For those of you who think you’re having blog post Deja Vu, this is actually a NEW post. You can read about our experience in Chiang Mai, touching and petting tigers at Tiger Kingdom (read the post Lion, and Tigers and Elephants in Chiang Mai! Part 1). With all these tiger posts, you might think we are crazy (we are) or somehow obsessed with Tigers (just curious, really).
Trent and I had been reading about Harbin, China and the famous snow and ice festival that is held there each year (currently, the largest in the world). We wanted to go during our first year in China, but the only time we were able to go was over Chinese New Year and the plane prices were exorbitant! We simply couldn’t afford it (especially since we knew we could get tickets for 200 dollars or less during any “normal” time). So this past year we were very intentional about making sure that we made it there! We chose a weekend in January and booked our tickets. We were doing this!
After talking about our upcoming trip to some friends, they decided to join us. So Joyce, Matt, Trent and I all headed to Harbin, China, early Saturday morning. Harbin is located in the Northeast corner of China, even more north than parts of the Russian border. By the time we arrived at our hotel it was nearly 1:00pm. Our first destination was Siberian Tiger Park. Trent and I had arrived on an earlier flight than Joyce and Matt so we went ahead and checked into the hotel for all of us and then hit up a nearby Starbucks before heading out to the park to meet them.
From what we had read about the park, we knew it was the home to over 500 Siberian tigers and covered over 1,440,000 square meters. It was created to be a sort of conservatory, designed to protect this endangered species of tiger. There are 10 different areas for the tigers, each harboring different ages and sometimes genders of tigers.
We arrived a bit earlier than Joyce and Matt, so we walked around a bit, taking a few fun photos while we were waiting.
When the other two arrived, we purchased our tickets (100 kuai each), then wandered around the gift shop for a bit, stopping to admire the ridiculous outfits we often see in China! (sorry about the picture quality, we’re not quite as bold as the Chinese when we take photos of others, so it’s a bit blurry)
Then we boarded a caged bus. In each of the enclosures, the tigers roam free. WE, instead of the tigers, are the ones who remain behind protective bars. The bus was freezing (as was the outside) and the windows kept fogging up, making it difficult to see outside. I slid my window open just enough so that I could get my camera lens outside. Another problem we continued running into was the fact that it was so cold outside that it was zapping the battery power on our phones and cameras. When I wasn’t snapping photos, I had to keep both my phone and my camera close to my skin so that my body heat would somewhat preserve the battery life. Awesome, right?
As we drove around to the different enclosures, we watched these massively huge, beautiful tigers roaming around and relaxing in the snow. It is amazing to watch them- they are such beautiful creatures! We were a bit disappointed in the sizes of the enclosures. Although they are “big,” they still had cages inside and didn’t seem to capture much of their natural habitat (except for the snow, of course). We snapped tons of photos, and at one point, a tiger jumped at the bus! I was thankful that we had bars on the windows then!
One of the saddest parts of our visit to Siberian Tiger Park was watching them “feed” the tigers. When we bought our tickets, we also had the opportunity to buy any number of animals, ranging from ducks to cows, to “feed” the tigers. The Chinese make quite a sport about watching the tigers tear apart their helpless prey. I know that tigers are natural predators in the wild, but something about the way that these animals had no escape from imminent death was so sad. When we were there, someone had bought a chicken or duck (some sort of bird) to feed to the tigers. We watched as the tiger pounced on his prey and then started plucking its poor feathers before he even killed it. He played with it/tortured it some more before finally putting it out of its misery and eating it.
After we had finished driving through each of the enclosures, we had a chance to walk around on a “viewing platform” and see other tigers, lions, and other big cats. We even saw a “Liger” (they DO exist!). Ligers are a cross-breed between a male lion and a female tiger, but they can never reproduce… and here all of us who saw “Napoleon Dynamite” thought a liger was made-up. Ha! As we were walking around taking photos, a jaguar jumped right at me and scared the you-know-what outta me! He bounced off the fence of course, but he was HUGE and coming RIGHT AT ME! Yikes! Then the same thing happened with a tiger! At least that one I caught on camera!
The cold was so intense that we couldn’t handle any more time there! We were FREEZING!!! We headed back to our hotel for some food (and to charge all of our cold-drained devices) before our next adventure… the main event- the Snow and Ice Festival! Read about that in my next post!