PICK a seat in Harbin City's Volga Manor if doing nothing but soaking up the sights of architecture in harmony with nature while seated on a bench outdoors is part of your next vacation plan.
It's a theme park in the outskirts of the capital of China's northeastern province of Heilongjiang. The city sits southeast of Russia.
Replete with hotels, function halls and restaurants, the park has become a favourite among businesses looking to conduct meetings and conferences in the outskirts of Harbin. But its sceneries have attracted as well visitors on day trips, holiday makers and couples wishing to freeze pre-wedding moments with Volga Manor's scenery as a backdrop.
In the leafy park, it's a challenge to find a bench where you're not likely to get a view of beauty in Russian-style architecture.
Okay, there's no such thing as perfect; a flaw must be mentioned here: make that Volga Manor's Tourist Centre. It's a wooden building, a replica of what was known as the Exhibition Hall of Russian NizhnyNovgorod Textile Factory.
Garrish, overdone. Somebody forgot to put ribbons across the building's facade to make it a veritable mish-mash decor. But which poet was it who wrote about "A sweet disorder in the dress"?
Beauty in disarray, I dare say.
So if you're seated on a bench facing this "vulgar" work of architecture, glance slightly to your left and be calmed by the shape of a bridge linking the banks of the river, and the haunting elegance of the life-size replica of the Pavlov Castle in the distance.
Summer nears its end. Early mornings treat you to a painting-like silhouette of the castle floating on a film of mist hugging the river. Picture how the scene transforms in winter.
Further to the left at the end of the bridge is the rebuilt Nicholas Church (Art Gallery). The original was the landmark of Harbin's city centre. You marvel at its colours: gold, blue washed out by the elements and varnish on wood.
When you do walk towards it, you tend to lose sight of the earth under your feet for a minute longer than what's considered safe from stumbling.
Be warned though that most of the time you'll be sharing the view with a few other visitors touring the manor on foot or on bicycle. There's the occasional hum from buggies transporting hotel guests and tourists in and out of the theme park.
Wish to hide from other visitors and enjoy solitude?
Seat yourself on a bench with a curtain of overgrown leaves hanging above it, elsewhere. But trust Volga Manor's breathtaking landscapes to remain in your horizon.
Volga Manor is a 600,000-square-metre park that recreates Harbin's past in which Russian migrants played a significant part The mix of marshlands and Russian-style buildings and villas creates pastoral scenes to view from nearly any bench you choose to own for a moment of quiet.
You lower your gaze for a minute remind yourself that a getaway is only a few days so you can easily get back to the world of work and real-life obligations. You look at the water. Bodies of water snake through the manor. The occasional ripples are too shy; most of the time, the water is still enough it mirrors the stunner in the distance.
Direct your eyes to a landfall closer to your bench. And there butterflies taunt you with an aerial display above beds of flora shrieking in colour.
Even the withered leaves beside you on a bench attempt to make art of themselves.
You walk back to your hotel room at day's end. And your mind is swelling with images of wonderland you have no energy to talk about hotel bathroom upkeep. Maybe.
The chorus of insects and frogs singing rhymes and the train whistles from a distance completes your intoxication. You fall asleep. Or maybe not.
Russian heritage in outskirts of China's Harbin
VOLGA Manor is a 600,000-square-metre park with a Russian theme in Harbin City's Xiangfang District.
Some of the buildings in this park are life-size recreations of edifices that used to be landmarks in old Harbin. Some are replicas of famous buildings in Russia.
The classical Russian architecture gives the landscape a splendid, foreign touch and the manor reminds visitors of the city's history of the place. It also provides a sort of bridge between the Chinese and the Russians.
From across the Ashihe River, you can see many Russia-style buildings nestled in the thick Volga Manor forest in a harmonious, quiet environment.
While the scenery amazes visitors, some of its buildings house galleries that remind viewers of the hardships of old Harbin.
The manor was built by Huang Zuxiang and friends in an effort to reignite their affection for the city's old buildings that had dominantly Russian influence in architecture. The chairman of Dongjian Group, Huang has lived in Harbin, the capital of China's Heilongjiang province, for 60 years and he keeps fond memories of the city now known as the Ice Capital.
Huang and friends bought the plot of land in 2004.
It has around 30 buildings in classical Russian architecture, including hotels and restaurants. Some people make day-trips to Volga Manor on weekends.
Watch a video here: http://www.bt.com.bn/features/2012/09/06/drunk-charm-bench-volga-manor The Brunei Times
Sunday, September 9, 2012
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