Friday, 22 January 2021

Da Nang to offer free admission to many tourist sites in 2021

The Da Nang People’s Council has adopted a resolution on offering free admission to a selection of local tourist attractions throughout 2021, including the Ngu Hanh Son (Marble Mountain) landscape site, the Da Nang Museum, the Museum of Cham Sculpture and the Da Nang Fine Arts Museum.

The move aims to step up the attraction of tourists in order to boost socio-economic development and stimulate travel companies to bring tourists to Da Nang while supporting service and tourism businesses in particular and the city as a whole to overcome the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a representative of the Da Nang Department of Tourism, the municipal People’s Committee has approved the organisation of a New Year greeting programme “Da Nang Festival – Welcoming New Year 2021” from December 30, 2020, to January 3, 2021, at the Asia Park Square in Hai Chau District. The organisational plan will be decided depending on the reality of the disease.

Coming to the festival, tourists will be entertained with a variety of vibrant and exciting cultural & art activities, including a tourism cyclo parade, a night tour on Han River with 3,000 free-of-charge tickets, admiring Rong (Dragon) Bridge emitting fire and water, street music, and a New Year greeting art programme in both traditional and modern styles, featuring famous singers, artists and rappers.

Together with the local authorities, many units and tourism businesses in Da Nang have also launched exciting activities to attract tourists for the year-end and New Year occasion, such as lighting the Christmas tree at Furama Resort, a winter festival at Sun World Ba Na Hills, a countdown to welcome the New Year 2021, and many discount programmes for people and visitors.

* In an effort to remove difficulties for tourism businesses and accelerate the recovery of the local tourism industry, the People’s Council of Quang Binh Province has also adopted a resolution on reducing entry fees by 20% to 50% for all tourism products throughout 2021, including Son Doong Cave and Phong Nha Cave, among others.
Source: Nhan dan online
Photo: Visitors to Da Nang will enjoy free admission to the Ngu Hanh Son landscape site in 2021


Folk museum. Courtesy of Japan Airlines
Over the past few months, staycations and domestic travel have pushed round-the-world journeys off our agendas. Check out these deals that make it easier—and cheaper—to travel in your home country.

MANY BORDERS ARE CLOSED and public health requirements mean jumping through hoops to go abroad. But when and where it’s safe to travel, countries around Asia are pushing travelers to explore their own backyards. Sometimes that encouragement comes in the form of cold hard cash to boost the hard-hit tourism industry. It’s win-win. When was the last time someone paid you to go on vacation?

1) Japan

Japan’s Go To Travel campaign gives a 35 percent discount on travel expenses capped at Y13,000 a night and an additional 15 percent of value of the total package in vouchers to spend at registered businesses at the destination, up to Y7,000 per night for trips up to seven nights. Even your souvenirs can be covered by the vouchers, so share the love and bring back a box of mochi for your non-vacationing friends.

The same terms are offered to Japanese citizens and foreign residents in Japan. Day trips also qualify if purchased through authorized travel agents. So, now is the time to explore those off-the-beaten track destinations like the still rustic Amami Islands, where humane bullfighting and traditional foods reveal a different side of Japan.
(Photo: above right - Folk museum. Courtesy of Japan Airlines)

2) Laos

The Lao Thiao Lao (Lao People Travel in Laos) Facebook page offers locals and expats all kinds of deals around the country. In addition to discounted plane tickets, great deals on hotels and special packages, the page features popular contests and giveaways. One of the most sought-after prizes so far was a four-day stay including airfare for four at the luxury adventure resort Namkat Yorla Pa outside of Oudomxay in the north of the country where you can abseil down a waterfall, tool around in an ATV or spend the night in a treehouse. Visit the page regularly to look for other desirable prizes and offers.
(Photo above - Farm House, Namkat Yorla Pa)

From staycations to attractions, SingapoRediscovers Vouchers give Singaporeans discounts all around the Red Dot. Every adult receives S$100 in S$10 denominations; they in turn can buy subsidized vouchers for their children or grandchildren. If you think that Gardens by the Bay is just for tourists, think again; it’s arguably better than ever without them!

Activities have to be reserved through five booking partners including To be eligible, businesses have to be SG Clean-certified, meaning that they adhere to Covid-era health protocols.
(Photo above right - Courtesy of Gardens by the Bay)

4) Taiwan

Taipei is lending a hand to the tune of NT$1,000 a night for all Taiwanese nationals staying in the city on a weeknight from now through March 7. The deal, which requires online registration, also includes a free double-decker sightseeing-bus tour.

Meanwhile a generous NT$15,000 subsidy for weekday travel all around the island nation is valid until the end of January, and the government will likely announce new incentives for travel soon. This comes on top of general incentives to boost spending that can be used for other travel needs like restaurants and retail. No time like the present to check out gems like the sustainable mountain spring retreat Fleur de Chine.
(Photo above - Presidential Suite at Fleur de Chine)

5) Thailand

The Tourism Authority of Thailand is producing lots of online content to remind travelers of overlooked destinations like the hot springs in Mae Hong Son or temple-hopping in Nakhon Phanom. Rao Thiew Duaygan (We Travel Together) offers 40 percent off hotel rooms up to Bt3,000 a night, up to Bt1,000 on transportation, and Bt600 in vouchers to spend on restaurants and services per night booked, enough to keep travelers in regional street-food favorites during their trip. The program is only open to Thai citizens, who have to register on a dedicated website and then can book through online travel agents like Agoda.

Resident foreigners were also granted discounts through the Expat Travel Bonus scheme, but with just 5,000 room nights available, the deals ran out quickly. But individual hotels are extending their deals to residents and citizens alike. Just have a look at Phi Phi Staycation Package at Phi Phi Island Village Resort; now’s the best time to see this usually jam-packed idyll.

NB: As of this posting, a second round of incentives were due to be announced early this year, but a recent uptick in reported Covid-19 cases has the country implementing new restrictions. Check the news in each province before you plan any travel.
(Photo above right - Bangkok’s skyline)

6) Vietnam

In Vietnam, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Vietnam National Administration for Tourism have encouraged businesses to work with localities to offer packages and promotions for both Vietnamese citizens and foreigners living in the country. Airlines are offering special fares, and visitors to the recent Vietnam International Travel Mart 2020 in Hanoi could pick from 10,000 different packages from 250 businesses across 47 cities and provinces, like the Resident Getaway packages at the plush, relaxing Azerai Can Tho in the middle of the Mekong Delta.
(Photo Above - Hue Incense Village. Courtesy of Azerai Can Tho)

Proudly contributed by Vincent Vichit-Vadakan 
Tags: domestic tourism, Laos, Thailand, tourism campaign, tourism promotion, VietnamWebsite:

Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office
c/o 3rd Floor, Department of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and Sports, 154 Rama 1 Road National Stadium, Wangmai, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Tel: +66 2038 5071-1

What’s New in Sonoma County January 2021

While travel may look different, many wineries, distilleries, restaurants, and attractions are getting creative to deliver Sonoma County’s best experiences to your doorstep with brand new offerings. What’s more, modern new restaurants and community spaces have opened in recent weeks, offering the joys of delicious farm-fresh takeout until restrictions are lifted and visitors are able to experience how Life Opens Up with enticing new experiences. 

Photo above right: Safari West 

Savor these at-home experiences while they’re here and bookmark your favorites as you plan for a retreat to Sonoma County in person to explore unique new spots surrounded by wide open spaces and natural wonders.

Note: Visitors and residents are asked to continue to wear face coverings in public, practice physical distancing, and follow the public health authorities’ recommendations. Please be sure to review The Safe Travels Promise and our Coronavirus Updates before visiting.


Safari West’s Gnu Interactive Virtual Safari @ Home
The all-gnu, all-virtual edition of Safari West has arrived! Welcome a bit of wild into your home as guests journey through the animal kingdom at the Sonoma Serengeti with a professional guide on one of the safari trucks. Ask questions, share ideas, and interact with the guide as you move from one species to another. Encounter giraffes, rhinoceros, zebras, buffalo, and 17 species of African Antelope in their natural habitat, live from the comfort of your home or office. Make it fun by wearing your safari gear.

Safari @ Home is brought to you by the Safari West Wildlife Foundation, using the Safari West Live technology that’s designed to bring safaris to bedridden, hospitalized children and underserved children anywhere in the nation. Reserve your experience online, and make sure you have a Zoom account. Safari Tickets are $50 per device/family household, letting you enjoy the experience of the wilderness from the comfort of home.

Safari West
3115 Porter Creek Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Sonoma Canopy Adventures offers Treehouse Grove Executive Retreat
Unplug and stay a couple nights in the treehouse village atop a grove of redwood trees with this Executive Retreat designed for small teams of executives. Tucked away in beautiful and secluded Occidental, groups of five to ten can reserve a once-in-a-lifetime experience inside unique treehouse accommodations that are fully furnished with luxurious beds, a sink, and bathroom. Connect with nature and enjoy the breathtaking historical redwood tree trunk that runs through each “room”. Included is gourmet food and beverages and cozy meeting spaces, with optional activities like zipline tours, kayaking, guided hikes, and trips to the beach to promote creativity and teambuilding.

Nestled near the cascading waves of the Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Canopy Tours is high adventure and completely unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Take your team completely off the grid and treat them to a fully immersive experience in the unparalleled beauty of the world-famous coastal redwoods.

Sonoma Canopy Tours
6250 Bohemian Highway
Occidental, CA 95465

Sonoma County Bee Company’s Virtual Honey Tastings
Join founder Candice Koseba for a guided blind honey tasting from the comfort of your home or home office. Test your palate and honey knowledge with a taste of Sonoma County Bee Company’s wildflower honey, along with a side-by-side tasting of 4 mono-varietal honeys. Candice will guide groups with the Honey Tasting Flavor Wheel and Honey Color Guide that comes with this virtual tasting box. Learn about honey aromas, flavors, and what it’s like to be a beekeeper.

Sonoma County Bee Company’s honey is made of real flower nectar collected by real bees, made in small batches. 10% of honey sales are donated to the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association, whose mission is to have a thriving and sustainable bee population in Sonoma County. Candice Koseba is also the on-site beekeeper at the new Montage Healdsburg.

Sonoma County Bee Company
Sonoma County, CA

Start planning your trip to Sonoma County today at or call 707-522-5800. 


Tripadvisor 2021 Travel Outlook Report Reveals Increasing Consumer Confidence as Travellers Plan 2021 Travel and Dining Post-Vaccine

Tripadvisor®, the world’s largest travel platform*, today released the findings of a new research report based on the platform’s unique insight into shifting traveller trends, revealing how consumers are planning to travel in 2021 and what impact the ongoing pandemic has had on their trip planning habits.

The report, which analyzed first party search data as well as traveller sentiment across six major markets (the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Japan and Singapore), revealed consumers’ increasing confidence that they will travel abroad in 2021, particularly in the second half of the year. In fact, globally, the majority of hotel clicks on Tripadvisor are already shifting to international destinations for trips taking place from May 2021 onwards (as opposed to domestic destinations, which had dominated the proportion of hotel clicks throughout 2020).

The report, entitled “The Year of the Travel Rebound: 5 Traveller Trends to Watch Out for in 2021” can be read in full, for free, here:

The five trends highlighted in the report are:

1) Travellers are planning to travel abroad in the second half of the year, but won’t wait to make plans

  • Nearly half (47%) of travellers surveyed globally say they are planning to travel internationally in 2021, including 46% of Australian travellers
  • Almost 15% of Australian respondents have already booked an international trip for 2021

2) Vaccinations will be a game-changer for traveller confidence

  • The widespread roll-out of a vaccine won’t just impact travellers’ confidence to travel, it will have a major influence on where leisure travellers are prepared to go too.
  • Globally, more than three quarters (77%) of travellers surveyed say they will be more likely to travel internationally if they receive the vaccine, rising to 86% for travel domestically. In Australia, 77% of travellers surveyed say they are more likely to travel domestically if they receive the vaccine, and 73% are more likely to travel internationally.
  • More than a quarter (26%) of respondents globally say that they would only travel to destinations that required visitors to be vaccinated before travel, with Australian (32%) and U.S. (30%) travellers the most likely to expect destinations to adopt this safety measure.

3) Domestic vacations remain high on travellers’ wishlist for 2021

  • While international tourism looks to be getting a boost this year following a shutdown for much of 2020, domestic travel isn’t necessarily going to take a back seat in 2021. In the first week of January, nearly 70% of hotel clickers on Tripadvisor were booking future domestic trips, while further out, May through August are still proving the most popular months for domestic vacations.
  • Globally, three quarters (74%) of travellers surveyed plan to take at least one overnight domestic leisure trip in 2021, with 82% of travellers surveyed in Australia planning a domestic trip this year.
  • The good news for destinations and tourism businesses in Australia looking to attract domestic travellers is that 67% of Australian travellers planning a 2021 domestic vacation have yet to book it, so there is still an opportunity for businesses to capture that demand. 

4) The joy of vacation planning will be stronger than ever as travellers spend more time researching 2021 trips

  • With travel plans dashed in early 2020, many people have been dreaming about their next big vacation for more than ten months, so it’s no surprise that travellers are extra conscious of getting it just right when they do travel.
  • Three quarters (74%) of travellers surveyed globally say they will spend more time choosing a destination this year, including just over 73% of travellers in Australia.
  • 64% of travellers in Australia will spend more time reading reviews, 71% will spend more time selecting their accommodation, and 67% will spend more time finding things to do. 

5) Consumers can’t wait to dine out again, but their taste for takeout will still endure

  • As in-person dining was restricted in many countries throughout 2020, the success of takeout and delivery services soared, as consumers sought to satisfy their appetite. But encouragingly for the hospitality industry, in-person dining’s rebound in 2021 doesn’t mean a decline in takeout and delivery demand.
  • Nearly half (47%) of respondents globally say they plan to dine in-person at restaurants more often in 2021 than they did in 2020 and a quarter of respondents (27%) say they plan to order more takeout meals this year.
  • In Australia, 53% of respondents plan to dine in-person at restaurants more often this year, and 27% plan to order more takeout

“Despite the fact that many countries around the world are still grappling with high infection rates of COVID-19, many travellers are feeling optimistic that they will be able to vacation abroad this year, particularly coinciding with the roll-out of a vaccine. Consumer appetite for travel is as strong as it has been since the start of the pandemic and, as our data shows, many people are already actively planning their next big trip - even for trips more than four months out,” said Shibani Walia, senior research analyst, Tripadvisor, “For destinations, brands and tourism operators, it is so important that they act now to attract this early booking demand, or else they risk missing out to the competition.”

The data cited in this release was gathered and analyzed from two key sources:
  • A Tripadvisor Consumer Sentiment Survey, based on data drawn from an online survey of 2,330 consumers, in partnership with Qualtrics, conducted between 12/28/20 through 1/10/21 across six countries - U.S., UK, Australia, Italy, Singapore and Japan
  • Site behavioral data sourced from first party traffic data on the Tripadvisor platform, gathered during the week commencing 1/4/21

Other recent studies released by Tripadvisor include:

Top 10 Picnic Spots on the Gold Coast

Picnic season is officially upon us. So it’s time to grab your friends, family, lover (or all of the above); pack your picnic bags and enjoy your cheese and crackers lakeside, in a picturesque park or by the beach.

From North to South, here are the 10 most idyllic picnic spots on the Gold Coast.


It may seem so far away but it’s only a 20-minute drive from Broadbeach. This underrated hinterland destination will be your new favourite picnic spot this spring. Variety is definitely the word that comes to mind. Take in the beautiful scenery, have a swim, sip on that cold bubbly and enjoy your day out with family and friends. They have a BBQ area, kid’s playground and even a small café in case you need fresh supplies.
Photo right: Take in the afternoon at Hinze Dam. Image Credit: @hel_bucknell


Mt Tamborine is picnic paradise and has more picnic areas than a year has days; Cedar Creek Falls is by far one of the best. Driving up the winding roads and taking in the scenic beauty is almost enough entertainment. But that’s not all; Cedar Creek Falls are located just metres from three waterfalls and countless walking tracks, making it the perfect place to spend your next Sunday.
Photo left: Take lunch and a dip at Cedar Creek Falls. Image Credit @acrookgardner


This little oasis nestled in Surfers Paradise (most commonly used for getting around the GC600 every year) is great for picnic dates of all sorts. The tranquil setting with cascading water running through the park is home to many birds, so don’t forget your stale bread. There’s also that super fun bridge previously built for the Indy in 2007. When you’ve had enough, head into town for a drink at one of the many trendy bars.


It’s hard to believe that this beautiful little piece of earth is a mere 10-minute drive from Surfers Paradise. In case you haven’t been to the Botanical Gardens, we urge you to go! Whether you want to take the whole family or go on a romantic date, it’s the perfect setting for both and anything in between. They even have a butterfly garden! You’ll have to make it an early arvo picnic though; they close daily at 7pm.
Photo right: Relax lakeside at Benowa’s Botanical Gardens. Image Credit: @majast3_onlyonelife_livinit


Cascade Gardens are centrally located in between Surfers and Broadbeach and offer you more than a few barbecue and (undercover) picnic shelters. This peaceful riverside sanctuary is the perfect date hot spot but with a huge playground, it’s also popular with families wishing to keep the kids entertained for hours.


This one is a no-brainer, Burleigh Hill is without a doubt the most popular picnic spot on the Coast. You can’t beat the views overlooking the Surfers Paradise skyline. Although if you want to get a good spot on a Sunday, be sure to get there early as many locals (and travellers alike) regularly unite here to see and be seen. Even for a solo trip, the sunset is picturesque.
Photo Left: Be seen by the sea at Burleigh Hill. Image Credit: @burleighgelatoco


Adjacent to North Burleigh Surf Club is Ed Hardy Park, offering a huge kids playground and a number of BBQ areas perfect for that Sunday arvo picnic with the family. Walk up Miami Hill and take in the views towards Surfers Paradise or have a delightful dip in the ocean. Even if you run out of supplies, Coles and Aldi are just across the road, or like most people, you might just end up at Miami Shark Bar.


The battle between what side to choose at Tally Creek continues. But no matter which one you go to, Tallebudgera Creek won’t disappoint as a family favourite. The calm creek waters are perfect for a little splash before devouring your mobile buffet. Beware of the hungry bush turkeys.
Photo right: A little piece of paradise at Tallebudgera Creek. Image Credit: @spied_on_the_run


Not many people know about this lovely yet hidden little picnic spot in Currumbin Valley. It’s a great destination to get away, relax by the creek and maybe even go for a dip. But note well in advance, there are no toilets or BBQ stations, pure nature is the theme here, so come prepared. Drive along Currumbin Creek Road and take a right turn at Bains Road, the park is situated just over the bridge.


Kirra Lookout is the Burleigh Hill of Coolangatta; just not as busy with more parking opportunities (tick!). You can either drive or walk up, but be warned, it’s quite steep – you’ll burn off your picnic before you make it to the top. Enjoy the view whilst nibbling on some crackers and sipping on an icy cold one, it’s pretty special.
Photo left: Take in the stunning Southern Gold Coast sea view from Kirra Point Lookout. Image Credit: @bearbythebeach

Looking for the ultimate picnic experience? Have your picnic set up in one of these beautiful locations for you with the help of our friends at Alfresco Pop Up Picnics. Perfect for all special occasions or just an afternoon in the sunshine for a trip to remember.
So what are you waiting for? Book your next trip to the Gold Coast and hit these 10 unreal picnic spots (perfect for the gram).


Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) is now able to host events at up to 75 per cent capacity per event space, to a maximum of 5,000 attendees, following the implementation of stringent health and safety measures to keep customers safe.

MCEC has an approved COVIDSafe Event plan from the Victorian Government and is approved to hold seated or standing events of up to 75 per cent capacity.

These approved measures include methods to ensure contact tracing, changes to food and beverage service and physical distancing, as well as preventing attendance at events by delegates from designated red zones.

Each prospective event organiser seeking to hold their event at MCEC can work with venue staff to ensure their type of event complies with the approved MCEC plan, and that they provide any required additional information to the Department of Health and Human Services so that their event is safe.

Peter King, Chief Executive of Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, said MCEC is excited to see the gradual return of events to the venue.

“Whilst we have been innovative throughout the pandemic to ensure continued use of the space, we are thrilled to be able to host exhibitions and other events again,” he said.

“At MCEC we are incredibly proud to be acknowledged as a standout venue for COVID-safety, as our customer health and comfort is our top priority.”

MCEC’s comprehensive VenueSafe Plan includes:
  • VenueSafe advisors to work alongside event organisers, employees and contractors to ensure all health measures are followed.
  • Restricting building access to event attendees only, with no general public access allowed.
  • Health check stations at each entry point, including access to regular hand sanitising 
  • Frequent routine cleaning and signage prominently displayed to indicate 1.5 metre physical distancing.
  • All employees trained on coronavirus (COVID-19) safety and sanitisation protocols. 



The Big Banana Fun Park has announced a $50 million Master Plan to expand the iconic tourist attraction over the next 20 years.

The Plan will see the construction of new rides and attractions on an additional 15 hectares of land, including up to 50 holiday accommodation cabins.

In addition to the cabins, a number of attractions are expected to be completed as early as 2023, including an expansion of the Water Park with a duelling raft ride, a new Plantation Coaster, a contemporary brewery and restaurant and a “Demolition Derby” amusement ride.

Future stages will include 4.5-star multi-level, resort-style accommodation with expansive ocean views, as well as conferencing and event facilities.

The Big Banana General Manager Michael Lockman said: “The Big Banana Fun Park Master Plan presents a 20-year vision that will further establish this iconic tourist attraction as a key destination for Coffs Harbour and the North Coast. With a renewed focused on domestic tourism in Australia, the timing is perfect for these very exciting enhancements.”

Image: The Big Banana General Manager Michael Lockman


Destination NSW

5 Places to find your zen on the Gold Coast

In a world full of distractions it's natural to want to escape the norm, our routines and familiar sights. For those looking to do exactly that, the Gold Coast offers a mecca of natural and man-made locations to let you sit back, relax and enjoy all the fabulous things in life.

So if you're a peace and quiet lover and are seeking serenity, read on for 5 of the best Gold Coast experiences in Tallebudgera Valley and surrounds.

Photo right: Enjoy the calm surrounds at Gwinganna. Image Credit: Destination Gold Coast


Take a stroll around Burleigh Head National Park

For a walk that highlights the best land and seascape views of both Tallebudgera, Burleigh and beyond, look no further than the natural headland in Burleigh Head National Park. With two trail options – one slightly more challenging than the other – you can be in the thick of the rainforest’s lush vegetation or viewing the Gold Coast from an elevated vantage point in just minutes… all without paying a cent.

Southern Access:
• Accessible from the car park just before Tallebudgera Bridge, south of Jellurgul Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

Northern Access:
• Entry via the top car park on Goodwin Terrace in Burleigh Heads.

Ocean View Walk
The Ocean View Walk is an easy 1.3km (one way) trail that’s not too taxing on the body and offers spectacular views of the seaway entrance or ‘mouth’ of Tallebudgera Creek and the neighbouring coastline of Palm Beach. Not to mention stunning vistas of Burleigh all the way to Surfers Paradise. If you’re keen to stop for a swim, swing a right at the fork at about 5-10 minutes into your walk via this south Tallebudgera Creek entrance to visit the secluded Echo Beach. Or opt for the patrolled Lifeguard area at Burleigh Heads Beach at the opposite end.

Rainforest Circuit
Regardless of what entrance you start at, the Rainforest Circuit (2.3km return) is one that reaps great reward. Take on the challenge of around 100 steps and several gradual inclined paths to reach a maximum elevation of 74 metres, stopping at Tumgun Lookout on the way. Here you’ll find a small viewing platform with magnificent unobtrusive views of the southern Gold Coast. While you stand and take it all in, you may also be lucky enough to see local birdlife, lizards and even whales (generally from June to October) frolicking in the distance.

Relax and restore at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
Tucked away in the lesser-known hinterland region of Tallebudgera Valley lies 200 hectares of pure relaxation bliss. We’re talking about the one and only Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.

Not only does this renowned wellness retreat and spa ooze both luxury and simplicity, but it’s also ecotourism certified and guaranteed (well, we certainly think so) to help rid you of all stresses; soothe the soul and find your inner zen.

Welcomed by surrounding ocean and valley views that span from Moreton Bay to Coolangatta, the retreat is also equipped with a number of wellness programs, activities and room styles to suit all tastes. Choose from Billabong Villas on the water to quaint Heritage Cottages and dedicated Meditation Suites amongst the trees. Holding rank as the largest spa in the Southern Hemisphere, the 33 indoor and outdoor room Spa Sanctuary with elevated outdoor deck and lounge area is also a beautiful sight to behold on the property.

For those looking for a wellness retreat that’s different from the rest, Gwinganna offers a separate range of small and extended stay packages to help you totally disconnect from the wider world and change bad daily habits such as smoking or assist those looking to improve physical health and weight loss. An average day includes daily wake-ups to watch the sunrise and practise Qi Gong (a type of meditation), right after a guided hike or walk before breakfast, followed by the rest of the day partaking in yoga and a hosted wellness seminar with organic meals throughout. It’s the ultimate relaxation haven to leave you feeling on top of the world.

Oh, and if you weren’t already convinced… Australian icon himself, Hugh Jackman is also a part-owner in this luxe Gold Coast oasis, so we know we’re onto a good thing.


Dine and browse local and international art at Dust Temple
Checking out of Tallebudgera Valley and into Currumbin Valley you’ll certainly find another local hidden gem or two. To check out one that’s at the top of our list, jump in the car and head to Dust Temple – an eclectic arts space that hosts and showcases a number of local, national and international artists.

Transformed in 2013 from an old warehouse in the small industrial area on Currumbin Creek Road, Dust Temple offers a unique community space to grab your morning coffee and browse the collection of creative works on display. Sit indoors to admire the rustic architecture and all the quirky decor or cosy up on the outdoor tables roadside to watch the world go by.

Dust also holds a rolling calendar of events from local jazz singers, theatre performances and dance shows to touring local musicians and live poetry readings, so whatever time of year you choose to visit the Gold Coast, there’s bound to be something here to tickle your fancy.

Sample local produce at the historic Freeman’s Organic Farm
Taking the old-school roadside fruit and veggie stall to the next level, we introduce to you Freeman’s Organic Farm. With over 100 years experience in producing quality, fresh organic (and non-organic) produce, the now fourth-generation owner and hands-on farmer David Freeman continues to share his family’s passion with the local community and travellers alike.

Operating one-hour long farm tours every Sunday at 10am around the 25-acre property, visitors learn all about the impressive history of the farm (which originally started as a banana plantation), whilst taking in what is arguably some of the best views in the entire Currumbin Valley.

Located on Tomewin Road in Currumbin, Freeman’s Organic Farm is open Friday to Sunday, 7.30am to 2.30pm.

Wander eco-friendly stalls at The Green Marquee Twilight Market
Continuing the organic theme from Freeman’s Farm, jump back in the car and head north-east for 10 minutes, past the popular Currumbin Rock Pools to the corner of Village Way and Currumbin Creek Road. Here you’ll find Gold Coast markets and specialty events company, The Green Marquee in Currumbin’s Ecovillage.

Held every second Saturday of the month from 3-8pm, this eco-friendly twilight market is a collection of recycled fashion, homewares, art and beauty. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, there’s also live music and a range of food stalls on offer, including a small selection of gin and craft beers – all ready for you to enjoy over a beautiful sunset and early evening stars.

We’ll see you soon!

Tags: #goldcoast, #relaxation


CHEAT SHEET: TOSCA Everything you need to know about Puccini’s blood-soaked, lustful melodrama, Tosca.

Tosca opens at the Sydney Opera House on 22 February for a strictly limited season! 

Who was the composer?

Giacomo Puccini. Born in Tuscany in 1858, Puccini is an Italian composer who took Verdi’s crown as the most prominent composer of Italian opera in his day. Renowned for his love affairs, Puccini left a trail of broken hearts across Italy, but also left us music-lovers 10 beautiful operas, three of which are regularly in the top 10 operas performed around the world.

Puccini’s music is sweeping, uplifting, enchanting and always intensely moving. His real genius, however, was to combine that music with stories about ordinary people.

The composer himself once said that his success was due to putting “great sorrows in little souls”.

Above right: Photograph of composer, Giacomo Puccini, seated at the piano.

What happens in the story?

In a beautiful church, the painter Cavaradossi is working. When an escaped prisoner bursts in, Cavaradossi risks his own life to help Angelotti hide from the Fascist police. But Cavaradossi’s lover, Tosca, overhears him talking and becomes jealous. In spite of Cavaradossi’s ardent assurances of love, it is easy for the chief of police, Scarpia to fan the flames of her jealousy. He wants Tosca for himself.

Scarpia arrests Cavaradossi on suspicion of aiding Angelotti, and as he is tortured, Tosca is made to listen to his cries. She has a fateful choice before her: give into the hateful Scarpia’s lascivious demands and save her lover’s life, or save her honour and kill Cavaradossi. In that terrible moment, Tosca makes a choice, and the consequences play out in a heart-rending Act III.

Who are the main characters?

Floria Tosca: a singer
Mario Cavaradossi: a painter, Tosca’s lover
Baron Scarpia: Rome’s Chief of Police and the villain of the opera

What's the big hit?

Vissi d'arte
Although Puccini ended up resenting this stunning aria because he believed it slowed down the fast-moving plot, it has become an audience favourite and a star-making showpiece for the sopranos that conquer its notes.

'E lucevan le stelle'
Act III brings us a beautiful moment of light as Cavaradossi, sentenced to death, reflects on happier times, in a tenor aria guaranteed to bring the crowd to its feet.

Where have I heard that before?

You might have heard both of these arias any time opera's greatest hits are performed. If you're a James Bond fan, you saw a whole scene from Tosca in the Daniel Craig film, Quantum of Solace.

Something to listen out for

Each character has its own theme, or leitmotif. Scarpia’s is the easiest to listen out for – it opens the work and repeats several times. The ‘tetrachord’ is four long, threatening notes: dissonant, slow, loud and rough, it conveys both his evil and his power. Listen out for how it changes as [spoiler] he lays dying in Act II.

This production is...

… the work of legendary Australian actor and director John Bell. This production cuts right to the heart of Puccini’s thriller. Bell sought to recapture the shock that audiences must have felt at its premiere, so he has relocated it to a setting we all recognise: Fascist Italy in 1943, under German rule. He wanted the audience to recognise the everyday banality of evil, he said.

“A tyrannical regime, resistance fighters hunted down, women forced to give sexual favours in order to protect a loved one,” Bell explains, “these things are still happening, and always have been, during war.”

Michael Scott-Mitchell designed the breathtaking set, a faithful reproduction of the spectacular Sant’Andrea della Valle church in which Puccini set his opera.

A little history

Puccini based this opera on Sardou’s play La Tosca, a play written to showcase the talents of Sarah Bernhardt. Puccini was desperate to secure the rights, writing to his publisher/agent Ricordi: “In this Tosca I see the opera that suits me perfectly, with no overblown proportions, not envisaged as a decorative spectacle and not requiring the usual superabundance of music.” It was a competitive process, with publishers, librettists and Sardou himself getting into conflict over whether he could make an opera out of the play.

In the end, Puccini won the rights, and work began. The composer insisted upon a Roman premiere as a reflection of the opera’s setting, but the opening night was delayed a few times and eventually put on watch for fear it might attract anarchist bombings. In spite of this, the Prime Minister of Italy, along with other composers, and even local royalty attended.

It was a box office success from the get-go, although critics were slower to come on board, calling it vulgar, licentious and ‘three hours of noise’. They were clearly mistaken — today, Tosca is one of the world’s most popular operas.

Conversation starters

  1. The love duet between Tosca and Cavaradossi is so evocative that maestro Burton Fisher once described it as a kind of ‘pornophony’.
  2. Playwright Sardou was so determined to keep his hand on the developing opera that he managed to get his own name listed ahead of the librettists Illica and Giacosa in the first edition.
  3. Puccini set each act of his opera in three very specific locations, all of which you can still visit today: the Sant’Andrea della Valle church in Rome, the Palazzo Farnese and the Castel Sant’ Angelo over the River Tiber.
More fun facts, including a risqué musical pun.

In a nutshell

The composer: Puccini. Italian. Late 19th century.

The music: From tender love duets to mournful arias, and the showstopping 'Te Deum' Chorus, this is music to make you feel.

The big hit: 'Vissi d'arte', a gorgeous soprano showpiece reflecting on a life lived for art.

The setting: Originally set in June 1800, John Bell's production updates the action to Nazi-occupied Italy during WWII.

The history: Everyone wanted a piece of the Sardou play La Tosca, but no one was sure how to turn it into an opera. Puccini won the rights and cut the play to the bones. His opera was a success from the get-go.

A quirky fact to impress your date: There is a real hiding place in one of the chapels of the Sant'Andrea della Valle church, perfectly set up to conceal Angelotti!

Tosca at Sydney Opera House

Opera Australia
PO Box 291, Strawberry Hills NSW 2012, Australia

Thursday, 21 January 2021


Thailand’s Tourism Minister said on Monday he had proposed a plan to allow foreigners to quarantine in some of the country’s many golf resorts to boost the ailing tourism sector during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are discussing with the Public Health Ministry and the country’s coronavirus taskforce to offer hotel and golf quarantine for tourists with medical certificates,” Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn told reporters.

Foreign tourists would be able to spend the two-week quarantine period at a specified resort and move around in the hotel area and also play golf, he said, rather than just isolating in their rooms.

The plan, which is subject to the approval of the cabinet, comes as the Southeast Asian country grapples with a second wave of coronavirus infections after managing to largely contain community spread for months.

Thailand has reported a relatively low 10,547 COVID-19 infections and 67 deaths, though since several clusters emerged in December the country has been recording several hundred new cases a day.

Thailand attracted 40 million tourists in 2019 who spent 1.91 trillion baht ($63.4 billion), but the number of visitors dived during the pandemic after its borders were sealed, devastating hotels, restaurants and tourist spots that relied on foreigner visitors.

Read the full article at Reuters:
Photo: Asia’s Hideto Tanihara of Japan hits the ball on the fourth hole during the second day of foursomes competition against Europe at the Royal Trophy golf tournament in Chonburi province, near Bangkok, January 10, 2009. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND)/File Photo
Tags: golf quarantine, golf tourism, Thailand, tourism recovery

Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office
c/o 3rd Floor, Department of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and Sports, 154 Rama 1 Road National Stadium, Wangmai, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Tel: +66 2038 5071-1