Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Awesome cherry blossoms in Japan

For those making a trip to Tokyo this week, here's a quick update!

Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park is well known for its beautiful cherry blossom which grows in great abundance during the start of spring.

As the weather is also gradually becoming warmer, Cherry Blossoms there had began to bloom, and have started opening their petals to about the 40% mark. Even animals such as cats and birds have come out to play.

If you are looking for a place to view Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo this weekend, then make a visit to Ueno Park to enjoy the atmosphere.

Photo taken by Yasufumi Nishi, 29/03/2016

Kwun Tong - An insight into industry

These funky former industrial spaces make up the ever-changing Kwun Tong district. The now contemporary arts venues happily sit alongside remnants of a traditional fishing past – find out more about this unique Hong Kong district.

“I like the new face of Kwun Tong which is full of energy with young people, new office buildings and commercial centers,” says local entrepreneur Ben Lau.

As Hong Kong was recovering from the Second World War, manufacturing centers began popping up around the city. By the 1950s, the Kwun Tong district was emerging as one of the area’s key industrial villages—with refugees pouring over the border from Mainland China and capitalists descending on the harborside community to provide jobs. As the growth of the community continued and more and more public houses were springing up for the influx of workers, Kwun Tong became formally known as the Satellite City: Hong Kong’s city-within-a-city. The introduction of the MTR to the district in the 1980s brought further convenience, property development, and with it, an urban feel to the neighborhood.

However, by the end of the 80s and the start of the 90s, the economy in Hong Kong switched from industry-based to service-based, and so Kwun Tong began to change. As traditional manufacturing activities relocated to the Mainland, many industrial buildings were either left vacant or under-utilized. If you take a wander around Kwun Tong today, you’ll see how this shift has left the area in flux. Peek into the old industrial buildings and you’ll find a new generation of workers is setting up business there: young artists, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs in search of larger spaces and cheaper rents. Business owner Ben Lau has been in Kwun Tong for more than 30 years and has witnessed the changes: “In the past, Kwun Tong was an old town where you were surrounded by factory buildings and most of the people you could meet here were blue-collar workers. Now the area has been revitalized and Kwun Tong has completely changed. I like the new face of Kwun Tong which is full of energy with young people, new office buildings and commercial centers.”

These old spaces don’t just provide a roof for these new creatives; they’re providing inspiration. Pop into the KaCaMa Design Lab and you’ll see how these young designers are turning waste into art—using hangers, corks and natural food dyes, the team creates innovative home and lifestyle pieces. Nearby Sealing Stone DIY Studio can teach you how to turn traditional Chinese handicrafts such as etching, carving and printing into modern accessories. The Salt Yard (a photography library) and Bon Appetit Cooking Studio (which offers practical classes) have both made good use of former industrial buildings to start up their own businesses. Even the world–class gallery Osage Sigma has opened up an exhibition space in the district. It’s not just artists and designers who are moving in; retailers are fast catching on too. The most popular industrial building, the Camel Paint Building, is a retail outlet paradise for shoppers from all over Hong Kong and beyond: you’ll find the latest fashions and cosmetics, plus wholesale food and even an urban farm. This cluster has helped Kwun Tong reach prominence as a shopping and cultural district.

Kwun Tong is a great destination location for foodies, packed with lots of gems hidden down its backstreets. The new Landmark East tower is a diamond in the rough and home to the famously innovative MIC Kitchen, a new concept by “demon chef” Alvin Leung, who was awarded three Michelin stars for his Bo Innovation restaurant in Wan Chai. Whether you’re searching for Thai or Japanese cuisine, local or international flavors, fine dining venues or family-run canteens, you’ll find it here. As Kwun Tong sits just on the harbor, it’s a haven for seafood connoisseurs who make a beeline for the Lei Yue Mun Seafood Bazaar. Make sure to stop here for some of Hong Kong’s best fresh seafood— you can pick live from the market, take it to one of the 20-plus Chinese restaurants by the water and tell them how you want it cooked. It will be steamed, fried or poached and on your table in a matter of minutes.

As well as the revitalization of old buildings, there are many new projects that are changing the character of Kwun Tong. The 700-square-meter, two-storey Jockey Club Lei Yue Mun Plus was repurposed from an old school in 2011 and is used to promote arts and culture in the community. It comprises spaces for performing arts, a ceramic workshop, a café and a rooftop garden overlooking the Lei Yue Mun Pass. Visitors can take part in year-round workshops, educational tours, exhibitions and other cultural programs. The Kwun Tong Town Centre Project is a future development to regenerate the area that will cover more than 50,000 square meters and include new commercial buildings, residential properties, leisure and recreational amenities, open landscaped spaces and other facilities. These numerous projects—both new and old—are changing the face of Kwun Tong, creating a focal point for East Kowloon’s thriving cultural scene.

Australia tourism to shine with Gold Coast Film Festival

Walk the red carpet on opening night of Gold Coast Film Festival alongside actors, filmmakers and film crew. Learn from Australia’s leading producers, writers and directors in intimate seminars and workshops.

At the Gold Coast Film Festival, to be held from March 31, you will be captivated by internationally acclaimed dramas, comedies and genre films, locally made indie gems, engaging documentaries, family features, anime and the scariest horror films.

With over 50 film and film related events in eight different locations, the Gold Coast Film Festival is a celebration of film and filmmaking from one of Australia’s top filmmaking locations – the Gold Coast.

Special events include Women in Film screenings and events and SIPFest, the annual short film competition transforming Surfers Paradise beach into a vibrant and unique cinema featuring 10 minute cinematic masterpieces by emerging filmmakers from around Australia.

New for 2016 is YScreen – a selection of entertaining and intelligent films and workshops for children and teens.
Tourism businesses, organisations and initiatives around the world are now being invited to submit an entry into the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2016 at WTM London, as the world celebrates 20 years of responsible tourism action.

The global search for the world’s most enduring and inspirational examples of responsible tourism in action kicks off today with entries being accepted into five categories spanning issues across the tourism industry.

The announcement of the 2016 winners, at World Travel Market London, will this year be part of the celebrations marking 10 years of World Responsible Tourism Day – the largest event for responsible tourism action globally. Furthermore, this year marks 20 years of the global responsible tourism movement, with the South African government publishing a tourism white paper in 1996 putting responsibility at the centre of its strategy.

New categories for 2016 include the ‘Best responsible tourism campaign’ which aims to celebrate the most successful marketing or advocacy campaigns in encouraging and promoting a more responsible style of travel.

Justin Francis, founder of the Awards and managing director of organisers Responsible Travel comments “I am truly excited by what we will discover through the World Responsible Tourism Awards this year.

The organisations, initiatives and businesses we uncover each year have the power to shape the future of tourism, to be catalysts for change in an industry which will have a huge impact on global climate and development.

”I want to encourage any tourism business or organisation around the world, big or small, to submit an entry. We want to hear your story”.

The importance of the Awards in assessing how far responsible tourism has developed, and how much it been achieved in the last 10 years is not lost on chair of the judging panel, Professor Harold Goodwin of the Responsible Tourism Partnership and the International Centre for Responsible Tourism. “Through the Awards winners every year we see the standard of what is being achieved by people taking responsibility for tourism getting higher and higher” he says “And every year we see more and more countries represented in our entries.

“Tourism, if sold, enjoyed and organised responsibly is of global importance, something that has been recognised in the new Sustainable Development Goals, and our winners this year will set the standard to which all tourism businesses should aspire”.

Awards Judge Simon Press, senior exhibition director for World Travel Market London, hosts of World Responsible Tourism Day says “The World Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM London are a central pillar of the success of World Responsible Tourism Day.

“The awards winners and shortlisted companies act as a benchmark and inspiration for what the global travel and tourism industry can achieve in responsible tourism practice.”

Off-Highway Vehicle and All-Terrain Vehicle Events and News for Moab

The Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) trails course through stunning landscapes in Moab. The popularity of All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and Side by Sides is established in Moab Utah. Whether visitors tow an OHV to ride their own or rent from a Moab business, all users benefit from Riding with Respect and adhering to the regulations set forth by Utah Parks and Recreation.

One of Moab's newest OHV trails takes Riding with Respect to a heartfelt level. The Fallen Peace Officer Trail has been the site of an annual event to honor the lives of Utah's fallen law enforcement officers. At each mile marker of this 14 mile trail a Fallen Peace Officer is memorialized. A Solemnity Walk is open to pedestrian traffic to pay respects. The event is to be held April 9 2016.

Riding with Respect more formally is an initiative to protect natural resources on public lands resulting from careful recreation use. Two additional OHV events in Moab are Rally on the Rocks taking place May 9–14, 2016 and the Red Rock'n Moab SXS Event held on September 22-25, 2016. Riding with Respect guidelines are adhered to during those gatherings. If you can't make Rally on the Rocks in May come in September for the Red Rockin' Moab SXS and vice-versa.

We welcome all out of town guests to enjoy the trails with their vehicles, however, in an effort to reduce the noise levels in the residential community in and around Moab, a local committee has produced a sign. The “Throttle Down in Town” sign is a welcoming document as a reminder to reduce noise in neighborhoods which span beyond downtown into the Moab Valley. Residents will have these signs posted in their yards as a friendly reminder.

Meanwhile, on the streets of Moab, residents have appealed to elected officials to persuade the visiting OHV street legal users to abide by restrictions to reduce the noise levels in community home places. A committee has produced a poster to specify street legal requirements and indicates the states that must purchase the Utah non-resident OHV permit and which state reciprocate with Utah. It is a welcoming document with a reminder to Throttle Down in Town to reduce noise in neighborhoods, which span beyond downtown into the Moab Valley.

Find out more: http://www.discovermoab.com/atv.htm

Canberra's Hugh Kelly Crowned Australian Barista Champion

For the second year in a row the Australian Barista Championship title has been won by a Canberra barista.

Ona Coffee's Hugh Kelly has taken out the 2016 ASCA Australian Barista Championship, following Company Director Sasa Sestic's win in 2015.

Following the 2015 championship, Sasa went on to beat almost 50 countries in Seattle, United States to claim the World Barista Championship (WBC) title. This year, Hugh will make the journey to Dublin, Ireland in June to compete in the World Barista Championship.

“It would be amazing for Australian to win the WBC back to back. I can't promise we'll win again, but I can promise I'll do my best," Hugh said.

Eleven Open Heat competitors entered the competition at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo on Thursday 17 March. Six of them went through to take on the four Regional Competition winners on Friday 18 March, which included Hugh, who won the Central Region competition in September.

As part of the Australian Barista Championship, the Ona Coffee Head Trainer produced espresso coffees using a freezer-processed Castillo from El Mirador in Colombia. His milk-based beverage highlighted the same varietal in a different way, presenting distinct flavours of vanilla and blueberry. For his signature drinks, Hugh combined freeze-concentrated fresh black currant with ice stones and his Colombian coffee.

Hugh worked closely with his boss Sasa to prepare for the competition, which involved at least three months of writing and refining his presentation and then a solid four months of practising his routines for 8-12 hours a day.

“In competition there are always sticking points where you feel like you are not progressing; Sasa had that many times himself in his own campaign and having someone there who had been through the process was a huge help,” Hugh said.

“I've now had some great feedback from top quality judges in the Australian competition, so this has given me a few ideas to refine things (for the World Barista Championship). It's great to now have more time to work with the coffees and try and get more out of them, and of course lots and lots of run-throughs.”

Hugh has seen Canberra's coffee scene change drastically since he started making coffee and if proud of how Ona Coffee has influenced that change.

“People expect higher quality than other cities and I'm very proud of the role Ona has played in this,” he said. “In our shops like The Cupping Room there is now demand for single origin, reserve and filter coffees and people expect a choice of different blends. I believe we are heading in the right direction towards more refined and delicious products with guys like Barrio and others also helping make Canberra a coffee destination.”

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Bag yourself a slice of Australia at the Sydney Royal Easter Show

Don't leave the Easter Show this year without an Ag Bag; the showbag where 100% of proceeds go directly to the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation's scholarships and grants program.

Available in the Woolworths Food Farm for $20, the Ag Bag comes packed with 20 great Aussie products, all made right here in Australia by Australian owned companies.

Muesli, biscuits, fruit and nut bars, chocolate milk, a magazine and sunscreen are just some of the bag's tempting inclusions which has been valued at $60.

SunRice and AUSbuy are supporting this initiative by connecting the RAS Foundation with their members to source some of the products.

Kate Ross, RAS Foundation Executive Officer says the RAS Foundation's Ag Bag is back in 2016, and better than ever.

"The bags are very popular, as it supports such a worthwhile cause. Last Show we completely sold out, so we have more bags available this year, but you still better be quick!" she said.

"All products have been donated, and the bags have been packed by volunteers, so every cent raised goes towards grants in rural communities."

"We're hoping to raise $70,000 which will go a long way to supporting youth-inspired regional community projects," said Ms Ross.

Products included in 2016 Ag Bag

SunRice: Brown Microwave Rice 250g
SunRice: Rice Cakes 250g
Monster Health Food Co: Breakfast in a Bag High Fibre 60g
Universal Magazines: Australian Country Magazine
Universal Magazines: 2016 Australian Country Diary
Tucker's Natural: Supergrain Snack Bites 25g
Go Natural: Nut Delight bar 35g
Steric Trading: Staminade sachet
Kurrajong Kitchen: Lavosh Snacks 50g
Beerenberg: 40g mini jars - Strawberry & Champagne Paste/Quince Paste
Cal-dent: Sachets of Cal-dent denture cleaner
Carman's: Dark Choc Cranberry & Almond Bar 35g
Vegesorb: Sachet of Vegesorb moisturiser
Australian Wool Innovations: Felt Sheep keyring
Murray Goulburn Devondale: Devondale 3D Chocolate flavoured milk 250ml
Murray Goulburn Devondale: Devondale Full Cream Milk 200ml
Food for Health: Fruit Free Bar 25g
Nerada Tea: Pack of 10 tea bags
SPC: Goulburn Valley Fruit Salad 140g
Concept Laboratories: Buck Off Melanoma SPF50+ Sunscreen Sachets

The Sydney Royal Easter Show runs from 17 March to 30 March 2016.

For more information, including information on ticketing and transport options, visit: www.eastershow.com.au

$85,000 grants earmarked for regional NSW community projects

Four inspiring young rural leaders will see projects in their local community come to fruition after sharing in $85,000 thanks to the RAS Foundation Community Futures Grants Program.

Tammie McMaster from Ivanhoe, Kymberlee Chase from Cudal, Laura Polson from Taree and Belinda Bell from Warren will each receive a grant, up to the value of $25,000, from the RAS Foundation to fund a project they are passionate about and will benefit their local communities.

The Community Futures Grant is open to NSW residents under the age of 35 and encourages young people living in rural areas to take a leadership role in improving their community by addressing local issues and needs.

RAS Foundation Executive Officer, Kate Ross, said it was always heartening to see young people in rural communities come up with great ideas to address an issue they see happening in their area and apply for a grant through the program.

"These young people are committed to their local community and really want to make a difference. The projects being funded will undoubtedly result in enhanced social and economic outcomes for the wider rural community."

"The grants are only possible with the help and generosity of our donors and supporters, and it’s exciting for the RAS Foundation to see young rural Australians realise their potential and achieve their ambitions," said Ms Ross.

RAS Foundation Community Futures Grants 2016

Tammie McMaster - Ivanhoe

Partner: Ivanhoe Campdraft Committee
Project: Upgrade Toilet/Shower block plus water troughs at Ivanhoe Showground

Tammie McMaster, 34, will partner with the Ivanhoe Campdraft Committee to deliver a much-needed upgrade of the toilet and shower facilities at her local Showground in Ivanhoe, a small community 10 hours west of Sydney on the Cobb Highway. An active community member, Tammie was recently recognized with an Australia Day local citizen award. Tammie has included additional livestock facilities in her project scope which will enable Ivanhoe to host more visitors and participants at a range of events, with a view to boosting local business in her town.

Kymberlee Chase

Partner: Cudal Tennis Club
Project: Cudal Tennis Club Upgrade & Cudal Regional Suicide Prevention Project

Kymberlee Chase, 33, will work with Cudal Tennis Club to restore and revitalise the local tennis courts and clubhouse to create a community venue accessible to all. With rural mental health at the front of her mind, Kymberlee was spurred into action after the recent loss of the Royal Hotel in Cudal, destroyed by fire in mid-2015.

Together with a dedicated local committee, she is passionate about creating a meeting place where her local community can get together, make social connections and keep active, forming a vital support network for each other in this small bush community.

Laura Polson

Partner: Manning River Agricultural & Horticultural Society
Project: Linger Longer Seats and Shade at Taree Showground

Local journalist Laura Polson, 22, will partner with the Manning River Agricultural & Horticultural Society to create a more welcoming and comfortable place for people to linger at her local Taree Show. After being crowned 2015 Taree Showgirl, Laura wrote an open letter to her community to seek ideas about how she could help to breathe new life into this local event. With lack of seating and shade coming up as some of the main issues, Laura's project will engage Indigenous sculpture artist, Russell Saunders, to carve new seating from local timber which she hopes will be part of a sculpture trail leading to the Showground. The project will also include some much needed shade and will engage a number of local volunteer groups including the Taree Men's Shed, Manning River Agricultural & Horticultural Society and Tidy Up Taree.

Belinda Bell

Partner: Warren Pastoral & Agricultural Society
Project: Help Us Hear PA System for Warren Showground

Belinda Bell, 29, and Warren Pastoral & Agricultural Society are passionate about their showground facilities, however they've found it tough to attract new events with an out of date PA system that no-one could hear. Events mean everything to this small drought-affected community and Belinda, a part-time Accounting Officer, and the society have brainstormed a number of initiatives to keep their venue alive and relevant. A new PA system will allow the annual Show, Polocrosse carnivals, annual campdraft and events like picnic race meetings to continue to thrive and bring people to Warren.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Outback Stockmans Show at the Sydney Royal Easter Show

Now that's a real cowboy!
The Sydney Royal Easter Show has an action packed program of events and shows to watch.

One such entertainment spectacle I saw on Saturday was the Outback Stockmans Show.

This is an entertaining one man and animals show that includes horses, cattle, dogs, and even pigs.

The show ends with the Stockman sitting on a huge bull playing the guitar  and singing a song he wrote.

As the Sydney Royal Easter Show ends on Wednesday, this only leaves a few days left  to get down to see the Outback Stockmans Show.  It is held several times each day and is located in the Daily Telegraph Paddock at the Showgrounds.

Website: http://www.eastershow.com.au/

BEAUTIFUL CLASSIC AND WOODEN BOATS

The Australia National Maritime Museum is home to April’s Classic and Wooden Boat Festival, a celebration of the beauty and diversity of Australia’s heritage vessels and their craftspeople. More than 100 boats will be on display at the museum and in Cockle Bay Marina, including Halvorsens, yachts and skiffs, classic speedboats, steam launches, tug boats, whalers and Navy workboats from all around Australia.

Enjoy free entertainment from 15 - 17 April, including live music, maritime demonstrations, harbour cruises and kids activities.

Beatles Festival Announces New Location and Expansion in 2017

Abbey Road on the River and the city of Jeffersonville, IN are excited to announce that the world-famous annual summer kickoff event will move across the river from Louisville to Jeffersonville beginning Memorial Day weekend, May 25-29, 2017. The Beatles-inspired music festival will take place on the popular RiverStage, a floating performance venue anchored on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Jeffersonville, the new adjacent marina, and the scenic Big Four Station Park areas, providing an improved and modern location while allowing the peace, love and rock-n-roll to remain in the Louisville region.

In addition to both parties committing to a three-year partnership in Jeffersonville, Abbey Road on the River will expand the event into several new markets in the coming year. An offshoot of the successful, long-running festival will be held in Dallas, Texas on May 7, 2016. The event, called Abbey Road on the Square, will be held at Annette Strauss Square in the heart of the Dallas Arts District and will celebrate the words and music of The Beatles with a full day of performances from world-class tribute bands and internationally recognized musicians. Plans are currently underway to bring a satellite version of the festival back to Cleveland, its original hometown, in summer 2017. Abbey Road on the River has also formed an alliance with StarVista Cruises, a division of Time Life Books and Music, to be a marketing partner and talent consultant and programmer for multiple music-themed cruises in 2016 and 2017.

Each year, Abbey Road on the River draws a crowd of 20,000 attendees, roughly 80% of whom are within a 50 mile radius of Louisville.

“The best music from the 60’s and 70’s is still underrepresented in the developing festival market,” says Jacob, “and we feel the time is right to pursue new opportunities and expand the ultimate brand in Beatles and 60’s style festivals to fans of all ages in other cities.”

The 2016 festival, which will mark the 12th year the event has made Louisville its home, will be presented at the Belvedere Festival Park and supporting venues for the final time May 26-30. Headlining shows will include Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals, the legendary Zombies, and the return of the festival’s greatest musical creation – the live performance of The Beatles LOVE album – performed note-for-note just as it was arranged by the late Sir George Martin, to whom the concert will be dedicated.

VIVID SYDNEY 2016 SIZZLES


The highlights of this year's Vivid Sydney festival have been revealed in a series of promotional videos produced by Destination NSW. The sizzle reels contain sneak previews of the incredible light installations set to illuminate Sydney between May 27 and June 18, as well as information on the high-profile international music acts and movers and shakers from the arts, culture and design worlds set to take part in the internationally renowned festival.

The key players behind the event – Vivid Sydney Creative Director Ignatius Jones, Destination NSW CEO and Executive Producer of Vivid Sydney Sandra Chipchase, Vivid Light curator Anthony Bastic, Vivid Music curator Stephen Ferris, Vivid Ideas curator Jess Scully, Vivid LIVE curator Ben Marshall, and Director Songlines at Sydney Opera House, Rhoda Roberts - each describe the surprises in store for this year's Vivid Sydney audience. Check out the videos.

Jazz It Up At Heritage Christchurch

Heritage Christchurch as a proud sponsor of the Cavell Leitch NZ Jazz and Blues Festival is offering luxury suite accommodation from NZ $275 GST inc. a night during the festival. The hotel is just metres from the Isaac Theatre Royal and a stroll to other venues. The hotel has elegant fully self-contained suites and an on-site heated lap pool, sauna and health club.

To tantalise Jazz fans' taste buds there is a pre-show dinner in the hotel's newly re-opened Maddison's restaurant prior to the Ramsay Lewis concert on 26 May.

Maddison's pre-show dinner is from 5.30 PM until 7.00 PM. Diners can choose from a two-course meal for NZ $45 or a three-course for NZ $55 including a dessert. Reservations are essential on +64 (0)3 983 4895 or emailmaddisons@continental.co.nz

For Heritage Christchurch accommodation bookings visit www.heritagehotels.co.nz

For information on the Cavell Leitch NZ Jazz and Blues Festival - May 25-29, 2016 visit

www.jazzbluesfestival.co.nz

A smashing success for the Good Friday Appeal at MCEC

Over 80,000 Victorians flooded Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) yesterday for the state’s 85th Good Friday Appeal (GFA), raising a record-breaking total of $17,445,624 for The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

Director of the Appeal, Anne Randall praised the generosity of Victorians who rally together every year to raise much-needed funds for children in need.

"We owe a huge thank you to the communities across the state who have donated time, resources and funds to achieve this incredible result for the kids once again,” Ms Randall said.

"Over the last three years MCEC has helped us take the Channel 7 Telethon, Kids Day Out activities and Night Show to new heights, and we’re showing no signs of slowing down!”

MCEC Chief Executive, Peter King said the entire team was incredibly proud to support such an iconic event to help the Appeal raise life-changing funds.

“It is our pleasure to open our doors to the public for such an important event and be able to deliver another record-breaking result, underpinned by our great community coming together.

“We are now true partners in the Good Friday Appeal family and it is an absolute pleasure to work with Channel 7, Herald and Weekly Times and 3AW to deliver this special event.

“The day has been transformed into a true family experience and is a fitting celebration of the generosity of the Victorian community," Mr King added.

MCEC’s talented in-house pastry chefs delivered another impressive chocolate creation this year, handcrafting a giant 50kg Easter egg filled with over 500 mini chocolate eggs. The egg was smashed open on the day by Channel 7 Saturday Disney host, Teigan Nash.

A golden ticket competition selected 30 lucky kids to be part of the egg smash, winning the exclusive opportunity to collect as much chocolate as they could from the smashed egg, while also raising additional funds for the Appeal through gold coin donations.

MCEC’s kitchen team spent more than 250 hours preparing house-made food items to serve GFA attendees across 14 Made food outlets, with 190 Food and Beverage employees working on the day.

The venue’s technology team facilitated more than 300 telephones and 370 computers and worked with the broadcaster to stream the telethon live across the venue.

GFA also utilised MCEC’s vision, audio and lighting for the Night Show concert in Plenary.

Since 1931 the Good Friday Appeal has contributed more than $308 million to The Royal Children's Hospital.

Hoi An to host Viet Nam - Asia Silk Culture Festival

Viet Nam-Asia Silk Culture Festival, the first of its kind is set to take place in Hoi An silk village, central Quang Nam province on March 28.

The event will include a seminar themed “Silk in modern life” and the fashion show “'Night of Oriental Silk Fashion” by young designers.

Other activities include an offering incense ceremony to Tam Tang Princess (Princess of silkworm), introducing and performing traditional silk weaving techniques of the Tan Chau silk craft village, the Cham traditional patterns making techniques and the Catu traditional brocade weaving.

Viet Nam - Asia Silk Culture Festival 2016 is the official event of International Silk Union and Asia Silk Alliance in World’s Culture Heritage Hoi An to promote silk trade and preserve the historical “Maritime Silk Route”.

The festival is expected to attract representatives from numerous Asian and European countries.

Save the Date for: The Orchestra for the Earth Conference, May 18 & 19 2016

Join us for an inspirational Conference bringing together an Orchestra of great spiritual minds and passionate people to explore and create solutions to save the Earth, its splendour and Indigenous traditions.

Where: The Francis Retreat Bonny Hills on the Mid North Coast NSW
When: Wednesday and Thursday, May 18 and 19, 2016
Keynote Speaker: Fr Frank Brennan, S.J. advocate for Peace and Social Justice with 
  • Aboriginal Elder, Educationalist, Artist and Writer, Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann 
  • Eco-Buddhist and Author of "Minding the Earth", Susan Murphy Roshi
  • Birpai Aboriginal Elder, Uncle Bill O'Brien
  • Author of "Sabbath & The Common Ground", retired Anglican Bishop,
  • George Browning
  • Christian Humanist and social commentator, Paul Collins
  • Indigenous trauma and healing specialist, Professor Judy Atkinson

REGISTER HERE

The Program:
Day 1:

8.15am Registration
9.00am Welcome to Country, Uncle Bill O'Brien
Introductions and setting the scene, Fr. Frank Brennan
9.30am Why are we here? Each guest speaker will present on how they see the challenge for people of different faiths in supporting a more environmentally sustainable World
10.00am How to choose and respond in your own life, Fr. Frank Brennan
10:30am Morning Tea
11.00am Personal and community group responses from different traditions and perspectives (Christian, Indigenous, Buddhist, Humanist)
1:00pm Lunch
2.00pm Exercises and strategies for more environment sustainable living
3.00pm Building a coalition among people of different beleifs which values and helps sustain our world.
4.00pm Afternoon Tea and shared plans
4.30pm Closing plenary - Fr Frank Brennan and guests
6.30pm A PUBLIC FORUM on Environmental Sustainability and Pope Francis' Laudato Si '
On Care for Common Ground at MacKillop College Hall, Ocean Drive, PORT MACQUARIE

Day 2:
7:00am Yoga and Meditation
Option One: Stay at The Francis Retreat to continue reflection and conversation OR
Option 2: A Sustainable Activity Tour to a farm and a sustainable home in nearby Wauchope

Contact
The Orchestra for the Earth
Phone: (02) 658 9324
Address: P.O. Box 2572 Port Macquarie NSW Australia 2445
Email: goodcompanygroup@bigpond.com
IImage: Ellenborough Falls, The Manning Valley
REGISTER HERE

Sunday, 27 March 2016

NSW the home of ‘A Fashionable Life’

Isabella Blow nurtured talents such as Alexander McQueen and works from his collections will feature as part of the exhibition at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said this is only the third time that Isabella Blow: A Fashionable Life will be exhibited to the public and the first time the collection will travel to the Asia-Pacific region.

“Sydney is Australia’s fashion capital and Isabella Blow: A Fashionable Life will open at a time when Sydney is truly shining as a fashion capital against the backdrop of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia and Vivid Sydney,” Mr Ayres said.

“We anticipate more than 3000 overnight visitors will travel to Sydney to see this exceptional collection featuring some of the world’s most iconic designers including extraordinary Milliner Philip Treacy, Alexander McQueen and Julien Macdonald.

“We’re also delighted the Honorable Daphne Guinness will travel to Sydney for the exhibition launch.“Sydney is a sophisticated global city of innovation and creativity. It’s fitting the Powerhouse Museum, as part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), will host this inspiring collection,” Mr Ayres said.

Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) Acting Director, Dolla Merrillees, said the exhibition showed the value of collecting contemporary fashion.“Isabella Blow was a master of identifying emerging design talent, collecting and advocating for fashion that would go on to be globally significant,” Ms Merrillees said.“Her garments are a gateway to the world of fashion. As Isabella said, fashion is not a prop, it is a part of you.”

Isabella Blow: A Fashionable Life will be held at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum from 14 May to 17 July 2016. The exhibition was secured exclusively for Sydney by the NSW Government, through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

ORANGE F.O.O.D WEEK TO CELEBRATE 25TH BIRTHDAY

The countdown is on for the start of one of Australia’s quintessential regional food and wine events – the Orange F.O.O.D Week festival, which will take place from Friday 8 to Sunday 17 April 2016.

The F.O.O.D acronym stands for Food of Orange District, and the festival is a celebration of the abundance and diversity of local produce and the region’s talented chefs, cooks, caterers, food producers, restaurateurs, baristas and wine growers.

Celebrating its 25th year as Australia’s longest running regional food festival, and with nearly 100 events in the program, Orange F.O.O.D Week provides the perfect excuse to explore the sophistication of one of Australia’s leading regional food and wine destinations.

Member for Orange Andrew Gee said Orange F.O.O.D Week is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its Regional Flagship Events Program.

“Over the last 25 years, Orange has become synonymous with quality food and produce. With hatted restaurants offering fantastic dining experiences and world-class wineries, the region has become a must-visit destination for lovers of food and wine from across the globe,” Mr Gee said.

Orange F.O.O.D Week has been instrumental in building the reputation of the Orange district as a food and wine destination, and is a much-loved event by both visitors and residents alike. The ten-day festival is a scenic and experiential journey from the field and farm, paddock to plate, with charming food experiences that are both formal and relaxed in style.

Over the ten jam-packed days the festival boasts six signature events and over 90 additional food and wine events held at local cafes, cellar doors, restaurants, wine bars and in paddocks, orchards and vineyards. Highlights include the opening night F.O.O.D Week Festival Night Market; the 100-Mile Dinner at Molong, held on the village green at long communal tables under the stars; a series of free presentations and live cooking demonstrations by local producers, craft beer brewers, bee keepers, and chocolatiers at F.O.O.D HQ; farmers markets; a Country Fair; the Sunday Producers’ Brunch and Market; as well as a two day polo match at the Millamolong Polo Club.

For more information on Orange F.O.O.D Week visit http://orangefoodweek.com.au

SYDNEY ON SHOW IN VOGUE AUSTRALIA

The April 2016 issue of Vogue Australia, guest edited by Mario Testino, the world’s most influential fashion and portrait photographer, is now on sale. The issue features incredible photographs of iconic landscapes and notable Australian faces captured during Testino’s visit to Sydney in January 2016. The Mario Testino Special issue is thanks to the support of key partners, including Destination NSW.

NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said, “This was the coming together of two mighty creative forces, Mario with his international reputation for excellence in this industry and the innovative city that is Sydney. These images capture our true essence as a city and it’s clear Mario was captivated by Sydney and its people during his time here. I commend Vogue Australia on this partnership with Destination NSW for the April edition which will put Sydney in the international spotlight and encourage its readers to visit our remarkable city.”

The New Ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson

Ibis Styles Singapore
The opening of the new Ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson enlivens the MacPherson district with 298 vibrantly decorated guest rooms and a distinctive façade which showcases the hotel's elevated pool garden, evoking a tropical resort vibe to the design-led hotel.

Strategically located at the crossroads of MacPherson and Aljunied road, the hotel is part of a mixed use development and sits atop Macpherson Mall, with rooms occupying levels 4 to 9. The mall is set to open in June 2016 with a myriad of shops and food and beverage options, offering guests an added measure of convenience and amenities.

Room rates start from $138++ per night, including buffet breakfast and internet access, presenting exceptional value for business and leisure travellers. The all-inclusive rates are a worldwide promise of the exuberant Ibis Styles brand, which has over 210 uniquely designed hotels managed by AccorHotels. The hotel is currently accepting bookings and will welcome its first guests in April 2016.

The development is owned by LVND Investments Pte Ltd, a consortium comprising Lian Huat Group, Nobel Design Holdings, Expand Group and Steel Industries. It acquired the site in June 2013, and carried out extensive works to completely transform the building's interiors and exterior, adding in more guest rooms, a 25m swimming pool and a fully-equipped gymnasium.

Mr. Patrick Kho, Group Managing Director of Lian Huat Group, says, “Ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson is a landmark development for the area and is a much-anticipated boon to the business and residential community, who now have a modern and stylish place to accommodate their visiting colleagues.”

A Collection of Cheerful Rooms for Every Savvy Traveller

Ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson offers a wide range of room types to suit travellers' varied needs, with brightly decorated accommodation across five different categories, including Triple Rooms, as well as Family Rooms which come equipped with a kitchenette.

Rooms range from 18sqm to 20sqm in size, each featuring custom-built furniture and fittings tailored to the multifarious layouts found throughout the reengineered hotel, marrying style and comfort at exceptional value.

Bold shapes and bright pops of crimson, orange and canary engage the senses, imbuing the space with personality typical of the Ibis Styles brand. Guests can enjoy a rejuvenating rest on its plush bedding, amidst serene views of the MacPherson estate or the hotel's poolside.

A Refreshing Oasis

The pool garden on level four offers guests a relaxing retreat where they can take a dip in the hotel's 25m swimming pool nestled within a tropical haven of palm trees, in a resort setting with verdant views of the MacPherson estate. Guests can enjoy breakfast in the air-conditioned lounge or by the poolside chill out area.

A Strategic Confluence

Ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson is situated at the confluence of three subway (MRT) lines, offering direct access to the city's top sights and attractions such as Gardens By The Bay, Sentosa, Chinatown, Little India, as well as its civic and business districts, sports hub and convention centres.

The hotel offers free shuttle bus service to the nearby MRT stations including Tai Seng (circle line), Potong Pasir (northeast line) and Paya Lebar (east-west line) MRT stations, and is a 20-minute drive to Changi International Airport.

General Manager, Mrs. Shamila Rolfe, says, “We look forward to welcoming our inaugural guests and extending our fun and funky brand of Ibis Styles hospitality. We also invite local visitors to discover Ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson during our open house from April onwards; there's something for everyone, so come on down and have a look.”

Opening special room rates start from $138++ per night, including buffet breakfast and internet access. Reservations can be made on ibisstyles.com, through telephone on (65) 6622 6000 or by emailing reservation@ibisstyles-singapore-macpherson.com.

Ibis Styles Singapore on MacPherson
Address: 401 MacPherson Road, Singapore 368215
Tel: (65) 6622 6000 Email: reservation@ibisstyles-singapore-macpherson.com
Website: ibisstyles.com

Have a Whale of a Time with Captain Cook Cruises

Captain Cook Cruises
Join Captain Cook Cruises this whale watching season from 21st May to 1st November, 2016 for an unforgettable whale and cruise experience off the heads of Sydney Harbour.

With a 99% success rate, Captain Cook Cruises are offering a whale guarantee; if a whale is not spotted, passengers are offered the opportunity to cruise again for free.

According to Richard Doyle, Head of Sales and Marketing at Captain Cook Cruises “this exciting open-water cruise takes passengers past the Sydney Opera House, Fort Denison and the bays of Sydney Harbour and out through the heads to the open waters where passengers can watch the whales in their natural environment and view their annual migration”.

“The majority of whales' species seen along the New South Wales coastline are Humpback and Southern Right Whales, with the occasional sighting of Killer and Minke whales.” Mr Doyle continues.

Whale watching cruises are onboard ocean-going catamaran, “Maggie Cat”, which can accommodate up to 200 passengers, but limited to a spacious 120 passengers for whale watching. Equipped with two passenger decks and spacious outdoor and indoor viewing areas, Maggie Cat offersspectacular open-air viewing and an all-weather lounge, ideal for the entire family. Snacks, beer, wine and soft drinks can also be purchased on-board.

Each cruise features live commentary from a highly skilled and knowledgeable team.

Whale watching cruises are priced from $49 per person and operate daily from Circular Quay Wharf 6, departing at 1.30pm and returning at 4.15pm. An additional morning cruise operates on Saturday and Sundays departing at 10.15am and returning at 1.00pm.

Captain Cook Cruises is also offering a Taronga Zoo and Whale Watching Cruise Combo ideal for wildlife enthusiasts. The combo includes a rocket ferry to Taronga Zoo from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour, entry into the zoo, Sky Safari cable car and a Whale Watching Cruise departing from Taronga Zoo Wharf.

Rocket ferries to Taronga Zoo depart Circular Quay and Darling Harbour in the morning from 9.15am with services every 30 minutes. The Whale Watching Cruise departs from Taronga Zoo Wharf at 1.40pm and disembarks at Taronga Zoo at 4pm or Circular Quay at 4.15pm.

Captain Cook Cruises
Ticket prices are $99 for an adult and $55 for a child (4-15yrs). For further information and bookings visit www.captaincook.com.au

For further information and bookings, please contact Captain Cook Cruises on
T: +61-2-9206 1111 or visit www.captaincook.com.au

Ha Giang to host Mong ethnic cultural festival in October

The second Mong (H'mong) Ethnic Culture Festival will take place in Dong Van district, in the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang next October, highlighting the traditional ethnic culture of Mong people across the nation.

The event will be held by the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism in collaboration with 17 localities with Mong ethnic communities.

With the theme, ‘Preserving and promoting cultural identity of Mong people’, the festival features a range of cultural activities, including a pan-pipe festival, a display of Mong traditional costumes, Mong folk song performances, and Mong ethnic cuisine.

Traditional cultural rituals will also be enacted during the festival, in addition to introduction of distinctive Mong handicrafts and traditional folk games.

At the opening of the festival, the organisers will announce the decision to recognise several heritages of Mong communities as national cultural intangible heritages.

The event will honour the rich culture of the ethnic group, in order to preserve and promote their cultural identity in Vietnam’s unified and diverse culture with 54 ethnic groups.

It also offers a good chance for localities with Mong ethnic communities to discuss raising awareness for all in developing Vietnamese culture imbued with national identity.

As planned, the festival will be held along with the second ‘Tam giac mach’ (Buckwheat Flower) Festival in early October. The flowers are the most popular of the krast plateau area of Ha Giang, which start blossoming at the end of autumn and last 15-20 days, covering the mountain sides in pinkish white carpets of buckwheat.

Tickets Now on Sale for Disney's Aladdin the Musical in Sydney - Travel Packages Announced

Discover a whole new world in Sydney this August at the Australian premiere of Disney's blockbuster musical, Aladdin, with tickets and great value travel packages on sale now. Opening at Sydney's Capitol Theatre on 12 August 2016, this Broadway spectacular is set to be another stage success. So visitors, theatre buffs, and Disney fans are encouraged to start planning their trip to experience this much-loved story and world-class production featuring exhilarating choreography, show-stopping musical numbers and astonishing visual effects.

Adapted from the Disney film and centuries-old folktales including “One Thousand and One Nights,” Aladdin is brought to fresh theatrical life in this bold new musical. Aladdin's journey sweeps audiences into an exotic world of daring adventure, classic comedy and timeless romance.

The show features music by Tony Award and eight-time Oscar® winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Sister Act, Little Shop of Horrors), lyrics by two-time Oscar winner Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid), three-time Tony Award and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (Evita, Aida) and four-time Tony Award nominee Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer). With a book by Beguelin, Aladdin is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Something Rotten).

This new production features a full score, including the five cherished songs from the Academy Award- winning soundtrack and more written especially for the stage.

The Australian premiere of Aladdin has been secured exclusively for Sydney by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, Stuart Ayres, said: “Aladdin is a perfect opportunity for visitors to get a world-class Broadway experience in Sydney, a world-class harbourside city and Australia's capital for art, culture and theatre.”

“With a premium cast of talented local and international actors bringing Aladdin to life, I encourage visitors to plan their trip for this Sydney exclusive musical spectacle,” said Mr Ayres.

Don't miss your chance to visit shining, shimmering, splendid Sydney.
  • 4 Star packages start from $429 and include:
  • A-Reserve seats to the Broadway Production, Aladdin
  • 2 nights' accommodation at Mecure Sydney
  • Airport to Hotel transfers

To book and see the full range of travel packages available visit Flight Centre now.
For more information on Theatre and Shows in Sydney visit www.sydney.com.
For images go to http://images.destinationnsw.com.au/

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Bonnie Yard Dogs

Australia's working dogs are renowned for their precision and intelligence. You can see them in action at the popular Bonnie Yard Dog demonstrations.

In 2016, you'll find this attraction in The Daily Telegraph Paddock. Watch as these highly-skilled dogs keep a mob of sheep on track through a series of obstacles and drills. The engaging trainers will talk you through the demonstration, providing insight into how they work with their dogs to apply their natural intelligence and herding instincts to sheep-work.

When: Daily 11.45am, 12.30pm, 2.45pm, 3.45pm and 4.45pm
Where: The Daily Telegraph Paddock

Five great reasons to visit New Zealand’s North Island in autumn

Autumn in New Zealand begins early March and continues until late May – a period when most locals have returned to work after the long summer break leaving an uncrowded outdoors to inspire a wide variety of adventures.

Here’s our take on five golden ways to experience the North Island during autumn.

1. The great outdoors

Whether your idea of communing with nature involves nothing more strenuous than a scenic drive, a lakeside picnic, or crunching through great drifts of leaves on a brisk walk, autumn is a superb time to be out and about in the North Island.

An easy kayak journey from Wenderholm Regional Park to the historic Puhoi township north of Auckland will carry you across tidal water flats, through a landscape of gloriously golden foliage populated by cheeky native birdlife. The journey of about two hours suits all ages and abilities.

A short drive from Hobbiton, on the outskirts of Hamilton, you can take a cruise on the Waikato River Explorer to view the dramatic colour changes of trees along the shoreline. In the city itself, maple trees lining the Japanese Contemplation Garden – one of nine themed gardens in the Hamilton Gardens – also ring the seasonal changes. Over the past 40 years, the gardens have been transformed from a garbage dump to be named International Garden of the Year in 2014.

Walking, biking or riding horses among the native flora and Californian coastal redwoods of the 5,600 hectare Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua is recommended year-round, but it’s especially lovely in autumn when the leaves are turning and the crisp, clear air intensifies the panoramic views. You can also take a “tree walk” among the towering redwoods, along a series of suspended swing bridges. Steam rising from the geothermal spring at Kerosene Creek becomes more pronounced when the air temperature drops in autumn. You can enjoy an atmospheric spa with a difference here, beneath a two metre deep waterfall.

2. Flavours to savour

It’s harvest time for vineyards and orchards, and you can share their bounty at cellar doors, roadside stalls and the many growers’ and farmers’ markets. Autumn also inspires festivals celebrating the good things in life, including wine and food.

From April, the Pacific oysters farmed in the Mahurangi Harbour north of Auckland are plump and succulent. To harvest, shuck and feast on Mahurangi oysters, join a guided tour aboard the Shuckle Ferry in Warkworth.

Pumpkins are part of the culinary repertoire of most New Zealanders and in the Waikato region, growing them is a competitive sport. Even if you’re not a fan of the golden squash, you’re likely to enjoy the Great Pumpkin Carnival held on the Rhododendron Lawn of Hamilton Gardens (April 3). As well as featuring in scones, muffins, cakes and pies, pumpkins are rolled downhill in races and carved out and rowed down the river as boats. Pumpkins tipping the scales at hundreds of kilograms compete in a monster weigh-off.

Feilding’s farmer’s market received the royal stamp of approval with a visit by Prince Charles and Lady Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2012. You can savour farm-fresh produce in the gracious old town square at the market each Friday.

Fine wines from 16 of the Wairarapa’s major producers are paired with the region’s best produce in a beautiful riverside setting beneath ancient native trees in the Wairarapa Wines Harvest Festival (12 March).

3. Arts and culture

Join the locals at some of the many community and international events on autumn’s busy itinerary.

Tens of thousands of visitors come together to celebrate Pacific peoples and communities at the Pasifika Festival in Auckland (12 – 13 March), the biggest event of its kind.

International arts festivals run at the same time in Auckland and Wellington during March. Auckland’s Arts Festival has a choice of more than 200 free exhibitions of dance, theatre, music and visual arts, while in Wellington about 900 artists and performers appear in 300 different acts. Find out just how much Wellington likes to party, when CubaDupa in Cuba Street, the city’s coolest quarter, wraps up the festivities (19 – 20 March) with streetside dance, vaudeville, street art, and carnival and circus performers.

Balloons over Waikato (16 – 20 March, Hamilton) culminates in the Hamilton Night Glow, an orchestrated show with live music and fireworks.

The WOMAD festival in New Plymouth (18 – 20 March) is a family-friendly celebration of some of the world’s best and most diverse music, art and dance. The performances take place on a number of different outdoor stages in Pukekura Park, a New Zealand Garden of National Significance.

4. Close encounters with wildlife

Native wildlife is especially active in autumn. Keep a lookout for dolphins, orca whales, penguins, dolphins and rare native birds.

Some of New Zealand’s unique wildlife species can be sighted on beaches and trails around Whangarei in Northland. Ocean Beach is home to endangered dotterel, feeding gannets and the little blue penguin, while Whangarei Harbour itself is a feeding ground for orca. Unguided two- and three-day walks take you through the Bream Head coastal forest reserve south of Whangarei, an important conservation area that is home to 90 reintroduced kiwi.

Tiritiri Matangi, an open wildlife sanctuary north of Auckland, has a rich Māori and early European history and New Zealand’s oldest still-operating lighthouse. Catch a ferry across the Hauraki Gulf to see rare native birdlife in a lush bushland setting. Along with planting about 300,000 native trees, conservation volunteers have reintroduced 12 endangered birds and three reptile species to the island. If you arrange to stay overnight, you can watch nocturnal wildlife such as little spotted kiwi emerging from their daytime hiding places as the sun goes down and then awaken to a serenade of birdsong.

A short boat trip from Paraparaumu, north of the capital Wellington, lands you at Kapiti Island, one of the country’s most important nature reserves. Here, you can observe rare flightless birds in the wild, climb a winding forest track to stunning vistas of ocean and land, and even stay overnight in a small family-owned lodge or “glamp” (camp glamorously) in a tranquil wilderness setting. In autumn you can see the island’s prolific birdlife feeding intensively in preparation for the coming winter. It’s one of the best times to see kiwi, free of their nesting duties, out and about in their natural environment. The island lies between two marine reserves visited by fur seals, whales and dolphins and approaching by boat enables you to get great shots of the seal colony, also active at this time of year.

Northeast of Wellington, in the Wairarapa wine-growing region, Cape Palliser also has a large seal colony and is a great place to explore heritage sites and photograph the scenic landscapes.

5. Sporting events

Some of New Zealand’s major sports events take place in autumn. Stay on the sidelines or join the locals in sport and at play.

Te Houtaewa 90 Mile Beach Challenge in Northland (12 March) is the world’s only ultramarathon run entirely along a beach. It honours the legendary Māori athlete Te Houtaewa, the fastest runner of his day, and draws competitors from around the world.

Crankworx in Rotorua (9 – 13 March) is the world’s biggest mountain biking festival, with competitive events and fun activities for all, ranging from biking pro-athletes to amateur and non-bikers, including a music festival featuring some of New Zealand’s top performers.

The Rotorua to Taupo 100 km flyer (9 April) between two of the North Island’s best-loved destinations is open to anyone with a bike and attracts about 3500 participants each year.

Billed as an alternative to lycra-clad competitive cycling events, the Big Easy in central Hawke’s Bay on Easter Saturday (26 March) offers a relaxed ride along cycle trails from the Church Road Winery. Along the 45km route are a series of tempting stops, culminating in a finale concert and party at Black Barn Vineyard. Later in the season, Hawke’s Bay International Marathon (14 May), a serious competitive event, passes through wineries and alongside unspoilt beaches.

Monaco Hosts Major Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Exhibition About Oceans and Water

Monaco's Oceanographic Museum will host a major exhibition on the theme of oceans and water showcasing Australian aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art works. The exhibition called “Taba Naba”* will take over the entire museum from 24th March until 30th September 2016.

Robert Calcagno, CEO of the Oceanographic Institute said “The Taba Naba Exhibition claims an ambitious positioning and develops a strong message to the public. Here we are presenting the art of peoples who have remained in contact and in dialogue with nature, combining ancient tradition and modernity. These peoples live and breathe the culture of the ocean in a healthy and balanced inter-relationship that can and should inspire us.”

The Oceanographic Museum of Museum

The Oceanographic Museum's mission is to raise awareness of the richness and fragility of the oceans and to promote their sustainable management and rational and effective protection, a vocation initiated by its founder, Prince Albert I of Monaco. It also plays a key role in the exhibition of contemporary art. Major artists have been invited to submit works on the theme of the protection of the oceans. Damien Hirst, Huang Yong Ping, Mark Dion and Marc Quinn have all exhibited masterworks on its walls.

Built against the mythical Monegasque rock, the museum has been watching over the oceans for more than a century. Created by Prince Albert I, it was designed from the outset as a Palace fully dedicated to Art and Science. From the ornamentation of the facade to the interior decor, everything in the museum's architecture evokes the marine world. Since its inauguration in 1910, this 6,500 m2 Temple of the Sea has been open to the public. Standing eighty-five meters above the water at its highest point, it offers a stunning environment as a site for the discovery of more than 6,000 specimens and a place of cultural exchange.

*Taba Naba is a traditional indigenous children's song from the Torres Strait Islands. It is accompanied by a sitting dance that singers perform with gestures throughout the song. The original version of the song is in the Meriam language. It evokes the pleasures of fishing on the reefs.

The Oceanographic Museum is open everyday (except the weekend of the F1 Grand Prix ad 25 December) For more details about this and other exhibitions please visit the museum website: www.oceano.mc/en/exhibitions

WAYNE GRETZKY TO BRING ICE HOCKEY TO SYDNEY

The ‘greatest ice hockey player of all time’, Wayne Gretzky, will bring the USA and Canada national hockey teams to play at Allphones Arena in Sydney on 25 June. Gretzky is the leading scorer in National Hockey League (NHL) history, with more goals and more assists than any other player. NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events and Minister for Sport Stuart Ayres said Gretzky’s role as ambassador for the 2016 Ice Hockey Classic is exclusive to Sydney.

Gretzky’s star profile is set to attract visitors from around Australia and the world to Sydney. His visit has been secured exclusively by the NSW Government through Destination NSW.

Destination NSW Chief Executive Officer Sandra Chipchase said Wayne Gretzky’s promotion of the event would showcase Sydney to a global audience. “Wayne Gretzky will be acting as the ambassador for the Sydney Ice Hockey Classic, using his social media platforms and profile in international sport to attract visitors to NSW for the match and to promote the State as a destination for overseas travellers,” Ms Chipchase said.

Find out more and buy tickets. www.ticketek.com.au

Join the Festival Fun at the Sydney Korean Festival 2 April 2016

Sydney Korean Festival
Join the festival fun at the upcoming Sydney Korean Festival 2016 on Saturday, 2nd April (11am-8.30pm) at Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour and indulge your senses in Korean food, dance and music performances, handicraft activities and a 2016 K-Pop World Festival selection event in the evening.

The highlight of the event is the world-famous tightrope walker Mr. Dae-Gyun Kim who has been named as an important Intangible Cultural Asset of Korea. See him perform twice during the day at the festival for free.

There will be three return air tickets (economy class) to be won from Sydney to Seoul courtesy of Asiana Airlines and Korean Air and many other great prizes and giveaways on the day. So grab your family and friends for a great day out and you could be visiting Korea in the near future.

Korea Tourism Organization and Korea Cultural Centre will join together to promote Korea in the Korea Culture & Tourism Pavilion with hands-on activities for the public. Come along and learn more about Korean culture and tourism and make a temple lantern to take home, see Korea in another light with the virtual reality experience, try your hand at calligraphy or make some traditional crafts. Free guidebooks and travel related materials will be provided at the central information desk.

Also, in the Korea Culture & Tourism Pavilion there will be an opportunity to learn about the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games and how to enjoy Korea in winter. You can also have a chance to try on traditional Korean clothing and take a unique family photo in Korean costume.

There will be all day performances on the main stage as well as the K-Pop World Festival event from 6.30pm where candidates with enough points may be selected to compete in the 2016 K-Pop World Festival in Seoul later this year. Jamaica Dela Cruz and Andy Trieu, hosts of SBS PopAsia will MC the K-Pop World Festival 2016 selection event at Darling Harbour.

During the day there will be opportunities to enjoy traditional dance performances like the drum dance and court dance by Song Min Sun Dance Company, traditional Samul-nori group performance by Teo-ul-lim, a Taekwondo demonstration by Justin Paterson, Instructor of the Hills District Taekwondo and other martial arts demonstrations like Hapkido and Gumdo.

For K-Pop fans there will be lots of opportunities to enjoy K-Pop performers throughout the day with the IMI Dance Crew by Ryu Hiidome, K-Pop dance by Gracia, DrawBridge Band, J-REX (with Danos), Boom Box (Poppin) and Girls Hip-Hop.

As well the wonderful Teddy Kim by Derrick Kim will no doubt do his trademark PSY 'Gangnam Style' act to the great enjoyment of the crowd. There will also be an After Five Band with Deborah (Jazz Band), Acoustic Duo Ellen & Marv and singer Jeff by Sun-Jin Jung.

There will be many options to enjoy Korean street food, desserts and much more. Mojee a popular Korean Street food outlet will serve Gimbap, Tteokbokki, Sundae, Bibimbap and Bulgogi with rice. Big Daddy's is a very popular Korean-Mexican outlet who will sell Tacos and Burritos filled with Bulgogi, BBQ Pork or Tofu with cheese, kimchi, coriander, onion, sriracha hot sauce and sour cream.

Passion Tree will serve up a Korean fusion dessert menu with the very popular Korean shaved ice dessert Cup Bingsoo in four different flavours. Other food stalls include G&A Food serving premium hand-made fish cake, Fly to Korea street food, Mini Melts ice cream, ChocoBab serving chocolate pancake roll, and Tall Grass cane juice and Korean coffee stall.

The Sydney Korean Festival 2016 will be the biggest and best yet so make sure you set the date in your diary now and come along to truly experience everything Korean in one place at Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour on Saturday, 2nd April 2016.

Sydney Korean Festival
See more on the Sydney Korean Festival 2016 website: www.sydneykoreanfestival.com.au

Learn more about Korean tourism and culture: www.visitkorea@knto.org.au

Pullman Sydney Airport Announces Pre-Opening Special

Pullman Sydney Airport
Be one of the first to experience Pullman Sydney Airport, the newest 5-star hotel set to open minutes from Sydney Domestic Airport on 1 June. Now open for bookings, those travelling to Sydney for work or leisure can take advantage of the pre-opening special from $229 per night including Wi-Fi.

Set to be the newest business playground, the 229-room luxury hotel, is right on trend with an open plan, upmarket design and timeless furnishings. The high-ceiling lobby seamlessly merges with Mobius Bar & Restaurant where the solo traveller can observe the Chefs culinary creations in front of the open plan kitchen or small groups can spread out for lunch over a business meeting.

General Manager of Pullman Sydney Airport, Bernie Boller said “Airports are no longer considered transport hubs, they are transforming into complete entities where hotels, conference centres, retail and office spaces co-exist.

“Airport hotels, such as the new Pullman Sydney Airport are fuelling this demand as time-poor business travellers find they can be both productive and relaxed, without travelling far from the airport.”

Set over 12 floors, the new hotel located on O'Riordan Street, Mascot is expected to be popular with business and leisure travellers alike, due to its exclusive 5-star offering and prime location just 600m from the domestic terminal and 3km from Sydney's International Airport.

With an up-to-the-minute gym flooded with natural light, the Pullman Sydney Airport boasts state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. The Hotel also features an Executive Club Lounge – a hallmark of every Pullman Hotel - which provides guests with a sophisticated, intimate space to check in, plug in and work remotely, or enjoy some evening canapés and beverages with colleagues.

Pullman Sydney Airport will also play home to a range of new meeting spaces to include three meeting and conference rooms that combine to form a large venue for up to 280 guests for workshops or showcase events. A private boardroom with video conferencing can be reserved for full scale presentations. All event spaces will be extensively equipped with high-tech AV for event organisers to connect with ease.

AccorHotels will manage the new hotel with the development expected to create up to 100 new jobs.

Once operational, Pullman Sydney Airport will join Australia's fastest growing 5-star hotel chain with 14 properties. Pullman Hotels & Resorts has established itself as the largest network of upscale-hotels in Asia Pacific with 45 properties across the region.

To take advantage of Pullman Sydney Airport's special opening offer, visit www.accorhotels.com

Terms and conditions apply. Lead in room rate applies in a Superior Room. Book now until 31 June 2016. Valid for travel 1 June through 1 December 2016. Subject to availability and excludes special event dates.

Pullman Hotels & Resorts

Pullman Hotels & Resorts, AccorHotels' new generation of upscale hotels, is a cosmopolitan brand that offers hyper-connected travellers an experience that combines both efficiency and wellness.

Global nomads are captivated by the brand and appreciate its business, fitness and restaurant facilities as well as its focus on innovative design. Pullman has over 108 hotels and resorts in 31 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle-East, Asia Pacific and Latin America. AccorHotels, the world's leading hotel operator, has nearly 3,900 hotels and over 180,000 employees in 92 countries.

pullmanhotels.com | accorhotels.com

Ha Noi among world’s best destinations

Ha Noi
Ha Noi came eighth on the list of the 25 best global destinations, which were recently announced by travel website TripAdvisor.

The result was based on millions of reviews and opinions of travellers.

According to the website, the charming Vietnamese capital has aged well, preserving the Old Quarter, monuments and colonial architecture, while making room for modern developments.

Ha Noi may have shrugged off several former names, including Thang Long, or "ascending dragon," but it hasn't forgotten its past, as evidenced by sites such as Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison, it said.

Lakes, parks, shady boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city, which is easily explored by taxi, according to the site.

Other must-see destinations included London (England), Istanbul (Turkey), Marrakech (Morocco) and Paris (France).

REX LAUNCHES SNOWY MOUNTAINS AIR SERVICES

Getting to the NSW Snowy Mountains has just become easier with the launch this week of Regional Express (Rex) flights from Sydney to Cooma. Services will operate over Easter with the core schedule of five return services per week commencing from Monday 28 March 2016. Additional services on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays will operate through the ski season.

To celebrate the launch, a special promotional fare is available on the Rex website only for $99 each way (plus a booking/services surcharge). Fares are subject to availability. www.rex.com.au

Friday, 25 March 2016

Banjo's Snowy River man for all seasons at the Sydney Royal Easter Show

Returning this year to Spotless Stadium, is the dramatisation of the famous bush poem, 'The Man from Snowy River'. First staged at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 2000, and again in 2001 and 2004, there are many reasons why the Show and the poem go so well together.

When Banjo Paterson first published the poem in 1890 it was an immediate hit. And no wonder. Australians were horse mad and tests of horsemanship provided popular entertainment, especially at agricultural shows. As one of the most widely enjoyed sports, horse related competitions were watched by knowledgeable spectators - after all, almost everyone came in daily contact with horses. At the Sydney Royal Easter Show the most skilled horse men and women were admired as the Formula One drivers of their day.

Poets like Paterson and Henry Lawson romanticised the bush, celebrating it as something uniquely Australian at a time when the people needed a reason to unite as the colonies prepared for Federation. The qualities lauded in Banjo's poem - individual resourcefulness, endurance, daring - have become imbedded in our psyche from that nation-building time.

When night-time entertainment in the Show's main arena was first made possible with the electrification of the showgrounds in 1917, an act with an outback theme was the obvious choice to captivate the audience. Called 'Wild Australia', the bushranger story featured an attack on a homestead and a stage coach hold up (the looting of the luggage particularly pleased the crowd). As mounted police rounded-up the gang, a sensational display of trick-riding unfolded, which included spectacularly arranged falls from horses at full gallop.

Almost one hundred years later, audiences still respond to dramatic presentations of those skills. Perhaps, ironically, all the more so because so many of us now find ourselves removed from the realities of rural life and its physicality. When whips crack and horses gallop close by we are thrilled to feel our blood stir. Banjo's tale of the underdog who wins through is destined to become a perennial Show classic. As Banjo himself foretold, 'The Man from Snowy River is a household word today, and the stockmen tell the story of his ride.'

*written by Vicki Hastrich

NEW $3 MILLION COUNTRY CLUB IN PORT STEPHENS

Pacific Dunes Port Stephens has officially unveiled its new $3 million Country Club, which includes a new eatery, bar, 200-seat event venue and golf shop. Located within Pacific Dunes, overlooking the championship golf course, the Country Club event space has capacity of up to 200 delegates, making it the newest, largest and most environmentally-sustainable venue in the area.

Delegates will also be able to play on the championship, 18-hole Pacific Dunes Golf Course, designed by Greg Norman’s lead Australasian designer, James Wilcher, and ranked among the best golf courses in Australia, with its scenic backdrop of woodlands and wetlands. Pacific Dunes Port Stephens also features a 25m swimming pool, tennis courts and walking trails and is only 7km from Newcastle airport and 30km from Nelson Bay.

Pop-Up Cities, Boredom Busters, Travel Maps & Journals from Lonely Planet Kids

Pop-up depictions of London, New York and Paris; road-trip games, a sticker-map, and a travel journal are all on the itinerary when Lonely Planet Kids releases its six newest titles this April.

For Kids Aged 5+

  • Lonely Planet Kids: Pop-up London
  • Lonely Planet Kids: Pop-up New York
  • Lonely Planet Kids: Pop-up Paris

Bring some of the world’s most exciting cities to life with three new irresistible pop-up books from Lonely Planet Kids. Each book showcases gorgeous illustrations and six stunning pop-ups, creating brilliant introductions to the wonders of London, the wows of New York and the magic Paris for all ages.

For Kids Aged 8+.

  • Lonely Planet Kids: Boredom Buster
Banish “are we there yet?” forever with Lonely Planet Kids: Boredom Buster, a new book bursting with creative and hilarious challenges to keep the whole family entertained on any journey.

Boredom Buster boasts enough games for a trip around the world: Word games, counting games, memory games, spotting games, board games, loud games, solo games, silly games and many more. (If you want to play a game needing dice, the Boredom Buster book ‘magically’ turns into one. All you have to do is shut your eyes and flick the left-hand pages towards the front from wherever you are in the book. Stop at random. Whatever you see at the top left of the page is your ‘throw’.)

  • Lonely Planet Kids: My Family Travel Map
A fold-out world map designed for young explorers to personalise and complete, Lonely Planet Kids: My Family Travel Map includes more than 180 stickers and over 200 fun facts. Use the stickers to chart your family’s travels and create a personal poster of your trips; mark your family’s dream destinations and all-time top travels; decorate your map with wild weather and cool creature stickers; and become an Earth expert by discovering fun and fascinating facts about each country.

  • Lonely Planet Kids: My Travel Journal
Never forget an adventure with Lonely Planet Kids: My Travel Journal, every young explorer’s new must-pack travel buddy. Scribble, jot, draw and decorate to fill My Travel Journal with all your journeys. With lists to complete, collages to create, scenes to sketch and loads more fill-in fun, you’re sure to remember every trip forever.

About the Books

Published April 2016
Lonely Planet Kids: Pop-up London, Pop-up New York, and Pop-up Paris
RRP: AU $14.99 / NZ $16.99 ea.
Lonely Planet Kids: Boredom Buster and My Travel Journal
RRP: AU $14.99 / NZ $16.99
Lonely Planet Kids: My Family Travel Map
RRP: AU $19.99 / NZ $19.99