Next installment for my China trip. Part 1 is HERE!
During our two-day stay at Zhang Jia Jie, well, it’s three day and two night actually, we decided to take a trip, which I really wanted, to an ancient city, Feng Huan Cheng (Phoneix City). I did some research online prior visiting and I found it to be one of the most beautiful old towns in China.
It was a little awkward to get there actually, there wasn’t direct train to get there and each train time table I looked was like a day travel time. Thus we opted for a hired car with a driver. Things are relatively cheap in China and when you have a group, the hiring cost could be shared. So here we were, hiring a van with a tour guide and a driver for around £100 (shared by six of us). It might sound alot but listen, the drive itself was about 6 hours!!!! I thought it was money well spent. Because a return trip would cost us 12 hours plus stops in between for loos and lunch.
I always thought that it was nice to have company on a trip like this and it was right. A 6-hour car journey could be boring but lucky there were six of us. We did sleep in between but we did see some nice mountain views and rarely-seen sceneries, from a tourist point of view. I didn’t take any photos though because time was tight so I didn’t ask for a stop. We did however, stopped for lunch after about 4 hours, at a very unique local restaurant. Food was definitely local there and fresh! In fact, the vegetable we ordered was freshly picked from their back garden! It was a delicious meal but we ordered way too much and couldn’t finish in the end, I thought it was a waste though but we couldn’t take any away!
It was lovely to see these local places and not ones on the high street. This place is right in the middle of a village. Just so cool! But then thanked our tour guide for taking us there. We didn’t even know we were going there in the first place.
A long car journey simply killed my bum. But when we were approaching Feng Huan Cheng, I was wondering if it was that good. Just before we entered this magical place, we went through a concrete forest, full of factories, dirty streets and some 5-6 storey high buildings. It was industrial and nothing that I had in mind. But when the van made the final turn into this tiny and narrow alleyway, I thought I better hoped for the best. We got off… well the first thing we did was borrowed the toilet from a near by hotel where the van parked. Then we just asked the tour guide, ‘where the heck is that lovely beautiful ancient town?’ She pointed straight through a narrow isle. I was eager. I pull my camera out and powered on and ready. As I walked, my heart was pounding and adrenaline filling my body (yes I always get very excited about beautiful places!).
When we reached the end of the isle, my jaw dropped. The first ten minutes was a machine-gun style camera action, perhaps the result from my excited brain. Then I calmed down and started to look for more artistic angles. Really, if I was ever to go back, I would stay for at least a couple of days there just to take ‘proper’ photos like the morning mist, sunrise or sunset. Awww… I wish… I wish.
Anyhow, it was a very cool visit and really, you have to be there to experience it and to see it for yourself. The buildings were simply stunning. Though this place is slowing filling with tourist, local and foreign. There were bars everywhere but luckily they kept the look of the building but the tranquility was long gone and now this town is filled with buzz, music and… beer.
Limited time mean that we had to leave around 7pm. That mean we could only spend 5 hours looking around. It wasn’t enough, simply. We rushed around snapping photos and looked at local shops and stuff. It wasn’t long before sunset and the entire town was covered with a very attractive golden yellow colour. That’s nice. I was more admiring the place than capturing it. I wanted to see it. It was beautiful.
We found a little food stall along the back street where it was filled with restaurants and other very nice food stalls to haver our dinner. The food was amazing and at an amazing price too! If you are willing to try local food at a local place, you will be spoiled by the authentic tastes, variety and low-cost. Just that you have to speak mandarin! When we finished our dinner, I wanted to have a final peek at the town before we left. I was shocked when I saw the lit-up buildings! It was nice but from my research, the town used to have red lanterns lit up at night which was more authentic but now they were covered with LEDs and leon lights. It was a very nice display but I would have preferred the old lanterns anytime! Still, what a scene!
We were tired and all of use virtually slept the entire car journey. 6 hours later, we were back at the hotel in Zhang Jia Jie. That’s our final night before we took the sleeper train to Luoyang, when I relived my childhood memory!
I don’t know how long this place will remain as it is because, like any other popular tourist destinations in China, the local will slowly modernise the place. This is probably the sadist thing of all about China. Most cities are now too modern to my liking and they all filled with global companies and retail stores. They don’t interest me. I want to see the old China, I want to ‘SEE’ the culture.
China is changing faster than ever. I just hope that they will treasure their long history by keeping some of these places intact.
Have a good day!