Friday, 20 October 2017


The Domain Hotel
  • Gathers momentum in the U.S. 
  • fourth acquisition in the country within five months 
  • more than triples last year’s portfolio to over 2,900 units

CapitaLand’s wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), is investing S$81.5 million to acquire and refurbish The Domain Hotel, a freehold hotel in Silicon Valley, California, to capture the fast-growing demand from global technology companies and multinational corporations. The 136-unit hotel will continue to operate as it undergoes refurbishment in phases before being rebranded to Citadines Cupertino Sunnyvale in 4Q 2018. This will be Ascott’s second Citadines-branded property in the U.S., following its acquisition of Hotel Central Fifth Avenue New York in May. The latter will be renovated and rebranded to Citadines Fifth Avenue New York in 2018. The property is Ascott’s fourth acquisition in the U.S. within five months. Ascott has more than tripled last year’s portfolio to over 2,900 units in the country.

Mr Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are acquiring Ascott’s first property in Silicon Valley which will allow us to invest in one of the most desirable property markets in the U.S. Silicon Valley has a high growth economy and is home to some of the world’s biggest and leading technology companies and multinational corporations, generating significant demand for accommodation. Our recent majority-stake acquisition of Synergy Global Housing in the U.S. will also enable Ascott to capitalise on its strong customer base of Fortune 500 companies and major Silicon Valley technology firms. Together with Ascott’s five properties in the U.S., we are in a good position to capture this ready pool of corporate clients and offer them more accommodation options in this highly sought-after location.”

Mr Lee added: “Citadines is our fastest-growing brand with close to 20,000 units in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. By stepping up our Citadines presence in the U.S., we will increase its reach to American travellers, our third largest source market, and cross sell to our properties outside the U.S. As we get closer to surpassing our target of 80,000 units globally by 2020, we will continue to seek opportunities in the U.S. in cities such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC.”

The Domain Hotel is situated along Sunnyvale’s primary thoroughfare, El Camino Real, that leads to San Francisco City and San Jose. The property is surrounded by numerous renowned corporations and startups including Apple’s new US$5 billion headquarter campus, which will accommodate more than 12,000 employees, Google, Amazon, Adobe, Intel, Netflix, Nvidia, PayPal and Telsa Motors.

The property attracts a good mix of both corporate and leisure travellers. Guests can enjoy convenience as the hotel is near San Jose McEnery and Santa Clara convention centres, and attractions such as Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, The Tech Museum of Innovation, and The Computer History Museum. A range of retail, dining and entertainment outlets can also be found at Santana Row, Westfield Valley Fair and Levi's® Stadium. Tertiary institutions in the vicinity include Stanford University, Santa Clara University and San Jose State University.

The Domain Hotel has a range of deluxe rooms as well as suites that provide separate living, dining and work areas. Some units also come with private balconies. Facilities include an outdoor heated pool, whirlpool with cabanas, bar, restaurant, fitness centre, 24-hour business centre, meeting rooms, grab-and-go food and beverage counter, as well as complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, parking and shuttle service to companies.

Ascott has been ramping up its acquisitions in the U.S. In May, Ascott’s real estate investment trust, Ascott Residence Trust, announced the acquisition of DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel New York – Times Square South, adding to its two properties in Manhattan – Sheraton Tribeca New York Hotel and Element New York Times Square West hotel. In the same month, Ascott acquired Hotel Central Fifth Avenue New York, which will be rebranded to Citadines Fifth Avenue New York in 2018. In July, Ascott acquired an 80% stake in Synergy Global Housing, a leading accommodation provider in the U.S., to transform its operating platform and better meet the global accommodation needs of corporate customers.

About The Ascott Limited

The Ascott Limited is a Singapore company that has grown to be one of the leading international serviced residence owner-operators. It has over 43,000 operating serviced residence units in key cities of the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, as well as over 26,000 units which are under development, making a total of close to 70,000 units in over 500 properties. The company’s brands include Ascott, Citadines, Somerset, Quest, The Crest Collection, and lyf. Ascott’s portfolio spans more than 120 cities across over 30 countries.

Ascott, a wholly owned subsidiary of CapitaLand Limited, pioneered Asia Pacific's first international-class serviced residence with the opening of The Ascott Singapore in 1984. Today, the company boasts over 30 years of industry track record and award-winning serviced residence brands that enjoy recognition worldwide.

Ascott’s achievements have been recognised internationally. Recent awards include World Travel Awards 2017 for ‘Leading Serviced Apartment Brand’ in Asia and Europe; DestinAsian Readers’ Choice Awards 2017 for ‘Best Serviced Residence Brand’; TTG China Travel Awards 2017 for ‘Best Serviced Residence Operator in China’; Business Traveller Asia-Pacific Awards 2017 for ‘Best Serviced Residence Brand’; Business Traveller Middle East Awards 2016 for ‘Best Serviced Apartment Company’; Business Traveller UK Awards 2016 for ‘Best Serviced Apartment Company’ and Business Traveller China Awards 2016 for ‘Best Serviced Residence Brand’. For a full list of awards, please visit


Artist impression of the new golf course
NSW’s Illawarra region is set to become Australia's newest premier golf destination, with the construction of a new Greg Norman-designed and built golf course now underway by Silkari.

The golf resort gained planning approval in 2011, but a new grander $1.2 billion development plan has now been unveiled for the 556-hectare, near Wollongong.

Subject to planning approval, the development, Silkari Resort at Avondale, will include an Australian-first Greg Norman Golf Academy, a 290-room hotel, two spa lodges, a tennis and recreation centre, a sports academy and a residential housing development of 395 homes, overlooking the golf course.

The golf course aims to be completed in late 2019, and pending council approval, the first stage of the residential development will go on sale in 2018.

New Zealand celebrates 10th PCOA with largest-ever team

The largest-ever team of New Zealand suppliers is heading to the Gold Coast for the Professional Conference Organisers (PCO) Association’s 10th anniversary event next month.

Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) Australia Manager Sharon Auld says 19 New Zealand suppliers will be joining the 100% Pure New Zealand hub at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre from Sunday 26 to Tuesday 28 November 2017.

“New Zealand first exhibited under the 100% Pure New Zealand banner in Hobart in 2010. We had eight in our team then, seven years on, we have 19.

“New Zealand’s convention bureaux, hotels and Air New Zealand have been strong supporters over the years, and now we have activities and gala dinner venues joining us as well as some smaller regional areas,” she says.

Newcomers to the 100% Pure New Zealand hub this year are Skyline Queenstown, Real Journeys, the Christchurch Centre, and the Napier Conference Centre - located on the East Coast of the North Island. The Langham Auckland will also be participating under their new name Cordis Auckland as they re-brand in November.

Tourism New Zealand is sponsoring featured speaker Corbin Ball, who is an internationally recognised expert on technology. For the fifth year, he has been named one of the 25 most influential people in the meetings industry. His articles have appeared in hundreds of national and international publications and he is the only person to have received both Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) International Supplier of the Year and MPI’s International Chapter Leader of the Year award.

Joining CINZ at the 100% Pure New Zealand hub for the 10th PCO Association event are:
  • Air New Zealand
  • Auckland Convention Bureau
  • Auckland Museum - Tamaki Paenga Hira
  • ChristchurchNZ Convention Bureau
  • Christchurch Centre
  • Cordis Auckland
  • Destination Rotorua Business Events
  • Dunedin Convention Bureau
  • Heritage & CityLife Hotels
  • Hobbiton™ Movie Set
  • Napier Conference Centre
  • New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC)
  • Queenstown Convention Bureau
  • Real Journeys
  • SKYCITY Auckland Convention Centre
  • Skyline Queenstown
  • Tourism New Zealand
  • Venues Wellington


It’s not just the 4350km Mekong River that connects China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; as a single entity they are known as the Greater Mekong Subregion.

In June, an innovative social media marketing campaign and travel inspiration platform called was launched, promoting the subregion as a single tourism destination.

The platform, which will officially go live in September 2017, aims to inspire people to research and book travel experiences in the Greater Mekong Subregion, filtered by destination or activity. It’s also a turn-key solution that will allow any business in the subregion to develop their own free social media campaign by tapping into these crowd-sourced visual moments. Shared moments are connected via geolocation to respective experiences, driving tourists to active operators.

“It’s quite a unique platform globally,” says Jens Thraenhart, executive director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO). “We call it the first truly collaborative tourism campaign.”

Global dialogue

Countries are realising the importance of working together by sharing information and marketing efforts in developing and promoting tourism.

MekongMoments is just one of many examples of the rising trend of regional collaboration and public-private partnership (PPP) in the tourism industry. The site involves many stakeholders including the six member country governments, six private sector founding partner companies (InterContinental Hotel Group, Small Luxury Hotels, Khiri Travel, Tang Dynasty Tours China, SwissContact and GIZ), and, potentially, many local businesses, consumers and travellers to the subregion who will contribute the user-generated content that will be aggregated on the platform.

“Nowadays if tourism is not developed as public-private partnership, it’s not sustainable,” says Thraenhart.

Tourism is increasingly promoted at the country-to-country level as a method to create shared economic benefits. In 2016, international tourist arrivals grew by 4 per cent year-on-year to 1.2 billion, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)’s World Tourism Barometer published in April 2017.

“People continue to have a strong appetite for travel and this benefits many countries all around the world, translating into economic growth, job creation and opportunities for development,” says Taleb Rifai, UNWTO’s Secretary-General, in a press statement on the UN agency’s findings.

Read full article at BBC StoryWorks:


With just weeks to go, Australia’s premier music event, the ARIA Awards, announced its nominations this week.

A highlight of the nominations announcement was 1997 ARIA Hall of Fame inductee, Paul Kelly, who has received two Artisan ARIA Awards for Engineer of the Year and Best Cover Art, as well as seven nominations.

It was also an exciting day for Sydney’s Gang of Youths with eight nominations for Apple Music Album of the Year, Best Group, Best Rock Album, Best Video, Best Australian Live Act, Producer of the Year, Engineer of the Year and Best Cover Art.

Other nominees included Australian hip hop duo A.B Original, singer Jessica Mauboy and jazz musician James Morrison.

The winners will be revealed at The Star Event Centre, Sydney on Tuesday 28 November, and will be broadcast around Australia on the Nine Network.

Find out more at

Understand the seasons through culinary travel + find the #1 restaurant in Asia

The inevitable cycle of seasonal change gains momentum as autumn leaves fall in the north, whilst the scent of flower blossoms heralds the excitement of summer in the south. The seasons affect the way we think and the food we choose to eat. As we creep closer to the equator however, the seasonal foods shape a different way of experiencing cuisine.

Using only locally sourced ingredients, with a focus on sustainable, seasonal and organic produce, the chefs of Secret Tables produce an incredible array of gastronomic delights while also proactively changing the way we consume and think about what we eat.

Samuay & Sons, Isan, Thailand

Chef Weerawat “Num” Triyasenawat of Samuay & Sons, located in the northeastern Thai region of Isan, works across the principals that food is medicine and that cuisine itself is a rich form living history. He formed close ties with the local organic farming community and forages in the jungle for plants to supply his restaurant, discovering forgotten foods from by gone eras to share at the tables of his guests. Chef Num is fascinated by the challenge of the bringing wisdoms of the past into the present in order shape the next chapter of Thai cuisine. The menu is changed seasonally so guests may experience the gifts of Mother Nature at that moment in time, and be educated about where their food comes from and the indigenous wisdom surrounding it.

Dewakan – Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia

Dewakan is a portmanteau of the Malay words ‘dewa', to mean god, and ‘makan', meaning ‘to eat', and the passionate, creative team at Dewakan honour and serve the bounty of the local lands, celebrating local farmers, fishers, and artisans. Chef Darren Teoh combines and connects indigenous ingredients and produce from Malaysia's farms and jungles, mountains and seas, manifesting onto the plates as a culinary canvas and creating a menu of modern Malaysian cuisine, hinged upon a manifesto of fresh, naturalised or indigenous ingredients that celebrate and respect culinary traditions, creativity and terroir.

Cuca – Bali, Indonesia

Chef Kevin Cherkas devotedly crafts signature cuisine made from the best and freshest local ingredients, thoughtfully curated from artisanal producers in Indonesia. Cuca's philosophy is to showcase the uniqueness and diversity of local products whilst supporting local farmers and growers, handpicking the tastiest products Indonesia has to offer. Chef Kevin applies western techniques to prepare unique dishes inspired from Indonesian traditions, and also travels the world as a special guest chef, applying the same principals to the local produce he finds in each country.

Chef Kevin Cherkas and his team from Cuca can be found in Margret River, Western Australia at the Voyager Wine Estate for two special dinners where he will recreate his signature dishes, Thursday November 16 and Friday November 17.

Babe - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sitting aloft the roof of their skyscraper restaurant, Chef Jeff Ramsey and his team cultivate a magnificent urban garden where they grow many of their own produce and propagate hard-to-get plants, using natural methods such as worm farms to help reduce the building's energy usage, as well as it's waste. With stunning views over the Kuala Lumpur skyline, Chef Ramsey wishes to fill his diners with a sense of wonderment, and his approach to food is simple – honour the integrity of fresh produce and seasonal discoveries, and present them in a way that satiates the appetite with a lasting impression. Babe defines itself as ‘fun dining' as opposed to ‘fine dining', and enjoys the spirit of sharing a creative cuisine served as ‘Japas' (modern Japanese tapas).

In other news...

Congratulations to Secret Tables Members David's Kitchen, Locavore, Cuca and Cuisine Wat Damnak for being named as some Asia's best restaurants in TripAdvisor's 2017 Traveler's Choice Awards. Of course, we always knew these restaurants were something special but are happy to see that other traveller's agree – David's Kitchen in Chiang Mai, for instance, came in at the #1 spot for both Thailand and Asia, and #8 in the world!

Why book with SECRET RETREATS?

Anantara’s Festive Holiday Highlights Around the World

 Anantara Kihavah Xmas Tree
Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas presents merry escapism for Christmas and New Year travellers. Seasonal journeys offer the gift of choice - from sumptuous traditions in exotic destinations to intriguing local customs in culture-rich lands.

Extraordinary Christmas Trees
Decorating the holiday scene, Anantara Christmas trees offer unique festive backdrops. In Thailand, jungle luxury glows at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort with a Christmas coconut tree, and at a prestigious Bangkok address, Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel exhibits designer cosmopolitan flair. In Sri Lanka, the spirit of giving back has immersed Anantara Kalutara Resort; their Christmas tree is decorated with wish cards from children of a nearby orphanage and proceeds from guest donations will be collected to purchase gifts to spread the holiday cheer and create smiles. Nestled on the Maldivian seabed, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Resort has a festive feature made from live coral; visible from the underwater wine cellar at SEA Restaurant, this is surely one not to be missed.

Iconic Christmas Experiences
Combining northern Thai culture with Christmas classics in the jungle, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is hosting a Jungle Bells Reception & Gala Dinner on Christmas Eve. Glasses of eggnog and mulled wine are raised around a roaring fire at the old-world style bar while an Akha hill tribe family perform traditional dances. Spoiling families with a festive feast, a splendid poolside buffet of Christmas specials and exotic Thai recipes is enjoyed with Santa as the star guest and carol singers.

Renowned as Bangkok’s best, Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel’s famous brunch is stepping up a festive notch for Christmas Day. Presenting favourites from its award-winning restaurants, celebrated cuisines from around the world and live cooking flair, merriment flows with a Christmas choir, live entertainment and the free flowing pleasures of Champagne, mimosas, martinis, a Thai Chili Bloody Mary Bar.

Showcasing Portugal’s artisan heritage, Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort is popping the cork on a vine-inspired Christmas Day with The Wine Guru’s Christmas Gathering. A five-course traditional Christmas lunch is paired with an exclusive handpicked selection of Portugal’s regional fine wines – all personal favourites of Anantara’s producers and destined to become great vintages and prize winners.

New Year’s Eve Spectaculars
The last night of 2017 is theatrically impressive at two Anantara resorts in the Maldives. Anantara Kihavah Villas is throwing a spectacular New Year’s Eve Carnival On The Beach. Revellers can don feathers and masks to capture dramatic moments in the photo booth. Free flow cocktails at the poolside tikki bar come with a vibrant Caribbean steel pan musician. A gala dinner in the carnival marquee presents a buffet of the finest global flavours, unique chef creations at live cooking stations, fresh seafood delights and wicked desserts worth the extra splurge. Incredible performers from around the world dazzle guests with fire, Brazilian capoeira and aerial acrobatic shows.

Transforming New Year’s Eve into a family-friendly extravaganza on a private tropical beach, Anantara Dhigu Resort boasts an enchanting Moana Disney theme. A bountiful buffet dinner serves local catches and international cuisines. The night has a lively flow at the tikki bar and kid’s entertainment wows young VIPS. DJ tunes spin and the ambience rises as midnight fireworks colour the sky and ocean.

Seasonal Music Festivals

Bringing world-class jazz to the world’s largest desert in Abu Dhabi for the festive season, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara is featuring the famous Parisian band Swing Deluxe from 24 December 2017 - 1 January 2018, entertaining guests with great French and American jazz classics while they indulge in festive dining experiences at signature restaurants.

Festive Mother and Girls
Showcasing a Festive Celebration of Music from 22 December 2017 - 2 January 2018 beside Bangkok’s glittering River of Kings in Thailand, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort proudly presents an unforgettable 12-day concert programme. Staged on a riverside barge, jazz and acoustic musicians, as well as popular local and international bands, will delight festive diners at the resort’s river-view restaurants, and also at the waterfront Thai street food fair.

Discover Anantara’s vibrant festive journeys in your dream destination at

Queensland events calendar continues to boom in 2018

The 2018 Queensland events calendar is forecast to generate more than $780 million in economic benefit to the State’s economy.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Tourism and Major Events Minister Kate Jones said since coming to office, the Government had doubled the value of Queensland’s events calendar from $380 million in 2015 to $780 million next year.

“These events attract visitors from interstate and overseas, and help create local jobs,” the Premier said.

“Since the Government came to office, more than 115,000 jobs have been created across Queensland.”

“Queensland has proven itself over-and-over again as a world-class events destination and the growing value and variety of our events calendar is a testament to our global reputation,” she said

Ms Jones said the Queensland Government, through Tourism and Events Queensland, has shown that using events, both big and small, as a platform to showcase Queensland’s unique tourism offering has been a winning formula.

In 2016-17, TEQ supported 49 major events, 87 destination events, and 16 business events, growing TEQ’s portfolio of events by almost ten per cent from the previous financial year to generate $349.7 million in overnight visitor expenditure, $415.2 million in direct and incremental spending, 1.985 million direct visitor nights and attracting 242,350 visitors to Queensland.

Almost half of the events that TEQ invests in are held outside of the south east Queensland corner, promoting the unique tourism opportunities on offer in regional Queensland.

“In 2017 we saw huge international events in Queensland ranging from the Jeff Horn world title fight at Suncorp Stadium to the Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe exhibition at GoMA, the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships in Cairns and the Magic Millions on the Gold Coast,” Ms Jones said.

“Next year promises to be even bigger, spearheaded by the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in April and of course the TV WEEK Logie Awards in July.”

“Investment in our events calendar drives visitation right across Queensland, which in turn supports local jobs and injects millions of dollars into the economy.

The Games will inject more than $4 billion into Queensland’s economy, supporting thousands of jobs and delivering world-class sporting facilities that will benefit Queenslanders for years to come.

Ms Jones said there was a total of 69 events on next year’s It’s Live! In Queensland calendar.

“The Brisbane Global Rugby Tens, followed by the Quiksilver and Roxy Pros and then CMC Rocks Qld, all before the Commonwealth Games, is a great way to kick off the year,” she said

“The Noosa Food and Wine Festival, the 40th Gold Coast Marathon, the Birdsville Big Red Bash and the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair are all iconic events which showcase the best of what Queensland has to offer.

“Then to round out the year we have the 60th Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo, the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Gold Coast, the Gold Coast 600 and the Woodford Folk Festival.

“Our world-class calendar proves Queensland is just the place to experience the world’s best live events.”

New events on the 2018 calendar include the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Winds of Zenadth Cultural Festival in the Torres Strait, the World Parachuting Championships, the TV WEEK Logie Awards, the Whitsunday Clipper Race Carnival, the Australian Swimming Trials and the Australian Athletics Championships.

To see the full calendar, click here.

Thursday, 19 October 2017


A hurricane blew through The Bachelorette Australia on Wednesday night. This time it was Novacastrian band Hurricane Fall bringing their distinctive, rock-edge country sound to Network Ten’s hit show, as they performed privately for The Bachelorette Sophie Monk.

Taken from their latest EP ‘How We Get Down’, Hurricane Fall performed ‘Don’t Miss Me’ during the ‘single date’ on last night’s episode of The Bachelorette Australia (Season 3, Episode 9). Recorded and produced by the band at Spinlight Studios, ‘Don’t Miss Me’ shows Hurricane Fall’s talent and their ability to diversify their sound and make a song showcasing a softer side and one with deeper meaning. It’s a sobering look into the realities of war, an issue close to home with all band members having friends and family currently serving.

The song is based on a story told by the lead vocals and bass player, Pepper’s grandfather. When he was drafted, he told his wife that if he were never to return, ‘Don’t Miss Me’. ‘This song means a lot to us as it is very close to our hearts, and we want to share that with everyone’ said Pepper. It’s fitting that it was performed on a show like The Bachelorette, based on a search for the kind of love Pepper’s grandfather stood to lose by fighting for his country.

Hailing from Tamworth, NSW, but now calling Newcastle home, Hurricane Fall are one of the hardest working bands in the Aussie country/rock scene. They released their debut self-titled EP in January 2016, which reached No.2 on the ITunes Country charts, and followed up with their latest EP ‘How We Get Down’, which reached No.4 on the iTunes Country charts. While their EPs feature great production, Hurricane Fall takes it to the next level on stage, saying ‘We pride ourselves on our performance. Everything we do in the social media and media world is to encourage people to get to a venue and see us live. If you want to see an energetic performance with big harmonies driving rhythm section, come and see us’.

The boys are currently performing on the Rock the Boat Cruise with Status Quo, Angry Anderson and Shane Nicholson to name but a few, and will also be supporting US country music legend and actor Billy Ray Cyrus on his Australian Tour in 2018 alongside Kasey Chambers, Caitlyn Shadboltand O’Shea.

You can catch Hurricane Fall perform at one of the following shows:
  • Monday 16th – Monday 23rd October - Rock the Boat Cruise
  • Friday 27th October – Young Services Club, Young
  • Saturday 28th October - Ariah Park B & S Ball
  • Saturday 25th November – V8 Supercars - Honeysuckle Hotel, Newcastle
  • Saturday 30th December - Gin and Raspberry Boutique Bar, Wanaka NZ
  • Sunday 31st December - Top Paddock Music Festival, NZ
  • Tuesday 2nd January 2018 - Wanaka Rodeo After Party, NZ
  • Friday 19th – Sunday 28th January – Tamworth Country Music Festival, Tamworth
  • Sunday 25th March 2018 – By The Bay Country Music Festival – Sandstone Point Hotel, Sandstone, QLD (supporting Billy Ray Cyrus)



Buy Single ‘Don’t Miss Me’ here

Buy EP ‘How We Get Down’ here | |


Each month, we offer a few seasonal suggestions for things to do in San Francisco. This month, we are going a bit further and planting some ideas for the perfect fall frolic, whether you prefer to go wine tasting or visit a pumpkin patch.

Because of ongoing fires in parts of Napa and Sonoma counties, some events listed here may be cancelled and/or delayed. Check with event sponsors before making plans.

East of San Francisco

Well known by visitors to San Francisco, Hornblower Cruises & Events also has an East Bay berth at the Berkeley Marina. Locals favor it for special events—everything from a Sweet 16 celebration to a class reunion. Check out their holiday cruises, too. If you want a break from Thanksgiving Day cooking, the Thanksgiving buffet cruise offers three different entrees and, of course, all the usual fixings.

Just two-and-a-half hours east of San Francisco, Tuolumne County is in the heart of the Gold Country and is the Bay Area’s “front door” to Yosemite National Park. This time of year, don’t miss Columbia State Park’s harvest festival and Railtown 1897’s Harvest Haunt Express in October.

Visitors to the Central Valley town of Stockton might be surprised to discover the Stockton Cambodian Buddhist Temple (Wat Dharmararam), an active Buddhist temple that features more than 90 colorful and larger than life jewel encrusted statues, including a 50-foot-long recumbent Buddha.
North of San Francisco

For wine buffs this time of year is known as the “crush.” Just drive through the wine country, roll down the car window and inhale. You'll know exactly what we’re talking about. There are dozens of special events celebrating the annual harvest, from barn dances to outdoor dining events such as Calistoga’s Harvest Table in mid-September, when more than a dozen local restaurants serve guests seated at a 1,000-foot-long (305 m) table. In early September, Sonoma has its annual Crush event, and November brings a Wine & Food Affair to the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.

Feeling lucky? Head to Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park. This full-amenity gaming resort offers slots and video poker along with an array of table games. Beyond the great gaming, there’s 12 restaurants and a 200-guest room hotel.

Get SMART. That’s right, Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is ready to roll as of Aug. 25, 2017. Golden Gate Transit (Route 70) from San Francisco will get you to the nearest terminal which is located in San Rafael. The rail service makes stops in historic Petaluma, Sonomaand Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is home to the Charles M. Schulz Museum where “Mud Pies and Jelly Beans: The Flavor of Peanuts” opens on Sept. 16, 2017. For transit information call 415-455-2000 or 511 within the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tickets are already available for the annual Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) in November. Ranked among the top 10 film festivals in the U.S. by USA Today, the five-day event showcases some of the best new independent films, and wines are available from more than 100 wineries.

South of San Francisco

Half Moon Bay, on the San Mateo coast, is the “Pumpkin Capital” of the world. What makes it so gorgeously ghordish? Well, for one thing, the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Last year’s titanic orb tipped the scales at 1,910 pounds (866 kg). The weekend after is when all orange breaks out with the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival. Get inspired by the “Picasso of pumpkin carvers” sculpting pumpkins into masterpieces, harvest-inspired crafts, music and, of course, delicious slices of pumpkin pie.

Monterey County tunes up for the annual Monterey Jazz Festival in September. The longest, continuously-running annual jazz event in the whole wide world began here in 1958. Featuring more than 500 performers on eight stages, it draws 38,000-plus fans to the Monterey County Fair and Event Center. Be sure to include a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, too. With nearly 200 exhibits in all, the Aquarium is a showcase for the habitats and sea life of one of the world's richest marine regions.

San Jose has the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam and one of the three remaining Japantowns in the U.S.; the other two are located in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, it is also home to the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum and the mystifying Winchester Mystery House.

Football season is nigh and the San Francisco 49ers will play their first regular season game on Sept. 10 against the Carolina Panthers. If you happen to be near Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium on a non-game day, visit the 49ers museum, which is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday-Monday. Not into football? How about Coldplay’s “A Head Full of Dreams Tour,” which arrives here on Oct. 4, 2017?

Still got room on your “to do” list? Be sure to check out our guide or visit one of our Visitors Information Centers before you hit the road. They are located at 900 Market St., in the Cellar level of Macy’s Union Square and at the California Welcome Center, PIER 39.

Beautiful China ‐‐ World Heritage Tourism Promotion Event in NYC

On October 12, 2017, China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) hosted Beautiful China, a World Heritage tourism promotion event, at Club 101 in midtown Manhattan. 

Intended to showcase China’s 52 UNESCO World Heritage sites to current and potential partners in the U.S., the event featured a presentation by Samantha Brown of PBS, who told stories from her travels in China and conveyed her unique perspectives on the World Heritage sites. 

There was also be self-directed interactive touch-screen displays to allow attendees to virtually appreciate the beauty of the sites, as well as demonstrations of traditional Chinese paper-cutting and calligraphy and a themed TapSnap photo booth to round out the memorable fun. 

What’s New for Event Experts at The Langham, Melbourne? Three New Enticing Options are Now Available

The Langham, Melbourne
The Langham, Melbourne thrives on innovation and efficiency. To help event organisers excel, The Langham, Melbourne has launched three new initiatives to help function professionals exceed their clients’ and guests’ expectations.

1. As part of its commitment to provide luxurious venues for Melbourne events, The Langham, Melbourne offers a “No Strings Attached” pledge for corporate bookings made until Sunday 31 December for events in 2018. Besides waived cancellation terms and Internet charges, corporate groups will enjoy exclusive benefits such as no attrition rate charges and zero food and beverage minimum for function rooms such as Swanston room, Yarra room and Flinders room.

2. The Langham, Melbourne’s renowned Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood is now available as a high tea for functions. $80.00 per person includes traditional tiered tea stands laden with scones, premium ribbon sandwiches and decadent Earl Grey macarons, miniature chocolate mousse, on trend matcha, yuzu and green tea sponge cake as well as a tiny house-made forest mushroom pie.

3. Conference, incentive and event organisers can now opt to arrange lunch at Melba Restaurant where diners can choose from fresh seafood, sashimi and sushi plated to order, Indian curries, steaks and pasta dishes made to order, Melba’s famous five spice roast duck, salads, cheese station, dessert buffet and more. Melba Restaurant ensures every diner creates their own meal and is a sure-fire people pleaser that also keeps events running on time and on budget.

Plus, The Langham, Melbourne’s Director of Sales & Marketing, André Jacques, is pleased to announce the appointment of Mandarin-speaking Zoe Zou as the hotel’s new Business Development Manager. Ms Zou will focus on looking after the hotel’s Chinese and Malaysian corporate and MICE clients based in Australia and overseas.

The Langham, Melbourne continues to offer guests service with poise, timeless art and design and captivating experiences.

For more information or to take advantage of any of these offers, please contact our sales team at (+61 3) 8696 8041 or email

Reopening of Japanese resort on the main island of Honshu has teamed up with an Australian Snowsports Direct who has been selected to operate an International Ski School at the Lotte Arai Resort that's re-opening mid-December

Tom Langtry is very excited with the reopening of Lotte Aria Resort (previously known as Arai Mountain Resort and Spa) after it was closed for more than 11 years. It is very close to his Snowsports School at Myoko Kogen where he employs instructors from about seven or eight different countries.

An extension of the main train route from Tokyo via Nagano is another plus for Australian skiers and snowboarders seeking an alternative to the popular snow resorts on the main island of Honshu. The Joetsu-Myoko Station is about a 15 to 20-minute Free shuttle to the Lotto Arai Resort.

Another addition to the resort’s attributes, apart from the refurbishment of its well-located hotels, is an expansion of non-groomed inbound terrain that offers superb opportunities to schuss untracked powder Japan is so famous for

Its proximity to the coast ensures an abundance of fresh powder during the winter season—perhaps even more so than Myoko Kogen which is further inland. For whatever reason this resort closed back in 2006 it wasn’t a lack of snow is offering packages at The Arai (149 rooms) and The Lodge (108 rooms) two key properties at Lotte Arai Resort that is aiming to become "Asia's best ski resort".

For more resort details

The race is on - keep voting for the wonderful Whitsundays!

The Whitsundays is in the running to win a major accolade – but we need your help!

The Whitsundays is currently top in the annual Experience Oz ‘Australia's Top 10 Destinations to Experience’ poll, which asks international travellers and domestic visitors to vote for their favourite spot in Australia.

But the line-up is tight, with the Whitsundays just 6.2 per cent ahead of its close neighbour Mackay, just south of the Whitsundays.

Regional Tourism Organisation Tourism Whitsundays is urging everyone to jump online and vote to ensure the Whitsundays maintains its crown. Last year, the Whitsundays romped home with voters naming it the number one spot in Australia to experience.

So far this year, the Whitsundays have 22.5 per cent of the vote and Mackay has 16.3 per cent. Also ranking in the top 5 currently are The Kimberley, Ballarat and Newcastle.

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Craig Turner said the race was on for the top spot and it was important for people to have their say if they hadn’t already voted.

“We can’t let Mackay beat us – much as we love our neighbours down the road,” he said laughingly.

“The Whitsundays took out top spot last year and it would be great to win it again this year.

We know the Whitsundays is the best destination in Australia - it doesn’t surprise us that a lot of other destinations are competing with us – but we are a destination that has something for everyone.

“The Whitsundays appeals to independent travellers, families, couples and honeymooners, and offers access to the 74 Whitsunday Islands, Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef, including Heart Reef, which can only be seen in the Whitsundays.

“We also have more than 600,000 bed-nights on the ocean every year, magnificent barramundi fishing in Lake Proserpine and a reef you can walk to from Bowen.”

Voting closes at 11.59pm on Monday October 23. 

Visit to cast your vote. Voters also have the chance to win an epic trip to one of Australia's top destinations.

The Whitsundays has ranked in the top three spots in every ‘Australia's Top 10 Destinations to Experience’ poll since its inception.

Last year, Whitsunday Island was also voted the number one island to experience in the poll, which is run by Experience Oz, the premier website for travel experiences in Australia.

To find out more about the Whitsundays and to book your next tropical escape, visit Tourism Whitsundays website

Celebrate the Holidays at The Westin St. Francis

Featuring Two Magnificent Castles, A Sweet Boutique, Special Holiday Meals & Overnight Packages Sure to Inspire the Spirit of the Season

Guests and visitors will delight in holiday pleasures this winter season at the legendary Westin St. Francis. This year’s highly anticipated holiday display will feature the legendary 12-feet tall Medieval Sugar Castle and the spectacular St. Francis Enchanted Castle. The popular St. Francis Sweet Boutique will be filled with tasty treats, and gorgeous holiday décor will adorn both lobbies. All of this, combined with traditional holiday tea service, delicious meals, and fun hotel packages create the perfect seasonal getaway to San Francisco. Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square, spectacular holiday shopping, a ride on a historic cable car and ice skating at the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink are just steps away.

Guests and visitors will have the opportunity to spread some holiday cheer by donating to American Red Cross, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development and Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. Bright green donation boxes located around the Medieval Sugar Castle in the Landmark Lobby will be on display from November 22 - January 2.

Below is the large array of festivities to enjoy at The Westin St. Francis this holiday season.


On November 22 at 11 a.m., Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Francois Houdré and his team will unveil not one, but two one-of-a-kind handcrafted castles in the Landmark Lobby. In celebration of hotel tradition is the stunning 12-ft. Medieval Sugar Castle, originally created in 2005. Resembling a French Chateau inspired by Chef Houdre’s travels, this life-like magical castle features grand circular towers, individual rooms and colourful illuminated windows.

Adding a touch of modernity, the St. Francis Enchanted Castle showcases a winter wonderland of elaborate gift boxes, gingerbread trees and brilliantly coloured candies, all intricately handmade with sugar and pastry. Elves can be spotted climbing all the way up to a towering sugar castle.

This exciting event is open to the public and will feature complimentary coffee and tray-passed cookies. On display through January 2.


Visions of sugarplums will come to life when The Westin St. Francis opens its uber-popular St. Francis Sweet Boutique for the holiday season. Located in the Landmark Lobby, Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Francois Houdré and his team will satisfy sweet tooths with a selection of freshly baked decorative cookies, orange-scented shortbread, gingerbread men, holiday Parisian macarons and rice crispy treats, all available for purchase. For those who want to take home some extra goodies, boxes of Chef Houdre’s famous macarons and assorted holiday cookies are available for purchase including a surprise “special of the day.” Open Saturdays and Sundays from November 25 - December 23; 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.


On November 23, The Westin St. Francis will be transformed into a joyful oasis, embellished with spectacular holiday decorations. The historic Landmark Lobby will be adorned with a large illuminated tree and two incredible sugar castles. The Tower Lobby will have a 20-feet tree with 10,000 LED lights to illuminate green and gold gift boxes and historic images of years past. Santa’s sleigh, filled with an assortment of decorative gift boxes, and glistening holiday décor will garnish the front desk area. Large wreaths embellished with lights and ornaments will be displayed throughout the hotel. On display through January 2.


Make it a holiday tradition to enjoy a luxurious overnight stay at The Westin St. Francis. Choose from a selection of festive holiday packages or enjoy a special holiday rate starting at just $179 per night. Below is a sampling of holiday packages available. For additional packages and to make reservations, call (866) 716-8108 or visit All packages and promotional rates exclude tax and are based upon availability.

Magical Cable Car Package

Experience the sights and sounds of San Francisco’s holiday festivities aboard a famous cable car! Enjoy a one-night stay, two San Francisco cable car passes, and complimentary wifi access. Rates start at $189 per night. Two cable car passes per room, per stay. No expiration date.

Family Holiday Package

The holiday season is the perfect time to plan a family vacation to San Francisco and there’s no better place to stay than right on Union Square just steps from the grand Macy’s Christmas Tree and Safeway Ice Skating Rink. Families will enjoy overnight accommodations, 25% off a second room for children under 21 years old, and complimentary meals from the Eat Well Menu with the purchase of an adult meal (one complimentary kids meal per purchased adult meal; available for children 12 and under). Guest will also receive a voucher (redeemable at Caruso’s only) towards a specialty bag of cookies. Rates start at $209 per night. No expiration date.

Macy’s Holiday Shopping Package

What’s better than a fun day of holiday shopping followed by a comfortable overnight stay in the heart of SF? The Holiday Shopping Package features a $100 gift certificate to the west coast’s largest Macy’s, located just steps from the hotel, a one-night stay, plus an adorable keepsake Ghirardelli cable car ornament. Rates start at $269 per night. Includes one $100 Macy’s gift card per night (issued upon check-in).


St. Francis Holiday Tea

November 25–December 17; Available Saturdays & Sundays only, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Begin this elegant tea experience with a choice of fine artisan teas from Mighty Leaf or Red Blossom Tea Company, followed by a selection of English tea sandwiches, freshly baked black currant scones and seasonal berries with Devonshire-blend cream, preserves and assorted petit fours. Guests may also choose the Royal Tea that includes the complete tea service with a glass of Gloria Ferrer Brut sparkling wine. Cost: $60 Adults Complete Tea; $68 with Red Blossom Tea; $72 Adults Royal Tea; $75 with Red Blossom Tea; $40 for children 12 and under for regular tea. Reservations are required. Please be sure to book early. For reservations, call (415) 774-0264.


The Westin St. Francis is featuring several delicious holiday meals prepared by Executive Chef Bernd Liebergesell and his culinary team served in the historic Oak Room Restaurant. For holiday dining reservations, call (415) 774-0264.

Thanksgiving Buffet

November 23; 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Bring together family and friends to relax and indulge in a Thanksgiving buffet filled with a vast array of appetizers, roasted meats, fresh seafood, an assortment of salads and mouthwatering desserts. A sampling of items includes roasted salmon, potato and leek veloute with truffle essence; specialty cured meats, cheeses, vegetables and artisan breads; Alaskan snow crab, chilled poached prawns; a selection of salads. A carving station will offer succulent pork loin, roasted turkey and prime rib. Afterwards, guests can indulge in the dessert buffet featuring crème brulee, Parisian macarons, chocolate espresso cake and more. Cost: $110 Adults; $50 Children 12 and under (free for ages three and under).

Christmas Buffet

December 25; 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Enjoy a Christmas feast in The Oak Room Restaurant with a delicious buffet overflowing with scrumptious appetizers, salads, seafood and of course, dessert. Offering countless tantalizing choices for every taste, a sampling of items include an antipasto display, cheeses and artisan breads, seafood favourites such as marinated mussels, Alaskan snow crab and smoked salmon, along with seasonal salads. Additionally, guests have a choice of holiday favourites including roasted Pacific salmon, prime rib, roasted turkey, and pork loin. A delicious dessert buffet completes the feast. Cost: $110 Adults; $50 Children 12 and under (free for ages three and under). The Oak Room Restaurant will also be open for breakfast from 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

About The Westin St. Francis

Opened more than a century ago on March 21, 1904, The Westin St. Francis still today maintains its preeminence as San Francisco's center of social, theatrical and business life. Renowned for luxury accommodations and excellent service, The Westin St. Francis continues to preserve its rich history and elegance while enhancing the guest experience with fresh, innovative concepts. The only hotel located on San Francisco’s famous Union Square, The Westin St. Francis is just steps from world class shopping, dining, theatres and art galleries. For reservations and more information, call (415) 397-7000, toll free (800) 917-7458 or visit

Westin Hotels & Resorts

Westin Hotels & Resorts, a leader in wellness and hospitality for more than a decade, lives its philosophy “For a Better You™” through the brand’s Six Pillars of Well-Being: Feel Well, Work Well, Move Well, Eat Well, Sleep Well and Play Well. At more than 200 hotels and resorts in nearly 40 countries and territories, guests can experience offerings that include the iconic Heavenly® Bed, RunWESTIN™ and Westin Gear Lending with New Balance®, delicious and nutritious SuperFoodsRx™ an the innovative workspace Tangent. Westin is proud to participate in the industry’s award-winning loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest®. Members can now link accounts with Marriott Rewards®, which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® at for instant elite status matching and unlimited points transfer. To learn more, visit

Parkes Elvis Festival

Bring the family and kick off the Festival in style at the Elvis at the Trots meeting hosted by Parkes Harness Racing Club on Wed 10 Jan. 

Live entertainment with Brendon Chase! Gates open at 6pm, entry $10. Parkes Showground.

#parkeselvis #68comeback


No trip to Hiroshima would be complete without a visit to Hiroshima's two World Heritage Sites - Itsukushima Shrine and Atomic Bomb Dome. 

Following this itinerary, you can explore the majestic Itsukushima Shrine and the vermilion o-torii gate floating in the water, the Atomic Bomb Dome, and other nearby tourist attractions. 

When you visit Hiroshima, don't miss out on the opportunity to see these amazing World Heritage Sites. 

For more information, you can check out the following website:…/…/itinerary/itinerary01.html

Carnival Cruise Line Celebrates 5 Years in Australia with Largest Conga Line At Sea

Carnival Cruise Line celebrated its fifth anniversary in Australia with the world’s longest conga line at sea, marking the first ever World Conga Day™. Over 60,000 guests took part in the Carnival Conga over the past week, which travelled across 25 Carnival ships, via 13 countries, 7 time zones, spanning over 16,000 kilometres.

Carnival has also commissioned ‘Carnival Conga’, a song released especially for the occasion with all proceeds from the sale of the catchy tune going to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. The release of Carnival Conga is a first for any cruise line globally and can be downloaded from all leading platforms, including, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play.

Carnival Spirit sailed into the iconic Sydney Harbour this morning at 6.30am with over 1,500 guests and crew ‘conga-ing’ on the top deck at sunrise - five years to the day since she arrived through the heads for the first time in 2012. Captain Vittorio Marchi and on-board characters, Dr Seuss’ Cat In The Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, also joined in on the fun.

This global event started in Florida on October 10 and from here, the Carnival Conga island hopped through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, before traveling over to the Pacific. From the Pacific, the Conga then passed from the Mexican Riviera to Carnival Legend in the Coral Sea, with the Conga craziness arriving onto Carnival Spirit this morning.

From this year forward, Carnival Cruise Line want World Conga Day™ to be enjoyed not just by everyone onboard their ships but in Australia and around the world, as an excuse for people to leave their troubles behind – a holiday from all the worries of the world.

Carnival Cruise Line Vice President Australia and NZ, Jennifer Vandekreeke, said "We’re delighted that Carnival guests and crew from around the globe have joined together for a bit of fun to celebrate our five year anniversary in Australia. Since the arrival of Carnival Spirit in 2012, more than 750,000 Australians and Kiwis have enjoyed the fun of a Carnival Cruise. We’re excited by what the next five years will bring, especially given by 2020, we will have two ships sailing year-round from Australia.”

Australia is Carnival Cruise Line’s first international home-port outside of the U.S, with Carnival Spirit sailing year-round and Carnival Legend sailing seasonally. In 2020, the brand will have two ships sailing year-round from Australia.


· 10,272 Comedy Shows performed
· 37,101 guests saw a turtle at Amadee Island
· 138,133 rides down Green Thunder
· 11,511 Green Eggs and Ham Eaten
· 1,218,800 little umbrellas in poolside cocktails
· 719,368 kilos of Australian Watermelon served
· 209,483 kilos of Australian Pumpkin served
· 40,625 Olives served in Martinis
· 750,000 guests onboard

For more information and bookings call 13 31 94 or visit


Carnival Cruise Line is the largest cruise line in the world with more than four and a half million guests travelling every year. The cruise line has two ships deployed in Australia, Carnival Spirit – the largest and newest cruise ship to be based in Sydney year-round – and sister ship Carnival Legend, sailing from Sydney each summer. With 45 activities to enjoy each day, both ships offer fun-loving families and couples memorable and great value holidays.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Teotihuacan Treasures at the de Young Museum

On view Sept. 30, 2017 through Feb. 11, 2018 at the de Young Museum is Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire, the first significant exhibition on the ancient city on view in the United States in more than 20 years.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Teotihuacan is one of the world's most important archaeological locations and the most-visited within Mexico. Located 30 miles outside of modern-day Mexico City, Teotihuacan was the center of Mesoamerica and once covered close to eight square miles and had over 100,000 inhabitants at its peak in 400 CE.

Exhibit Information

Over 200 artifacts are featured in the exhibition, with many in the U.S. for the first time and others recently excavated. Objects on display include ritual and monumental items found in the three main pyramids at Teotihuacan: the Feathered Serpent, Sun, and Moon Pyramids. The ancient city's residential compounds will be represented through a presentation of stone and ceramic sculptures. A particular highlight is the de Young's collection of mural fragments, displayed alongside fragments from the same dwelling on loan from Mexico.

Teotihuacan is presented in collaboration with Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, as part of a longstanding partnership. In displaying a number of artifacts from various excavations and collections together, the exhibition provides a unique opportunity for visitors to learn about Teotihuacan and its importance to the region's history and culture.

General Information

Teotihuacan is on view Sept. 30, 2017, through Feb. 11, 2018, at the de Young, conveniently located in the heart of Golden Gate Park. For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit the de Young online. Tickets to this special exhibit include general admission access. Groups of 10 or more may be eligible for special pricing and tours. For more information, see Group Sales at the de Young.

Free admission days for Teotihuacan are held each Wednesday in October, and Saturdays Oct. 14 and Nov. 11, made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition, the de Young is hosting free community programming on-site, including Mexican-inspired live music, art demos, and film presentations in conjunction with the exhibition. Please visit the de Young's exhibition page for more information on scheduling and to register for free exhibition tickets.

Australian bush history

West of Sydney in the Murray Riverina region stands Mungo Woolshed. Like so many of Australia’s greatest woolsheds, Mungo Woolshed which dates back to the late 1800s tells an interesting story of our pioneering past, and the people who lived and managed the landscape before the arrival of white settlers. 

The ancient terrain surrounding Mungo Woolshed is steeped in Aboriginal history and tradition, and originally served as the meeting place for many communities including the Muthi Muthi, Nyiampaar and Barkinji. It’s a stark and arid landscape but one rich in archaeological treasures, including some of the oldest human remains ever found, belonging to the ‘Mungo Man and Mungo Lady’, dating back over 40,000 years.

Mungo station was originally part of Gol Gol Station which was later divided and renamed Mungo Station. After the property was established many of the Aboriginal people in the area were displaced and moved from their land. They went to work on the station, as well as on the properties surrounding it as trackers, general hands and boundary riders, as well as domestic help. In return they received tobacco, sugar and blankets as well as western clothing.

These indigenous Australians soon faced more unasked-for change. Chinese workers who had relocated to Australia for the Gold Rush soon replaced these Aboriginal people. Many of the Aboriginal workers were gathered up and sent away to church missions, while the Chinese labourers went on to build the Mungo Woolshed and surrounding outbuildings in 1869.

The woolshed was built out of White Cypress trees. Local to the area, they repelled the dreaded termites that could chew through wood leaving ruined structures within months. This same timber was used throughout many properties in the area and across Australia. The woolshed walls were constructed from trimmed logs that were vertically stacked. Known as a drop-log construction it ensured that the building was cooler during warmer months, no doubt a trait appreciated by the 18 men that sheared about 50,000 sheep at its peak.

The name ‘Mungo’ has two possible origins, the Aboriginal word for Canoe in the area, ‘Mungoe’, or the patron saint of Glasgow, representing the Scottish ancestry of the original owner’s Ewan and Angus Cameron.

Today the area surrounding Mungo Woolshed is listed as a World Heritage Site and National Park. And while the woolshed still stands today as a demonstration of the quality of craftsmanship carried out by some of our early settlers, it is more importantly located within an extraordinary area. Part of the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area, a chain of ancient dried-up lakebeds and sand dunes remind of us of an age-less land and the people that once roamed it.

Hoto-making is well-worth the experience whatever the time of year

No visit to Kofu is complete without trying ‘hoto’ – the region’s most well-known local food. Hoto consists of flat udon noodles and vegetables, served in miso soup, making for a warming, highly nutritious meal (the vegetables used differ from place to place).

Close to the area’s famous Shosenkyo Gorge is Hoto Kaikan - a restaurant-facility in which customers can make their very own hoto, under the friendly guidance of their experienced staff, making it ideal for even the absolute beginner. 

With the area’s natural beauty offering something different with each season - (Cherry Blossom, Azalea & Japanese Wild Parsley in Spring, fresh green leaves in Summer, red leaves in Autumn and stunning snow scenes in Winter) – hoto-making is well-worth the experience whatever the time of year. 

Please note that advance reservations are required. For price information, please contact Hoto Kaikan directly.

Shosenkyo Gorge Hoto Kaikan
Address: Kofu-City, Ikari-cho 393
TEL: 055-287-2131
Open: year-round
(This article is reprinted from JAPAN TIMELINE)

Chasing Waves On The Great Barrier Reef

Australian Champion Kitesurfer and Sunshine Coast local, Ben Wilson, has released a new documentary-style video on YouTube following his first-ever kitesurfing adventure to Queensland's Great Barrier Reef. The footage showcases secret surf breaks that form on the reef on rare occasions and which are known only to locals.

Kitesurfing on the Great Barrier Reef was a long-time dream for Ben who is well-accustomed to reef-pass breaks, holding the world record for kitesurfing the largest wave ever captured on film, Cloudbreak at 35-foot in Fiji.

When wind, swell and tides aligned in April this year, Ben and photographers Stu Gibson and Tom Rawlins raced 500km north of Brisbane to chase the waves off the coast of Gladstone.

"The feeling of kitesurfing the Southern Great Barrier Reef for the first time was just incredible,” he said. “It's everything you imagine it to be – blue water, schools of fish, nobody around and all lined with colourful coral.”

Ben, who has fished the Southern Great Barrier Reef for years, had heard rumours of remote waves that break off the reef under certain conditions; their exact location remaining a tight-lipped local secret.

"It took me about fifteen trips over two years, and dozens of conversations with locals, to plan this kitesurf mission. The preparation that went into it was intense, with safety a major concern.

“The rest was completely up to Mother Nature.”

Ben's Great Barrier Reef adventure was more than just kiting and when the wind dropped, he found himself more aware of his surroundings at one of the world's most beautiful places.

“The Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders in the world - a place that people from all corners of the planet come to see.

"We snorkelled with turtles, saw dolphins play in the water and caught fresh emperor and coral trout for dinner.

“I can honestly say that this was the best part of the trip. We came to kitesurf but we took away so much more.

"It is amazing to think that this is in our backyard. You sometimes forget just how beautiful Queensland is. You are so focused on the next overseas trips that you overlook the incredible places right on your doorstep.

“I feel very blessed having been able to kitesurf the Great Barrier Reef.”

Ben sees a lot of potential for Queensland's reef breaks and is patiently waiting for the swell, winds and tides to align to film part two of his Great Barrier Reef kitesurf series that will focus on the action and waves in their biggest and best form.

“This is just the beginning,” he said.

Click here to view the video. Credit: Ben Wilson.


Niyama Private Islands
A Winter Wonderland of snow-white sands melting into a turquoise lagoon and never-ending Sapphire Ocean. Neon and fireworks lighting up the starry sky in a Countdown to the Surreal. Escape the mundane and live out the festive season with family, friends and lovers on the most exclusive of stages. Christmas and New Year at Niyama Private Islands celebrates revelry for all ages. With twin islands to explore at Nature’s Playground, we invite you to let loose and indulge, dining in treetops, partying under the waves, seeking out romance or adrenaline-filled adventures, playing or chilling to each island’s unique rhythms.

Enjoy a surreal Christmas of tropical cocktails and traditional carols. Celebrate with a Winter Wonderland feast, candles and mistletoe. Light up the ocean with a live coral Christmas tree unveiling in the days leading up to Christmas at Subsix, the world’s first underwater playground
and lounge. Positioned six metres below the waterline, the tree illuminates each night.

The New Year countdown promises to be our most exciting yet, with a special performance of Cats the Musical, a twilight feast overlooking the ocean, contemporary dance and opera performances, and a moonlit party on the beach to bring in 2018.

Activities for little VIPs and their families abound at the Explorers Kids’ Club throughout the holiday season. Catering for children from 12 months to 12 years of age, split into four age groups, little members can enjoy Christmas baking, ornament making, tree decorating and snowman building, as well as our signature experiences of guided snorkelling expeditions, water fights and more.

Teens and adults are invited to join the Active programme, with island exploring, dolphin watching, a host of beach sports and authentic Maldivian cultural activities on offer, and a romantic movie night under the stars.

Radiance is all the island rage this festive season. Visit the sublime Drift Spa by Niyama for some holiday magic, with non-surgical facelifts from Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. David Alessi and transformational rejuvenation from health and longevity expert Paulo Fernandes.

Book your escape to paradise now, and celebrate in unrivalled style. For the full festive season programme, visit or email

Iconic car rally for Tropical North Queensland

Targa Great Barrier Reef
Tropical North Queensland will host a new major tourism event for the next three years with the launch of Targa Great Barrier Reef, a three-day car rally that will see the field of around 200 cars visit all key regions, including Port Douglas, Innisfail and the Atherton Tablelands.

The new event, to be based in Cairns from 31 August to 2 September next year, is modelled on the world’s largest tarmac rally, Targa Tasmania, which has been held annually on the Apple Isle since making its debut in 1992.

Targa Great Barrier Reef will be a round of the four event CAMS Australian Targa Championship, which also includes Targa North West, Targa Tasmania, and Targa High Country in Victoria.

The extension of the series into Queensland was made possible through a three-year funding deal by Tourism & Events Queensland and Cairns Regional Council with series organiser, Targa Australia.

The two hundred cars expected to take part in the 2018 event will represent a cavalcade of motoring history from pre-war classics right through to the latest exotic supercars.

The cars will tackle 15 stages across more than 200 competitive kilometres on a course that covers more than 800 kilometres across Tropical North Queensland.

The event will start and finish each day in Cairns, with a Super Street Stage on the Saturday night bringing the action right into the heart of the city. Cairns will also host Targafest, where the cars are on display for fans to see close up, while regional towns will host a lunch stop each day which will see various local charities supported.

Underlining the scale of the event is the fact that more than 500 local officials and various community groups will be involved in its successful running.

Targa Australia Director, Mark Perry, is excited with the expansion of the championship.

“The secret to the long-term success of Targa Tasmania is that it is a tourism destination event built around a passion for the motor vehicle,” Perry said.

“It attracts people and their cars from right around Australia, and overseas. It’s a format that sees the event travel to the fans, stopping at a number of towns along the way, meaning it’s not just one town or one city that is the winner and our `stadium’ covers thousands of square kilometres of iconic landscapes that will showcase the region to the world.

“Targa is renowned for showcasing and bringing awareness to many of Australia’s iconic and important World Heritage Areas through its TV Specials, broadcast around the world, and will continue to do so with Targa Great Barrier Reef in highlighting the beauty and importance of preserving the Tropical North Queensland region.”

“Targa Tasmania attracts some beautiful cars from across the eras, and I’m sure many of those competitors will be drawn to this new event and others will enter now they have an event closer to home, along with also tapping into the lucrative Asian market due to the ease of travelling to Cairns.”

“Being part of a national championship will ensure all the top cars and factory teams are present, and they boast some incredible automotive pedigree and some absolutely awesome drivers.”

Queensland Tourism and Major Events Minister Kate Jones said she couldn’t wait to see Targa kick off in North Queensland. “With the backdrop of the Great Barrier Reef, this race will be an attractive proposition to Targa teams around the world,” she said.

“To have such an iconic sporting experience so close to one of Queensland’s most important natural assets will create a wonderful experience for teams and racegoers.

“Events like this deliver a valuable boost to the Tropical North Queensland economy – helping to attract visitors and support local jobs.

“I look forward to Targa becoming a permanent fixture on Queensland’s It’s Live! Event Calendar.”

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said Targa was an ideal fit for the region’s ever-growing sports event calendar.

“Targa Great Barrier Reef will not only be great for Cairns, but fantastic for our region,” Cr Manning said.

“Major events play an important role in promoting our destination, driving visitation, supporting jobs and fostering community pride.

“This is an iconic car race which will be set against an iconic backdrop – it is the perfect combination. We have a reputation of facilitating world-class events, and this will be no different.”

Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer Pip Close said Targa Great Barrier Reef would showcase Cairns, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands and the Cassowary Coast to a new audience around the world.

“We are seeing increasing numbers of Asian competitors at events like Ironman Asia-Pacific and the Great Barrier Reef Marathon and this event will further appeal to these markets,” she said.

“With new flights from China in December added to our direct connections from Singapore and Japan we have the opportunity to further grow Tropical North Queensland as an international sports event destination.”

Hands-Free Travel: Takayama to Matsumoto - Drop your bags and go on an adventur

Haven’t you ever felt it a heavy burden, travelling around carrying your big and heavy luggage such as suitcases and purchased items, and so on?

We have such a service in Japan.

Between Takayama and Matsumoto of SHORYUDO, we will carry out the service of delivering luggage on the same day from hotels to hotels until 15th November.

You will be free from the hardships of carrying your luggage by yourself, and you can enjoy Japan’s Mountain Resort Kamikochi etc.

Experience Hands-Free Travel and enjoy comfortable travel without a burden.

Much as we all love to travel, lugging around your luggage often takes away some of the glamour of the overall experience – something likely every traveller can relate to. Think of all the additional places you could go—and better enjoy—by being able to transfer your luggage between hotels!

This is the magic of Hands-Free Travel – a new service promising to deliver your luggage from hotel-to-hotel between Gifu's Takayama and Nagano's Matsumoto. The service operates between August 28th and November 15th 2017, which coincides with when Kamikochi—the mountain resort in Nagano—is open to visitors.

Transferring your luggage between hotels surely makes for a more comfortable, enjoyable traveling experience, so I decided to hit the Japanese Alps to experience the joys of hands-free travel, by experiencing the Takayama-Matsumoto route myself – minus the traditional luggage woes.

Day 1: Takayama

My first stop was Takayama – a beautifully preserved Edo Period traditional town in Gifu, to the west of the Japan Alps. The old streets here are a marvel to behold, and certainly easier to appreciate without luggage in tow! On arrival, I actually left my luggage at my hotel pre-check-in to go and freely wander the old streets.

Doing so opens up many opportunities: pop into the small sake breweries in the district, stroll around the quiet temples in the eastern Higashiyama area, snack on local delicacies (Hida beef sushi is an absolute highlight), or drop by the idyllic Takayama Jinya – a former government house from the Edo Period.

Day 2: Kamikochi + Hands-Free Travel

After a day in Takayama, I decided to follow a popular route east to Matsumoto in Nagano. A series of buses provides convenient travel through the mountains, passing by Kamikochi right in the middle.

Checking out of my hotel at Takayama Ouen, I requested to send my luggage hands-free to my destination hotel in Matsumoto. It was surprisingly quick and simple – providing my name, contact details and connecting hotel information, before paying the ¥3,000 fee (per item). Hands-Free Travel does the rest and lets you focus on having a good time. The staff apply several tags to your luggage (just like airport check-in) and provide you a delivery receipt to use later at your destination hotel.

It was a great feeling to be able to drop off my main luggage – providing a nice physical advantage not to mention a psychological boost ("Now I can go here and here and...").

Wishing to make the most of the day, I headed straight to Takayama Bus Center. They provide a convenient Alps Crossing Route Ticket (アルプス横断ルートきっぷ) for just 5,000 yen (or 2,500 yen for children) – which covers all buses between Takayama and Matsumoto and is valid for up to 4 days. This includes:
  • Bus from Takayama to Hirayu Onsen
  • Bus from Hirayu Onsen to Kamikochi
  • Bus from Kamikochi to Matsumoto*
*Some services end at Shinshimashima – but the route ticket includes a connecting train ticket to Matsumoto if required.

I changed buses at Hirayu Onsen town. Whilst there are plenty of buses throughout the day, I planned a 1 hour stopover to see the area and try the local hot spring at Hirayu-no-Mori. It simply wouldn't have been possible to do this with luggage in tow - simply loading/unloading from the bus eats up precious time! After a therapeutic yet quick soak in the sulphur baths surrounded by the valley's forest scenery, I dashed back to the bus stop for my onward service to Kamikochi.

Thirty minutes later, I arrived at Kamikochi – a magical destination in the heart of the Northern Alps. The entire area offers pristine, untouched nature and is one of Japan's top scenic spots. It is most well-known for the view of the Kappa Bridge spanning the clear, blue waters of the Azusa River, against a mountainous backdrop.

Stepping off the bus, I immediately started hiking towards the central area at Kappa Bridge (Pro tip: if you want to guarantee your spot on a return bus, grab a numbered ticket (seiriken) at the bus terminal upon presenting your ticket as soon as your arrive in Kamikochi).

With minimal luggage and being hands-free, I was able to plan a long, leisurely circular walking route along the Azusa River from the Kappa Bridge area down to the Hotaka Bridge. This left plenty of time for trying local snacks, taking plenty of riverside rest stops and photographing the nature.

Kamikochi is one of those places where not having to worry about your luggage really augments the experience and enhances your escape from reality. The environment here is beautiful and often you won't have to worry about crowds of tourists either. There are plenty of scenic spots to discover along the main walking routes – with many more to be found for those for venture further afield.

I could have stayed for longer but eventually made my way towards the Kamikochi Bus Terminal for my onward bus (the last direct bus to Matsumoto is at 16:45, though several later services can take you to Shinshimashima allowing you to take an onward train.)

After arriving in Matsumoto, I took a short walk to my hotel at Buena Vista Matsumoto and was greeted by the welcoming staff. They had my luggage ready and waiting for me which was easy to collect when checking-in – complete with souvenir tag serving as a reminder of the day.

My luggage was in perfect condition and transferred to my room by the friendly staff. It was remarkably great to see this Hands-Free Travel service working so well, with my luggage arriving at the hotel well ahead of me and the hotel staff at both ends comfortably handling my request.

Using this service didn't just transform the overall travel experience, it transformed the way I travel too – making me more adventurous, more curious and more focused on the experience, ultimately less concerned by things like timings, coin lockers and other common tourist worries.

The benefits of using the Hands-Free Travel service are clear: spend more time sightseeing, more time souvenir shopping, and more time having a thoroughly good time! Such was the positive experience of going 'hands-free', I would definitely continue to use this service whenever doing a similar trip in Japan from now on.

Day 3: Matsumoto

Having reached Matsumoto City, I was determined to see a little of the city before heading home towards Tokyo – luckily at this point I could leave my luggage at Hotel Buena Vista Matsumoto to hold for me until later in the day.

Matsumoto City is best known for the home to one of the best examples of one of Japan's original castles – with all wooden interior and external stonework having been carefully preserved over time. The black exterior gave rise to the nickname, the 'Crow Castle', while it proudly ranks among Japan's top castles, alongside Himeji and Kumamoto.

Popular in the cherry blossom season, the view from the Uzuhashi bridge (as above) creates a striking impression of this masterpiece. Other highlights across Matsumoto City include the traditional area of Nakamachi, with its rows of preserved white kura-style Japanese storehouses, as well as Nawate Street, a charming riverside street which is overrun by images and statues of frogs!

Participating Hotels
  • Takayama
  • Best Western Hotel Takayama
  • Country Hotel Takayama
  • Hida Hotel Plaza
  • Ryokan Seiryu
  • Ryokan Asunaro
  • Takayama Green Hotel
  • Takayama Ouan
  • Matsumoto
  • Ace Inn Matsumoto
  • Hotel Buena Vista
  • Matsumoto Marunouchi Hotel
  • Premier Hotel Cabin Matsumoto
  • Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu
  • Tobira Onsen Myojinkan