Fenghuang, in English called Phoenix Ancient Town, is a beautiful little village in Hunan province in the middle of China. Fenghuang means phoenix in Chinese and the legend says that two of these majestic birds flew over the village long time ago and because of its beauty, they settled there. I would definitely agree on the beauty aspect of this story. When I first arrived, I was appalled by the charm of this old place. Some people call Suzhou the Venice of China but I personally think Fenghuang might as well have this title because of its nice river floating down through the town of small wooden houses.
The locals who are selling small oranges in the streets of this town are the ones who have lived here for decades, also before tourists came around. Because this place has such a beautiful mystery to it, the local government chose to turn it into a tourist town which meant that the locals now have the ability to earn money by opening up hostels, hotels, shops and selling their products and groceries but still in their own environment.
Daily life of locals
The town is mainly dominated by the Miao minority who are hospitable and welcoming to tourists. The women of this minority is said to be of natural beauty dressed in their traditional clothing of blue and white colors. In Fenghuang, you can meet the locals and buy their hand-made accessories and paintings. It is also possible to walk into the many small shops to explore how they produce and make them. I personally saw a girl weaving a scarf on a big loom. It was interesting to see how this was made. I had so much respect for the girl who did this. You really need to be patient for such work.
How to get to Fenghuang?
|South Bus Station||09:00, 15:40||CNY 134||around 5.5 to 6.5 hours|
|West Bus Station||09:00, 10:40, 14:20, 17:20||CNY 145|
|Changzhutan Bus Station||07:30, 10:00, 14:50, 16:50||CNY 158|
|Lituo Express Bus Station||16:30||CNY 149|
Central Bus Station (near the Zhangjiajie Railway Station):
Bus schedule: 09:30, 12:30, 14:30, 15:30 and 17:20
Bus fare: around CNY 80
Duration: around 4 hours
When you want to move on to either Changsha or Zhangjiajie, you just ask around for a bus ticket. Many small shops are selling the bus tickets. If you don’t speak Chinese, just ask at the hostel or hotel, you’re staying at because all signs for tickets are in Chinese and English in this town is quite limited.
What to do in Fenghuang?
When arriving at the entrance to the town, you will have to buy a ticket to get into the town. The ticket will allow you to go to different places to have a look into the traditional life of Chinese Miao people. The ticket includes entrance to a small museum/traditional house of a rich local in the traditional village, a walk up to a small temple and platform to watch the town from above and a small boat ride. It is good to ask around, and the locals will show you were to go with the ticket. The ticket lady did not tell me and my friend anything, so we did not discover this before after a few hours of walking around on our own (which you can do as well of course).
The traditional houses on sticks
Furthermore, you can rent a dress or cultural costume from one of the locals for around 20 RMB as well and dress up like a Chinese princess or soldier. Many Chinese tourists love to do this and spend hours trying to take the best selfie or the girls force their boyfriends to take the perfect photo at the banks of the river. It is quite funny to just watch all the trouble they go through for the perfect picture.
I would recommend you to stay there over-night as well because when the sun is down and the air is cool, it is amazing to walk around and explore the whole town by night. I did not have any accommodation when I arrived so I went into the first hostel and asked for a bed. It was out of season (May), so there was no problem in doing that. If it’s during summer time, I would recommend you to order in advance.
I think two days were enough to explore this magical place but if you aren’t in a hurry and like to sit in a cafe at the riverside just watching life and thinking (or play your phone, WIFI is everywhere), then it’s the perfect place to stay a bit longer too.
Hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did 😀