We wanted a chilled out (unfortunate phrase given the temperatures!) last day in Harbin. We had planned to go shopping but most shops and businesses were closed for New Year. They appear to close for 10 days! We needed something to put in the vodka John had cleverly sourced in a wee shop. I wonder if the shape was intended to be some kind of sublime message.
Finding a convenience store that was open was not easy. We had two problems; the first being that most places were shut, the second being that from the outside we had no idea what the structure contained. It could have been a private dwelling , an office or a shop as far as we knew. Eventually we did find somewhere and secured a few cans of Sprite. Yay!
We were walking in the general direction of St Sofia’s when we saw masses of people going in somewhere. Because of the intense cold all entrances to buildings were protected by very heavy duty polythene curtains. All these people were pulling aside the curtains and entering. Not to be outdone we followed suit and found ourselves in a huge, packed OPEN shopping Mall.
I had not bought as much as a postcard let alone fridge magnets so we sallied forth.
We had all our layers for the cold on and it was incredibly hot in the Mall. When we looked down and saw the crowds we knew it was time to go.
We went down to the ground floor and stopped near the exit to don all the hats, scarves and gloves we had removed. By that time I thought I would pass out with being so hot so I said to John I had to get out and made for the exit, thinking John was right behind me. The crowds were worse than Harrods sale opening day so walking together was not an option. As I was about to exit I turned round – no John! We had spoken previously about getting separated and had agreed I would stand still and John would find me. The minutes passed and no John. I began to panic. The crowds were so dense that you couldn’t see beyond the next person. I had money for a taxi back to the hotel but had broken my own cardinal rule and was not carrying a card with the name and address of the hotel in Chinese. I waited a few more minutes then retraced my steps making sure that there was no other route John could have taken. He was standing just where we had stopped to don our gear. I don’t think I have ever before been so pleased to see him! That is a very condensed version of events which doesn’t convey the panic I felt.
Feeling very “together” we continued in search St Sofia’s. It had been a church at one time but was now converted to a museum of architecture. Quelle surprise – it was closed.
We decided to cut our losses and go back to the hotel for some down time and to get packed ready for our early start to the airport in the morning and to decide where to go for our last dinner in China..