In November 2013, the highway that is now linking western Hunan (湘西) province's major towns was still under construction. It's after a painful five-hour bus ride from Tongdao that I arrived in Qianyang (黔阳), a small town I had never heard of. Like every town in this remote part of a landlocked province, Qianyang (which is also called Qiancheng 黔城) did not look attractive at all.
Everybody knows the feeling when after seeing a picture you definitely know that you have to visit that place. It happened to me with a picture of Hibiscus Town, Furong Zhen, a small ancient village proudly boasting on the top of a cliff with a huge waterfall flowing underneath – an amazing view. After seeing that picture, I immediately started to search for where it was. You can get there from Jishou City in the Hunan Province. Jishou is the initial station for visiting many other ancient towns in Hunan. Furong Zhen is located about 70 km from there, so it is possible to take a bus.
Everyone travelling between the ancient business town of Hongjiang and the infamous Fenghuang must change in Huaihua. Besides the regular bus, there is a fleet of illegal taxis waiting near the river to drive you north. Before going to the most crowded and popular ancient town of China, I had set my mind to stop in Jingling (荆坪) on the way to Huaihua. Explaining to the driver where was that ancient village and negotiating the fare was burlesque and the driver finally gave me that ‘why that crazy foreigner wants to go this forsaken village I never heard of’.
Hunan province is know for its ancient towns. Among all of them, Fenghuang, the Phoenix town, is definitely the most popular one. And it is also one of the most popular tourist spots in China. With its beautiful architecture rippling along the river, and many beautiful bridges across it, it deserves it. It is very popular place to go after visiting Zhangjiajie mountains since it is so close. There are many direct tourist buses going directly from Zhangjiajie city to Fenghuang, or you can take a train to Jishou city and than take just half an hour long tourist bus-line which goes every 10 minutes to Fenghuang.