For those of you who don't know (like us before we got to Beijing), Harbin is the largest city in northern China and is so close to Russia that a lot of Jews escaped there during the Bolshevik Revolution...and all white people are handed menus in Russian, not English.
Sarah, Alison, and my first stop in Harbin was to go to the Siberian Tiger Breeding Reserve while Simon and Momo ice-skated on a frozen river. I had been looking forward to the tigers for weeks, as the guide book said they ran around in ample enclosures, and I love me some active animals. After we bought our tickets, we had no idea what to do, but randomly hopped on a van with a group of Russians, dressed exactly as you'd imagine Russians to be dressed in the winter (PETA doesn't have a strong presence there...but it was so cold out that we all wished we had fur parkas.) We started off by going in the van through the various enclosures, a la Jurassic Park. This was one of our first views of a tiger:I mean, how majestic can you get?! They are breathtakingly beautiful animals, as the master photographer I travel with shows:I am proud to admit, however, that Alison may have taken the picture, but my clucking like a chicken was why it stared at us ;) Towards the end of the drive, we stopped in this big enclosure with TONS of tigers, and this jeep covered in mesh fence drove next to us and stopped. Then the driver put his hand outside the window...and put a live chicken on the roof.
Almost the SECOND he put it up there, a huge tiger jumped up and grabbed the chicken in its mouth. I know the picture below is graphic, but the tiger head and feet juxtaposed against the chicken head and feet, and the fur against the wing makes for a perfect picture. So we decided to pretend it's not gross, but art.The van tour ended and we went to a walkway, about 5 feet above another enclosure. There were a bunch of tigers all crowded near the gangway and we couldn't figure out why... ...until we turned the corner and saw where you could buy meat (dead and alive) to feed them. It was pretty cool to see how acrobatic they could get.
And how intensely they looked at their food (this is a different tiger!).They also have a few ligers, which are sterile and require lions and tigers who have lived together their whole lives (because that's the only way they mate), and only 1/1000 embryos live to term...so there's really no purpose of having one except bragging rights.
Afterward, we told the taxi to take us to the Snow Festival, but instead, he took us on a driving tour and dropped us off at Harbin Polarworld. Instead of watching a "beluga whale show," Sarah and Alison entertained themselves outside the old fashioned way: by going down a slide...
...giggling like a little school girl the whole way.
Here's our only pic together at the tiger park:Our face are bright red from the cold! Little did we know that we were in tropical weather compared to the -8 F (-31F with windchill) we'd soon suffer through at the Harbin Snow and Ice Festivals...