Xinjiang’s Tianchi (Heavenly Lake)

Xinjiang’s Tianchi (Heavenly Lake) is quite heavenly don’t you think?

Tianchi, or “Heavenly Lake”

The lake is about 28 miles outside of Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang Province. For those who don’t know where that is, imagine China’s shape as a giant rooster. Xinjiang would be the rooster’s backside. It’s the largest province in China, and was the entry point for the Silk Road for Eurasians.

Tianchi is surrounded by the Tian Shan (Heavenly Mountain) mountain range. That’s the mountains in the back. The lake is 6000 ft above sea level and about 1.9 square miles. You can take a boat cruise around the lake, and there’s even a monastery on it’s banks.

Damuo Monastery on the banks of Tianchi

Our 14 and 16 day Silk Road tours take you to see this beautiful lake, along with a plethora of other places. For more pictures of what you’d see, visit our Facebook.

8 Off the Beaten Paths in China

Seen the Great Wall of China? Does the thought of going to the Bund bore you to death? Are the Terra Cotta Warriors not cutting your sense of adventure? Then try these off the beaten paths in China. If you’ve already traveled Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian (aka the Golden Triangle) and have sailed down the Yangtze River, maybe these less famous or more out of reach sites will inspire you to return to China.

I’ve arranged these from most well known but less traveled to the less well known and less traveled.

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I’m eating popsicles in -20°C weather: I’ve gone crazy

So today was the day for the Snow Festival, located right across the street from the Ice Festival in Taiyangdao Park (literally,  “Sun Island”). Although the day was technically colder than the day before, it felt warmer, mostly because the sun was out.

To give you an idea about how ridiculously cold it was in Harbin, our driver showed us a bottle of water that he left in the bus overnight. It was completely frozen. Our guide then pointed out that a normal freezer is usually set at -18°C, and that it was -25°C outside. We were basically living in a place that’s colder than a freezer. She went on to say that most households in Harbin basically stop using their freezers and fridges in the winter, and just put their perishables on their balconies, as the balconies have no heating and so everything stays cold.

Anyway, we make our way into the park grounds to see the snow sculptures. I have to tell you, I liked the snow much better than the ice.

 

The Mona Lisa
The details are amazing
You can actually get coffee in here.

Again, we spent 2 hours there. Any more and we would’ve been frozen into popsicles. The Snow Festival had a lot less people than the ice festival, which was a good thing since most of the time at the ice festival I was lining up for things like ice slides.

There’s actually an international snow carving competition every year. We got to catch one of the entries getting worked on.

Competition Entry

China’s entries got its own section, while I think everyone else was put in the same section. Doesn’t really matter though, all the entries looked fantastic.

After looking at all the sculptures (and sliding down a snow slide on a one person and 2 person rubber tube with my guide for 60RMB), we all gathered together and headed for lunch.

 

I shocked the table with my desire to eat fish head.

The president of the local tourism agency that we used even came out to greet us. It was a really nice gesture from them and the entire group appreciated it.

We got some time afterwards to walk around Zhongyang Pedestrian Street, which Harbin’s main commercial street. The Russians built this street back when Harbin was developing, so you see a lot of European influences in the architecture.

 

Zhongyang Pedestrian Street

I also got to try the epitome of Northern China candy bingtanghulu, which are basically a bunch of hawthorns dipped in sugar syrup. It’s very sweet and sticky, but very good. I’d only had it prepackaged before, which tasted pretty nasty. But these were very very good.

 

Delicious

I also dug into Russian style cheese bread and a milk popsicle, which I found out had to be eaten together and that girls tend to eat popsicles outside in the -20 degree weather. I also jealously watched my guide buy about 5kg of sausages (Harbin is famous for it’s sausages) to take back to Shanghai. I tried a sample; it was delicious and at that moment I wished with all my heart that customs didn’t exist.

Afterwards we went for dinner.

 

These were like sweet potato fries.

Then it was back to the hotel and time for bed. We were going to catch an afternoon flight to Shanghai the next day, where we’d have a free day to ourselves before heading back to the US.