There is a place in China where the time stops. A mystical place where mountains, water and blue skies prevail. A place hidden from tourists and favored by the Mother Nature. A world that is dominated by the green color. This place’s called Fenghuang.
Fenghuang is also known as the Phoenix Ancient Town and it is located in Hunan province, nearby Zhangjiajie. As one of the oldest unchanged Chinese towns, it is worth exploring for the sake of its ancient architecture and authentic Chinese look. Its scenery is breath-taking, no matter whether it’s night or daytime. Just have a look as some photos I took during my last visit there.
Every single local house is decorated by flashy lanterns and colorful lights so the whole place looks like a fairy tale.
The glowing buildings on the left and right side are hostels and restaurants from where you can witness this spectacular view.
There are plenty of wooden boats by the river.
Local houses and hotel windows reflected in the water.
Massive water tunnels.
Chinese pagodas and temples.
The view from the top of pagoda.
Fenghuang means Phoenix in Chinese language and it represents good omen and longevity in Chinese mythology.
What people love the most about this town is that it has not evolved during the past few centuries. Locals live here like they used to live hundred of years ago giving us a view of a quite and traditional China, totally different from modern cities and large conurbations.
Rowboats are used as one of the main means of transportation here. Tourists are more than welcome to take one of them to explore the town. It is a fantastic experience.
The life at the river is calm, peaceful and harmonious. Locals don’t get distracted much by visitors.
One of the most famous Chinese writers, called Shen Congwen, was born and raised in Fenghuang. His novels and poems are widely known by Chinese students.
Fenghuang itself is divided into two districts: New Town and Ancient Town, but the Ancient Town is more frequently visited.
Fenghuang is a home to the Miao ethnic minority. They live in their houses along the river bank, wear their traditional clothes and live normally doing everyday life activities such as washing clothes beside Tuojiang River.
Fenghuang in Black and White
Fenghuang is not very common among foreigner travellers and it’s a real pitty. The huge advantage of this place is the fact it’s never too crowdy and busy.
Those are my favourite photos from China, ever.
All of the photos have been taken from a balcony of my hostel. I woke up at 5 am to get the best view.
Fenghuang on a budget
How to cheaply get there:
- You can get to Zhangjiajie (Hunan province) first and take a direct bus from Zhangjiajie central bus station to Fenghuang central station. There are 3 buses going in the morning at 8.30, 9.30 and 11.00. You will spend approximately 4 hours on the bus and pay no more than RMB70 ($11).
- You can also fly but it’s pretty expensive, between RMB600-650 ($100)for one way ticket from Zhangjiajie. The nearest airport is Tongren Fenghuang Airport (35 km from the town) so you need to add around RMB100 ($16) for taxi.
- Entry was previously free, however nowadays tourists are being charged 148 yuan ($23.93) for a ticket to visit the old town since April 10. Read more here.
- Accommodation prices start from RMB100 ($16) per single room with a beautiful view on the river. Don’t book anything in advance as you can negotiate prices there, especially when you travel with friends. Look around (there are plenty of rooms to choose from) and keep bargaining. Don’t accept the first offer and take your time.
- Restaurants are very cozy and affordable. It is much cheaper to order a single dish (a plate of dumplings for RMB8/$1, Chinese noodle soup for RMB10/$1.5 or fried rice with veggies RMB12/ $2) rather than many small plates with different food (a four course meal costs around RMB100-RMB150/ $16-$25) unless there are more than 5-8 people dining out. You can grab some Chinese snack on the run as well (a piece of fruit for RMB1-3/ $0.5).
- One hour boat ride costs RMB100 ($16). There were 4 of us so we shared the cost.
- You can prepare some changes (RMB50/$8) for some souvenirs – locally made jewellery, some postcards or Chinese hats.
- One whole day and one night is more than enough to explore Fenghuang. It’s a small town.
So if you are looking for some off the beaten track places in China where you can experience the real Chinese culture and tradition, make sure Fenghuang goes first on your list.