China

Fenghuang (Phoenix Ancient Town), Hunan

Fenghuang (Phoenix Ancient Town) was built in 1704, and has 300 years of history.

The old town district of Fenghuang nestles on the banks of the winding Tuojiang river in a picturesque, mountainous part of Hunan province and is an exceptionally well-preserved ancient town that harbours unique ethnic languages, customs, arts as well as many distinctive architectural remains of Ming and Qing styles. The ancient city is a gathering place for Miao and Tujia ethnic minority.

We arrived in Fenghuang in the late afternoon and after checking into our hotel and a good rest, we set out for dinner. Our hotel although situated outside the ancient town, is only about a 30 mins walk to the ancient town.

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Baking chicken wrapped in herbs, a very popular dish in Fenghuang

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After this photo was taken, the elderly lady nearest to my wife chased after us and demanded payment. I think we gave her Rmb5

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The restaurant where we had our dinner
The restaurant where we had our dinner
Performances in the restaurant
Performances in the restaurant
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The covered bridge (with shops) to enter the ancient city

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After our dinner, we took a walk into the ancient town to enjoy the night scene of the river.

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On our last day in Fenghuang, we got up early (trying to beat the crowds) for a walk along the Tuojiang river. On both sides of the river, you will see beautiful buildings (some on stilts) of the Tujia and Miao people. You can also enjoy the views by taking a boat ride along the river.

The dinning area of our hotel
The dinning area of our hotel

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The view of the Tuajiang River
The view of the Tuojiang River
Boats ferrying tourists
Boats ferrying tourists

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Most of these ancient buildings have been turned into shops selling souvenir, restaurants, bars, karaoke joints and hotels. While the buildings still retain its uniqueness and beauty, the ancientness of the whole place have been compromised and it get worse at night when these bars and karaoke joints start blasting their loud music.

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All these traditional buildings have been turned into hotels
All these traditional buildings have been turned into hotels

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Although we set out quite early in the morning to stroll by the river, a lot of other tourists also have the same idea.

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Street vendors were having the same idea as well, as the saying goes: “early bird catches the worm”. Some of them do not take kindly being photographed and will give you a scorned look or chase after you to ask for payment.

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However, if you buy something from them, they will happily accede to your request for a photo session.

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Making candy
Making candy
Traditional weaving
Traditional weaving

As it was not too crowded, a lot of tourists took the opportunity to pose for their favourite photos. There are also local photographers who will loan you the traditional costumes and take your photos, with instant print out of your photo for you to take away as memories

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Fenghuang has become too touristy in many respects. However, it is still a very unique and beautiful place. If you are staying at one of the ancient buildings by the river which has been turned into hotels, you will have to drag your luggage through the town to get to your hotel.

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All images were shot with the Nikon D810 and Nikkor 24-120 f4g lens and processed with Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.

4 thoughts on “Fenghuang (Phoenix Ancient Town), Hunan

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