The province of HEILONGJIANG (黑龙江, hēilóngjiāng) has always been considered a little remote to the Chinese – a perception that remains intact, even in these days of high-speed trains and cheap flights. “Black Dragon River” is a land of extremities: this is home to China’s northernmost and easternmost points, as well as its coldest. Winter temperatures regularly plummet below -30°C, though this is actually high season in the provincial capital Harbin, which hosts a world-famous annual ice festival. Though the shuddering cold makes it hard to truly enjoy the city itself during this period, come summertime it’s one of the most pleasant in the land.
Beyond Harbin, Dongbei’s northeast is little visited by Western tourists, with the main draw being the Zhalong Nature Reserve, near Qiqihar. If you’re journeying any further, it’s likely you’ll be on the Trans-Manchurian train and on your way to Russia, via Hailar and Manzhouli, both in Inner Mongolia.