Beat the heat


By:Yang Feiyue

Primitive forests fleece the Hinggan Mountains. Waterfowl wander Wudalianchi's reed marshes and mineral springs. Paddies plate the fertile farmlands of Beidahuang.

Indeed, Heilongjiang province promises a cool place to beat the heat. It averages 20 C when summer scorches much of the rest of the country.

While the province is known as a winter wonderland-its capital, Harbin, hosts some of the world's largest snow- and ice-sculpture festivals-Heilongjiang's geographic positioning as China's northernmost swath makes its weather comfortably clement during the hottest months.

"Heilongjiang has special weather, history and culture," says Hou Wei, deputy director of the province's tourism development commission.

"Its ecology is rich. And its environment is pristine."

People come for its border river, volcanoes and proximity to Russia, he says.

The China Meteorological Administration and the China Tourism Academy named Harbin as the most popular domestic summer destination in 2014.

The province's tourism authority staged an annual road show in Beijing in mid-May to display what Heilongjiang has to offer during the season. It revealed 10 products during the event. The themes were forests, wetlands, health, driving, border travel, agritourism, sports, wildlife, music and architecture.

They encompass nature and culture.

Such activities as cross-country races through forests, canoe competitions and hunting have been added to enhance these itineraries.

The Harbin Grand Theater stages over 1,000 music performances during the season.

Driving routes have been developed from Harbin to Mohe-China's northernmost settlement-and to the Lesser Hinggan Mountains and the Wusuli River. And more are in the works, provincial tourism official Zhang Taigong says.

What will reportedly be the world's largest indoor ski resort is slated to open in the capital in June.

The city is also working with a Malaysian company to build a marine-life theme park.

Jiamusi will transform its 100 kilometers of rice paddies into an agritourism corridor.

Yichun will offer cross-country races, health and wetland excursions. The city is home to 4 million hectares of forests and is sliced by over 700 rivers.

Daqing has created new sports facilities and will stage marathons and dragon boat races, its tourism bureau says. It also hosts fruit-picking tours.

Jingpo Lake's visitors can experience Manchu culture. They can learn about unique herbal-cultivation traditions and dine upon fish at a traditional "eight-bowl feast".

Cycling events will be staged around the lake in mid-June.

The lake is also flanked by a Taoism heritage site.

Heilongjiang's tourism authority has been working with China CYTS Tours Holding Co for years to develop new routes.

The province recommended five summer itineraries in May of last year, featuring volcanoes, wetlands, China's easternmost and northernmost points, forests and city life.

Tourists paid over 1.53 million visits to Harbin in August, up 14.6 percent over the previous year, Heilongjiang's tourism authority reports.

More than 1.24 million elderly people visited the country's easternmost settlement, Fuyuan, last summer, a 90 percent increase.

All five itineraries have been upgraded this year. For example, wetland tours in Jingpo and Khanka lakes have been added.

Major car-rental company Shenzhou Zhuanche will explore driving routes, Vice-President Long Jie says.

Most rentals in Heilongjiang are for 10 days, rather than three to five as is the average span in most of the country, Long says.

Air connectivity will also be improved. New airports in Suifenhe, Wudalianchi and Jiansanjiang will soon join 11 already-operational airports connecting major cities around the country and such international destinations as Russia, South Korea and the United States.

About 4,300 kilometers of highway connect the province and major attractions.

The Harbin-Daqing-Qiqihar high-speed rail zips around Heilongjiang. High-speed rails from Northeast China's Liaoning's provincial capital, Shenyang, and Jilin's capital, Changchun, connect the region.

Tourism officials engaged netizens' questions in late May.

China CYTS Tours and group-buying companies Meituan and Dianping offered travel discounts in May and will again in August.

Indeed, tourism authorities are pulling out the stops to make Heilongjiang a cool place in every sense-that is, much more than just a destination to beat the heat in the sweaty summer season.

Source:China Daily

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