Located in China’s Hunan province, Fenghuang is a town that attracts travellers in droves. Few people know that the name of this town is associated with a fairytale about a 1,000-year-old phoenix couple that stood beside the Buddha. They sacrificed themselves to save the land and people when the whole area was on fire. Like other famous ancient towns of China, Fenghuang is well preserved both in terms of history and culture.
Known for its breathtaking landscape, the town also has signature architecture generally only seen in films. The yin and yang roofs have become tinted over time, and the ancient Hongjiao bridge is the main landmark. The houses are different from those we see in modern cities. They are built close together and face the Tuojiang River where ferrymen wait to take on guests.
Contrary to the frenetic pace of most urban areas, this town is peaceful, with ancient beauty. The local people live a slow and rustic life. Many have traditional jobs such as embroidering, knitting, and making silver jewelry and they sell their creations to tourists. These souvenirs are often a reasonable price, between VND 100,000 and 200,000 (about CAD $5-10) so you are able to buy many lovely gifts for friends and family.
The purity and tranquillity of this land are the main draws for tourists. In the winter, when the weather is colder and fewer tourists come, you can enjoy the snow and taste some specialties or hot tea. What could be more romantic?
However, you might want to avoid certain holidays such as International Labor Day in May, National Day in October or Mid-Autumn Festival because it gets very crowded.
Along with enjoying the scenery and taking photos, do not forget to taste the local cuisine. One specialty dish is the spicy fish hot pot served with rice. The fish is caught from the river and then processed immediately to keep it fresh tasting. The skewered food, although not mind-blowing, is fun to enjoy while walking across town. Smoked pork is the kind of food made here that you can buy as a gift for relatives. Sit at a café by the river, and get into the pace of local life, listening to Chinese music and eating a beef hotpot for about 80 yuan (about CAD $16).
A trip to Fenghuang Ancient Town and surrounding landmarks such as Zhangjiajie, Tianmen Shen lasts five to six days and costs about VND 10 million (about CAD $600). There are different ways to get there from Vietnam including by plane, train or car. If you take a flight from Canada, the most convenient route is to stop at Guangzhou or Shanghai airport. Then, take the domestic flight to Zhangjiajie at Hunan Province. Join a tour or travel by yourself. Local people here cannot speak English, so you should learn some common Chinese phrases or go with a native speaker in order to learn about the cultural history as well as to communicate with locals when needed. Do not forget that China bans all popular social networks including Facebook, YouTube, and Google – be prepared to go without them while you are there. Another tip is to bring digestive medicines because Chinese cuisine is delicious but quite greasy and sometimes not suitable for everyone.
Take a trip to Fenghuang Ancient Town and the stress and strain of day-to-day living will melt away. You’ll feel as if you have entered another world.
By Y Nhien
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt