the average Chinese spends 488 euros per visit to Finland, putting them ahead of the Russians, swedes, Japanese, americans and French. were snapped of a two-metre-tall Father Christmas at Rovaniemi's Santa Claus Village. "That was an amazing experience," agree the three members of the Zhao family. "He even spoke some Chinese and knew a lot about China. He had visited the Sichuan earthquake area distributing gifts," they add. The Chinese want real experiences on their trips. Skiing and fishing on frozen lakes and rides in reindeer and husky-drawn sleds brought plenty of excitement to the Changzhou group's days, with weather that could not have been better. The sun shone, with temperatures just a few degrees below zero. "We had only seen pictures of snowy forests with blue skies. Visiting Kuusamo is like diving into a fairytale. Everything is so beautiful here, almost unreal," says Mrs. Ma's younger sister, Ma Haihong. SNOW FALL Diving into a fairytale soon turns into diving into a snow bank, as the dogsled teams are set free. The huskies are eager to show the Chinese visitors how fast they can run. Within the first couple of hundred metres, they accelerate to nearly 50 kilometres an hour. At the first curve, some are unable to slow down so that the sled ends up in a soft snow bank. Their passengers get a good laugh out of their snow bath, and after a little pushing the trip continues. "I would have liked to ride the dogsled for much longer, but I understand that the dogs can't pull that load forever," giggles Ma Yi after a ride. On a snowmobile safari, many wanted to leave the group and set off on their own, but the guides said there was too much risk of getting lost. The Chinese love fishing and spent a long time angling through the ice, although they didn't catch anything. Luckily, quite a lot of fish had swum into the net that they set, so they didn't return to the Ruka resort centre empty-handed. Finnair flies nonstop to Kuusamo up to two times a day. Ma Emma enjoys a husky ride. Ruka is close to Kuusamo Airport, which is one-hour flight from Helsinki. cti cO cea n Norway Ar Rovaniemi Kemi Ruka Kuusamo Sweden Finland Helsinki Russia Baltic Sea Estonia NOVEMBER 2009 BLUE WINGS 35
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