It would prove to be an odd trip.
First thing was to get to the station to meet the person organising the trip. Easy enough, it was only a few stops away. The only problem, we had never met her before. Still that part was fine. Then with everyone in tow (turned out there were 8 of us), we made our way against the pedestrian traffic during rush hour, to the bus station. Fortunately Nic (the organising person) speaks great Mandarin and could sort out which bus to catch. Then we sit on the bus, which is fine cause I was expecting to have to stand, for about 70 minutes until we arrive at this town. It seems completely normal so far but the weirdness factor grows by how weird everyone else thinks we are. Apparently white people (much less groups of white people) don't come here much and when they do, they don't come on the bus. And they don't stay in the hotels because only one hotel was allowed to have us stay. It was nice enough, so we dropped our stuff and having organised some completely illegal cabs, we were on our way to the festival.
We arrived and it was starting to get cold. We asked the cab guys to wait (each time in this story when I say we'd done something that involved a Chinese person, please note that Nic did it and I did not participate in the exchange) so as soon as we arrived they left.
We started walking up and found a huge number of lanterns with no people. In fact there weren't really any people anywhere. Which is also weird.
We started walking up the road, past all the lanterns (see the photos at the end for more details!) and finally ended up at the ticket office. Tickets were 100 yuan which is quite a lot (for comparison, the pension is about 300 yuan a month) and sort of explained why there was no one around.
Still we went in and it was all light, lanterns, sculptures etc, but no ice (other than the frozen lake). Eventually we found some of what used to be ice sculptures but were clearly in the process of melting. Uh oh, have we made a huge mistake?
It turns out we had not made a huge mistake because inside this tent thing were the real ice sculptures. There were dragons and buddhas and temples and deer and all sorts of things. They freeze the ice around these lights so that when they build the stuff it can be lit up. It looks amazing but oh so cold. Having looked around for a while, we made our way out again, Nic called the "taxi" drivers who said "sorry but it's too late and we don't want to come out now." Hmm. Fortunately there was a guy with a van there who would take us all for less than the cost of the two cars, and he would wait while we finished taking photos of the lanterns.
At this point a few people (Jane included) were completely frozen and just got in the van. I wandered down with everyone else and we got to see a few lanterns before the security guard started turning them off. When asked why he was turning them off an hour before closing, he replied "there's no one here." Not sure what we were then.
After a completely insane trip back into town (the back seat of the van wasn't attached, we had 3 people sitting in the boot and the driver insisted on spitting out the window every 500m) we got to the hotel, dumped our camera gear and started looking for food. We couldn't find anywhere! We walked for a while but it was so cold we headed back to the KFC we passed, but then I remembered having seen a bunch of people eating in this basement place. Turns out it was the local noodle shop. My food was quite nice, there was soooo much of it and Jane's and mine together cost 14 yuan, which is just over $2. Score!
Then it was back to the hotel for a good nights sleep. We didn't get one though as our window faced the roundabout where everyone was beeping all night, along with the town clock that not only bonged the appropriate number of bongs each hour but then told you the time and date in Mandarin.
Anyway, here are the photos I took, I will get onto the tale of the abandoned amusement park. . .
|Long Qing Ice Festival|