Hēilóngjiāng (黑龙江) means Black Dragon River, and this particular coiling dragon is the separating line between China and Russia. Across the province a neighbourly influence is evident in architecture, food and even souvenirs. Capital Hā’ěrbīn’s famed cobblestoned streets and European-style facades is ground zero for this hybrid experience.
Of course, it gets cold in China’s northernmost province, sub-Arctic cold – but that frigid weather is put to good use in winter, the peak tourist season. Hā’ěrbīn hosts a world-renowned ice sculpture festival and the region has some of China’s finest ski runs. It gets busy but it’s worth swaddling yourself in layers and joining the crowds.
Outside the cities, Hēilóngjiāng is a rugged, beautiful landscape of forests, lakes, mountains and dormant volcanoes. From Mòhé, China’s most northerly city, you can access the remote Běijícūn and Běihóngcūn for bragging rights to say you have stood at the very top of the Middle Kingdom.
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