Harbin is the capital city of Heilongjiang province, China`s most North-easterly province. The province has a population of 39 million and Harbin`s population is officially 10 million with about 4 million living in the city proper, making Harbin one of China`s 10 largest cities. As the Province`s largest city and capital, Harbin`s economy is largely white collar, servicing the primarily agricultural and heavy industry bases of the rest of the province.
Harbin is a more traditional city than the major cities of southern China since it has not been westernized as much. However, Harbin is a more developed city than most westerners expect of China. Anything that you would expect to find in stores, in the West, can usually be found here. In general the only exceptions are some particular spices or certain brand names.
Harbin has most forms of entertainment and sporting locations. However western activities such as squash, swimming, or bowling are expensive by local standards. Most Chinese parties or celebrations are held in restaurants, which often have private rooms with karaoke. Some western-style bars/clubs are available but they also tend to come with western prices. There is no shortage of movies to watch. All of the latest movies are available by buying or renting DVDs. They are very inexpensive.
As a northern city, Harbin has similar weather to the Canadian Prairies or American Midwest. The summer is usually 20 to 35 C (68 to 95 F) and the winter -10 to -30 C (+14 to -22 F). During the winter, Harbin has an ice festival, which is the city`s most well-known tourist attraction. There are numerous tourist attractions in Harbin,China. The city is the perfect destination for sightseeing.
Westerners are not common in Harbin. There are usually about 300-400 westerners here with about half being students. There are also usually several hundred Russians in town on shopping trips. Therefore, non-Chinese tend to stand out in a crowd. If you are shy to be noticed, Harbin is not the place for you.