At least a couple of hours bus ride from Tongren, we arrived at the town of Fenghuang, located at the north-western side of Hunan province. Since our next bus ride to is a bit late in the afternoon, we decided to spend some time in town. Fenghuang has two sides, the modern and the ancient. The Ancient River side town is considered as one of China’s Heritage and also one of the two most beautiful town in the whole China, the other being Chang Ting in Fujian Province.
We took a cab to head to the river town. It didn’t cost much since it’s just a few minutes away as we found out. There was a blockade a few houses before the actual gate bridge as not to allow any vehicles in the premises. What we saw beyond the East Gate Bridge is a scenic river side town with old Chinese houses with a beautiful mountain terrain as the back drop. Even if the weather was gloomy with occasional drizzles, it’s still looks great with the mist.
Fenghuang Town was built in 1203AD and was previously known as Zhengan. Eventually the name changed to Fenghuang which means ‘Phoenix‘ in Chinese. Legend has it that two of these mythical birds flew over the town and was reluctant to leave for a while since they found it very beautiful. Hence the name Feng Huang Cheng or Phoenix Town came to be.
The Tuo Jiang River was muddy brown since it was raining at that time, but on a perfectly clear day it was said to be emerald green, reflecting the mountain scape in which the town is at the foot. Much of the structures like the walls, temples, bridges, wells, stone steps and stilt houses remain their old structures and styles ranging back to Ming and Qing Dynasties. It’s an old authentic Chinese town before modernization crept in. And what’s best, it’s not too touristy which I liked.
Most of the people here belongs to the Miao Ethnic Minorites. They are the largest ethnic minority in China living at the hill sides and slopes of the mountains. They are a colorful bunch and are fond of jewelries and trinkets. The people here are also a bit aloof of cameras as I noticed. The Miaos sells some trinkets and interesting knits and wears at the streets of Fenghuang.
Since we only had a few hours of stay in town we decided to eat our lunch here. Passing by one of the barbecue stalls by the river already caught the attention of my grumbling stomach. Her Barbecue delicacies are really mouthwatering that’s hard to resist. I bought a blocked tofu, crablets, potato salad, and thin mushroom stems all topped with their chili. Really good and only cost me 13 RMB (87 Php)
There were other food fares there but mostly I saw dried fruits and plums of different kinds. I bought a few so I’ll have some snacks for our next bus ride. We walked down the East gate river side street and enjoyed the scenery. Walking the old red flagstone streets here is like walking back in time, much like the cobblestone streets in our Vigan. I heard the night here is beautiful as well with all those lanterns lit up by the river. Too bad we couldn’t stay for the night. We inquired on some lodgings there and rooms per night goes only for 25-30 RMB. Really cheap.
It was hard to leave town but our bus leaves at 5pm. We took another cab to the bus station. And soon our bus was rolling off for another couple of hours drive to Zhangjiajie. I hope I could visit the place and stay in town for a few days in the future.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.