The bus from Jishou to Fenghuang dropped us off in a parking lot at the edge of town. We were a bit confused, but eventually made our way into town. Fenghuang was a crowded, busy, and grey city. I had trouble believing it was the same place we’d seen pictures of online.

The first two hostels we’d looked at online were full, so we wandered around checking out hotels. The first one we went to out of downtown was 500¥, dark, dirty, with mould on the walls. The second we went to was 620¥ but had a pile of garbage in the lobby. I was not impressed by either. We did some more research online and found an International Youth Hostel that had a room available. The receptionist said it was really complicated to get to so said he’d meet us at a gate nearby. So we took a taxi to what we thought was the gate he meant, but it wasn’t, but he kindly came to find us.

I was absolutely exhausted after the train and bus ride. My knapsack felt incredibly heavy, my feet ached, and I kept tripping over the flagstones on the road. Nicole on the other hand was a burst of energy! I collapsed on the couch in the lobby and watched a Chinese talent show on the lobby TV while Nicole went exploring. The TV show had me gaping in horror for the duration of it. The grander and performance style was drastically different from talent shows on North American television. Like graphic design in China, I was unable to ‘get it’ with my Western aesthetics engraved into me.

Our room was ready at noon, so I took our bags up and had a shower before having a nap. The shower at this hostel was even more peculiarly placed than at Cozy Garden. The squatty potty served as the drain for the shower and I had to make sure I wouldn’t slip or fall in while I showered!

girl wearing a garland writing a postcard by a window

Nicole came home in the afternoon and we went out for coffee. Nicole had a cappuccino and I ordered a ginger honey milk tea- my favourite Chinese drink! The cafe was a great place to people watch and look out on the river.

Our drinks tantalized our taste buds leaving us feeling hungry. So we wandered around looking for a place to eat that had a picture menu. Many of the restaurants had aquariums and cafes out front, filled with animals or fish. One even had live geese with signs hanging from their necks!

large white geese with signs around their necks outside a restaurant

We choose a restaurant that had a courtyard and overlooked the river. We wanted something light, so ordered vegetable soup and a tofu dish that looked similar to the one we’d had in Dongguan. The soup was very bland with just boiled cabbage an plain tofu in a clear broth. The mapo tofu tasted a lot like Zoodles!

We walked around the city taking photos an checking out the little shops along the way. There were a lot of people making candy outside their shops. The candy was a metallic gold colour, which they would pull and loop around a hook on the wall while soft before taking it down and flatten it out with a wooden mallet. The mallet was huge! I swear it was the equivalent of the candy-maker’s body weight most of the time.

Once the candy was flattened out, they would slice it into strips then dice it up in rough cubes or slivers. Sometimes they would roll it in nuts too, which looked very appetizing. The candy seemed to come in ginger and another flavour, unplaced by our Western taste buds. I really liked the ginger candy and bought some for a snack.

Once back at the hostel, we found the receptionist eating street meat with a gourd of kiwi wine. He was very persistent in sharing his food with us and eventually convinced us to try what he said was tofu… but I swear it was fish. It had the same texture as overlooked scallops. I liked the kiwi wine though! It reminded me a lot of port or sherry.

We asked the receptionist his advice on getting home to Dongguan. There was a bus at 11:30 the next morning that would get us home around 5 or 6 the following morning. Alternatively, there was a plane at 8:30 that evening that would get us home by midnight. We couldn’t fathom spending a whole day and night on another bus, so opted for the plane.

The plane ticket was cheapest on Qunar, which you needed a Chinese credit card to use. Neither of us had one, so we went out into the crowded streets of Fenghuang again to find a travel agency to book out flight.

To our great disappointment, the travel agency could not book our ticket on Qunar as they had a commitment with another site. So, we returned to the hostel and explained our situation to the receptionist. To our delight, he kindly offered to put our tickets on his credit card for us! We have him the ticket amount in cash and offered to buy him a beer, but he humbly refused, saying he only drank wine. So Nicole and I had two celebratory beers ourselves, cheering our success and to our trip before heading to bed.

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