A frozen, flashy city arises from the ice in China

HARBIN, China - Among the least popular words this week were "polar" and "vortex".  So here's a reminder that we are not alone dealing with frigid weather.

Harbin has its own brand of a polar blast that attracts visitors.

Temperatures hovering near 20 below zero are hardly a deterrent. In fact, they're essential for this mini-city built from ice.

Harbin_ice_city.jpg
Temperatures hovering near 20 below zero are essential for this mini-city built from ice
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One guide to the ice festival, Sunny, says she does not need gloves because she is local. People come from around the world to build the mini-city, she said.

It resembles a frozen, flashy Las Vegas.

More than 7,000 workers put this together in nearly two weeks. They used ice from the nearby, frozen Songhua River.

harbin_river.jpg
More than 7,000 workers used ice from the nearby, frozen Songhua River
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After sunset, lights create a brilliant glow -- set inside the 180,000 cubic meters of ice blocks.

That's enough to fill 100 Boeing 747 cargo planes, or 72 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Snow and ice - many stories high - are a platform for artists and, as you might expect, for advertisers too.

This multimillion dollar spectacle provides some pleasing headlines for Harbin, a city better known for its pollution and the "air-pocalypse" that closed schools in October. 

These days, tourists including Alex Clark and Kristin Ng pay to be here: $50 a piece.

 

harbin_ice_city_two.jpg
After sunset, lights create a brilliant glow -- set inside the 180,000 cubic meters of ice blocks
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"I didn't know what to expect," Ng said. "But it has blown any expectation that I could've had out of the water completely."

Clark - an Australian - notes it is summertime back home. Not here.

"Everything is cold - no matter how many layers you put on or whatever you do," he said.

Every year, this ice festival begins on Jan. 5.  The end date is not so certain. It depends on the temperature. Ultimately, everything here will just melt away.


  • Seth Doane

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