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Chinese town draws many from Vietnam

Xinhua/China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-09 06:50

HANOI-A middle-aged man left his home in Hanoi on a recent morning and walked toward a nearby passenger car that was waiting to pick him up on Le Van Luong Street.

Mau Quang Minh, 40, a university lecturer, would then guide 20 Vietnamese people visiting the Fenghuang ancient town in Central China's Hunan province.

"This will be my seventh time to visit there," Minh said, as the car turned at a crossroad to pick up more passengers.

A world comprising the charming Hongqiao Bridge, deep alleys and old houses underneath yin and yang roof tiles, sometimes covered with green or gray moss, were his first impressions when entering the 1,300-year-old town in April 2016. Since then Minh's photos taken there have attracted millions of "likes" and "shares" on social media.

"Students, friends and relatives then rushed to me, insisting on having me design their tours. That's how I became an amateur guide," Minh said.

The lecturer has brought nearly 100 tourists in five groups to visit the old town so far. His visits became so frequent that local restaurants started to offer him free meals every time he came by.

Other than bespoke trips like the ones organized by him, tours to the beautiful town are selling like hot cake in Vietnam. In just seconds, Google provided more than 2.2 million results related to a search inquiry for Phuong Hoang Co Tran, which is the Vietnamese translation of Fenghuang ancient town.

Unitour Hanoi, a travel company, has been enjoying the bountiful returns of selling Fenghuang ancient town tours since last year.

"This is currently one of the overseas tours most-loved by Vietnamese tourists. We sell it to nearly 400 customers per month," Ha, the company's consultant, said.

According to her, many travel agencies realized the potential of the sightseeing tour earlier, but could not capitalize on it as a commercial product since few people were interested in.

"It was not until last April that more people knew about the breathtaking scenes after photos began to go viral on Facebook," recalled Ha.

Minh's group trips and Ha's best-selling tours have something in common. They are both road trips and last for around one week.

"This is an affordable option for the majority of Vietnamese and a six-day schedule is suitable to take in visits to nearby tourist attractions such as Zhangjiajjie and Tianmen Mountain," Ha said.

Other traveling routes available include by plane and by rail, but are less popular than the road trips.

Based on his last experience, Minh concluded that catching a Vietnam-China international train from Hanoi was time-consuming and inconvenient due to many transits.

"This time we have hired a coach, which will pick us up at the Friendship border gate and take us to Nanning (in South China) in just four hours. The view along the road in Hunan province is amazing, people can never get bored," he said.

Whenever Minh goes back to the ancient town he discovers new charms of the place.

"For me, the town is most beautiful in three seasons, each has its own beauty. It's romantic autumn of yellow leaves, white snow falling in winter or misty rain in a spring morning," Minh said.

By 9 am local time, Minh had finished picking up his companions. In the car sat a group that included a young couple who could not wait to take their wedding photos, an elderly man prepared to revive his youth and passion for traveling, and some college students eager to discover a new world.

"It's going to be a lovely trip," Tran Minh Khanh, 25, said.

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