June 7, 2015 – June 9, 2015
After leaving the rugged landscape of Zhangjiajie we headed to the ancient city of Fenghuang, built along the Tuo Jiang river. Fenghuang’s classic architecture has been crowding the river bank for centuries, and makes for a great place to see these well preserved buildings.
The ‘old town’ of Fenghuang covers both shores of a large section of the winding river, and is the best preserved and most visited section of the sprawling town. There is an entry fee to get into the ‘old town’, once inside you will find dozens of touristy shops, restaurants, cafes as well as hotels and guest houses catering to the large daily influx of visitors.
We stayed at the More Inn Wenxing, one of just a few places we identified which welcome foreign tourists. Fenghuang was the only city in China where we encountered hotels who did not want to deal with foreigners, most likely because they were just small guesthouses and they probably did not speak any English. But we found several options on Trip Advisor. The More Inn worked great for us and was actually cheaper than we expected. There is also a great wonton soup vender just down the street on the corner of Phoenix Square.
The city is filled with loads of historic sites, all included in the city’s entry fee. Guard towers along the river, well preserved residences of the city’s historic elite, and the two story covered bridge to name a few, it even includes a free boat trip along the river.
Be sure to check out the large park built into the forested hill which rises above the town, just behind the two story covered bridge. An extensive network of trails and viewpoints extends all the way to the top of the hill and can take easily an hour or more to explore.
There are dozens of great restaurants throughout the city, we stopped in a few to try some local dishes.
We discovered that the town is well known for more than just its classic scenery and architecture, the city also has a notorious nightlife. At night the whole city lights up with bright lights and dozens of bars and dance clubs come alive along with their sub woofers and bump the night away. If you want to sleep at night, we recommend a hotel away from the river, which appears to be the center of the party scene (our hotel was well away from the river).
Fenghuang was a great place to get a taste of what traditional Chinese life may have looked like. I say ‘looked like’ as the town is clearly a bit of a tourist trap, but the architecture and feel of the streets and the wall city are at least traditional, and one of the best preserved examples around. We enjoyed relaxing and just wandering around the city’s warren of streets, alleys and bridges. From here we set off to some of China’s famous rice terraces.