Ice, ice baby.
Sing along--you know you all want to. (Vanilla ... ice, ice baby. Da-da-da-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-da.)(As da-da based music approximations go, that was pretty terrible, wasn't it?) Anyway, whilst you sing along, feel free to enjoy these pictures of the Harbin Ice Festival. (Great segue, I know. It's almost Bob Saget-like in it's quality, or lack thereof.) Whatever. As for the Ice Festival itself, well, it was sort of strange. On one hand it was pretty amazing--the buildings were not only huge, but there were a lot more of them than I thought there would be--but on the other hand it was also slightly tacky in the way that anything covered in neon is. Or at least anything covered in neon post Miami Vice. Plus, there was a gigantic, circular ice altar--it was a copy of the altar at the Temple of Heaven--that was being used as a dance floor, with all the flashing lights and crappy techno music that implies. (The ice did make it easy to moonwalk, however. Trust me.) Nothing like attempting to marvel at an exquisitely carved herd of thundering horses carved out of a massive block of ice while being forced to listen to an obnoxious song that continually threatens but never quite turns into "The Bad Touch" by the Bloodhound Gang. (You know: you and me baby ain't nothing but mammals ... If you don't know, consider yourself lucky.)But still, it was quite a sight to behold: I saw more people slip and fall in one night than I have probably seen in my entire life. (Not me, of course, although only because of my eerily quick, cat-like reflexes.)(Well, that plus the guy who grabbed my arm just before I lost it.) I mean, they had staircases made out of ice. Steep staircases. And not just one--they had lots of them. And guess what? They were really freaking slippery. Shocking, I know. Sure, someone had made a lame attempt to make them a little better by covering them with snow, but since the snow lasted about as long as it took the first ten or twenty people to go up or down the stairs--and there were literally thousands of people there--it didn't to a lot of good. About as much good as grabbing onto the ice banister on the ice staircase anyway, which is to say it didn't to any good at all. Anyway, as usual, I babble. Below are some of the better pictures. (Ice, neon, and darkness is not a camera-friendly picture-taking combination, as it turns out.) I'll put up some of the Snow Festival pictures--which are both better and cooler--sometime this weekend. Walk This WayThis is the entryway. The dark strip that everyone is walking on is snow--nice of them to put it there and nowhere else--and the raised structure in the background is the aforementioned dance altar.
The Big PictureWhile, a big picture anyway. This is an overview of roughly half of the festival, taken from next to the pagoda you will see later on ...
I Like the Pretty Lights
Random ice buildings! Oooh. Is that one with the cross on top the Vatican? Possibly, I'm not sure. The tower in the background--which you can see in other pictures--was at the center of everything.
Hey--it's the tower I just mentioned. (What a coincidence.) Also a snow sculpture--they were scattered around the grounds--that you could crawl through. If you were under four feet tall anyway. Otherwise I think you'd get stuck.
I See France ...
The Louvre, complete with pyramid. Brought to you by CarreFour, the French grocery store chain with two convenient locations in Beijing. Well, convenient for us, not for most of you. Quel dommage.
The Return of the Marble BoatYes, once again, it's the infamous--that's more than famous, right--Marble Boat. Because the only thing more useless than a marble boat--besides a marble boat frozen in ice (see the "Winter" pictures from the summer palace)--is a marble boat that is both frozen in and made out of ice. Although now that I think about it, maybe this one--frozen in ice aside--is more useful because it might actually float? Or is any marble boat-type object useless, regardless of what it's actually made of? And if a marble boat is made out of ice, is it still a marble boat? For that matter, is something boat-shaped that can't float a boat at all? So confusing. If I would have known it would be this complicated, I wouldn't have bothered taking the picture.
Pagoda, with Stairs
Yes, I did see someone fall on these very stairs.
When I got on this slide--only about half of which is seen below--I thought, "Hey, this will be fun." After hitting the first turn at roughly Mach 8, however, which involved smashing my shoulder against the ice wall (Holly still has bruises) and almost falling off my plastic sled, I started to think, "Hey, this is terrifying. Especially since the next person is like five seconds behind me--no safety laws in China!--and I will pulped if they hit me, since they will also be going Mach 8." Turns out, things--including people--go really, really fast on ice slides. I guess I should have known? Plowing into a gigantic mound of snow at the end--they gave you about three feet to decelerate--was also quite fun.
Does This Picture Make Me Look Fat?
Okay, it's not ice, but it WAS at the Ice Festival--right at the end of the slide. Maybe Buddha likes to watch people scream in terror as they careen at Mach 8 down the ice slide of death? No wonder he's got a smile on his face.
Climbing WallNo, I didn't do it. But it was fun to watch others try! (Although since the wall had toeholds, it wasn't as hard as it looks.) But easy or not, I generally don't consider exercise-like activities, such as climbing, to be "fun." Call me crazy.
I Laugh At ColdAlso, I think he mocks the Spyder suit. Or at least he would if he spoke English. He was trying to raise money for something, but I'm not sure what. Hopefully some more clothes, since it was like five below when this picture was taken.
So is it just me, or are we overdressed? (For the record, the structure behind us is the front gate.)