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Eat, Drink and Be Merry at Zhangbei

updated: 2012-07-23

China Daily, July 20, 2012
Zhangbei, a county in Hebei province, is one of the best getaways during summer, offering cool weather and refreshing air. It is also one of the most accessible destinations from Beijing city - only three hours' drive away.
Camp grounds are available for visitors to the InMusic Festival in Zhangbei. Provided to China Daily The county has a lot to offer - from vast grassland to exotic ethnic Mongolian culture and a variety of outdoor activities. Plus, it will host InMusic Festival, one of the country's largest outdoor music events, from July 27 to 29.
"The grassland and local traditions make InMusic Festival stand out among other outdoor music festivals in China. The festival also promotes tourism in Zhangbei," says Li Hongjie, the festival's chief planner.
Like many outdoor music festivals in the country, InMusic has invited established rock musicians including Tang Dynasty, Cui Jian and Wang Feng to perform their hits.
As Zhangbei is located near Inner Mongolian autonomous region, Mongolian folk musicians and dancers will also perform at the festival, adding exoticism and variety to the outdoor music fiesta.
Folk artists, musicians and dancers from Tibet autonomous region will also join in the carnival.
Apart from local performers, international bands will share the three stages of the music festival. And for the very first time, British group, Spiritualized, will entertain their fans in China.
According to Li, many InMusic performers have asked to stay with local families rather than at five-star hotels.
"They want to be as close as possible to the grassland, mountains and nature," Li says.
One of the most popular grasslands, Bashang grassland, has long been known as one of the ideal sites to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Located 240 km north of Beijing, it covers 350 sq km of Hebei province. Vast lakes, sunrises and sunsets over the grasslands provide refreshing views for city dwellers who are tired of urban chaos.
"It's so quiet even during the day that it feels as if nobody lives there," says Li, recalling how it was when he visited the Bashang grassland in 2009 to prepare for the first InMusic Festival.
A flea market is a common feature at most outdoor music festivals, and InMusic Festival is no exception. What makes the flea market in Zhangbei unique is, along with the latest fashions, there are handicrafts from local residents, ranging from earrings to purses, bags and handmade shoes.
With the green views and cool weather, audiences can take it easy between shows to participate in traditional Mongolian leisure activities, such as horseback riding, wrestling, singing and dancing.
Guests must also try Mongolian signature dishes including roast mutton, oat flour noodle and horse milk, a daily feature of local families.
For visitors who can extend their stay, they should also check out Zhangbei's many tourist attractions, including Zhongdu Site of Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and the 2,500-year-old Da Qi Stone Pillar Towers.
Mi Jidong, director of Zhangbei's tourism bureau, says the local government had only two months to prepare for the first InMusic Festival.
Despite the lack of facilities and experiences in organizing an outdoor music festival of that scale, they managed to attract more than 100,000 tourists in 2009.
They made more than 12 million yuan ($1.88 million) during the three-day event. This year, organizers expect 200,000 attendees.
With a more attractive lineup and more tourists expected to attend InMusic Festival, the local government has paved the roads, which were narrow and bumpy before, and built more hotels and restaurants.
According to Mi, a 90-sq-km grassland has been mapped out as the main venue for the festival. The music festival is now a brand name synonymous with the county, Mi says. He anticipates the event to continue for more than another decade, adding that the government has reserved land as big as five times the current site for future festivals.

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