After paying the entrance fee you walk along beside the picturesque lake immediately to the south of the village, which you cross to enter.
Inside the village, water runs down channels beside the footpaths and under doorsteps which makes peaceful tinkling noises. There's a smaller half-moon lake/pond in the middle of the village, with fat orange fish (carp?) swimming in it. The rest of the village is a minor maze of narrow alleys and streets, mostly on the flat.
Our guide Philip was quite informative about old China and the life of people in the village back then – under the wing of a merchant family it grew prosperous through trade between the 15th and 17th centuries, was a bit quiet for a while after that, then became prosperous again through the 19th. Many of the big public buildings are from the end of that second period but other parts of the village date earlier.
We walked up a small way onto the hill to one side and had a delicious but massively over-proportioned lunch – they always seem to include way too much food in the preplanned lunches on tours in China and it arrives relentlessly, even when we ask them to halt proceedings so it isn't wasted.
The deep-fried spring rolls with red bean paste filling were a hit, and the bamboo was delicious and wholesome. The ever-present stir-fried greens and the eggy pancakey thing were good as always, and we managed a start on the dumpling soup thing, the fish ball thing, and the turnip soup thing, before giving up and declaring ourselves full.
Hongcun was definitely worth visiting, scenic and relaxing, especially after spending too much time in polluted megalopolises such as Beijing and Xi'an.
We had a few hours to kill before the night train we'd requested to take us to Shanghai, so our guide dropped us off in Tunxi (the service town for Huangshan) and we went for a wander through some shops, bought some seriously amazing tea after trying them out (there's different tea drinking procedures for men vs. women and each different type of tea!) and Pen and Tim had massages while Sarah and I chilled out for an hour or two.
So that was a really good day. Just Shanghai left and we were done with mainland China.