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Showing posts from December, 2018

New international airport a boost for Halong Bay

The Vietnamese tourism resort of Halong Bay can expect a boost after the opening this week of the new Van Don International Airport in Quang Ninh province.

The UNESCO world Heritage site has previously been reached via a very slow 220-kilometre road trip from the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.

This is the first ever international airport in Vietnam to be developed by a private company: Sun Group - the country's premier developer of tourism, leisure and entertainment-focused properties and projects.

The US$310 million airport was constructed with the assistance of NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants), one of the world's leading airport consultancy and engineering firms.

"It is the most modern airport in Vietnam and will have positive influences on the passengers' experience here in the airport," said Romy Berntsen, a project manager and architect from NACO.

Besides being equipped with the latest airport technologies in the main terminal, and a state-of-the-art runwa…

Three days of fun in far southern Tasmania

For 51 weekends of the year, the southern Tasmanian hamlet of Cygnet is a sleepy sort of place; albeit a friendly one with lots of community activities.

But for one weekend of the year, the vibrant country town changes beyond all recognition when it hosts the annual Cygnet Folk Festival.



The event is Tasmania's leading celebration of folk and world music, dance, poetry, performance art, food and culture.

Now in its 36th year, the festival attracts musicians and festival-goers from all over Australia and overseas (there is a focus on Canada in 2019).

A wealth of local, interstate and international artists will be celebrated from January 11-13, with street entertainment, al fresco performances and masterclasses. American Lindsay Lou and her band, Canadian Irish Mythen and Scandinavians Fru Skagerrak are among the international headliners this year.

Cygnet is in the picturesque Huon Valley countryside just a 40-minute drive south of Hobart.

The Cygnet region has a population of les…

North Korea reaches out to English football fans

A tour company that specialises in trips to North Korea has created a stir by signing a sponsorship deal with an English football club.

Visit North Korea, a tour company that runs trips to Pyongyang and beyond, has signed a sponsorship deal with semi-professional outfit Blyth Spartans, Travel Mole reports.

The deal became public on Boxing Day when adverts and banners were displayed pitch-side during the club's match against Spennymoor Town. An announcement about the deal was published in the club's match program on the same day.

Blyth Spartans commercial manager Mark Scott said the sponsorship deal involved the club's "most unique pitch-side advertising board to date".

He said: "Having seen the recent Michael Palin documentary I was certainly interested by the country despite negative views on the country's politics."

He told the local Blyth Chronicle newspaper the agreement did not amount to an endorsement of the North Korean regime.

"Who am I to …

Tasmania calls out to whisky lovers

What is being touted as the world’s largest whisky tasting room is planned for Tasmania’s north-west.

A collection of at least 1,500 whiskies from across the globe – all available for sampling – will be the centrepiece of The Tasmanian Ikon Distillery, a new tourism venture being developed in one of Burnie’s landmark Art Deco buildings.


The current Guinness Book of World Records for a whisky list is held by the Hotel Skansen in Sweden, with 1,179 whiskies on offer.

“We will definitely be smashing that record,” Kons told the Brand Tasmania website. “I have had a few comments with people saying they have been to Scotland and went to a place where they had 3,000 whiskies.

“And, I tell them the big difference is that, with ours, you will actually be able to sample our 1,500 whiskies; they are not just on the shelf.”

The Tasmanian Ikon Distillery – which aims to open in January 2020– is being installed in the former Associated Pulp and Paper Mill [APPM] Service Building.

And, along with its worl…

Will expensive hotel bathroom amenities soon be a thing of the past?

Business travellers have become used to finding small, expensively packaged, bottles of designer shampoos, conditioners, bath gels and moisturisers in just about every hotel room.

Frequently, it is a case of the grander the hotel, the more ostentatious the amenities.

Often there are bath salts, two of three different-sized soaps, and range of other goodies, ranging from a toothbrush and toothpaste to shoe shine gear, as part of the standard bathroom amenity offerings.

But as hotels look to make savings - and to highlight their environmental credentials – bulk dispensers that can be re-used are becoming more common, particularly in entry-level rooms.

Guests are being asked to consider whether they really need a nail brush, a mouthwash or a hair brush, the cotton buds and the body lotion?

Trend-setting hotels in Japan are moving to cut down on waste – and to give guests what they want – by setting up help-yourself amenity kiosks in their lobbies.



Rooms contain large pump-action packs with…

Thailand tourism boom continues apace

Thailand, a long-time favourite with Australian tourists, continues to grow as a global travel destination. 
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports announced the tourism figures for January-November 2018. Thailand received a staggering 34.43 million, up by 7.53% over the same period of last year.  Seven countries (China, Malaysia, South Korea, Laos, Japan, India and Russia) have already generated more than one million visitor arrivals, and three more countries (United States, Vietnam and Singapore)set to follow suit when the full year 2018 results are tabulated.

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said: “We are overjoyed to have this result in the last quarter of 2018. The 35 million visitor target is now set to be met. It is a tribute to the cooperation and creativity of the entire Thai travel and tourism industry to ensure that it remains our primary sector for job creation, distribution of income nationwide, and contribution to cultural, heritage and environmental preservation." Visitation…

Hot summer deals on Metro hotels

Metro Hotels and Apartments always offer good value for money - and the boutique hotel group has several summer offers Australia-wide. 
SYDNEY
Metro Aspire Hotel Sydney (below) has Star Wars Exhibition Packages from $179 per room per night (the Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition is currently on at the Powerhouse Museum (less than five minutes' walk away). The package includes: one-night’s accommodation in a deluxe room (for up to two adults and two children), one adult entry ticket to the exhibition, one buffet breakfast, overnight car parking, free wifi and dinner discounts.
MELBOURNE
Metro Apartments Bank Place is offering a Game Day Hot Dealfrom $128 per night for a one-bedroom apartment. The deal also includes a bottle of sparkling wine on arrival, late check out (noon) and a 25% discount voucher for meals at the nearby Mitre Tavern. 
PERTH
Metro Hotel Perth has a Girls Night In Packagefrom $159 per nightin a standard or superior riverview room) including a bottle of sparkling win…

Direct flights from Perth to Tokyo set to resume

Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways will launch direct Tokyo-Perth flights in September 2019.

The daily Boeing 787 service is the result of collaboration with Tourism Western Australia, Perth Airport and Tourism Australia," Seiichi Takahashi, senior vice-president of ANA, told Travel Mole.


ANA is "'excited to add Perth to our list of world-class destinations," Takahashi said.

State tourism officials expect the service to bring in 76,000 new visitors from Japan to Perth over the next three years, generating $175 million in tourism-related spending.

The service "will deliver a windfall gain for tourism and the broader WA economy," Perth Airport chief executive Kevin Brown said in a statement.

ANA also flies nonstop to Sydney.

Qantas previously operated Tokyo-Perth flights but canned the route back in 2011.

Meet the department store with its own ferris wheel

No matter where you go in Japan you are likely to find a Don Quijote discount store.

The store chainhas over 325 locations throughout Japan, as well as stores in Hawaii and two in Singapore (branded as Don Don Donki).



It carries an absurdly wide range of products, from groceries to electronics, clothing to high-end watches, cosmetics to chocolates. Choose between instant ramen noodles and colourfully-decorated cotton socks.

Don Quijote tends to keep very late hours for Japanese retailing (with its stores open until the early hours and some operating 24 hours a day).

The chain is known for its packed stores and narrow alleys with goods packed from ceiling to floor. Exits can be hard to find. Not a place for claustrophobics.

The store in Dotonbori in the centre of Osaka is one of those open 24 hours a day - and it has its own trademark yellow ferris wheel. Ride to to the top for sweeping views of downtown Osaka.

Re-opened 12 months ago after being closed for several years, the wheel is d…

Melbourne hotel boom in 2019

Melbourne is set to undergo a hotel boom in 2019 with several big-name properties scheduled to open over the next 12 months. 


Starwood Hotels and Resorts group will open its 176-room Aloft Melbourne (above), in South Yarra's Chapel Street. The design- and technology-focused hotel will open on January 1, offering loft style-stays complemented with a rooftop pool, bar and restaurant.

Peppers Southbank is set to open its doors in early 2019. It will feature 162 full-service hotel rooms across 32 levels, along with a range of amenities including a restaurant and bar, meeting room and gymnasium. The sustainable building is set to achieve a 5-star energy rating. 

Docklands continues to provide diverse hotel offerings with the opening of the hip Hotel Indigo in mid-2019. This InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Salta Properties lifestyle hotel will offer 170-rooms featuring a large resort-style pool and gym, a meeting and boardroom, and a two-level restaurant and bar, all within a 26-st…

Doing good. The story of the chef, the winemaker, his grandson and the turtle

Chef Alessandro Pavoni from Ormeggio at the Spit (below) is partnering with veteran winemaker Garry Crittenden for a special cooking class on January 5 with a message to help reduce waste plastic that ends up in waterways and harms marine life.

Back In 1997 Garry Crittenden was the first Australian winemaker to sell arneis, a food-friendly, northern Italian white wine. Despite an increased interest in Italian varietals, 20 years on arneis hasn’t proven popular enough to be viable for Crittenden Wines and they’ve grafted it over to the ever-popular chardonnay.
The current vintage (2018) is the last and, motivated by his six-year-old grandson Oscar, who is passionate about saving turtles from waste plastic in our oceans, Garry has called it Endangered. He explains: “Both the turtles and lesser-known grapes, such as arneis, will cease to exist if something isn’t done to protect them.”
Inspired by Molly Steer’s Straw No More documentary, Oscar painted a picture of a turtle for his grandfathe…

Cartoon creatures lift Japanese spirits

The Japanese love cartoon characters and mascots; ualmost always brightly coloured. 

They are used to add a symbolic presence to a place or event, and are hugely popular with different demographics and age groups. 

On some occasions people wear life-size mascot costumes, on others the creatures are in miniature. 

They date back as far as haniwa ; terracotta clay figures that were buried with or alongside the dead during the kofun period, the 3rd to sixth centuries AD. 

Here are a few of the characters/creatures that caught my eye on a recent trip to Kansai.














THE FACTS
Qantas flies direct between Sydney and Osaka Kansai three times a week with economy return fares starting from $1156 per person. www.qantas.com.au
The writer was a guest of Kansai Gastronomy Tourism Promotion Council and associated companies, including Keihan Holdings and JR West. Pick up the Osaka-Kansai Gourmet Food Map when you arrive for some helpful regional itineraries. www.kansaibishoku.net/en
The Hotel Vischio by Granvia …

Wine tourism boost for Tasmania

Tasmania’s wine tourism experiences will be showcased around the world thanks to support from the Australian Government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package and the Tasmanian Government.
Tourism Tasmania has secured $250,000 in funding through the International Wine Tourism State Grants program and $250,000 in matching state funds through the Tasmanian Government to partner with Wine Tasmania and local wine and tourism businesses on a global marketing campaign.
Wine Australia General Manager for the $50m Package (very silly job title, that), Brett Murphy said this initiative is about boosting international visits to Tasmania’s wine regions.
‘Tasmania has so many great wine producers – not to mention food, wine and nature experiences," he said.
"This exciting new campaign will shine the spotlight on Tasmania’s wine regions and the wonderful array of activities and experiences on offer to entice overseas visitors."
Tourism Tasmania Chief Executive Officer Joh…

De Bortoli snaps up a new winery asset

Family-owned and -operated De Bortoli Wines has snapped up a key regional asset in buying Rutherglen Estates in North-East Victoria.

De Bortoli Wines was established in the Riverina in NSW in 1928 and is currently managed by the third generation of the family. The winery’s production headquarters and packing facilities are located in the Riverina, where one of Australia’s most iconic and famous wines ‘Noble One’ is the premier brand.

De Bortoli also has facilities in the Yarra Valley, with a focus on cool-climate wines, and in the Hunter Valley.

The Rutherglen vineyard purchase complements the family’s existing premium Victorian vineyard holdings in the Yarra Valley, King Valley and Heathcote wine regions.

Rutherglen Estates (below), previously owned by Chinese investors, also provides De Bortoli Wines with a third wine-making facility in addition to the business’ Riverina and Yarra Valley sites.



Based on growing customer interest and strong sales forecasts, the De Bortoli family is conf…

Brexit madness creates travel chaos

The hugely hilarious Brexit (Britain's planned exit from the European Union) is now affecting travellers as slapstick Prime Minister Theresa May and her team of Conservative Party clowns bumble their way from disaster to disaster. 

The Sunday Times has warned that the Government is considering issuing a warning to British passport holders not to book holidays after March 29, 2019, in case of a Brexit "no-deal".

A report also claimed that May's merry band of idiots is considering bailing out travel companies whose businesses might be impacted as a result of the warning.

Throughout the prolonged Brexit negotiations, the government has consistently reassured the travel industry there will be no risk of disruption.

John Tangney, deputy chair of travel agency umbrella organisation AITO, said: "AITO is very disturbed to read The Sunday Times report, more especially following repeated assurances from HM Government that it is not true. It is a great shame that The Sunday Ti…

Brand new look for Sydney hotel icon

Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, the grande dame of Sydney international hotels, is set to have a new look in 2019. A multi-million dollar refresh of the hotel is underway and scheduled to be unveiled at the end of March next year. 
To celebrate, the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth has joined forces with several partners for a series  of summer events and entertainment options in Sydney. All 436 guestrooms and suites will have received a refresh, along with an upgrade to the lobby area and library fittings and furniture. 
A major technology overhaul is also in progress, with the launch of IPTV including Chromecast on all guestroom TV's together with an upgrade to what is claimed will be the fastest wifi in a Sydney CBD hotel. Among the hotel's summer festivities are the Veuve Clicquot Rosé Garden pop-up; a limited-time al fresco event open each Monday through to Saturday throughout summer from 5:30pm, with a live DJ on Thursday and Friday nights.  Rosé High Tea offers rosé poached mini pears, ber…

Japanese smiles to brighten the day

I always find the Japanese incredibly welcoming to visitors.

Here are some photos taken recently in Kansai province, where I spent several fascinating days. 

Thank you, lovely people, for letting me take your images. 












THE FACTS
Qantas flies direct between Sydney and Osaka Kansai three times a week with economy return fares starting from $1156 per person. www.qantas.com.au
The writer was a guest of Kansai Gastronomy Tourism Promotion Council and associated companies, including Keihan Holdings and JR West. Pick up the Osaka-Kansai Gourmet Food Map when you arrive for some helpful regional itineraries. www.kansaibishoku.net/en
The Hotel Vischio by Granvia is a recently opened, centrally located and affordable hotel choice in the busy Umeda precinct of Osaka, just a short walk from JR Osaka Station. www.hotelvischio-osaka.com/en

Exploring the world of de-alcoholised wine

I've tried quite a few low-alcohol wines in my day - and rarely been impressed. They have uniformly  been a little like light beer; a poor imitation of the real thing.

When I was offered the chance to taste some alcohol-removed wines I was cynical - but I ended up being pleasantly surprised - as were several of my regular wine-tasting team. 

Edenvale alcohol -removed wine (sourcing fruit from across south-east Australia) is ideal for designated drivers or cheap drunks. It is promoted as an "alternative that helps you enjoy a glass of wine and join in the celebrations, without the side effects."

The wines have been created through the same process used for standard wine before the alcohol is removed, and also contain half the calories.
I particularly enjoyed the sauvignon blanc, which had similar body and taste to regular wine. 


I also enjoyed the Edenvale Sparking Cuvee, as did my wife, who is notoriously fussy when it comes to bubbles. 

I'm not saying any serious wine lov…

Sweet and sour with a fracas on the side

Downtown Sydney. Friday night. Christmas is approaching.

The sidewalk are alive with office party survivors; many have extreme difficulty putting one foot in front of the other.

Then there are the marching powder victims. Eyes spinning like fruit machines.

I had a sudden desire for peace and quiet; and a desperate (and unusual) need for some sweet and sour pork, old school.

I choose my Chinese eatery carefully; it looked peaceful enough; half empty but largely populated by Asians.

All good, then, until an ancient-looking musician with an old Chinese instrument began making a caterwauling noise in the doorway.

The restaurant owner/manager was unimpressed and a massive shouting/pushing match ensued.

The Mr Miyagi lookalike eventually retreated, only to inexplicably return a few minutes later, taking a seat in the eatery and resuming the altercation.

After much secondary shouting he eventually left. Ambience shattered.

When I went to pay the owner/manager refused to let me pay. Good hospitalit…

New budget accommodation option in Perth

International hotel group GCP Hospitality is to open its first Australian property, Hostel G, in Perth in January.



Bookings will be available from January 4 with 50% discounts.

The new hostel concept puts an industry-first emphasis on community living and home comforts, including en-suite bathrooms in every room, linens and 24-hour security.

GCP Hospitality Chief Marketing Officer Marc Bichet said Hostel G is designed to be the first in a new generation of hostels, dubbed ‘hostel 2.0’, providing a hotel experience at an affordable price.

"Designed for the modern traveller seeking to explore cities like a local, Hostel G is set to be a new concept in lifestyle property, with a focus on conscious design, comfort and social connectivity," says the pre-opening blurb.

Hostel G is located in the Perth arts quarter of Northbridge and is the official accommodation partner of Perth’s 2019 Fringe World Festival.

The 296 guest rooms are shared across two room types – shared and privat…

A new reason to spend the holidays in Bangkok

Bangkok's holiday festivities will hit new heights with Beautiful Bangkok, a 60-storey light-and-sound spectacular from seven top Thai artists under the theme The Symphony of Happiness.

The Thai capital will be set alight by Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Limited (MQDC), the company behind the high-tech 3D projection mapping and laser show, which will run from December 18 to New Year's Eve, drawing Thais and tourists to Ratchaprasong, a district famous for festive displays and 'countdown' parties.



MQDC CEO Mr Visit Malaisirirat said: "Beautiful Bangkok celebrates New Year by commissioning the greatest artists to capture the city's true beauty - the happiness of its people - and confirms Bangkok as Asia's 'countdown city'.

"We worked on The Symphony of Happiness with seven of Thailand's most famous contemporary artists, offering them the vast canvas of Magnolias Ratchadamri Boulevard (MRB), a 60-storey residence and the home of Waldo…