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.
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Last week, during the May holiday, the InternChina Zhuhai office, the Zhuhai interns and some of our friends, made a trip to the city of Zhangjiajie, in Hunan province. The main purpose of the trip was to visit the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, recognized as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. This park is famous for its pillar-like mountains, which are the result of many years of erosion. This unique landscape was the inspiration for the floating “Hallelujah Mountains” seen in the movie Avatar.
We decided to take a coach bus to Zhangjiajie to make it affordable to everyone, so it took us 16 hours to get there. It might seem like a very long time to sit inside a bus, but actually it’s part of the adventure! We left on Sunday night and arrived Monday morning, ready to start exploring. We went inside the park and walked from one end to another, in between the mountains. It was foggy and rainy, so we all had to buy ponchos and umbrellas to stay dry. Most of the ponchos were blue, which actually went great with the Avatar theme.
Inside the park you really felt like you were in a jungle. Trees, bushes, creeks, hills, everything green and untouched by man except for the narrow stone pathway and wooden bridges. When you looked up you could see the mountains rising up into the sky but you couldn’t actually see the tops because of the fog. It was almost like they went all the way into the clouds!
One of the best parts of the park was seeing all the monkeys. They were very friendly and loved all the attention, it even seemed as if they were posing for the cameras. I’d seen monkeys before, but never so near that I could take close-up photos without having to zoom-in.
After leaving the park we were all wet and tired so we were taken to our hotel. We changed clothes, went donwstairs for dinner and then hung around for a couple more hours drinking beer, eating street barbecue and chatting.
The next day it was time to climb the mountain, so we got up at 6 am, went for breakfast and headed back into the park. We had 2 options: either climb the mountain on foot and ride back down on the elevator, or viceversa. Some of the girls decided to go up in the elevator but the bigger part of the group (including me) chose the braver option and set right off into the mountain.
The first part of the journey was a not-so-unpleasant walk up a stone pathway. But then we arrived at the steps. The guide told us it was 6000 steps to the top – at that moment I didn’t know if it was a lot or not. But it didn’t take long for me to realize what I had gotten myself into. After the first 200-ish steps, I was out of breath, sweating and ready to give up. Some of our group (especially the girls, how embarrasing!) were also in the same situation, but seeing the others keep on going made me “man up” and keep on climbing.
I have to admit: it was not an easy climb. But then we turned around, looked at the unbelievable views, and told each other how it was all worth it. And it definitely was. After a few hours, lots of panting and cursing the steps, we finally made it to the top. It was an amazing moment, not only because we felt literally on top of the world, but because we had taken on this challenge and rose up to it.
After catching our breaths and the hard-earned photo session, it was time to take the elevator back down. It would take a little bit more walking, a lunch stop at the McDonald’s on the top and a few more bus rides (it’s a huge mountain!), before we arrived at the Bailong Elevator – or “Hundred Dragons Elevator” – said to be the highest outdoor elevator in the world. Just a few minutes ride and just like that, we were back at the bottom of the mountain. Time to do it all over again? Maybe in a couple of years…
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