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Tour of Harbin, China

Aired February 13, 2013 - 05:30:00   ET


WANTING QU, SINGER: We are in Harbin standing on frozen river called Songhua River and, be careful, it's cracking. Just kidding.


QU: He's saying that he's been winter swimming for 17 years.

Oh my god, can you believe that? I can't. I think they're crazy.

No, just kidding. I think they're very brave and very healthy. And look at that! Look. He's going to dive. Whoo!


QU: Because you would think people would stay home, right? But no, we come out and play.

My favorite winter activity on ice is called "bing ga". I don't know, it's this top thing that you put it on ice and you spin it, and you then you us a whip just to whip it. Whip it hard! And then it'll spin really fast and it'll make noises. It'll go like "whoo" like a whistle sound.

Over there, if you want me to show you. Let's go.

You going to help me?


QU: No! Yes, like this one.




QU: This is called "bing tang hu lu" and it's a kind of fruit covered with sugar and it's really crunch and crispy and sweet and sour.

Yes, this is where I grew up, on this street. This is my hood.

There used to be a music store over here. That's where I bought my Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey CDs.

This street is one of the busiest streets in Harbin. It wasn't as busy as this when I was growing up.

Harbin, the name, is actually, I think it's a Russian name, if I get that correctly. Harbin. Harbin. It just doesn't like the Chinese name, "Ha'arbin".

I failed!


QU: Sorry, one more try.


QU: I think it's frozen!


QU: I am about 5'5".


QU: This is view is so grand, it's so big, it's so impressive. It's so great living in Harbin. The four seasons are very obvious, like, it's not like if you live in Singapore or L.A. You don't get to see snow. It's all summer around, all year round.

It says on the bottom "gang ben si yue (ph)." It means "King Kong happy" (ph). He has an apple in his hand.


QU: No high five! No high five.


QU: I heard that this place for this year took 14 days and 7,000 people to build and finish. It's massive and it has, like, the biggest ice slides and ice castles and really fun ice games.

And also there's a bar made out of ice. You can drink in there.

Yes, lots of people think Shanghai would be the best place to go if you go to China because there are a lot of foreigners over there. I mean, that's fine. I definitely like Shanghai. But for a place like Harbin, my hometown, it has its own character. So I'm always going to be a Harbin girl, and I know that one day Harbin is going to be the next Olympic Winter Games host.

This is a gigantic beer. And Harbin, Harbin beer is the oldest brewery in China. I know that as a fact.



LI HONGTAO, DRUMMER, ESCAPE PLAN (via text translation): Right now we are in Harbin's Daowai District. Daowai is the oldest district in Harbin. The architecture and restaurants in this district can really tell you a lot about Harbin.

I used to walk on these streets when I was in school and when I dated girls.


LI (via text translation): I've been to almost each and every one of these alleys.

I am not a party person. I'm not a romantic. I like history. That's why I want to show you a place with some weight of history. The stories of a city are sealed in time.


LI (via text translation): Just now we checked out the Chinese baroque architecture. Now we are on the North 6th Street. Even though it's quite shabby, there are a lot of tasty eateries here!

You can see all these name boards for pa rou restaurants over there.

I want sauced ribs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via text translation): OK, a plate of sauced ribs!

LI (via text translation): And.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via text translation): Pa rou?

LI (via text translation): Right, pa rou.

This one is sauced ribs. It's a Harbin specialty. People here in the Northeast like to have smoked or soy sauce dishes. This one is well prepared.

When I was little, my dad would often take me here. Every time, he'd order this dish and tofu in casserole, which I've also ordered just now. Very tasty!

When our band played in Harbin this year, I brought them over to this place and had this dish too. They were all stunned.

Let's try the meat.


LI (via text translation): We are right now in the Central Street. It is the most famous pedestrian street in Harbin. The reason why I brought you here is because I want to show you another tasty thing. It's something cold.

You'd often see a very strange scene here on this street. You'd see people queuing up for ice cream in fierce cold winter and munch on the ice cream outdoors. It's simply because the ice cream is too delicious!

Give me a two Kuai one, please.

This ice cream only comes in two flavors, and they don't even have any packaging, nor does it have any branch stores. If you want Modern ice cream, you'd have to come here.

JAKE TAN, EXECUTIVE CHEF: Can't wait to get the red sausage.


TAN: Man, we are coming here late. The sausage sold out.

TAN (via text translation): I told them that I do want to have the red sausage but we are quite late today. So I can't buy it so I can only rely on you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via text translation): People start queuing at two in the morning. We start selling at five and the red sausage is often sold out by six. Everyone is limited to three bags of sausage.

TAN (via text translation): How much is in each bag?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via text translation): Each bag is around two kilos. People like to take the red sausage when they visit their friends.

TAN: This is the best. This. I can't say anything else. Let's go.

Whoa, yes. Finally, we get a bag!


TAN: OK, now where we are now (INAUDIBLE). It's all covered. You know, this ice is cold. The temperature is different from the outside. Now, I think outside is minus 22 to 24. It's between there.

I also found out from the Harbin people, they come to the wintertime, they're more relaxed. They have their, like, create their own holidays (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via text translation): It's so beautiful!


ALAN WANG, OWNER, BOXTOWN.NET: I come here pretty much every weekend. I meet some friends there. And all these guys are doing some art and you would never see again if this (INAUDIBLE) anymore.

I mean this laid the whole development of the (INAUDIBLE). They're losing loads of the local arts. So the people here in this area tried to gather all these artists together and make sure this kind of skill is not lost. It's a family skill. His father taught him. He started doing that when he was 13.

This new-gen (ph) nation, they begin (INAUDIBLE) history. So this is kind of long-time lost the skill and it's been carried on by him only. He's the only person who can do it now.

This is another shop I'm going to show you. This lady, very talented. She's doing this paper-cutting. It shows the tradition kind of Chinese New Year atmosphere. So let's come in.


WANG: Wow, this is beautiful paper-cutting. It's another family skill carried on. She learned all the skills from her mother. Her younger sister, she's saying, is actually better. So I guess her sister would just be - schwoop.

This all from her younger sister. And then ten works (ph) of the ten local traditions from Dongbei, and it's called the Ten Big (INAUDIBLE).

This is the traditional game (ph), OK. Like the bones from animals. I played this when I was little, which was like 25 years ago, and it totally disappeared. You don't see kids playing this on the streets anymore.

Hold on. This is hard. A lot of people in my group they all lived abroad and then came back to China. They all really want to see more of this tradition. And that's what I say about how fantastic this place is. It's (INAUDIBLE). The more kids come in, the more people come in, and they start learning more about the tradition about where they were born and where they're growing up.


WANG: We're at this local warming Dongbei-based restaurant.

I'll get a piece of this and get another small fish. Get two different types of fish.

You feel the heat as well because this is in this area of China in the winter - we don't really have the heating system in the past, so they sort of just put naked fire underneath this brick wall and people sleep on it, sit on it.

For minle (ph), what we do is, we dip the fish into this sauce, which is made of coriander, chili, some chili oil as well, so it gives a stronger flavor. It's very tender boiled fish. (INAUDIBLE).



WANG: Only the locals know about this restaurant and they come in as a kind of regular party place. And a lot of people have been born here, lived here. They missed (ph) the old sale (ph) of food.

Enjoy the proper Dongbei lifestyle. So you have to be a local to find this restaurant, otherwise it's pretty hard for you to hear about this place.


WANG: The thing about this city, you have to go out to see (ph) the space, eat in restaurants, and all that, to meet locals.

You can't really find it, you can't really read it, you can't really feel it online. You have to come here, explore for yourself. You have to see, you have to meet local people. They'll show you more places.