai! As some of you know, after completion of Fall and January semesters in Beijing, I will be spending the spring semester in Shanghai. This semester includes components such as Chinese language class, two elective classes, and a part time internship. While I’m still settling in, I wanted to share some pics from my first week here below:
On the way back from Harbin, I made a quick stop in a city about half an hour outside of Beijing called Tianjin. Stepping off the train I was first shocked by the temperature difference from Harbin, which was, thankfully, significantly warmer. It was a beautiful day to walk along the river that runs through downtown Tianjin where I could admire the beautiful architecture. Some buildings were shiny and reflective, others looked like they came straight out of Europe. Most impressive to me was the Tianjin Eye, an approx. 394 foot tall Ferris wheel that stretches from one side of the river to the other.
Walking in Tianjin I felt like I was in a completely different continent, let alone definitely not China. On top of many of the buildings having a Western feel, there is also a quite popular “Italian Food Street” that almost made me feel like I was back home in Boston in the North End! There I found plenty of restaurants serving western food from Italian to German to French, hot dog stands, and little shops selling souvenirs and various street food. These cobblestone streets were brimming with life!
A final walk along the river reflecting the beautiful sunset was the perfect way to end the day in Tianjin just before catching a quick train ride back home to Beijing…
After living in New England my whole life, I thought I might stand a chance against the harsh Harbin winter weather, but boy was I wrong! Well, let me back up a bit.
I decided to travel to Harbin, China for Chinese New Year, as traveling during the holiday is significantly less busy because most people are at home celebrating the new year. Harbin is in northeast China, almost on the border of Russia. This geographical location makes Harbin a very interesting place, filled with Russian influence, and extremely cold. Harbin is most well-known for its three huge ice and snow festivals (see more here).
Going to Harbin’s World of Snow and Ice has been on my bucket list for a while, so I decided to make it a reality over Chinese New Year! I took an 8 hour train ride from Beijing to Harbin, checked in to my Airbnb, and ate delicious hotpot at midnight because it was the only restaurant besides McDonalds that was open (on Chinese New Year for about a week and a half almost all restaurants shut down).
The next day I spent the morning walking on a well-known pedestrian street with lots of street food, Russian souvenirs, and “antiques”. I saw a beautiful Russian style cathedral, and rode a cable car across the river that cuts through Harbin. Finally, about an hour before sunset I went to the ice and snow festival and spent about 4 hours there; it was absolutely amazing!
The life size buildings and castles are carved out of ice and light up at night. They were beautiful to walk along both in the day and nighttime, and there were also other great activities like tubing, going down an ice slide, or enjoying a nice hot coffee to warm up practically numb fingers!
While this was the most cold I’ve ever been in my entire life, it was 110% worth it. The pictures and videos can hardly do it justice; it was a truly unforgettable experience.