Let me tell you something – when Matt and I started planning our trip to China, we had no idea what we were in for. We wanted to visit places like Huangshan and Hangzhou but found there was very little first-hand information from travel bloggers. We pulled together as much information as we could, from the internet, but we were still missing those really in-depth guides giving us all the insight we needed to properly prepare and plan for our trip. Well, it’s time to pay it forward! Here’s everything we learned about visiting Tunxi, I hope it helps a few other first-time visitors.
Must-know tips for visiting China
If this is your first time visiting China, there are a couple of things you need to know before you set off:
- You’re going to need a visa! Make sure you research the visa requirements and leave plenty of time to apply and get everything back
- If you don’t speak Chinese, it pays to have key phrases screenshotted to your phone (characters and pinyin)
- It also pays to have the business card or address and phone number for your hotel on your phone (characters and pinyin)
- We found the people to be really lovely, friendly and helpful
- The pollution wasn’t anywhere near as bad as we thought it was going to be
- It can be a little tricky for vegetarians, gluten-free and vegans, but it’s not impossible! I would recommend packing a stash of snacks.
- You may find people staring at you, especially if you have blonde or red hair
- If you want to be able to access social media, you’re going to need a VPN! Instagram, Facebook etc are all banned in China.
How to get to Tunxi
We found our way to Tunxi by catching the bus from Hangzhou. I honestly don’t know any other way to do it than by driving there, unless you’re really rich and influential and have access to a private helicopter, in which case, what the heck you doing on a blog? I assume you could organise personal transport as well, through a private driver. Your hotel should be able to assist you with those plans. Anyway, we caught the bus from Hangzhou to Huangshan, stopping in Tunxi for an overnight stay. If you’re planning on doing the same, I wrote this very detailed, step-by-step guide: How to get from Hangzhou to Huangshan.
Best time to visit
If you’re making your way to The Yellow Mountain, with a brief stopover in Tunxi, the best time to visit is April through to October. You’ll find everything is lush and green with plenty of clear weather. You can find more detail on the best time to visit the region here.
Where to stay in Tunxi
We stayed at the Hui Boutique Hotel in Tunxi and absolutely loved it! We’d read plenty of positive reviews on the internet but were unsure if they were true, turns out, they were. The hotel is very small, tucked down an inconspicuous laneway. You walk down the lane and then all of a sudden it’s just there on the left, a doorway carved out of nowhere. Step inside and there’s a gorgeous little courtyard with plants growing in pots, little kids playing and laughing and a lazy chocolate Labrador dozing on the floor.
The rooms are compact but not squishy, they’ve got everything you need and are very comfortable. If you’re looking to have an authentic experience in China, this is the place to stay! It has so much heart and soul, none of those ‘big hotel chain’ vibes, which is why we loved it. The staff are absolutely lovely and so incredibly helpful. Our taxi driver, from the bus station, had some trouble finding the place, which I suspect is common, so make sure you have the phone number and address of the hotel with you, so the taxi driver can call for directions if needed.
I would definitely recommend Hui Boutique Hotel to anybody visiting Tunxi for the first time. It’s a fun, original and authentic experience. The rooms are comfortable, it’s well located and really memorable. Do it! Stay there! Let me know if you love it too.
Best things to see and do in Tunxi
If I’m honest, there aren’t a lot of things to do in Tunxi, which is why you really only need one or two nights there at most. You’ll quickly learn the main drawcard is the Ancient Street, which you can’t miss. Basically, you can fill your days in Tunxi by wandering the Ancient Street, stopping to look at all the unique, wonderful and weird things you see along the way. Stop in at cafe’s and grab a coffee or cold drink and watch the world go by. There are some fantastic tea shops as well as calligraphy stores too, and an uncanny number of cute dogs getting around. I’d recommend getting down to the Xi’an River at night when the bridge comes alive with bright lights.
If you weren’t already planning on it, make sure you take the time to visit The Yellow Mountain. It is honestly one of the most beautiful places, it’s stunning and well worth making the day trip up there. If you stay at Hui Boutique Hotel, the staff can help you organise a driver up there. Don’t go all that way and not see it, okay.
Where to eat and must-try food
Here are a few spots you may like to visit on your trip to Tunxi:
- Xia Wan Coffee Ba with vines grown all over the front, serving coffee, sweets and great food (perfect for people watching!)
- Xin An Ren Jia serving a great range of delicious Chinese food
- LaoJie DiYiLou another great spot serving delicious Chinese food, perfect for trying lots of new things!
- Wang YiTiao Huntun – surprise, surprise, more yummy Chinese food!
We also ate at a restaurant on Binjiang W Road, it was the dodgiest looking place I’ve ever seen in my life – You walk in and it’s super basic. There’s no menu, you order by walking into the kitchen out the back and pointing at what you want (fish, chicken, green beans, capsicum etc) and the chef makes one dish per item you pointed at (I thought I was choosing veggies for a stir-fry, you see, but ended up with five plates of different vegetables and a few very concerned looks from the chef). If you don’t speak Chinese, you may have difficulty having a chat, but the chef is lovely and the food is great! I have NO clue what it was called, but it was on a stretch of Binjiang W Road, between Shangma and Zhongma Roads. You’ll know you’ve found it because you’ll be terrified to eat there, but don’t worry, it’s great! Remember, no menu, just a very small dining area (maybe 4 tables), kitchen out the back, no menu. Let me know if you find it (I need the name!… obviously).
I struggled a little with being vegetarian so I really do recommend you pack some long-life snacks from home if you’re vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free. I’d also recommend you learn how to say ‘no meat’ or ‘I’m vegetarian’ in Chinese or at least have it printed out in the characters so you can show restaurant staff. There is a McDonald’s in Tunxi so if you’re in a pinch you can always lower yourself to eat some chips (I say that, but I was gagging for them after a few days without veggies). I’m sure things would have been easier for me if I spoke Chinese or was with someone who could. I’ll also say this, there’s a big focus on fresh food in China so just prepare yourself for a few cultural differences, like live animals in cages out the front of restaurants, waiting to be selected by a diner (rabbits, guinea pigs, birds etc).
What to pack
Great news! I’ve already written that – check out this detailed guide: What to pack for a trip to China
Useful travel resources for your trip to China
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Agoda – one of our go-to sites for booking hotels
Skyscanner – our go-to for booking flights
RentalCars.com – a great search engine for renting a car
Booking.com – another of our go-to sites for booking hotels
TourRadar – a great search engine for booking tours
Uber – our go-to ground transport option