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A journey of friendship, discovery and tranquility in Wen'an

By Wang Xin in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-21 07:11
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People relax at the Tree Coffee in Wen'an, Hebei province. WANG XIN/CHINA DAILY

Fed up with the large crowds and overcast weather in Shanghai, and liberated from the stress of intense travel itineraries, I discovered a sense of peace during the recent May Day holiday while enjoying a slow-paced vacation in an unfamiliar county.

Located in Langfang in North China's Hebei province, Wen'an county is probably a new name for many. I first learned about it from a friend, who surprised me by telling me this unknown county is actually home to China's largest trading market for secondhand machine tools. It is also one of the nation's biggest production hubs for recycled plastic, man-made panels and other goods.

It sparked my curiosity further when I found that there is no passenger station in the county. This was another surprise given the rapid development of China's railway networks and large-scale industrial clusters. However, what intrigued me the most was the prospect of escaping tourist crowds and immersing myself in an authentic and tranquil local experience.

Without much hesitation, I made Wen'an county my destination.

Although Wen'an has no passenger terminals, it is easily accessible from both Beijing and Tianjin — about one to two hours' drive from either city. This is a little bit time-consuming, but the journey is not too difficult.

Unlike traveling to big cities or popular tourist spots, I started to feel a strong connection with the local people when I started making preparations for the trip.

Instead of relying on mobile apps or online platforms for local information, for the first time I found out that the "old-fashioned" way of using a local travel agency worked much better in this small county.

A travel agency owner, surnamed Wang, was quite surprised to learn that I would be traveling to Wen'an — and not for business. Rather than treat me as a client, he approached me more as a new friend visiting his hometown.

He kindly offered me information on safety, transportation, dining and entertainment, and even guided me around the trading markets and production bases. All this was for free.

Upon my arrival, Huang, a local bar owner, gave me another warm surprise.

I'd contacted Huang before I left Shanghai in the hope he could source a whisky I liked. The Wen'an bars usually don't serve whisky as drinkers prefer beer, yet, without fanfare Huang scoured the county and got my order for me, without overcharging.

After a long day on the high-speed train and then a taxi, it was near midnight when I reached Wen'an. However, I was not the slightest bit exhausted and headed to Huang's bar for a nightcap.

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