It sounds like paradise to me. I cannot imagine why decurso would leave.
Do I detect snark?
Decurso's review is from 2007. Development in Hebei province has been speeding along at a rapid clip since 2008. Even shit holes like Xingtai (a half hour's train ride north of Handan) have received provincial financing to put some spit and polish on the town. Handan's air pollution has improved since my first stop there in 2009. Cheddar Cheese can indeed be found in certain markets there if one looks. The computer district has expanded and you can still grab your western and English subtitled movies there. If you fancy taking in a movie at the local cinemas, well you'll find it wanting. Most of what it screens are domestic movies, or dubbed blockbusters. The city has been expanding its streets and improving its sewage system, so a lot of the old buildings have been raised and a lot of cement and steel eyesores have since replaced them. More clubs have opened and there are several large scale shopping malls where you can pick up foreign goods. There aren't many foreigners there because there aren't many universities or colleges there. More buxiban have moved into the city since 2009, if that is one's cuppa. I feel confident in assuming that the foreign presence in Handan has grown a bit since Decurso's days there, but the foreign population is still relatively small. As I mentioned before: it has actual western style food there from international, western chains (KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, two pizza buffets which have become trendy in Southern Hebei over the last two years, etc.), and there is Japanese and Korean cuisine there, as well as the usual mainland suspects (Xinjiang, Lanzhou, and Sichuan cuisine). It is a city I would recommend to couples travelling together, or for someone who wants urban conveniences but a far more casual, less hectic stay on the mainland. Its rail station is easy to navigate and a regular stop for all of the major trains coming and going through the area. It is very easy to get seats to Shijiazhuang and Beijing and Zhengzhou there. Taxi flag fall was 6rmb and I never had trouble flagging one down, as I do in larger cities. The bus lines are convenient and not overly crowded. Staring at laowai is not so much of a problem there as it would be in smaller Hebei cities like Xingtai. Handan is a third tier city, plain and simple.
I don't enjoy finding myself in a position that remotely resembles being a cheerleader for China, but some perspective and accuracy are called for. In China, many of yesterday's primitive shit holes are now a nondescript, fourth or fifth tiered city. Paradise? By no means. A hell upon earth? Perhaps neither fish nor fowl for some. I happened to have spent time in Handan recently. I saw it with my own eyes, smelled it with my own nose, and heard it with my own pair of ears. 2011. My job requires me to travel to some truly backwater Chinese shit hole universities and college towns. I don't think it's particularly special, but if you work in the urban district of Handan, it certainly is not an armpit.