Hefei, China... Secret Safe With Me!

Located in Central China, I was attracted to Hefei because it's not a mega-city, but a growing city that's got a lot of competition from its neighbours. Dragon Boat Festival beckoned another holiday for May 2017, taking a chance on Hefei had to be done, getting to know a smaller city was a nice change. Did Lord Bao have a plan for me? Oh yes, I was ready for C's Anhui Province!

Stepping off my high speed train from Wuhan Railway Station at Hefei South, I was ready to ditch a few city demands. Saying goodbye to taxis, I got the bus to my hotel without a hitch, it allowed me to take in the city's vibe with a difference. Checking-in without stresses, I hit the pavements of my Lujiang Road setting, a slower sight fronted me, for once a National Holiday without crowds gave me the chance to roam the west-side of Hefei's city streets that sunny afternoon. The rustic feel of Hefei's city streets gave me life, they weren't flashy nor were they adorned with neon lights but a honest and simple feel was served to me. A block of flats along Ren Min Xiang gave me a tone of a colourful street resembling New York City's Canal Street in the heart of that Chinatown. Maybe I could smell the MSG being fried up? Regardless, the ordinary vibe gave me something that I hadn't seen for a time in Wuhan. Yes, Hefei definitely did its own thing! Hefei was a completely random choice, I knew it had a plan for me! Oh, 合肥!

Those views had variation for sure, from one angle I saw those usual honest Chinese eateries and then some kitsch clothing shops on the next street! Was Hefei breaking out? That contrast didn't confuse me because it only gave me more to see. Deep down, Hefei knew that I'm easily pleased. Sure? Huizhou Avenue took me to Hefei's Municipal Square, even that wide city thoroughfare stayed collected within Hefei's understated daily life. Back to that city square, was it the sweltering heat keeping people indoors or was something else because I practically had that vast city centre to myself! Getting familiar with that open government square it was clear to see Hefei was in a different stage of its development compared to other Chinese cities. In place of modernity, it owned its quirks, I could tell that it would soon be a city in-promotion! The blazing sun had me for a moment, taking refuge amongst a landscaped area at the side of the square I watched the city folk go by during their May Day holiday. I loved the ordinary vibe! 天气好热了!

Every city has to have someone to look up to, Hefei's own figure turned out to be Lord Bao. Otherwise known as Bao Zheng, a former government figure who reigned during the Song Dynasty helped the people of Kaifeng city within the neighbouring Henan province fight away corruption whilst keeping a levelled approach. Leaving my hotel bright and early during my only full day in Hefei, I made my way towards Bao Gong Park to find the Memorial Temple of Lord Bao. Ditching my usual holiday McDonald's breakfast I veered away from Bao's park to find something to eat down a secret looking alley way, yet another one of Hefei's hidden city secrets. Breakfast with a view was the ticket, sitting by the river had to be done for sure! Refuelled from that local looking restaurant, I had found myself acquainted with a delectable lotus pond along the river. That shaded riverside helped me because Hefei was scorching hot that day! That was when my friend Fiona called me, she had lots of gossip to relay to me! 合肥, the drama was real! 

Paying my one and only entrance fee for the entire trip, I was greeted by a row of golden figures, in the middle had to be the famous Lord Bao? Indeed, I had made it to the Memorial Temple of Lord Bao, small yet perfectly formed that small space was. The remembrance hall didn't forbid photography so I took some guilt free photos, believe it or not I do my best to respect the rules. The serene surroundings of the Memorial Temple of Lord Bao gave me the illusion that I wasn't in the middle of a major city! Those tranquil waters and sweeping trees masked the concrete and glass being Hefei's growing skyline. From what I gathered Lord Bao kept things together in a fair manor, keeping a strict yet fair rule over proceedings. He had seemed to have left a lasting impression for the people of his hometown. Being a compact city, I was put off the idea of buses, leaving public transport for the ride back to the railway station I carried on by foot. Taking a leaf out of Lord Bao's book, it was to be firm but fair at the same time! Fiona, I'll be back real soon! 

Stepping up the pace, Xiaoyaojin Park had been one of the two sights that had stood out to me during my pre-trip research. Hefei had almost lured me to San He Ancient Town, but being two hours out of the city seemed more reasonable for a longer trip. Those lack lustre reviews had me saying goodbye to that idea. Sorry, San He! Reaching the famous gate of Xiaoyaojin Park was great, so far so good I made my way through into a cool oasis that served me nothing but normality. I could see that lots of families were having a great time, the pocket-sized funfair looked as if it was a hit with the locals also. I wasn't too bothered with the history of Hefei's most famous part because I was there for the scenic city views. Taking a seat in-front of the lake had to be done, at that point I was feeling pretty damn happy with my efforts in Hefei for it being a smaller city I had seen what I had wanted! Keeping my park visit swift, I walked chilled towards Suzhou Road, you know I kept those scenic views! Of course, I was the only foreigner for miles! 

The heat felt like it had been turned up a few notches during my second afternoon in Hefei, I wanted something boozy to drink! Unlike my usual routine, I had been dangerously sensible up until that moment. Heading back over to Lujiang Road, I was fronted with this mysterious looking 'coffee' lounge that from the window looked like it served more than just caffeinated beverages! Bagging my own booth I chilled to the max, I relaxed into that setting with a few beers to add. The pizza that I chose was different to say the very least but I wasn't going to say anything, I was much too hungry to complain! I thought to myself that I was right to take a chance on Hefei, it reminded me of Wilmington, Delaware in the U.S. From those first rustic impressions to the lushness of Lord Bao's yard, I was satisfied with my Hefei weekend. On the smaller side, Hefei had me looking at something less stressful and for that I was thankful. Where to next for 2018s Dragon Boat Festival? I don't know right now, but for sure it'll be within China!

Get It, Get It Hefei!

Joseph Harrison 

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