Eye of the Chicken
A journal of Harbin, China

On the town
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It's getting to be a regular Thursday-night thing. Neither Lara nor I have commitments on Friday, so Thursday is the New Friday. We'd planned to go to the yarn market late Thursday afternoon but missed the window of opportunity, so instead we took off for the river, as is our wont. Really, there was no choice; it was an unseasonably warm 80 degrees yesterday and I was just bursting to get outside by the water. I think I was the only person in all of Harbin who was wearing shorts yesterday . . .

We started out on the walking street.





(This guy didn't like Lara taking his picture.)


But we soon veered off for places we hadn't seen yet.



Really, I wish I could just embed a camera on my glasses . . . there are so-oooo many things to see, and I can't capture half of them. This street was lined with vendors selling everything from tomatoes to brooms to socks to jackets to street food (meat on a stick, or sweet potatoes, or corn on the cob) to butterfly knives.


Lured by this building:


. . . we discovered a small "square" (circle, really) that was full to capacity with people out walking, dancing, taking kids for walks or supervising their bike rides or watching them skateboard. There was even a guy about my age on rollerblades. For some reason (except for the dancers) everyone was going counterclockwise. This picture really doesn't do justice to the scene, because there were way more people than you see here.


It was clearly a place where Westerners are a rare sight, judging by the number of looks we got. We sat on a wall at the edge of the park, at child height, and got a lot of stares from kids (as well as their parents and grandparents).

After a while we moved off in the direction of these buildings, a familiar sight to anyone who's spent time at the waterfront in Harbin:


It turns out that they're some high-priced apartments (any number of which I would be happy to own).


I couldn't exactly suss out what part of town we were in, except we passed some place that said "Press Building," or some such thing, so I think it was a prestigious government area. Sure didn't feel like a campus, that's for sure; the population density was low (for Harbin) and there seemed to be a large number of Audis and BMWs . . .

We got hungry, and stopped in at a hot pot restaurant. This one had chimneys at each table:



There are a seemingly endless number of hot pot restaurants in town, and my goal is to eat in every single one of them. I absolutely love Northeast hot pot. All you do is put things in hot water until they cook, and then dip them in some sesame-tofu sauce; I can make this at home, and have done so on a number of occasions. You wouldn't think that something so simple could be so delicious, but it is.

Then, of course, we wandered over to the river.


Not too many pictures because my card ran out of memory . . . It was surprising to me to discover that the Songhua, which had been about 50% covered in ice last Thursday, has completely melted.

On our walk back east to the Flood Control Monument we discovered a guy renting rollerblades - 10 RMB (about $1.50) for an hour. How could we pass that up? We couldn't. It was 9:45 pm when we rented the skates, which was just about perfect; the path along the river was just about empty and the night was still warm.

Today, still invigorated from last night's skate, I went and bought rollerblades of my own. I can't wait to head out to some of the larger public parks and cruise around . . . Sun Island will be a blast, as will the Botanical Gardens . . .

And the temperature today was back down to about 50 degrees; the cold front was borne in by a ferocious wind that spread dust everywhere (as usual). I think that today I was the only person in all of Harbin who was wearing a winter hat . . .

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