The North-East Tour – Mudanjiang
Coming to Mudanjiang wasn’t for the city itself, rather an attraction far outside it. Following the theme of the North East, this would be yet another natural attraction born out of the fires and flames that brews beneath this region of the world. Historical volcanic activity has developed into the extraordinary display of natures unrelenting force. One spectacular demonstration of this power is Jingpo Lake, which happens to be the home of Asia’s biggest waterfall; Diaoshui.
Before getting to the lake, I had to get to Mudanjiang. The scenic area is still over an hour and a half away, however its easiest to get there from here. The city is the starting point of tours and regular buses that visit the scenic areas.
For this leg of the journey, I treated myself. I upgraded myself to the high-speed train, that are notably higher quality than the others. In-fact it was luxury compared to it. Reclinable seats, a little table and even enough leg room for my long-ass legs. And as the name suggests, they are considerably faster, almost three times as much, same as the price. Getting from Harbin to Mudanjiang in just over 1 hour and a half was simply glorious.
Honestly, there was little for me to see in the city. The only reason I had come in the first place was to see Jingpo lake. By the time I’d arrived, it was 5pm with the sun going down, and still had no plan about how to get to the lake. Therefore nothing was done that day. After failing to find my booked accommodation I took the first hotel I could find.
The problem with venturing to little visited places is there’s very little information available. The only information I came across was from Chinese tourist websites that were incredibly vague. All I knew was there would be a bus at Mudanjiang train station at 8am. No more details than that.
In the end, I just decided to chance it. Early the next morning I stood in the station awaiting a sign on where exactly to find the bus. In the end common sense drew my eye-line to the Tourist Information Office beside the station and the line of coaches before it. The side of the coaches had written “Jingpo Lake Tours”, I found it.
There was a lot of confusion and a serious communication barrier, but in the end I paid 255 yuan and told to sit and wait. I didn’t know exactly what I’d paid for at the time, but in the end it was a basic transport and tour (with guide) of the scenic area. All in Chinese.
This would arguably be the main/best attraction of the site as it provides a spectacular view at any time of the year. Diaoshui waterfall claims the title of Asia’s biggest waterfall, formed from a collapsed lava tunnel resulting in a spectacular crescent shaped waterfall that dominates the region.
Due to the time of year, the waterfall possibly looked better than ever. The entire rim of the collapsed tunnel was coated with the frost and ice stretching its way downward towards the unfrozen lake beneath. It truly is a spectacular fair-tale display.
Strangely and beautifully, despite the sub-zero temperatures the lake below was completely unfrozen, which is always the case. This is a result of the volcanic activity that still persists underneath, keeping the waterfalls lake permanently unfrozen. The results are a beautiful angelic contradiction.
The entire lake was completely frozen over surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and a central dominant temple overlooking the wonderful site. The ice itself was clearly thick enough as there was a considerable amount of winter activities available on the lake-side. This included being able to rent quad-bikes and various recreational vehicles to go for a spin on the ice. That and the site of tractors and 4×4’s made it clear that the ice was thick enough.
Included in the price of the tour was a ride on the tractor pulled hareem of rubber tubes. The tractor would pull the group of riders to the centre of the lake where there was a display waiting for the visitors.
They pulled us to the centre of the lake where a crowd had gathered around a hole in the ice. I have to admit, I had no idea what was going on. A man dressed in native clothing and a group of women banging drums began dancing and chanting. It all seemed like some sort of attempt to improve the harvest they were about to collect. After which they began pulling an incredibly long fishing net out of the ice along with a few large fish that drew “oooooohh’s” from the crowd.
This portion of the trip caused the most amount of stress, panic, hatred of the cold and complete lack of understanding of what was going on. So all said and done, was it worth it? Yes.
Coming all that distance for this one attraction was still worth it. It was a complete unique experience. Not being able to follow the situation and bumbling around clueless doesn’t ever matter. Go with the flow and see where it takes you. In this case its Asia’s biggest waterfall completely frozen over in a gorgeous fairy-tale setting. It was worth it.