Somewhat off the foreign tourist radar in China, Hunan has in recent years become a mecca for the burgeoning domestic tourism market. Fenghuan, in particular, is packed with Chinese tourists wearing a signature woven cowboy hat with the words Marlboro or Ronaldino emblazoned across the front.
This quaint waterfront town, which still features commanding vistas and unique sights such as dried pigs’ faces hanging from storefronts, now contends with mass tour groups, disco music, and neon lighting. It embodies everything that China is today – the old and the young, the traditional and the garish – all competing for your attention and dollar.
For more authentic tangible history, make a side trip to Hongjiang Old Town to see a labyrinth of alleys and partially-restored buildings that date from the Northern Song dynasty. Villagers still inhabit homes clustered amidst these historic structures, in what is essentially a living museum. Little to no English is spoken here, and coffee is not on the menu.