The 48th IYHF world conference held in Shenzhen between 24 and 28 May, 2010 was a great success. Over 200 delegates, observers and visitors attended the event. This year is the 101st Year of hostelling since it began in 1909 in Germany, the conference celebrated the beginning of a new chapter for this world-wide movement.
Beyond Conference Sessions
The IYHF Board visited and met at Loft youth hostel on 22nd May prior to the conference took place. A dinner was hosted by the Chairman of YHA China for the Board and IYHF staff in that evening.
On the day of arrival of participants (24th May), the IYHF President was interviewed by the editor of Reader’s Digest exclusively for a 22-page special feature article. In addition, she was interviewed by mass media during a press conference just before inauguration of events.
Apart from the main conference sessions, details of which are reported under separate cover by IYHF, a variety of programmes were arranged for the participants. A spectacular cultural show was presented before welcome dinner on 24th May, in which a mixed ethnic minority group of various communities performed to welcome delegates and visitors.
On the 2nd day, the conference was officially opened by the Deputy Secretary General of China National Tourism Association and officials from Shenzhen Metropolitan Government. In the evening, a reception and music recital at “Loft Youth Hostel” and a welcome drink at Galleon Bar (A replica of Santa María by which Christopher Columbus departed from Palos de la Frontera with two smaller caravels, Pinta and Santa Clara, for his first voyage of exploration) in Intercontinental Hotel were organized in tandem.
On the 3rd day, Cantonese dim-sums (small delicacies) were arranged for delegates to sample these famous Chinese cuisines. In the evening, a multi-national food tasting was held at “Four Seas House” Restaurant. This is an interesting restaurant of enormous size (capable to hold 2,000 people at any one time) which serves multinational delicacies. It puts all mouth-watering dishes under one roof. The well-known Cantonese food is a must but there are hundreds, if not thousand, of choices available (Japanese Sushi, Brazilian BBQ, Korean Specialities, Bavarian Roasted Pork, Italian Pizza, vegetarian dishes, etc. etc.) and delegates could eat and drink as much as they liked.
On the 4th day evening, a grand farewell party hosted by the Mayor of Shenzhen city was held at Macro Polo Hotel. Taiji (shadowboxing), Chinese opera and an extract of a piece of western musical were performed by young people from YHA China. Presents and words of good wishes were exchanged, and friendship renewed during the dinner.
Day tours for visitors and spouses During the conference, a number of day tours were available for visitors and spouses to take part. These include a walk in the vicinity on the 2nd day, the route passed through ponds, woodland, waterfall and ended up by a small lakeside where eastern and western food are served. Some people with reserved energy continued to see a botanic garden in the afternoon.
The 3rd day was a full day tour to Dapeng Ancient Town, the Grand Forever Houses and the seaside.
Dapeng Ancient Town was built in Ming Dynasty (1394). It was the military fortress of coast defence in Southern China in Ming and Qing Dynasty.
The Grand Forever Houses were built in Qing Dynasty (1736-1795) , covering an area of 15 thousand square meters, It’s one of the largest Hakkas dwellings community in Shenzhen, built in such a way like a castle.
The 4th day was a shopping activity. Visitors and spouses were split into small groups to pursue their own interest in the city.
It was our pleasure and honour to host 3 different tours for friends coming from all over the world. We are in receipt of considerable positive feedback from participants afterwards. Hereunder is a brief summary of these tours:
Before the conference, over 60 delegates, visitors and spouses gathered in Beijing on 19th May. Needless to say there are too many attractions for them to see in this capital, to name a few, Tian’an Men Square where you can find the Great Hall of People; China National Museum and in a distance, the former imperial court. The Forbidden City is an awesome sight to see! Its architecture is straight from the 1400's! It is especially known for its amazing Meridian Gate, Chinese lions, Bronze Cauldrons, Marble Carriageway, Hall of Supreme Harmony, and Roof Guardians!
Going to Beijing without seeing the Great Wall is unforgivable. The Great Wall goes up and down mountains at an incredibly steep angle. The path along the top of the wall is not a smooth surface but climbs in huge steps where the wall climbs the mountainside. It is breathtaking. And how it was built is a complete mystery. The great engineering marvels of the 21st century somehow seem less marvellous after visiting to The Great Wall. Then the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and so on……
The group also visited two hostels in Beijing despite of their busy schedule.
On 21st evening, the group took an overnight train from Beijing to Xi’an. Some visitors commented that it brought back old memory somewhat like their school party outing when they were young.
The group arrived Xi’an in the following morning. The city is one of the most ancient capitals in the world since Xi’an was the national capital of 12 dynasties from 618-1046. What makes Xi’an standing out from other cities is because of its historical sites and cultural relics. Xi’an is also the starting point of the famous Silk Road to the West.
The Ancient City is located in the center of Xi’an, which is surrounded by the city wall. Inside the ancient city, there are mainly four attractions. The Great Islamic Mosque was built during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The Bell Tower was built in the Ming Dynasty (1384). The Drum Tower was established in 1380. And the Provincial Museum, which has a rich collection including the famous Forest of Tablet Stones in which over 2,300 stone tablets from many dynasties are kept. Those are truly the treasures of calligraphic art of the world.
Terracotta Warriors and Horses were found in 1974 on the east side of the tomb of the First Emperor of Qin Dynasty. The tomb is like a pyramid. The three terracotta pits were discovered in 1974. It becomes an amazing wonder to the whole world since then.
Goose Pagoda is a pair of ancient towers built in the Tang Dynasty, the Large Wild Goose Pagoda (652) and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda (707-709). They are the masterpieces of Chinese architecture.
Again the group saw two more hostels in Xi’an City. They flew to Shenzhen on 24th May in order to join the activities of the conference.
Post Tour C
Lonely Planet suggests if you can only go to one province in China, it has to be Yunnan. Yunnan Province is southwest of China. It is well known for its pleasant climate, beautiful scenery and colourful ethnic customs. This is the only place in China you can find both rain forests and snow mountains. On its west and south, Yunnan respectively borders Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.
Kunming has a collection of 26 ethnic minorities. Throughout the time, people of different minorities have developed their own peculiar life styles, customs, institutions, traditional festivals, cultures and art forms all of which constitute a fascinating picture of varied ethnicity. Kunming is well-known for its beautiful landscape, agreeable climate and fresh flowers blooming throughout the year.
In conjunction with the post tour group’s visit to Kunming, Camellia Youth Hostel hosted a reception on 28th May, upon the arrival of the group to celebrate its re-opening. A buffet lunch was served after the ceremony.
New Camellia Youth Hostel is a project in partnership with Camellia Hotel but the management is entirely separate and is in the hands of “Best of the Best” (an independent scheme dedicated to promoting good hostelling in China). It aims to encourage cultural exchange, conservation of the environment, social responsibility and travel under your own steam. The hostel is also operated being a base for training young people who wish to take hostelling as a long term career.
The group saw folk village and sampled tea tasting in the afternoon.
The following day, they visited Stone Forest which is only about one hour by car from Kunming. Walking through the Stone Forest, our visitors marvelled at natural stone masterpieces and were bewitched by their intricate formations. They visited a hand-embroidery workshop on the way back. In the evening, some went out for foot or body massage while others went to see city night life.
On the 3rd day, the group was coached to Dali which is renowned for its historical and cultural interest. During the Tang and Song Dynasties, it was the capital of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms - the political, economic and cultural centre of Yunnan, an important gateway of cultural exchange and trading with South Eastern Asian countries, and the outpost of the ancient "Silk Road of the South".
Dali was the cradle of the Bai culture. The ancestors of the Bai and the Yi had left many ancient pagodas, steles, places of historical interest and frescoes. The ancient Dali City is still standing there elegantly and toweringly.
Dali City stands against Cangshan Mountain in the west and adjoins Erhai Lake in the east, and is embraced by undulating hills around. Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake are the best scenic spots in Dali. It is often called being "A Corner of Mother Nature" and "Switzerland in the East."
The local minorities’ folk culture and traditions are richly colourful. The attire of the “Bai girls” is tender and graceful. The minorities in the Dali area have many traditional festivals and gatherings, which are now a great attraction to visitors.
Our group saw the Three Pagodas and their reflection in the pond which is regarded as one of the greatest attractions in Dali, followed by appreciation of the old town where the east and west meet.
On 31st morning, the group tried a very interesting “3-course tea” and experienced some Bai traditions at Xizhou before our coach negotiating the breath-taking long winding mountainous road to Lijiang.
Lijiang situated in the northwest plateau in Yunnan, it is largely occupied by the Naxi minority. The Dongba religion is a primitive religion of the Naxi people. In addition, some of them believe in Lamaism. These two religions have greatly influenced the ideology of the Naxi people and their social activities and life.
Our first destination was “Shuhe old town” whereK2 Youth Hostel was visited and a reception given. Then a brief tour of this magnificent old town itself, and followed by moving to the ancient town of Lijiang where the group stayed overnight.
The ancient town of Lijiang was built in the middle of a flatland at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain which soars to nearly 5,000m high. The town was built in late Song dynasty and early Yuan dynasty. Since then, it has been the political, cultural, and educational centre in this area. For a time, it had been an important trading centre for business between Yunnan and Tibet, China and India. And now, the town is included in the World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. The roads in the old town radiate from Sifang Street (Square Street) to form a network connecting every corner of the territory. Small squares are scattered along appropriate sections of the main streets. Houses have been built on the mountain slopes tier upon tier. It is one of the most romantic, lively and well preserved old towns in the East.
After checking in at a hotel of character, which was once a temple in its own right, the group climbed up to the highest point (Wangu Tower) of the town to have a bird’s eye view of the surrounding. Evening meal was held in a restaurant in the old town. As this was the last evening before some members heading for various directions, Beverley from New Zealand kindly organized a small farewell party for participants with a glass of wine in the hotel’s balcony.
The following day, the group visited “Black Dragon Pool Park” before going back to Shenzhen. However, a few members decided either extended their stay in Lijiang or went on some exotic journey in order to further explore the heart of this fascinating province.
Post Tour D
In the morning of 28th May, group D was on their way to Guangzhou (Canton). During the Tang Dynasty, fleet carrying silk departed from Panyu (present-day Guangzhou) and sailed past Hainan Island, Vietnam, the Straits of Malacca, Sri Lanka, Bombay, Oman's Suhar and through the Persian Gulf to Iran's Abadan, or from the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia's Jedda, then on to Damascus by land. The whole journey took about three months. It is said that during the years 763-778 of the Tang Dynasty, over 4,000 foreign ships arrived in Guangzhou, and there were about 120,000 Arab traders living in Guangzhou's "Fanfang" (Foreign Quarters).
While in Guangzhou, the group visited Tomb of the King of Nanyue, dating back to 2,800 years ago, this is by far the largest stone sepulchre found in southern China.Also Chens' Ancestral Temple, also known as Academy of the Chen family, which was built with money pooled by all those surnamed Chen residing in the 72 counties of Guangdong. A typical example of classical Lingnan architecture, the temple is marked for its elaborate and ingenious ornamentations. Today the temple is the site of Guangdong Museum of Folk Arts and Crafts.
In the evening, the group cruised along Zhujiang River, where city lights and the contrary of past, present and future encountered. The group stayed overnight atRiverside Youth Hostel.
The following day, the group flew to Guilin. The scenery of Guilin (formerly spelt Kweilin) has attracted and astonished visitors for many centuries. It has also been the inspiration for classical Chinese landscapes of fantastically-shaped peaks, studded with pines and small pavilions, partly shrouded in mist. Here in Guilin the peaks are everywhere you turn, dominating every skyline, parading along the river and suddenly appearing at a downtown intersection.
The group visited Reed Flute Cave. It is Guilin's largest and most impressive cave. After marvelling at the natural landmark of the city Elephant Trunk Hill, visit to a youth hostel in the city was arranged.
The following day, the group was coached from Guilin to Yangdi, taking bamboo raft down stream the Li River to Xing Ping. It was undoubtedly an amazing experience to see this unusual mountain and water scenery en-route.
Xing Ping is well renounced with its mid-town peaks and relaxed atmosphere. It is said that the “pearl of crown” of this fantastic scenery of the whole Yang Zhuo area is in Xing Ping - an old small town of 1,700 years of history, the limestone hills are everywhere you turn, dominating every skyline, parading along the river and suddenly appearing in the backdrop. In terms of sights, other places have no competition.
The group stayed overnight at Xing Ping Youth Hostel run by a national rock climbing instructor Leo. In order to explore the charm of Xing Ping and its surrounding, group members were taken to do, at their own accord, hiking, rock climbing, caving, hill top challenge etc., either in collective manner or in small party.
After having full excitement and fun in Xing Ping, the group finally moved to Yang Shuo. Yang Shuo today is a focal point for tourists, a lot of backpackers at the West Street of the town where cafes and shops open until 2 o'clock in the morning.
The group eventually headed to Guilin airport for flight to Shenzhen.