Exploring Harbin: “Old Harbin”

This weekend, CET organized an outing to visit the old downtown of Harbin. It is a worthwhile site because of its old (almost withering) baroque-style architecture and slowly depleting alleyways. When we got off the bus, we first visited Harbin’s mosque. The architecture was a pretty site, compared to the concrete apartments surrounding it. There is a large Muslim population (Hui minority) that lives in this area.

Mosque in the Middle of “Old Harbin”

From the Mosque, we walked down the street and observed the baroque architecture and busy streets of locals buying ingredients for dinner and enjoying the autumn day.

Baroque Architecture in Old Harbin

My friend, Mengdi (Dare), and I lost the group and decided to explore the alleyways. Previously, Harbin was similar to Beijing, in that it had a intricate network of alleyways that hosted local residences. Now, the alleyways are nearly nonexistent except for the few that cut between the streets of Old Harbin. While Mengdi and I were walking through a newly developed outdoor shopping area, we exited onto a small street that lead to a dark, messy alleyway. We entered it.


We cut through and found hole-in-the-wall bars with tables of older men smoking cigarettes and drinking late-afternoon beers. There were some vendors selling tuan(r)–food on stick–and owners drying their laundry outside of their stores. It felt nice to walk through an old part of town that is still a part of today’s culture. It had a rustic feeling to it. We walked through and stumbled into a busy market lined with fruit, fish, spice, meat, vegetable sellers and crowds of people.

Buying Pig’s Cheek at a Local Vendor in the Busy Market

I bought a pomegranate and then joined one of my classmate’s roommates to what he said is Harbin’s best bun (baozi) shop. We had pork chop buns. We devoured them and then walked to the riverside. We walked along the shore and then joined our classmates for dinner at a Muslim restaurant. It was a nice outing for a cool Saturday night.

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