Though Hailar is indeed a gateway to the open grasslands so typical of the region, one of the first things that visitors to this Inner Mongolian city might choose to view is the National Forest Park in the west of the city.
It is clear from the outset that stroppy individuals are simply not tolerated; you either behave yourself, or don’t bother coming!
The tickets just work for the time write on it, the entry notices proclaim. Which means it is useless in other times and we never exchange any tickets. The tickets with no record is the only key to pass the way. In other words, I guess it’s simply no use bleating on later if we find our ticket has a record. We have been warned!
But wait. There’s more…
Please do not make the thing that breaking the law, and badthing happened, just like: shoot birds, gaming and excessive drinking, fighting, superstition and propagate the crooked ways etc.
I’m intrigued what “etc” might include, but there is no one to ask; so I boldly prepare to follow my minders, hoping they will be able to help me out if and when I find myself propagating crooked ways.
But before we have a chance to walk through the entranceway, we are hailed by a group of tourists, waving their phones frantically in my direction. Would the foreigner mind posing for a photo, my minders tell me. It appears that I am mistaken for a Russian (do I really look like a Ruskie, I wonder?) and when told that I am in fact British, a look of total incomprehension fleetingly crosses their faces, before they insist that whatever! – can I complete their request for some holiday snapshots?
Three grannie-figures jostle for position beside the handsome Brit-not-Ruskie-foreigner, and your favourite blogger does his best to make their day.
Once inside the park, the path meanders off into the distance. It might not qualify for the park-to-end-all-parks, but it’s pleasant enough all the same, though it might have been nice if the planners had added to their noticeboard no flies allowed without a valid entrance ticket. OK, so I know you think I’m being facetious, but if they can do it in Beijing, then why not here?
To our left we pass an intriguing display of concrete and sand. It’s for the kids, my minders tell me, though most of the kids I see take a slight diversion to the other side of the path, rather than face the concrete monster within.
One of the things that makes this place famous is its collection of pine trees, which it has in abundance. It’s almost like being whisked halfway across the world to Scotland.
The evergreen pines were famous as far back as the Qing Dynasty. The Hailar pines themselves are a variety of European red pine. Their tall and sturdy tree trunks can resist coldness and drought, making them ideal for this cruel environment with its extreme high and low temperatures.
Besides the Hailar pines, there are over 60 kinds of wild birds which include Mongolian larks, woodpeckers, red crowned cranes and parrots. There’s even a bird cage display you can enter to gawp at the aforementioned birds…
A large notice board outside helpfully tells us that the Niao Yu Forest was built in July 2007. It includes fake mountain, fake trees, fake stones and scenery rock formations. (Really... I'm not making this up!) Which match with birds of birds. Some landscape forests are planted... with more than ten decorative hushes, combining with natural. There are chicks mandarin ducks, peacocks... black swans, write swans etc.
I feel all the better for knowing this, but regrettably time is pressing and we pass the entrance to push deeper into the forest park.
Here and there we find the occasional tended flower bed, though the majority of this park is given a more natural tended-wild look about it.
A poetic soul is obviously behind some of the notices that grace the parkland setting…
Really want to live 500 years more, a notice beside a fallen tree trunk reads.
Natural wind erosion, lighting strike and crushing by snow have made my tall and straight body unable to withstand the circle of nature, so by the force of gravity, I fell. In this bustling world, as I just dedicate my whole life by seeds and shade, my stay is not worth mentioning, but I really want to live 500 years more.
A short distance away, another tree with a hole gouged out of its side…
… has another notice board standing as an epitaph..
In 1945, the Soviet Union declared war to Japan. The Soviet soldiers bomed the Japanese battlefield in ShaSong Mountain, and the shels left the marks on the tree. The tree reflects fierce war in the past.
Boardwalks make the trek through the pine woods easier, and they have been well laid out adding, rather than taking away from the symmetry with nature.
If you look carefully into the trees you also come across pieces of silk cloth hanging from the branches – a local Buddhist tradition for remembering past ancestors…
As I said, not an earth-shatteringly amazing park; but very pleasant none the less, and well worth the 45 minutes or so battling with the many insects that apparently have a free entry pass into this beautiful scenic parkland.