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Monday 31 December 2018

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 less than 1,600 people but that quadruples during the festival with locals hosting visitors and campsites set up in local parks.
I'll be MCing in the St James School auditorium on both the Saturday and Sunday, so pop by and say hi.

Sunday 30 December 2018

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.

Visit North Korea is a private company set up in 2015 by founder Tom Fowdy.
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 judge?" he said. "The guy running [Visit North Korea] is going over to visit the country, not shake hands with Kim Jong-un, so we have no problem with it."

Interestingly, Blyth Spartans, which plays in the Northern League North Division, is based just north of Newcastle upon Tyne. Its stadium, called Croft Park, has capacity of 4,400.

Nearby Middlesbrough was where the North Korean national football team made global headlines during the 1966 World Cup finals, beating Italy 1-0 and qualifying for the quarter-finals.

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 tasting facility is the brainchild of Burnie Mayor Steve Kons (above)

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 world-record whisky offering, it will also be showcasing the finest from Tasmania, with a special ‘Tasmania Room’ featuring the most extensive collection of local artisan spirits.

Tasmanian gins and vodkas will sit alongside our whiskies, and Kons estimates the room could encompass up to 1,000 lines for sale.

The $3 million development will also have a working distillery where visitors will be treated to a bird's eye view of the production process via a walkway suspended above the distillery. A craft beer brewery is planned for a later stage.

Kons bought the old APPM service building – which housed the company dentist, gym, canteen and ballroom – four years ago.

It dates back to 1944, and Kons is excited that his plan provides for “a great reuse of a building full of history”.

“The fact we have the other distillery in town [Hellyers Road] creates enough interest for people to overnight in Burnie,” Kons said.

Saturday 29 December 2018

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 liquid soap, shampoo and maybe conditioner, but for everything else it is up to the guest to choose what they need from the kiosk when they check in.

Want a razor and shaving cream? Help yourself. Need some hair gel? There you go. Toothpicks? Sure. The same with coffee, tea and sugar.

The hair care products and body lotions are no longer Molson Brown and come in single-use sachets, aimed at reducing waste, although you can still take as many as you like, should you want a souvenir or two.

Hotels in the Solare Hotels and Resorts Group – with properties across Japan – and the new Vischio by Granvia business chain (owned by Japan Railways West) both offer Smart Select carts in their lobbies that enable guests to select the exact amenities they need/want during their stay.

Every day millions of bars of soap and bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and moisturisers are opened in hotels around the world. On average, each bar of soap and each bottle of liquid becomes waste when only around 15% is actually used, environmental groups say.

These partially-used toiletries are then scooped up by the cleaning staff, thrown into bin bags and sent off to landfill sites.

Maybe it is time to consider if you consider sewing kits, shower caps or shoe shine packs are essential.

Would you feel deprived without them?

Or would you be happy just to take one, or many, goodies from the lobby cart when you actually need them?

For me, free internet and bottled water are the hotel essentials. Flashy toiletries less so.

# The writer was a guest of the Vischio Hotel by Granvia Osaka. 

Image: The amenities cart in the lobby at the Vischio Hotel by Granvia, Osaka. Pic: Winsor Dobbin.

Friday 28 December 2018

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 from all regions grew well except the Middle East and Oceania. European visitors were up 4.03% to 5.91 million but Australian visitors surprisingly declined by 1.61% to 728,720. 

Thursday 27 December 2018

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. 


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.


Metro Apartments Bank Place is offering a Game Day Hot Deal from $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. 


Metro Hotel Perth has a Girls Night In Package from $159 per night in a standard or superior riverview room) including a bottle of sparkling wine in room on arrival, complimentary cheese and antipasto platter, buffet breakfasts and free eye masks for each guest. 


Metro Hotel Ipswich International has an Early Bird Hot Deal from $132 per night with complimentary wifi and car parking. A web exclusive features 1pm check-in and 11am check out with a minimum 30-day advance purchase. 

Book online at           

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.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

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 chain has 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 decorated with a giant image of Ebisu, the god of business prosperity.

Don Quijote also has a "half-pipe" roller coaster on the roof of its eight-storey Roppongi store in Tokyo, but it has never been operational due to protests from locals.

Don Quijote stores offer tax-free shopping for visitors and are a perfect one-stop shop to pick up last- minute gifts before returning home. Compared to Australia, the prices are very keen. 

All the stores share a penguin mascot in typical Japanese style and we found some limited-release Suntory whiskies that had been sold out at the distillery.  Well worth a visit for an authentic Japanese experience. 


Qantas flies direct between Sydney and Osaka Kansai three times a week with economy return fares starting from $1156 per person.

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.

Monday 24 December 2018

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-storey building.
Tagged as Australia's largest Quest property, Quest New Quay will offer business travellers quality apartment hotel accommodation in the Docklands precinct. The property will feature 221 studios, one and two-bedroom apartments as well as facilities including conference rooms, business lounge, a gymnasium and outdoor terrace with barbecue area.
West Side Place will be home to the Ritz-Carlton hotel, the tallest hotel in Australia. Upon arrival guests will enter the hotel lobby via the porte-cochere and take a direct elevator straight to the hotel's sky check-in on level 79, offering panoramic views across Melbourne's city centre and beyond. The property will offer 263 luxury hotel suites with quality finishes and furniture, function rooms, business centre, 500-seat grand ballroom, and outdoor garden terrace.
The much-anticipated W Hotel is due to open in late 2019, ahead of its initial 2020 target. The luxury 5-star hotel will be part of the Collins Arch precinct, alongside luxury residential apartments, retail spaces and premium commercial offices. The hotel will sit on Collins St with the hotel lobby located on Flinders Lane. The property will encompass 294 rooms and suites, a bar, restaurant, function space, spa, gym and a heated indoor pool.
Shama Luxe Aurora Melbourne Central, opening in September 2019, is the only serviced apartment in Melbourne with a direct connection to Melbourne Central retail and transport precinct. The property will be a mix of studio and one-bedroom units, with the flexibility to create dual-key two-bedroom units with outlooks over the city skyline and Port Phillip Bay.
Fronted by a 145-year-old building's façade, Vibe Hotel Melbourne will be a mix of four distinct design sections linking between the old and new. The former site of retailer Fletcher Jones, the new hotel has 206 rooms and contemporary communal areas and is slated to open at the end of 2019.
AccorHotels, Australia's largest hotel operator, will manage Chadstone's new luxury boutique accommodation under its MGallery by Sofitel brand, tom open in late 2019. Guests will enjoy views of Melbourne's cityscape, Port Phillip Bay and the Dandenong Ranges from the property. Features of the hotel include 250 guest rooms including a selection of suites, health and wellness facilities including a day spa, pool, gym, conferencing and meeting rooms, a ballroom and two restaurants plus a lounge bar.

# Info provided by Tourism Victoria 

Sunday 23 December 2018

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 grandfather for Christmas last year. 

That picture now graces the label of the 2018 Endangered Arneis and $20 from every dozen bottles sold goes to Australian Seabird Rescue in Ballina on the NSW North Coast, which treats injured sea turtles and seabirds. Being relatively small, plastic straws are easily ingested by turtles and other marine life. 

Along with many in the hospitality industry, chef Pavoni shares concerns about plastic straws, and has eliminated them from his restaurants: Ormeggio at the Spit, Chiosco, Via Alta and Sotto Sopra. 

Hailing from Lombardy, he also shares Garry’s love of northern Italian grape varieties, and has written the menu for his upcoming class to complement the Endangered Arneis. 

He’ll be teaching how to prepare crudo of yellowtail kingfish with cherries, spaghetti risottati with tartare of scarlet prawns, and pumpkin and burnt butter risotto with pan-fried red mullet, which guests will then cook for themselves before sitting down to enjoy their seafood feast with a glass (or maybe two) of the Crittenden Endangered Arneis 2018.

Alessandro’s class is from 11am-3pm on January 5 at Sydney Seafood School. For more information, call (02) 9004 1111 or book online at 

To purchase the Endangered Arneis 2018 and help save the turtles visit

Saturday 22 December 2018

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.


Qantas flies direct between Sydney and Osaka Kansai three times a week with economy return fares starting from $1156 per person.

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.

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.        

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."

Stefano Lubiana Wines in the Derwent Valley 
Tourism Tasmania Chief Executive Officer John Fitzgerald said: "Tasmania is famous for its delicious produce and world-class wine. This a fantastic opportunity to position Tasmania as the premier wine destination of Australia.

"We will work with our tourism trade partners and Tasmanian wine producers on a range of marketing activities to promote the state’s wine tourism experiences in the premium international markets within North America and Hong Kong."

"The campaign will benefit wine producers and regional communities around the state as it will encourage visitors to travel further and spend more during their stay," he said.

# The $50 million International Wine Tourism State Grants program is designed to enhance wine tourism experiences and drive collaboration between key sector partners. Applicants are required to provide matching funding on a dollar-for-dollar basis and applications are assessed by an independent Expert Assessment Panel, in accordance with the grant guidelines. Grants are approved by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Hon David Littleproud MP.

Friday 21 December 2018

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 confident that premium quality Victorian red wine with density, freshness and interest "will increasingly be in high demand both domestically and internationally".

Heathcote and the North-Eastern regions of Victoria are ideally suited to this type of wine, so the family has continued expanding the business into these areas with both the purchase of established vines as well as the planting of new vineyards.

The Rutherglen purchase brings the De Bortoli family’s Victorian vineyard holdings to 820 hectares, 700Ha bearing fruit and 120Ha in development. The family will continue to look for other opportunities.

The family estimates the De Bortoli family’s Victorian vineyards will produce in excess of seven million bottles of premium Victorian wine by 2025.

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 Times seems to be trying to undermine or de-stabilise the travel industry.

"Bear in mind that if people cannot go abroad, it will hit inbound traffic too - and business travellers - thus damaging our own holiday and hotel industries severely, and potentially hampering business deals to the detriment of the UK."

The European Commission has said that even in a no-deal scenario, flights will still operate between the UK and EU, and a visa will not be required.
The Sunday Times report came days after it was confirmed that holders of British passports will be charged €7 to visit EU countries from 2021. 

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, berry éclairs, freshly-baked pink scones, salmon quiche and choice of teas from Dilmah's Teamaker Private Reserve, or fresh barista coffee. Prices from $65 per person, or paired with sparkling rosé wines from $83 per person. 
For detail see

Tuesday 18 December 2018

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. 


Qantas flies direct between Sydney and Osaka Kansai three times a week with economy return fares starting from $1156 per person.

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.

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.        

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 lover is going to be blown away by these wines - but they do offer a drinkable alternative for those keen not to drink over the festive season. 

For details see:

Friday 14 December 2018

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 hospitality. And the sweet and sour hit the spot.

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 private with Glam Shared offering four bunk-style rooms exclusively for female travellers.

The rooms feature unhostel-like complimentary extras such as hair dryers and bathroom amenities.

Groups of travellers seeking privacy can book out private guestrooms, with double-, twin-, four- or six-bed configurations available.

Each room features an en-suite bathroom and offers free wifi, air-conditioning, reading lights and USB charging stations.

Bichet said a major focus of the hostel was its communal spaces, including a games room, screening
room and co-working space.

“Our aim is to rival the service standards and amenity offerings found in most hotels,” he said.

GCP Hospitality runs 39 properties worldwide and has regional offices in Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Perth, San Francisco, Singapore and Yangon. 

Thursday 13 December 2018

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 Waldorf Astoria Bangkok. 

"MRB's striking façade, inspired by magnolia flowers, provides the perfect setting for this huge event."

The seven artists (and you have to love some of the names) are P7, Mue Bon, Pai Lactobacillus, Tikkywow, Keep Your Eyes On team, TRK, and Bonus TMC, all from Thailand's thriving street art scene.

MQDC will continue to host Beautiful Bangkok each year, said Mr Visit (what a great name for someone involved in the tourism industry).

"MQDC will do this every year as our special gift to Thailand. We seek to capture and celebrate the beauty of Thai happiness. The annual shows will spotlight Bangkok as a great place to greet the New Year, a countdown city on a par with Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney. 

"The show will once again draw a vast audience, amazing and delighting Thais and tourists alike."

There will be seven performances a night. See

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Hobart's new $400 million hotel at MONA unveiled

Hobart's world-famous MONA has unveiled details of its plans for a new five-star waterfront hotel. 

MONA owner David Walsh announced today that the new hotel will not be named HOMO, or HOON, as had been mooted, but Motown.

The design, like the name, has been recycled through many iterations, emerging through the collective efforts of architect Nonda Katsalidis, Walsh and others.

"We wanted an inverted suspension bridge," Walsh said on the MONA website. "But then the value engineers got at it. Now it’s a shopping trolley that looks a bit like an inverted suspension bridge."

The five-star hotel complex will encompass 172 rooms looking towards kunanyi/Mt Wellington or up the Derwent River towards Claremont and Otago Bay. There will be a theatre, spa centre, outdoor concert stage and library (below), as well as conference and auditorium facilities, and several new artworks. 

Several of the high-end rooms will feature works by "some really-quite-good artists" Walsh says.

The new library will be spread over three levels and will house Walsh's "large and growing nerd fest of bibliophilic paraphernalia", including Einstein, Newton, Darwin and Dickens. 

Hotel access will be mainly via the water with Venice-style motoscafi ferries dreamed up in collaboration with Mona’s ferry operators, Navigators. There will be another ferry, and eventually a boardwalk link to the main road.

Walsh says the new hotel complex should be opened by 2024 and will cost $400 million. 

Mona’s development application for Motown has been submitted to Crown Land Services and Glenorchy City Council. Once Crown approval has been granted, the development application assessment process will formally commence with Glenorchy City Council.