It’s a quiet afternoon when we approach Hongcun. I am particularly excited about this village. I guess it would be safe to say it’s more of a medieval Chinese town than a village to most standards. It is the second UNESCO village after Xidi, and it is said to be the most beautiful.
With its characteristic architecture and it’s location next to a river and surrounded by green mountains, it should be no surprise that Hongcun and its lake view is a popular topic in Chinese traditional art and paintings.
It’s shape is supposed to be that of a bull, with small artificial lakes (like half moon pond and South lake) dotted around town representing the internal organs. Hongcun became famous in the Western world after the movie ‘Croutching tiger, hidden dragon’. Several scenes in the movie were shot in the historic settings of Hongcun.
The driver drops me in a busy street next to a bridge leading into town. I am being picked up by hotel staff so after several minutes a motorised tricycle arrives. My luggage goes into the back and i am wondering where i am supposed to sit… The young man driver smiles and points to the trunk of the tricycle. I get the picture and crawl into the back with my luggage. That did result in a quite amuzing video of a very bumpy but fortunately short transfer to the guesthouse.
Much to my surprise we didn’t drive into town. Instead we took a left immediately after the bridge and followed the outskirt of town for a couple of minutes until we arrived at the guesthouse at the very edge of town.
The guesthouse was amazing. A 15th century old house that was renovated to detail into the original traditional style. A gate leads to a small but tastfully decorated garden before you reach the main building. I am greeted by our host in a gorgeous courtyard of the main house. There is beautiful wooden carving everywhere. The room is up on the first floor and is very tastfully and traditionally decorated. This night i am sleeping in an antique traditional bed with rich carvings. A small stairs leads to a tea corner and a classic half open bathroom.
Very nice ! I feel like i have gone back in time. What an experience to stay in such a beautiful traditional house. The hotel offers no other facilities so for eating you must venture into town. I most certainly recommend all travelers looking for a romantic stay to check out this fantastic guesthouse.
By the time i checked in, there was still time to explore the town before dinner. The old street in front of the guesthouse leads straight into town. The ancient streets are lovely. There is not one street or building not worth taking a picture of.
Eventually the dwindling streets led me to the center of town and the beautiful half moon pond. I cant wait to see it in the evening when most tourists are gone and the lantarns are being lit.
I wander around a while longer and let the town with its noises and smells absorb me.
I do keep half an eye open for a restaurant that was recommended to me. Soon i spot a traditionally roofed outdoor terrace belonging to the restaurant. There is one big round table and its all mine. The lantarns are being lit and i enjoy a wonderful beef stew and of course the smelly fish. I must admit…. quite addictive that fish…
By the time i finish my dinner the evening has started and dusk has come. I decide to further explore the town. I dont mind walking in the same street twice. Hongcun by night is magical. The dark narrow streets with the colorful lantarns and restaurant signs are incredible at night.
Next to the half moon pond i discovered a most cosy bar overlooking the pond. They even had Belgian beers.. The Chinese are not really bar going folks. In general that is. You would imagine a place like that to be more crowded but i had the place pretty much to myself.
When i make my way back to the guesthouse, i hear fireworks left and right of me. I am hoping to catch a few pictures of fireworks over the rooftops of Hongcun. But it had stopped by the time i reached the guesthouse. My host is playing majong with the family outside in the garden, so i decide to catch one more nightcap before heading to bed.
Its quiet outside, as i play with some local cats. Satisfied after a wonderful day i fall asleep quickly with a smile from ear to ear. Until the fireworks started again ! I see flashes and i can hear its really close. I jump out of bed and into my pants and i stumble half dressed down the stairs. And than it stopped… pfff. Back to bed. And again! Flashes and bangs! I jump out again. Again it stops. Apparently there are short bursts of fireworks all around town. I am considering keeping my pants on this time, but after i bump my toe against the bedpost i decide to give up. Sometimes that 1 picture you are chasing is just not meant to be i suppose..
Next morning i wake up early, check out of the room and leave my luggage at the counter. There is still plenty of time for a tour and i need to find breakfast. That won’t be a problem with street vendors everywhere. The food is inexpensive, safe and offers great variety and flavours.
Once again i dwell the little streets of Hongcun. The light is different on this gray rainy morning and the streets are empty.
I decide to go see the south lake. Its raining quit heavily but the dramatic views of Hongcun seen from the lake are breathtaking. The white town next to to water against a background of green mountains that seem to hold the low floating clouds, is a sight i will not easily forget.
Goodbye wonderful Hongcun. I will miss my stay there. I sincerely hope i can stay there again one day. For nowu it has been magic, but i must move on to see a few more attractions that Anhui has to offer before i head back home.
Until next post !