Thursday, January 22: Whenever I’m traveling, I so love the days that I don’t have to actually “travel.” I savor those days when I wake up in a hotel, and at the end of a long day of exploring, I fall back to sleep in the same hotel. Today is that kind of day, a non-transit day. A day of settling in. I’m in a town — today it’s Fenghuang — and I settle in for a bit. I call that place my “home” and I get to know it on a more intimate level.
Not that I don’t move, mind you. I’m always on the move. I let myself linger for a bit in bed, but then I want to get out to explore. Venturing about in a new place is the most thrilling part of travel.
I get familiar with my neighborhood, and whatever gave me pleasure upon first discovery, I seek again. In this case, it’s our neighborhood breakfast place. It worked the first morning, so why not do it again? We greet the Chinese cook as if we’re old friends, and eat our pork dumplings and boiled eggs, dipping them in soy sauce and green chilies.
Then we head out to explore again. I love the stilted buildings along the Tuo Jiang River and the tiled rooftops with their curlicue Phoenix corners.
We find a great view from the East Gate Tower, built in 1715, the year of Kang Xi in Qing Dynasty.
The Yang’s Ancestral Temple was originally built in 1836. This temple has a wood-made courtyard with two floors, consisting of the gate, opera stage, corridors, main hall and subsidiary rooms. It showcases the local tradition and carving art of architecture.
According to Top China Travel: Yang Ancestral Memorial: the Yang family was the second largest family in Fenghuang Ancient Town. It is said that people with the family name “Yang” are descendents of the famous patriotic Yang family in the Song Dynasty. Yang Ancestral Memorial is the best preserved temple in Ancient Phoenix City.
The reason I have such a long holiday from work is that it’s the Spring Festival. The actual Chinese New Year begins on February 18, but schools are out for over a month to celebrate the holiday. According to China Travel Guide: Chinese New Year (Spring Festival): Every family does a thorough house cleaning and purchases enough food, including fish, meat, roasted nuts and seeds, all kinds of candies and fruits, etc, for the festival period. Also, new clothes must be bought, especially for children. Red scrolls with complementary poetic couplets, one line on each side of the gate, are pasted at every gate. The Chinese character ‘Fu’ is pasted on the center of the door and paper-cut pictures adorn windows.
We pass the same fierce-looking character we saw yesterday. I wouldn’t want to tangle with him.
The geese have gotten off their perches in front of the restaurant and are stretching their legs.
I love the cobbled streets and colorful signs.
And this character is a just a little bizarre.
We find lots of traditional red buildings, but I don’t know what they are.
There’s an ancient wall around the town, and a raised platform along its periphery. We take a stroll along the edge.
We find a magical street with floating parasols.
And yet another fancy bridge across the river.
We walk to the west side of town where we find this fancy pedestrian bridge.
Walking across the bridge, we pass through a canopy of wonderful woodwork.
We head up a hill to a park where we see some elegant pavilion rooftops.
And stumble upon several groups of middle-aged women doing dance and exercise routines.
Heading back into town from the hilltop park, we see a view of the town from the opposite direction.
We drop in at the home of Xiong Xiling, a famous philanthropist who was the first premier of the Republic of China (1921-49) following the fall of the Manchu.
And we continue walking through the Ancient Town until we come to a large busy square with a big Phoenix as the centerpiece.
We have some lunch, which is not very good today: some bok choy and some kind of tofu that has a very strange texture.
After lunch we walk back along the river toward our hotel, where we take a bit of a rest.
Everywhere you go in China, there are places that offer costumes to try on for photographs. Here is one young woman posing in an ethnic costume along the river.
Mike says that when he used to live in Thailand, his parents told him it would bring him good luck if he could figure out how to get the balls out of the mouths of lions. He and his sister Barbara used to try to do it, but of course never could. He figures it was his parents’ way of keeping them occupied. Here I have him pose trying to remove the ball.
After a bit of a rest we go exploring in a different part of the town. We have no idea which direction to go!
Again, we find a restaurant sign refusing entry to Japanese and dogs! In English, no less.
I have tried to take photos of the ethnic Miao women several times with little success. I got one decent portrait yesterday, but most of the time they refuse to let me photograph them, or they cover their faces when they see me about to take a picture. This woman asks for some money when I ask her if I can take a photo. I take out my wallet and give her something, but she wants more. Then she takes the money and runs, refusing to pose for a photo. I am really annoyed by this.
We pass through one of the gates to the old town.
In an area near the bridge, vendors offer costumes for people to try on for 10 yuan. They don’t take the pictures; you pay them 10 yuan, you get the costume, and you can take your own pictures. I tried on a girly costume when I was in the rice terraces at Ping’an, but I think this time it will be fun to try on a military costume. This cracks me up!! I thought it would be some Communist-looking costume, but instead it looks like some Russian military outfit!
Here are some Chinese folks posing with various costumes.
As the sun goes down, we go in search of a place to eat dinner, passing by this lantern-adorned building.
Here’s a KTV (Chinese karaoke) place near the bridge and the river.
Finally we stop for dinner at the Soul Cafe. I’ve been very lackadaisical about keeping track of my meals on this trip, so I can’t even say what it was we ate. I think it may have been pizza again. 🙂