Visiting Harbin and the Siberian Tiger Park

For sure the main reason to go to Harbin is to brave the freezing January winter temperatures and enjoy the word famous ice sculptures, but it’s also worth a day or so outside of the winter period to enjoy the central Daoliqu district’s Russian influence and, in particular, the very unusual Siberian Tiger Park


The Tiger Park itself, like so many things in China, has a good and a bad side.  It’s great that the Chinese are approaching the preservation of tigers, and various other large cats who are threatened in the wild, at such a giant scale.  To give an idea – there are estimated to only be around 500 Siberian Tigers left in the wild, and the park has 800 in captivity.  It’s also great, and should be highlighted more, that the park itself is huge at 250 acres, with many of the tigers free to roam in this area.  The downside though is very predictable – the Chinese pay very little attention to animal welfare, so some of the rarer cats are held in far smaller cages and the tigers are fed live animals in a fairly gruesome show for the tourists


Without straying too far down a moral route here and recommending not visiting, I think it’s worth calling out that any visit to China will be littered with examples whereby you find conflicts between Chinese values and non-Chinese values.  And this is certainly not restricted to animal welfare


My suggestion is that if you are in the area, do make sure you give yourself half a day in Harbin to see the wonderful brick-lined street of Zhongyan Dajie in the Daoliqu district where you can clearly see the Russian influence, the Sun Island Park that sits within the 2 sides of the city, and half a day for the Tiger Park to see the scale of this Chinese experiment

Sydney Harbour

Sydney’s Harbour is blessed with stunning natural beauty that helps make it one of the most iconic city settings in the world and simply a must-visit for most people’s trip to Australia


5 high level tips:

  1. Focus on the Harbourside area – a controversial point, but I’d say the waterfront attractions of Sydney far exceed the experiences to be found in the rest of the city.  So, focus on the Harbourside area with its world-class attractions of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and beautiful gardens
  2. Walk the whole way from from Darling Harbour to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair – whilst it looks a long way on the map, this is only 7km / 4.5miles, is very flat and will take you less than 2 hours whilst giving time to stop for photos etc.  It takes in Darling Harbour, The Rocks area, a walk under the Harbour Bridge, The Opera House, the Royal Botanical Garden and shows you a variety of views across the Harbour from central city to a feeling of almost entirely left it
  3. Views from the water and Taronga Zoo – regular ferries leave from one side of the harbour to the other and are a great and simple way to get those water views, but also consider the 12 minute ferry trip to Taronga Zoo which gives you that boat trip, plus amazing views from the other side and a zoo that has a superb record for animal welfare
  4. The Beaches – one of the highlights of Sydney as a whole is its beaches.  Bondi is the obvious one – it is stunning and has the wonderful Bondi to Coogee Clifftop Walk, but can get very busy and touristy.  Instead, consider the 20min ferry from Circular Quay (right in the middle of the Harbourside area) to Manly, for Sydney’s best beaches and less touristy
  5. Sydney vs Melbourne – if it’s a first visit to Australia, it’s hard to see anyone choosing Melbourne over Sydney simply because of the Sydney Harbourside wow factor, but you’ll find many agreeing that Melbourne is actually a more pleasant city to spend time in with its street cafe culture, buzzing sports events and generally more chilled out vibe.  If on a super short time frame and want to check out both, I’d suggest 1 day in Sydney focused on the Harbourside area, and 2 days to absorb Melbourne more (and see here for tips on a trip to Melbourne – A couple of days in Melbourne)

Visiting Dubbo Zoo

If you’re in this part of rural Australia and have a spare morning / afternoon, Dubbo Zoo (Taronga Western Plains Zoo) is worth a visit with its quite extensive grounds and set up to allow you to drive around.  Zoos are never great, but obviously better if the animals have such extensive room to roam