Lost on Planet Earth – Fenghuang, China

Mars Climbing into Bed on Sleeper-Train

Fenghuang, China ~ 4th – 6th September 2012

Tuesday, 4th September 2012 – Today we leave the city of Hong Kong to make our way through immigration by train to cross into mainland China.  It took about 2 hours to get to Guangzhou to board an overnight train to Jishou (approx 16 hrs).

The train is an older style without air conditioning, this is the most basic train service we used during the tour.  Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious but it’s certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people as it’s the main form of transport for locals. We slept in the hard sleeper class – These are not as rough as they sound – compartments are open-plan, clean-ish, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment).  Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided, I took along a sleeping bag to use as the sheets are not high quality and cleanliness of sheets vary.  Safe hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals, I still shy away from drinking it.  Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins.

Toilet paper isn’t available so I keep a roll in my bag at all times, it’s a necessary in Asia. The general train cleanliness are not the same standards Westerners are accustomed to. The train has a dining carriage where meals are available three times a day, and snacks like fruit, beer, soft drinks and peanuts are available on the train’s trolley cart along the way.  I purchase some extra snacks before the journey for tomorrow’s breakfast and KFC for an early dinner.

I sat on a fold down seat next to the open window during the daylight hours of the train to keep myself from feeling travel sick and near air ventilation.  Sleeper train’s have never been a good experience for me until this holiday.  During the train ride the group chatted amongst ourselves, played card games, shared a KFC Bucket of chicken Peter purchased and we all went to be when the lights went out about 11pm.  I slept for 4-5 hours on and off, and didn’t feel travel sickness during my time on the train.

Mars Sleeping with Dipper in the top bunk
Wednesday 5th September 2012 – Arriving at Jishou train station at 6 am the group traveled by mini bus to Fenghuang (approx 1.5 hours).  Fenghuang (Phoenix Town) is home to the Tujia and Miao minorities.  It’s said to be one of the best-preserved ancient cities in southern China.
Our leader Richard took us on a walking tour of this magnificent riverside town as the hotel was not ready for us to check in. Covered by many bridges and stepping-stones, Tuo Jiang River is a life force of the local people who swim, wash their cloths and conduct business along the river. We strolled down the back alleys where wooden houses project over the water and visited a local cafe for bacon & eggs on toast along with coffee, their silver shops, dress stores and post card and gift stores.  Walking along the river is especially atmospheric at night.
Lights of Fenghuang river at night
We checked into the Tuojiang Hotel around midday,  the twin bed room was quiet large, balcony view of the river city, the bed was softer, with a combined bathroom and toilet, air conditioning and a fridge. WiFi was available in our rooms, also our room had a desk computer with internet access.  The tour group met at 1pm to share drinks and lunch at the local restaurants along the river.  We visited the post card store, were I sat down and sent 5 post cards to friends.
View of Phoenix Town from the hotel balcony
Breaking off from the group Laura and I went dress shopping, I purchased some long dresses for around 60Yuen each, I also picked up a red bracelet with a silver tiger on it.
The tour group dinner was at 6pm, we had a banquet feast, with yummy tofu dishes, mixed meats and vegetables.  After Dinner Richard took Laura, Bea, Russell and I on a walking tour of the Phoenix Town, we strolled through lane ways, crossed the bridges, visited the bakery and shopped at stalls.  Arriving at the town square the locals were dancing, the dancing was very similar to Zumba, Laura, Bae and I joined the locals dancing which is their nightly exercise. Video from Russell of the girls dancing.
Thursday 6th September 2012 – 8am we left the hotel to traveled by private van to the village of Derhang (approx 2 hours).  Set amongst lush landscapes and towering limestone karsts, for many this is one of the most beautiful places in China. In Derhang we watched a Chinese Folk Play with singing and dancing.  At the end of the show, Judy and I are pulled onto the stage by dancers to skip around and dance amongst them.  We then have our faces marked by the dancers with black dust representing good luck and fortune.
Chinese Folk Dance
We trek 2.5km to a small waterfall, along the trek I speak with Peter and hear about his amazing life so far, the professions his worked as, how he came to meeting his partner Judy and about his family.  I chat with Richard about the village and the way the community provides for its people through the growing of rice and crops and how they preserve the river.  Arriving at the waterfall, it’s one of the most beautiful natural sights I have ever seen, there is nothing quiet like this back home in Brisbane.  Swimming was not allowed to preserve the communities water resource, taking in the suns rays Bea, Laura, Russell and I ventured along a trail to go up and behind the waterfall.  Our group shared a small lunch together before trekking along the path to take a bus back to Fenghuang to stay for the night.
Waterfall and Good luck Face Marks
Laura and I went for a late lunch around 3.30pm, none of the restaurants had an English menu, I pulled out my iPhone App to translate that we would like a vegetarian meal and beer.  We were then taken to the kitchen area to choose which vegetables we would like to be cooked up.  We received 4 courses of fried vegetables, tomato and egg soup, cucumber, zucchini, carrot, cabbage meals to share coming to a total of 80 Yeun.  Together we walked around the markets before meeting the tour group for dinner at 6pm outside the hotel.
Fisherman on the lower river crossing bridge
Richard took us to the same restaurant as the night before and ordered a different dishes.  After dinner Richard lead the group to the square again (via the yummy bakery, purchased Banana bread, donuts, and chocolate delight for 11 Yeun).  Richard insisted that I take the stepping blocks across the river, and he held my hand while he guided me across in my fits of laughter and nervousness about falling into the river, I felt so proud to have done it afterwards though, I was unstoppable!  Richard showed us a glue milk type desert which can be covered with toppings, I ordered a coconut and sultana one for 3 Yeun, it was Delicious!  Shopping around the stalls near the square I purchased 3 more dresses with my new bargaining skills taught by Laura.
Richard left Laura, Bea and I at the square to enjoy the rest of the evening warning us to be ready at 5am for tomorrows travels to the 3 Gorge Damn.  Around 8:30pm we decided to go back to the hotel, along the way we found ourselves on the wrong side of the river, heading the opposite direction of the hotel, after some quick navigation correction using landmarks we crossed the river bridge and arrived at the hotel around 9pm ready for a good nights sleep.
Mars in Fenghuang

2 thoughts on “Lost on Planet Earth – Fenghuang, China

  1. Great photos and an insightful post — I’ve always wanted to travel to China, so I will visit vicariously through your blog posts! Thanks for sharing and thanks for following Travel Oops! 🙂 Steph

Comments are closed.