Fenghuang, originally, marked the boundaries between various major civilisations, due to its pivotal position. Vast city walls were erected during the Ming dynasty for protection. Luckily, they did not deter the ever-common travellers and traders, which passed through the city making it a cultural centre and a key trading outpost.
Its residence thrived on the river building stilted houses and shops into the river bed. The city has a plethora of temples, pagodas, and rickety old alley ways to explore. Though its awe-inspiring beauty should attract coach load of tourists and lonely planet says it’s bursting with visitors, these were only Chinese tourists. During my trip I only saw two other Western faces who were travelling with Chinese partners. The town was definitely not used to being on the standard backpacker map, which was both exciting and frustrating with bags of tourists asking for photos or just taking them anyway. It is only in the latest edition of the China Lonely Planet that Fenghuang has been featured in the Top 30 list.
How to get here…
There is no train station. You can take a 5 hour bus from Zhangjiajie city or there is also a direct bus from Wulinyuan, which is what I did. This is the town closest to the entrance to the Zhangjiajie National Park, where I spent two days, later catching a bus from the bus station in Wulinyuan to Fenghuang. The buses are very easy. My hostel booked mine for me the same day. There are two every day one leaving at 8am and the other 2pm. I didn’t book mine in time to catch the 8am one or I would have done that as the 2 pm one gets you in after dark, which is a shame for seeing all the famous red lanterns turn on along the river. The bus drops you off at the bus station in Fenghuang, which is very small and easy. Lots of your fellow travellers will get a car share, which I was invited to join. It’s 20¥ per person, which seemed to be the flat rate for all taxis to and from the station and old town.
Where to stay…
It is best to stay within the city walls in the old town, which is closer to all the sights. From what I saw there are plenty of sleeping options from hostels to beautiful, luxury hotels, however when I was choosing where to stay I found out a lot of the hostels were not allowing foreign visitors, which restricted my options considerably. I stayed at the Dengba Youth Hostel, which was down a little cobbled alley way. The staff were lovely and very helpful even though they didn’t speak any English. They booked me a bus to Zhangjiajie and gave me good food recommendations.
I was lucky that I had a dorm room to myself. Though it didn’t have a western toilet and had a broken flush. The room was averagely clean. There weren’t any mattresses only a padded sheet on the bed. The room cost 40¥ and I paid an extra 10¥ for air conditioning. This was fine for one night, any longer I think I would have struggled. Something to consider when planning a trip here.
What to do…
Though I stayed for less than a day I felt like that was plenty. For attractions there isn’t much to see or do but there’s plenty to wander and experience. You can walk around the city walls and up and down the river on both sides, which are laced with street sellers. There’s lots of opportunity to get dressed up in traditional dress and get your photo taken. On one stretch of the river there are some lovely cafes where I stopped for a coffee and watched the world go by along the river. You can also take a boat ride on small wooden boats with a man punting you slowly along. This was one of the highlights for me as you could sit back and just take in the scenery. At night the town comes alive with live music in bar after bar along the river.
A few photos of Fenghuang….
What do you think is the most interesting place to visit in China? Have you been to Fenghuang? Leave a comment below ♥