Chinese Legends say that in ancient time, two phoenixes flew over the town and found the surroundings so beautiful that they hovered above it, and were so taken by the beauty that they did not want to leave. This town then got the name Phoenix Ancient Town.
After our amazing 2-day trip to Zhangjiajie, in which we hiked up and down the mountains and saw the picturesque view, we continued on our journey to Phoenix Ancient Town (Feng Huang), a mere 6-hour drive away in Hunan Province. The town can be traced back to Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC). By the time we were nearing the city, everyone was so exhausted from having spent over 23 hours in the bus in the span of three days, and were pretty grumpy and ready to get off the bus. When we passed by the river in which the town is situated however, everyone quickly got very excited at what they saw – a beautiful lit up city reflecting over the river.
The city is inhabited by the local Miao people, and is famous for its beauty and specialty – the houses are on stilts over the river. The scene looked like something that could have come from a movie, the glowing Chinese architecture reflecting in the still river, red lanterns hanging from every roof. It was beautiful. The town runs along the river, and is home to many stores, restaurants, bars and markets. Night life was bustling, so after we checked into the hotel and left our bags in our rooms we all split up into little groups to explore the city.
There must be beautiful gardens surrounding the city, because every couple of meters on the river’s edge were old ladies, sitting together and stringing together flowers to make beautiful head wreaths. At 5 RMB (0.62 €) a piece, who could resist?
Having been on the road for so long, we practically lived off gas-station food and candy, so we were all excited for the dinner that Naima (our tour guide) had planned for us. Located in the new part of the city, we were taken to a restaurant that had a wonderful and authentic Chinese feel to it. Delicious food was made for us, including cooked shredded bamboo, a variety of cooked vegetables, shredded potatoes, steamed pork and cooked beef dishes, chicken soup cooking over a fire on the table, and of course lots of rice. Not only was the food delicious, but we got to try some of Naima’s home-made rice wine. Although pretty strong, it is very sweet and a great complement to the food.
The next morning was really special because we were finally seeing what Phoenix Town looked like during the day! The town has the beautiful backdrop of mountains. The sun was shining and as we walked around we got to really appreciate the constructions of the houses. There were lots of men on little boats, trying to get from point A to B, and women sitting on the river’s edge cleaning their laundry.
We had until 1 pm to walk around the city, grab some local street food, take some pictures and enjoy the sunshine before having to head back to the bus for the 16 hour ride home. Everyone was sad to leave the city, and although there wasn’t too much to do there, it was just one of those places where you could spend a couple days just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery around you. We could definitely have used another night there. But as it is, it’s nice to have left with the great memory of our one night in Phoenix Ancient Town.