Qiqihar seems to get the ‘short end of the stick’ in Harbin. When I teach at one of the universities in Harbin I ask the students to stand up and introduce themselves: Name, Place of Origin, study program etc
Whenever one of them says, “I’m from Qiqihar,” the rest laugh.
When I ask why, I’m generally told that it is a hole.
I have to admit that I can relate to this attitude on some level; while I studied at university in Dunedin the running joke was that the next town over – Mosgiel – was a hole (sorry Mosgiel).
I think it is particularly unfair for Qiqihar. While it is not rich with oil like Daqing, it is a nice place and has a brilliant bird reserve.
Zhalong Nature Reserve 扎龙自然保护区
Zhalong Nature Reserve has hundreds of species of birds including storks, geese, swans, ducks and herons. What it is really famous for is its Cranes. In fact it is known as the ‘Land of the Cranes’. There are only 15 species of Cranes in the world and the Reserve is home to 6 of them.
Several times a day there scheduled flights of the extremely rare Red-crowned Cranes (only around 2000 worldwide) around the wooden viewing platforms. It is truly amazing to see Cranes fly 5 feet above your head.
I’d always known that Cranes were popular in Eastern Art and were a really common symbol, but until I saw them flying I had never thought about why they were so prized and so common in art. They are truly a beautiful bird. There is something amazingly graceful about the way they fly, and I don’t think it can be fully captured in photos.
How to get there?
It is best visited from April to June, but I’m told it is ok to go until September.
Take the Train from Harbin to Qiqihar – it takes about 3 to 4 hours, I’d recommend staying overnight in Qiqihar. So much easier.
It is easy to get to Zhalong Nature Reserve from Qiqihar.
Buses leave from the corner of Longsha Lu and Zhanqian Dajie. Ask your hotel to write the address for you.
When I went, the buses that went to the Reserve were number 306. If you look for 扎龙 then you should find the right bus.
The trip out to the Reserve will take about 40 – 60 min and a round trip ticket will cost 20 yuan.
The entrance fee is 50 yuan and you can pay another 20 yuan for a small car to take you close to where the main viewing platforms are amongst the reeds.
You can also pay another 50 yuan for a boat trip around the lake.
Insect repellent was something I was told I had to have before going. Except I had no issues with mosquitoes whatsoever. Your call.