25 April, Thursday
CHINA, Heilongjiang – Marking a physical boundary between the Russia and China, the poetically named Black Dragon River (Heilongjiang) is known for its ferocious winters where temperatures plunge well below zero. So thorough is winter’s grip that the region has gained a reputation as the world’s foremost snow capitals. Throngs of visitors brave the harsh climate yearly to participate in the Harbin Ice Festival and enjoy some of China’s best ski resorts.
Its dauntingly frigid reputation – a property of its location in the north-eastern reaches of China – is charmingly more bark than bite. In summertime, temperatures average an easy 20 degree, an encouraging fact for fans of the region’s vast natural beauty, but not its chilly climate.
This is a land where lush forests, tranquil lakes and stately dormant volcanoes juxtapose with classic Chinese architecture for imagery at once perfectly composed and wonderfully rugged. The dichotomy continues in the distinctive architectural styles of capital Harbin – an intriguing mix of Chinese and Russian aesthetics, no doubt a result of neighbourly influence from across the river. Heilongjiang is a bewitching blend of extremes.