Friday, March 08, 2019

Hunan Day 6 Explore Fenghuang Ancient Town 鳳凰縣

What a morning rise. I was astounded and excited when I saw snow falling from the sky the moment I peeped through the window from our room. I quickly let Jo know about it. It was a rare experience of witnessing a snow fall from a person from a tropical country.
Quickly we went out to the balcony to experience the snow fall. 
Fenghuang (Phoenix) Ancient Town is an old town built during the Qing Dynasty, it is still well kept to its original appearance even after 300 years of existence. The ancient town is located in the southwest of Hunan Province, bordering Huaihua to the southeast and Tongren (Guizhou) to the west.
Breakfast in the hotel was simple, good and suited our taste very well.
'Fenghuang' is Chinese for 'Phoenix', the mythical bird of good omen and longevity that is consumed by fire to be re-born again from the flames. 
Phoenix Ancient Town has a legend that two of these fabulous birds flew over and found the Fenghuang Town so beautiful that they were reluctant to leave.
As usual the crowd was thin during winter. Last night when we arrived the place was alive with beautiful lights along the river and some places with loud music at the pubs and of many youngsters. It was a beautiful day as we were on our way for a day tour in this magical town.
I love capturing images of the snow on the flowers, plants, houses and whatever things that were looking good with it.
The weather was cold with a bit of drizzle and it was a nice stroll going through the narrow alleys of this ancient town. By the way this ancient city is a gathering place for Miao and Tujia ethnic minorities.
The food here is different from other parts of China. There were a variety of traditional foods such as pickled red peppers, peanut candies and fresh food with appetizing smell fuming out from the small family run eatery shops.
A traditional peanut candy with many stalls offering samples to try. It really tasted good.
The ancient town of Fenghuang has been added to the UNESCO World HeritageTentative List on March 28, 2008 in the Cultural category.
Spending some time at the Museum of Ancient Town.
At one of the many winding and narrow cobbled alleys.
The exploration of the ancient town continued and more exciting places to see.
One of the books written by writer Shen Congwen 沈从文 (1902-1988) who contributed greatly to the development of modern Chinese literature. 
We visited the home of Shen Congwen and I was feeling good to have carry the same surname "Shen 沈" like him. Kind of feeling related .....
Fenghuang is also the hometown of other country's great minds, including the first premier of the Republic of China (1912-49) Xiong Xiling (1870-1937) and the famous contemporary painter of Chinese traditional painting Huang Yongyu.
A newly renovated city wall, unfolding from the gate and connecting with the East Gate, has created some new angles for visitors to enjoy the riverside views of the town.
East Gate Tower was built in 1715 is a two-storied architecture with a height of 8 meters and one of two Qing Dynasty towers in Fenghuang. The East Gate was a solid barrier of the ancient city with military defense and urban flood control function.
I love seeing the beautiful sight of snow on the many old ancient rooftops and it is everywhere in the town. This is a winter beautiful and it happens only during winter.
We had the opportunit to visit Xiong Xiling’s Former Residence. 
Mr. Xiong Xiling (熊希龄) was called ‘the wonder child of Hunan province’ and he was elected as the first elected Prime Minister of the Republican period in 1913.  
The ladies also visited several silverware shops while the guys tagged along in their shopping quest.
The local daily life seems simple with basic old trading method, walking on the cobbled alley.
It was near lunch time Little Duck took us through more interesting places, going through bridges and capturing more beautiful scenery.
Here we were in another traditional eating house for another Xiangxi indulgent before we proceed with the second half of our exploration.
We took our bus to Southern China Great Wall (中國南方長城; Zhōngguó Nánfāng Chángchéng) which was about 14km away from the town. South China Great Wall is a fortification built by the Ming dynasty to protect the local Han Chinese from Miao attacks. Reluctantly we climb the steps of the South China Great Wall to to reach the platform.
We had the entire space by ourselves and had fun throwing snow balls against each others.
The group trying to lift the gigantic spear from the rest.
And all gave up after a good try.
It was time to descend, get to the bus and back to the Ancient Town for more activities.
Coming back from the South Great Wall and walking towards to town we saw this man with his pull cart full of collection.
It was back to the town and another interesting narrow alley with red lanterns hanging along the moist cobbled street.
Little Duck getting tickets for us to take the boat ride and also the same place where we boarded on the boats at Tuo Jiang River 凤凰沱江 wharf.
12 of us were to many for a boat hence we had to split into 2 boats. 
All seated and ready to cruise on the greenish water of Tuo Jiang River.
Tou Jiang River stretches diagonally from the northwest to southeast of the Fenghuang Ancient Town and is the life line of the local people. 
The river also provides a means for boatmen to support their families by ferrying visitors up and down stream for sightseeing. Barry & Chan were on the other boat.
The iconic sight of these stilted houses along the Tuo Jiang River, looking flimsy but have been there for ages. And I long for a perfect reflection on the water surfaces.
The guided boat ride going underneath of the bridges as part of the river cruise.
We could see women washing their clothes and the men fishing with their nets which was a common affair since centuries ago. 
End of the day the local finish their chores and will go back to their respective homes to rest.
Lastly we visited an Art Gallery Building for the day and had a truly amazing exploration of the Phoenix City.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Hunan Day 5 - TienMen Mountain 天門山, Furong Ancient Town and Phoenix Town

Goodbye Pullman Zhangjiajie it has been a wonderful stay in Wulingyuan and I hope to be back to see changes in the near future. Our next destination was about 32km away south to a mountain top.
Today we will be braving the coolest day of our entire tour and we were warned to wear thick clothing. expecting a temperature below 0° C. The queue at the station was super relax as we were making our way to Tienmen Mountain 天門山 at the cable station. It is actually located near Zhangjiajie Railway Station.
Tianmen Mountain is found within Tianmen Mountain National Park, Zhangjiajie, northwestern part of Hunan Province, China.  
The cableway was constructed in 2005 by a French company called Poma. This was our ascend to the top. It is about 7km ride and taking 30 minutes to reach to top.
A pictorial map of Tienmen Mountain.
Enjoying the spectacular view, the most beautiful mountains in the world. By the way Tienmen Mountain literally means "Heaven's Door Mountain".
Tianmen Mountain Cableway is the "longest passenger cableway of high mountains in the world", with 98 cars and a total length of 7,455m and ascent of 1,279m. The steepest gradient is 37° which near the to peak. 
The winding road of 11 km with 99 bends as an alternate way to go up to the top of the mountain.
The view at the top with snow and ice covering everywhere. Indeed a lovely time and place for snow photography.
It was cold but we were prepared and ready to explore Heaven's Door.
Little Duck giving us a commentary and more as we moved on with the places.
Everyone of us were happy and enjoying the beauty of its cold atmosphere.
We had to walk slowly and has to be careful certain parts of the walk way is very slippery.
The balustrade walk way really looks dangerous when viewed from a distance.
Laying down at the new glass skywalk known as the "Walk of faith ". Appparently this was built and opened sometime in April 2015.
Another shot of the glass walk way, feeling like floating in mid air with astonishing views. A little bit scary though. 
The end of the cliff adventure at the exit point.
I am glad to be in this place experiencing the winter atmosphere, the snow and icy coating on the surfaces and plants. A wonderland indeed.
The temperature of the day as shown in the cable car building. Wow it went as low as -5°C.
Leo gave an ice spike for me for another fun pose.
It was time to descend and say bye bye to Tienmen Mountain. It was a great experience and worth doing it during winter time. You get to be away from the chaotic and noisy crowd, no queue and relaxing. 
The sign of our lunch place.
Within the proximity of Yong Ding, Zhangjiajie and a short bus ride from the Cable car station we were at this restaurant called Wu Long Shan Zhai for lunch.
Today we were travelling southwards of Hunan and after 90km of bus ride we reached Furongzhen 芙蓉镇 similar to the Chinese name for Seremban, Malaysia but this is of course in China.

Furong 芙蓉 is a town in Yongshun County, Xiangxi Prefecture, Hunan Province, China. This town is also known as Furong Ancient Town is a popular tourist spot somewhere in between Fenghuang County (Phoenix Town) and Zhangjiajie. 
The main attraction of this town is situated on the cliffs above a waterfall.
Furong was originally known as Wangcun, but was renamed after the famous movie, Hibiscus Town.
 The Tujia people were the original inhabitants of Wancun, and today Furong consists of a mix of Tujia and Han Chinese peoples.

Visiting the ancient town with a local guide is provided giving us an in depth commentary of Furongzhen.
Furong Waterfall 芙蓉镇瀑布 is about 40 meter wide with a drop height of 60 meters.
 The entire group at the biggest waterfall in west Hunan province.
Another angle at the waterfalls as we were going behind the falling water.
Walking behind the hanging water screen of the waterfall is like placing oneself in a crystal palace and listening to the sound of falling crystal.
 From the pier you can enjoy a different view of Furong Waterfall and Tusi Palace on your left-hand side. 
The Wuli Slate Street of Furong ancient town with many traditional shops and buildings on its both sides, is winding and leads you to the pier of Youshui River(酉水).
Wuli Slate Street has a history of over 2,300 thousand years, it has witnessed the history of Furong ancient town since the time when it was still a transportation hub both on land and via water.
I bought six of these porcelain cups, initially I thought it was made of enameled metal.
An old lady making and selling Furongzhen cigarettes.
Due to it remote location, village size, inconvenient of transport and lack of promotion, Furong Ancient Town is less popular than Fenghuang Ancient Town. Comparatively it is more peaceful than Fenghuang. Another interesting and worthy visit of this small ancient town.
Finally we reached the last destination of the day Fenghuang after nearly 120km ride or about 2.5 hours on the bus. Everyone was hungry and dinner was pre-booked and ready for us.
Another sumptuous meal at Fenghuang of Xiangxi cuisine 
As the bus could not stop close to the hotel door step and we had to drag our luggage. 
The beautiful night scene of Fenghuang river side in front of the hotel we were staying.
It was Feng Huang Cheng Hotel, nice and cosy.
We will be staying in this room for the next two nights before we move back to Changsha. Goodnight and it was a long tiring day but worth the effort. Cheers!