(This flight predates the launch of Flight Report by a couple months. I vastly expanded the original French language FR, both the account of the flight and the tourist bonus.)
All Skyteam flights in Beijing are operated from Terminal 2.
That terminal was built in 1980, at the time when China was opening up carefully to the outside world, without any attempt of a beautiful architecture, contrary to the prestigious Terminal 3, which was built just before the 2008 Olympics. It nevertheless aged gracefully, and has the advantage of not being oversized, which limits the amount of walking inside.
Is this meal somewhat familiar? It is the same beef and sticky noodles menu as that of flight CA417. The food on board Chinese domestic flights is quite repetitive in economy, but at least, they do exist.
The plane flies above the plains lightly covered with snow.
It is as flat as in the Middle West over there, and there is nothing much to see. Some light turbulences halfway, not much.
Flaps are gradually extended
Landing is close – see the shadow of the plane on the ground
The plane lands on time in Harbin.
We landed in Harbin, where the outside temperature is 18 below zero Celsius. Passengers to Yichuan are kindly asked to stay on board…. You had to be Russians to create this outpost in 1898, and Chinese to develop an industrial center here where the population is now close to five million. Chinese or expatriates, all my female colleagues declined the invitation to join me on that week-end trip, because they all knew that it is COLD in Manchuria in winter.
Not only the temperature is low, but the wind blows.
We don't have a jet bridge, and when we reach the stairs, we immediately understand that the wind-chill factor is not some funny creation by scientists and weathermen. Note its variations before dawn, linked to the actual wind speed.
No, this airport is not under siege. Ground staff here vitally need adequate clothes when the wind-chill factor is 30 degrees below, like that morning.
I wonder how many layers of clothing this monk in ochre traditional wear was actually wearing, but one sure thing is that he did not wear sandals. Religious faith does not mean being crazy.
Why go to Harbin in January? Because of its worldwide famous Ice and Snow Festival, whose ice and snow sculptures are built of quasi industrially extracted ice blocks hacked out of the frozen SonHua river, and lit from the inside by fluorescent tubes (there is no risk of short circuits: fresh water ice is an excellent insulator). This sculpture greets the visitors just outside the terminal – the police car gives its scale.
We are very far from snowmen, that Harbin kids would have a hard time to build, because the snow fall is minimal in Harbin. Here and there, ice sculptures decorate the entrance of companies or housing blocks, like this ubiquitous decoration which reminds of Pacman from the 80's.
The focal point is outside the city, all enclosed by a wall of ice. There are few visitors in the daytime, but it is crowded at the turnstiles at night.
The bright sun through the super dry and super cold here made wonders.
There are snow sculptures too, but the opacity of snow makes for less flattering results..
It is even more impressive at night. The semi-legendary palace of the Qin
This roman cloister is not a copy of any existing or past monument.
The ice horses are just as impressive at night
Beijing - PEK
Harbin - HRB
For once, and although this is winter, having or not a jetty is not an issue when you are going to spend the day and the early evening outside. It actually MUST be cold, otherwise, the whole purpose for the trip just melts down. Apart from that, this flight was not different from any other Chinese domestic flight of a similar duration.
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Thanks for sharing! Like you say, although the food on-board might be repetitive or predictable, it is definitely a good thing that meals exist on short domestic flights in China unlike in the US and Europe. The Harbin ice festival is legendary--the sculptures are very impressive.
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