Monday, January 23, 2012

2011 Taxes

We spent most of the day doing laundry from our trip. While I worked on a couple of blog post and doing our 2011 taxes, Deb and Suzanne went to get Spot from the kennel. DJ is fighting what we think is the flu and we all need a good rest after our long trip. I go back to work on the 1st of February and we leave on the 20th of February. We will spend some of this time off to prepack for our big move.

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival (part 5)

January 22nd

We slept in on the last morning and checked out of the hotel at noon. January 22nd this year is the eve of the Chinese New Year, and the busiest travel day in the world. More people travel in China on this day each year, mostly by train, than there are people in the USA. All of our bags for this trip were carry-on, but we still had four carry-on plus a small backpack, two laptops and a stroller. On the way back we also had another backpack full of groceries we bought while in Harbin. Deb carried DJ and a bag. Suzanne carried a laptop and two bags. And I was the sight to see with five things to carry including the stroller. A big man with a big load is a real head turner in the train station. That start taking bets on when I pass out or have a heart attack. Thank goodness this big old man is in pretty good shape and made it without any trouble. We found the train ride back to Jiamusi seem to go by a little faster. It was especially nice to see the Chinese New Years fireworks over the city and down by the river as we passed over the river bridge coming into Jiamusi. Harbin is a much larger city than Jiamusi and even though we can only say this for another four weeks, Jiamusi has been our home for two years, and it was good to be home.

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival (part 4)

January 21st

Our last full day in Harbin started with going to the 'Temple of Bliss'. It only cost 10 RMB to get in and was much like the Bhuddist temple we have in Jiamusi. There was some fantastic art work inside the temple and outside there were many shops selling anything that had to do with Bhuddist, Confucius or Hindu religions. We went to the 'Dragon Tower' after lunch. The 'Dragon Tower' is the second largest steel lattice observation tower in the world at 338 meters tall. It has shops, offices, a broadcast station, museum, restaurant and three observation levels. The price to get in and go to the top was 150 RMB each. I feel the price is just as high as the tower itself, but the view is awesome. We finished by trying to go to our favorite little pizza place only to find they had closed for the holidays. We wound up going to Pizza Hut instead. It was almost like back home. It cost a little more than 'Great Pizza' but was a very nice experience.

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival (part 3)

January 20th

We went to a large supermarket called 'Metro' in the morning. We discovered this is a members only store, but a lady that spoke very good English let us use her card to enter and shop. Again we bought many things that we have been without since moving to China, such as brownie mix, parmesan cheese, ranch dressing, ground garlic and a few other things. We went back to McDonald's for lunch and then went to see what 'Wal-Mart' looks like in China. It was four floors and twice the floor space as any supercenter in the states. It basically looked just like any other large department / grocery store we have seen in China, except for being called 'Wal-Mart'. We finished the afternoon by walking down Center Street, which is nothing but a lot of shopping stores. We did find a nice bar called 'USA Bucks Bar' to sit and have some hot chocolate. We had planned to go to Zhaolin Park to see more ice and lights in the evening, but we didn't feel like another night surrounded by ice after the night before. Instead, we went to dinner at what was suppossed to be a very nice western buffet at the 'Holiday Inn at the Center of Harbin'. It took us two taxis to get there because the first driver didn't know where to go and took us to the wrong place. The price was 138 RMB each and the selection of food was small. This was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the trip. We should have stayed with going to 'Great Pizza'.

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival (part 2)

January 19th

We walked about a mile or two to what is called a 'Carrefour'. We visited one in Beijing but don't have one in Jiamusi. It is a grocery store with a selection of import goods. We bought some mustard, taco seasoning, Doritos and a few other things we haven't had in a long time. At 11am we went to the 'Siberean Tiger Park'. It was a long taxi ride across the river and again we had to pay a high price for the taxi. The park was incredible. We had a bus tour through the park and even saw a tiger jump on a truck to catch a chicken to eat. After the bus tour, there was a section of the park that we walked through and got to see the tigers up close and personal. Besides tigers, there were also lions, ligers, white tigers, white lions, white ligers, leopards, cheetahs and panthers. The 90 RMB for each ticket was the best money we spent and I would easily pay twice that for such an experience. We took another taxi to Zhaolin Park. We lucked out this time and got a taxi that agreed to the meter and it cost less than 20 RMB. We finally made it to McDonald's which was near the park. They didn't have Quarter Pounder's but they did have Big Mac's and double cheese burgers. It was good to eat dill pickles again. We walked down the street to Saint Sophia's Cathedral only to arrive after dark. It was still very beautiful on the outside. We finally went to the 'Ice and Snow World' back across the river. It cost a high price of 330 RMB each to get in and was very impressive. With it getting very cold and the the baby complaining, we returned to the hotel and had dinner at 'Great Pizza' again.