It is true that Fenghuang is quite disconnected when it gets it to getting there. Dehang, on the other hand, lies less than an hour from a train station (Jishou). Well connected and with many buses, one could assume that this place would be swarming with tourists. With the impressive Zhangjiajie in the north and Fenghuang down in the south, Dehang has been left off most itineraries. Still a route remains from Zhangjiajie to Fenghuang passing through Dehang. The reality is that a major construction project connected the top of its most famous karsts to a highway.
This means that Dehang is an imploding tourist attraction…without the tourists. Many of the older buildings have made way for newer ones, along with a large and empty tourist market to buy souvenirs. The prices are sky high for almost anything, from food to drinks. And yet the village is empty. A large “native” performance hall sits to the village’s side, where music blares but with spectators more lacking. People idle around the village, with nothing to do and no one to hawk anything to.
Making the trip to Dehang is easy, especially via Jishou from Fenghuang (or wherever else). Buses sit at Jishou train station and run pretty frequently, as many of the locals depend on continuous service. Along the road rise many karsts and a river where locals actually swim in (if you decide to go for a swim you should ask to get off, or rent a scooter out). The village offers around three primary hiking trails. Entrance to the village comes at growing costs, which is now around 100 RMB and they will check at the gate if you are a local or a tourist.
One leads up a karst (a unique experience on its own, although there is a highway further up), which takes you past many rice fields and waterfalls. The trail crisscrosses the river to its water source. Due to the great construction up above, and the Chinese’s insatiability in polluting, the river is covered in trash. When it comes to eco-advocates or eco-issues, this trail is case and point of how the people most separated from consumption (the locals of Dehang) are the most affected by it. Trash is likely thrown from the top of the ridge where there is a highway into one of China’s highest waterfalls…which then empties into this river. This may be changing, though, as new trash cans were being installed along the trail.
The second most popular trail goes through many waterfalls, including what is supposed to be China’s highest. What you see depends on how much it has rained, and the waterfall can be climbed although tremendously dangerous. This trail is longer and would likely require a night’s stay in Dehang (or Jishou, but then u have to pay entry again). Not sure if its worth staying in the quiet, but a bit depressing village. With prices sky high, the hostels may also be going at Beijing rates. Still the fact that few bother to go to Dehang make it only more enchanting. The river is quiet, and village life quite easygoing. If the treatment of the river doesn’t bother you, it is an all in all unique place to visit.