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China: Heritage Sites of Confucius and Mencius Restored to Glory, Better Life for Local Communities

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About two hours’ train ride from Beijing, in the south-west of Shandong Province, are Qufu and Zoucheng. These cities are the hometowns of Confucius and Mencius – two great philosophers of ancient China. The temple, cemetery and family mansion of Confucius in Qufu, collectively known as “San Kong” (three Confucius sites), were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Confucius Temple in Qufu was first built in 478 BC., shortly after his death. It was destroyed and reconstructed a number of times over the centuries.  The existing temple was rebuilt and renovated during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. With yellow tiles and red walls, the temple complex resembles the Forbidden City in Beijing, and ranks as the second largest historical building complexes in China.

The Mencius Temple in Zoucheng dates back to the year 1037 in the Northern Song Dynasty. The current building was reconstructed around the year 1672 during the Qing dynasty after it was destroyed in an earthquake. Near the temple is the Mencius family mansion and cemetery.

Weathering took its toll on the ancient Confucius and Mencius temples and related historical buildings, as shown by leaking roofs and damaged ceilings, slanting and unstable walls and pillars, damaged color paintings on woods, broken stone tablets, and ancient trees infected with diseases and insects.  Urgent actions were required to conserve these cultural monuments and relics and prevent them from further deterioration.  

Rehabilitating historic buildings and relics

Supported with a US$50 million loan from the World Bank, a US$130 million project was launched in 2011 to enhance cultural heritage conservation and tourism services in Qufu and Zoucheng.

“It is the first world heritage protection project using international financing for both China and Shandong,” said Zhou Xiaobo, a deputy director of the provincial cultural relics bureau and head of the project management office.  

The conservation plan included renovation of cultural heritage sites and buildings related to Confucius and Mencius, renovation of historic sites in the Lu Old City and Ming Old City, and infrastructure upgrading in the old towns.

The Shandong Confucius and Mencius Cultural Heritage Conservation Project took five years and eight months to complete.  By mid-2017, 40 historic buildings and sites, such as halls, shrines, pavilions, gates and archways, were renovated with better site management and guiding interpretation for visitors using modern technology. 17 cultural heritage sites were adaptively reused. More than 400 stone tablets with inscriptions were cleaned and repaired.

Mount Ni, the birthplace of Confucius and location of a temple dedicated to the father of the sage and an ancient academy, experienced the largest-scale restoration since the Qing Dynasty. It won a national prize for cultural heritage conservation top ten in 2013. 

Conservation work was also extended to thousands of ancient cypress trees. Plans were tailor-made for each of them that included propping, pruning, holes repairing, insects and diseases treatment, and installation of ID plates.  

The Old City of the State of Lu, a state founded in the Zhou Dynasty in the 11th century BC., still has ruins of the ancient city wall and moat, palaces and residential sites, roads and irrigation systems. Work was undertaken to protect these historic sites, and add new wooden walkways, rest areas and sanitation facilities for tourists, making it a new national archeological park.

In the Old City built in the Ming Dynasty, a historic courtyard-style mansion and the county “Yamen” – the county office building – were selected for overhaul, with repair to the roofs and walls, re-flooring and repainting of the wooden structure.

Traditional methods, craft skills and materials were used in the conservation and restoration of all historic buildings and relics.  All these methods and skills were also carefully recorded for future reference and use. 

Improving lives and economy

Residents in the old cities of Qufu and Zoucheng are direct beneficiaries of infrastructure upgrading that included repaving of roads, renovation of water and sewerage systems, and environmental cleaning, which has significantly improved their quality of life.

Clean water was diverted Sihe River to the moat of the Ming Old City in Qufu, creating a pleasant public space for residents and visitors. The Yinli River in Zoucheng was dredged and cleaned up, with its banks reinforced and trees planted. The stinky canal became a green linear park where people come to enjoy the waterfront. As a result, the number of small businesses along the river, such as restaurants, homestays and shops, has doubled, generating jobs and incomes for local residents.

The upgraded infrastructure in old cities under the project contributed to the fast increase of revenues of small business. The average annual revenues of small businesses in the renovated streets more than doubled during the project period. A survey found that 100% residents and business owners were satisfied with the urban regeneration program.

Visitors to Qufu and Zhoucheng are also direct beneficiaries from improved tourist information and services, including new electronic tour guide systems, multi-lingual signage boards, tour maps and other tourist facilities.  The Zoucheng Museum, upgraded and refitted to highlight Mencius, enables visitors to gain a better understanding of the sage’s life and thinking with help of multimedia and other modern technologies.

The annual number of tourists grew significantly from 2011 to 2016 – from 4.26 million to 4.94 million in Qufu, and from 100,800 to 256,800 in Zoucheng, with tourist revenues increased from RMB 8.9 billion ($1.35 billion) and RMB 2.2 billion ($330,000 million) to RMB 15.8 billion ($2.4 billion) and RMB 6.1 billion ($930,000 million) in the two cities respectively.  Tourist satisfaction increased from 48% to 96%.

A total of 2,349,000 people, including residents and tourists, benefitted from the project.  

Supporting cultural heritage protection in China

The World Bank has worked with China in cultural heritage protection since the 1990s, implementing 16 projects with a total cost of about US$6.98 billion, including US$1.87 billion from the World Bank. China has the largest number of World Bank-supported cultural heritage projects globally.

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Only on Langkawi: An Insider’s Guide to the Most Coveted Langkawi Pursuits

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Whether in search of wanderlust, culture, or relaxation, Four Seasons Resort Langkawi showcases a bespoke collection of experiences that captures the warmth of Malaysian culture, combined with a deep sense of place. The Resort, with its prime placement directly on Langkawi’s longest stretch of beach and adjacent to a UNESCO Geopark allows premier access to occasions that few have the opportunity to experience in Southeast Asia, let alone the world.  

Our Front Office Manager, Mr. Indran Santhirasekaran, has offered his five must-see experiences that are only found here on Langkawi:

Mangroves & Eagle Safari – Explore mysterious forests between land and sea on this naturalist-led boat safari into the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park – home to majestic eagles, mischievous macaques, fish that “walk,” colourful fiddler crabs, shy otters and sleeping bats.

Raja & Ratu Ritual – Designed for couples to experience together, this award-winning ritual focuses on three specific chakras – sacral, heart and crown – to maximize emotional and physical connections.

Cycle Adventure & Photography Tour – Pedal and capture your way through rural regions, taking in villages to scenic waterfalls, as you enjoy a photo adventure tour.

Rainforest Trekking – Trek through Langkawi’s pristine rainforest and witness rare wildlife, ancient rock formations, and a scenic waterfall along the adventurous journey.

Lessons in Spice – Immerse yourself in the flavour, fragrance and flair of Malay cuisine. Distinguish local ingredients, sample aromatic spices and discover traditional cooking techniques with our world-class chefs. 

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10 Iconic Must-See Properties to Experience in Hilton’s 100th Year

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Born out of Cisco, Texas, in 1919, Hilton approaches its 100th anniversary in May of this year. In nearly 100 years of hospitality, its hotels around the world have pioneered innovation, shaped communities, become part of the fabric of popular culture and developed into iconic destinations.

Anniversaries are an opportune time to reflect, to look ahead, to celebrate and, of course, to travel. Hilton now has more than 5,600 properties around the world in 113 countries and territories, but these 10 iconic properties top the list as must-see destinations to fully take in Hilton’s 100th year. From culinary and design innovations to regional and historical significance, these hotels are reimagining the travel experience and have played a role in defining not only Hilton’s unique history over the past century, but history itself.

Americas

Conrad Washington, DC

Conrad Hotels & Resorts’ highly anticipated Conrad Washington, DC will welcome guests starting in April 2019. Introducing a new era of hospitality for travelers seeking modern luxury in the heart of the nation’s capital, Swiss architecture firm Herzog and de Meuron designed the sleek and contemporary property. The signature restaurant, Estuary, led by “Top Chef” alumni Michael Voltaggio and his brother Bryan Voltaggio, will feature a seasonal menu that highlights the flavors of the nearby Chesapeake Bay area. The property’s unique architecture includes a dedicated rooftop bar featuring panoramic views of the U.S. capitol, which will offer discerning travelers an experience unlike any other in the world’s most influential city.

Caribe Hilton

Named a 2019 Place to Stay by Forbes, rediscover Caribe Hilton, making its debut later this year after a multimillion dollar restoration and reinvention following devastation from 2017’s Hurricane Maria. Famous as the birthplace of the piña colada, the iconic resort has been wowing guests since 1949, when it opened as the first international Hilton hotel. Sip the hotel’s creamy refreshment, now Puerto Rico’s official drink, or explore the views of San Juan’s shoreline from the exclusive, lushly landscaped 17-acre peninsula.

Palmer House – A Hilton Hotel

Experience a working piece of history, and a beautiful one at that, with a stay at the historic Palmer House – A Hilton Hotel. Indulge in a chocolate brownie at the very place where they were invented in 1893 (that’s right, thank Bertha Palmer). Take a grand tour with the resident historian and peruse the hotel museum. The fabled Empire Dining Room, converted to “café society” supper club in 1933, welcomed legendary entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Liberace and more.

Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

Take in extraordinary views of the city, beach and iconic landmarks from Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana. Opened as a Hilton property in 2017, the beachfront resort marked Hilton’s 100th opening in Latin America. The hotel is located in the famous Copacabana neighborhood, one of Brazil’s most visited destinations. Among the tallest and largest hotels in the area, guests can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city’s three main tourist attractions – Copacabana Beach, the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain, from one of the hotel’s two exclusive pools.

EMEA

Transcorp Hilton Abuja

Discover Nigeria from the flagship of its hospitality industry, the Transcorp Hilton Abuja. Built in a remote location in the ‘80s, the hotel pioneered a bustling community and catalyzed Abuja’s evolution into the thriving capital city it is today. Centrally located in the capital’s commercial district, the award-winning hotel is one of the largest in sub-saharan Africa and serves as a national landmark, having hosted countless heads of state and global events. Whether exploring the busy city, learning about traditional village life at the on-site Abuja handicraft village where artisans display their work or visiting the natural rock formations on the edge of the city, Transcorp Hilton Abuja is a perfect base for travel in Nigeria.

Hilton Frankfurt Airport

Upgrade your airport hotel expectations this year with a stay at the highly awarded Hilton Frankfurt Airport. Awarded “Best Airport Hotel” for Germany, Europe and Internationally – several times over – this Frankfurt hotel combines futuristic design and authentic hospitality and is walking distance to Terminal 1 by sky walk. Designed for comfort and convenience, rooms are decorated in rich, warm colors and offer sound-proof windows, creating a sanctuary for the modern traveler to unwind or catch up on work.

Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus

Situated in the heart of the city, Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus has a storied past spanning six decades. The first international five-star hotel in Turkey, Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus symbolized a new beginning in Istanbul’s social scene and was very important for Conrad Hilton, as a key part in his plans to expand throughout Europe. Take a dip in the pool, designed in the very shape of Conrad Hilton’s footstep, or head to the Lobby Lounge of Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus for high tea, a tradition that became a fixture among the social life of Istanbulites shortly after the hotel’s opening, even inspiring movies of the period.

APAC

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Applauded for its pioneering achievements and sustainable approach to travel, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island was the first resort to offer undersea dining at its restaurant Ithaa, and it is home to THE MURAKA, the first-of-its-kind residence both above and below the surface of the Indian Ocean. Two spas, including one over the sea with glass-floored treatment rooms, offer guests relaxation and rejuvenation. The rare and diverse marine wildlife on show cements Conrad Maldives Rangali Island as one of the premier island destinations worldwide.

Hilton Tokyo

Opened in 1963, this Tokyo staple marked the first hotel of a global brand in Japan and has continued to drive Japanese hospitality forward ever since. Relocated to its current spot in Nishi Shinjuku in the mid-‘80s, Hilton Tokyo has hosted numerous prominent guests from politicians to international rock bands and has introduced a bevy of culinary newness to Japan, including the first sommelier service, the first Chinese all-you-can-eat service in Japan and the first dessert buffet.

Hilton Singapore

An institution in Singapore’s hospitality scene and a foodie’s delight, Hilton Singapore was among the first international hotels to bring its trademark level of service excellence and culinary innovation to the garden city. Hilton Singapore was the first hotel in Asia to achieve Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certifications, assuring seafood dishes with the respective ecolabels have been prepared with sustainably caught and farmed seafood sources. Try the hotel’s Opus Bar & Grill’s prime-cuts that are dry aged in-house, or savor Italian gastronomy with unique Japanese flair at the award-winning il Cielo.

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Top Five Destinations for the Ultimate Girls’ Getaway

MD Staff

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With International Women’s Day right around the corner (8 March), what better way to celebrate and show appreciation for the significant women in our lives than by embarking on an all-girls getaway? Take this opportunity to spend quality time with these women, be it your mother, sister or best friend, and make memories of a lifetime together.

Chengdu, China

Enter the birthplace of the world famous, legendary…giant panda! Chengdu, a rich cultural hotspot with a multitude of historical and natural attractions, is also home to most of China’s giant panda population. Get up close with these gentle giants at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, designed to imitate the natural habitat of giant pandas. Catch them in their most natural element – playing, eating and sleeping. What a life! While here, be sure to pick up fun facts about this national treasure and of course, valuable information on conservation efforts. 

You’ll be hungry after soaking up all this knowledge, so it’s time to experience another one of Chengdu’s specialties, the local hotpot. There’s no better way to bond with your girlfriends than over a bubbling pot of fresh ingredients and spicy broth (concocted from a secret blend of traditional spices) – beware the numbing peppercorns! Thankfully, for the less adventurous, non-spicy broth options are available as well. Hotpot restaurants are aplenty across the city, but head to Yulin Neighbourhood for a taste of the best.

Stay: Canopy by Hilton Chengdu City Centre, newly opened in January this year, is a refreshing lifestyle-brand hotel situated right in the center of the city’s cultural and commercial hub. Get to know the city like a local by engaging our hotel Enthusiasts – local guides that will give you insider tips on the city’s hidden gems. In addition, you can even explore the city on wheels, with Canopy’s complimentary bikes available for rent.

Perth, Australia

Perth is undoubtedly one on the books for those seeking a relaxed getaway imbued with nature’s best. Start your morning bright and early with a trip to the nearby island paradise, Rottnest Island, located just a short ferry ride away from Fremantle, Perth City. The island’s pristine beaches, with rich marine life and laidback atmosphere, are the perfect spots for you and your girlfriends to revel in nature’s gifts as well as each other’s company. While there, take turns to snap pictures as you pose with the world’s happiest animal, the resident Quokka! Of course, you have to take a #squadselfie with this adorable critter as well.

When you’re back in the main city, it is an absolute must to head to Northbridge, a cultural hub stock full of modern art galleries, eclectic boutiques and cafés. Immerse yourself in the local environment, and wind down while having heartfelt conversations with your girlfriends over a good cup of coffee. We recommend checking out Little Bird Café for its outstanding cakes (it’s also a non-profit that provides training for the long-term unemployed) and Kafka Coffee Shop, a dainty shopfront that serves the perfect cup of coffee you never knew existed.

Stay: DoubleTree by Hilton Perth Northbridge, strategically located in the heart of Northbridge district, provides convenient access to the city’s most popular attractions, such as the Art Gallery of Western Australia, State Theatre Centre and Yagan Square. The suite of dining, shopping and entertainment options guarantee you’ll never be bored!

Phuket, Thailand

No stranger to avid beachgoers, Phuket is the perfect place for a sun-soaked getaway with the girls. On top of lounging on the beach and dipping into the crystal-clear waters, be sure to also check out at least a couple of its 32 surrounding islands – each with its own unique characteristic. Escape the crowds at Patong and Karon, and embark on an island-hopping adventure; test your teamwork with the girls in an adrenalin-pumping game of football on the floating football pitch at Koh Panyi (this coastal village is built on stilts!), find hidden gems at the picturesque Pi Leh Cove and walk amongst the coral reef and marine life with a sea-walking adventure at Coral Island. There is a smorgasbord of experiences to share with your best friends, and you’ll certainly make memories of a lifetime together.

Stay: Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa is the idyllic destination for those seeking a restful stay coupled with picturesque views of the ocean by Karon beach. With the resort housing 15 spa villas, get ready to be pampered, rejuvenated and refreshed after a long day of island-hopping.

Seoul, Korea 

Annyeonghaseyo (hello)! You don’t have to be a K-pop fan to fall in love with Seoul; this metropolitan city is bound to capture your heart. Splurge on some retail therapy with a shopping expedition with your girlfriends and navigate the various shopping hotspots this fashion and skincare capital has to offer. From shopping the big brands at mega establishments like COEX Shopping Mall (check out the one-of-a-kind Starfield Library!), sussing out local boutiques along quaint street alleys at Garuso-Gil and taking your pic from open-street stalls along Namdaemun Market, you’ll certainly spend quality time giving each other fashion advice and sharing your favourite picks!

End your day of shopping and relax those sore calf muscles at a jjimjilbang (traditional Korean bath house). These Korean bath houses put conventional saunas to shame – nowhere else will you find such an extensive selection of baths, saunas, massages and leisure activities. You can even head to the in-house noraebang (singing room) to belt some tunes or watch television! It’s an all-in-one entertainment haven.

Disclaimer: You’ll have to strip down to your birthday suit while in the bathing areas (separated by gender). While it’s natural to feel a bit of discomfort at the start, you’ll get used to it in no time.

Stay: Conrad Seoul towers over Seoul and boasts panoramic views of the Han River and the city’s skyline. If a trip to the jjimjilbang leaves you craving more pampering, the hotel houses an on-site spa that combines the latest technology and innovative techniques.

Bali, Indonesia

Live out your very own “Eat, Pray, Love” experience with your girlfriends in Bali, the land of tranquillity itself. Take your pick from the numerous beaches across the island, such as Nusa Dua Beach, Green Bowl Beach and Seminyak Beach for a relaxed afternoon of lounging in the sun. Of course, be sure to have your favourite cocktail and snacks on hand! Engage in some self-care by meditating or executing your favourite yoga poses – whether it is by the beach or in a yoga studio, what matters is that you focus on yourself and are rejuvenated after. Mental health is certainly as important as physical health!

For some, the ultimate trip will definitely include a girl’s night out, and there’s no doubt that Bali is a prime location to paint the night red. With the plethora of beach clubs available, it won’t be hard to find one that suits your mood and music preferences. Be prepared to bust a move as you groove along to your favourite beats, but of course, stay safe and keep a look out for your besties.

Stay: Hilton Bali Resort, located in Nusa Dua, is, in itself, a lifestyle destination. It has gorgeous views of the Indian Ocean and extensive recreation facilitates like a sand lagoon, waterslide and semi-outdoor spa villas. Be spoilt by the warm Balinese hospitality and explore the newly renovated wing and spaces within the property. You may never want to leave the hotel!

Wherever you are in the world, remember to celebrate memorable moments with the leading ladies in your life. Treat yourself to unique experiences, ranging from sold-out concerts, private mixology classes, indulgent spa treatments or luxurious boat trips by redeeming Hilton Honors Points on the Hilton Honors Experiences Platform. You totally deserve it!

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