Sunday, 30 September 2012

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam

The War Remnants Museum is a major tourist attraction in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was opened in September 1975 and is run by the Vietnamese Government,

On a recent visit to Vietnam I went to the Museum and explored the the three levels of exhibits to view the numerous artefacts, photographs and pictures

The first level of the museum shows propaganda material used during the war. There are posters of different languages, including German and Japanese. This level also has the Children's Painting Collection, the International Support for the Vietnamese People Pavilion (mostly communist countries like Cuba, China, the then Soviet Union, North Korea and prominent western communist leaders), and assorted hand held weapons used in the war enclosed in glass panels.
The second level of the museum displays photos and descriptions of the effects on the descendents of those involved in the war of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, napalm and phosphorus bombs.

The third level of the museum has write-up accounts and photographs of the war experiences from various photographers involved in the war. This is a powerful collection of photographs taken by 134 international journalists who were killed during the Vietnam War. Another room on this level contains photographs, propaganda, news clippings, and signboards from the war, and another the Vietnam post-war recovery efforts.

Outside, there are displays of some vehicles and tanks used during the Vietnam War, including a UH-1 "Huey" helicopter, an F-5A fighter, a BLU-82 "Daisy Cutter" bomb, M48 Patton tank, an A-1 Skyraider attack bomber, and an A-37 Dragonfly attack bomber. Several display aircraft (F-5, A-37) have non-standard markings indicating "U.S. Air Force," but are in fact former South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) aircraft. Outside there is also a display of prisons and torture chambers. These included the "Tiger Cages", small cages used to kept the prisoners-of-war, and a guillotine.

Address - 28 Ð Vo Van Tan
Phone - 08 3930 5587
Price - admission 15, 000d
Hours - 7.30am-noon & 1.30-5pm

Marriott Launches The Imperial Mansion Apartments in Beijing

The Imperial Mansion
Marriott International has opened The Imperial Mansion, Beijing - Marriott Executive Apartments, the group’s fifth extended-stay property in China.

Simon Cooper, president & managing director, Marriott International Asia-Pacific, said: “We are pleased that the popularity of the Marriott Executive Apartments brand in China continues to grow, and we are delighted to be opening this flagship apartment in Beijing.”

Situated in the centre of Wangfujing district, The Imperial Mansion, Beijing offers 220 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments ranging from 64m2 to 228m2.  Guests have 24-hour access to the fitness centre, while other facilities include a playroom for children, a heated 25-metre indoor infinity pool that oversees the Forbidden City and a 180m2 multifunctional meeting space.

The Imperial Mansion
Besides The Imperial Mansion, Beijing, Marriott’s portfolio in China consists of four other extended-stay properties, including the 237-unit Shanghai Tomorrow Square, the 223-unit Union Square, Shanghai, the 96-unit The Lakeview, Tianjin and the 168-unit The Sandalwood, Beijing.

A sixth extended-stay property in China is slated to open in Shenzhen by 2013.

Milestone Events a Golden Opportunity to Celebrate Queenstown's Heritage

October will be a month for the history books for the Queenstown region as it celebrates two major milestones - the 100th birthday of the TSS Earnslaw steamship and the 150th anniversary of gold discovered in Central Otago.

The TSS Earnslaw’s century of outstanding service on Lake Wakatipu will be celebrated with a week-long birthday party from 14 to 22 October which will include special lake cruises, period costumes, live entertainment, food and family fun.

Thousands of locals and visitors are expected to turn out to pay tribute to Queenstown’s much loved steamer, affectionately known as the ‘Lady of the Lake’, now one of the oldest tourist attractions in Central Otago and the only remaining coal-fired passenger vessels still operating in the Southern Hemisphere. Her captivating history ranges from operating as a freight and passenger service boat for high country stations to hosting royalty and taking a role in an Indiana Jones movie.

Over Labour Weekend (19-22 October) there will also be district-wide celebrations to mark 150 years since the discovery of gold.

More than 50 ‘Gold 150’ events – most of them free - will be held in Arrowtown, Glenorchy and Kingston over four days.  Highlights include a re-enactment of the 1862 goldrush on the banks of the Arrow River involving horses and wagons, themed music and 200 volunteers playing the parts of the early settlers, the New Zealand Gold Panning Championships, Chinese Village Theatre with Consulate General Madam Tan as guest of honour, and Glenorchy Day which will feature a cavalcade at 11am.

Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd said October will be a great time to visit the region and explore its rich history.

“The TSS Earnslaw and Gold 150 celebrations are both significant milestones in our history and the celebrations will not only provide some great entertainment, they’ll help locals and visitors to connect to our past and relive key moments,” said Mr Budd.

Key dates:

  • Thursday 18 October - TSS Earnslaw Official 100th Birthday - featuring a re-enactment of the maiden passenger voyage from Kingston to Queenstown.  The vintage Kingston Flyer steam train and the TSS Earnslaw will meet up in Kingston, providing yet another nostalgic step back in time. 
  • Saturday 20 October - Relive the Gold Rush of 1862 through a re-enactment on the banks of the Arrow River featuring 200 volunteers playing the parts of the early settlers, horses and wagons, and themed music
  • Saturday 20 October - Chinese Village Theatre – traditional Chinese welcome featuring a Chinese Dragon, Lion Dancers and firecrackers, interpretation panel unveiling, shows around the Chinese Village depicting the lives of the miners.  Consulate General Madam Tan will be the official guest of honour at the event. 
  • Saturday 20 October - TSS Earnslaw Woolshed Party - cruise to Mount Nicholas Station on the far shores of Lake Wakatipu for a special 100th birthday bash
  • Sunday 21 October - TSS Earnslaw High Country Station Cruise from Queenstown to Glenorchy - trace the historical freight and mail routes followed by the TSS Earnslaw on its way to the Head of the Lake and Glenorchy. 1900s theme with entertainment, morning/afternoon tea and historians on board
  • Sunday 21 October - New Zealand Gold Panning Championships

For more information of these events please visit:

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Unification Palace Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam

The Reunification Palace is located where the Norodom Palace was formerly erected way back during the French colonial period. This original Palace was destroyed in 1962 during the Vietnam War when an aircraft bombed the left wing of the Palace.
Unification Palace

It was decided to demolish the Palace and rebuild it. President Diem commissioned the building of the Palace but was assassinated shortly after construction started. It was designed by Paris-trained Vietnamese architect Ngo Viet Thu. The construction was undertaken by Saigon engineers and was completed in 1966 after three years of construction.

Reception Room

Originally known as Presidential Palace or Independence Palace The Palace is most well known for or Hall, it is now known as Reunification Palace. It merges classic 60's architecture with the principles of feng shui and Chinese calligraphy. The design of the building is said to represent the Chinese character Hung which means the nation to be prosperous forever.

Conference Room
On the ground floor of the Unification Palace are the meeting room and conference room, which has a boat-shaped table that was often used for conferences.

On the second floor are the offices of the president and vice president, the banquet hall, the receiving rooms, and private halls of the President, his wife and Vice-President

Reception Room
On the third floor are the recreation room, card-playing room, movie theatre and more. This floor also possesses a terrace with a heliport where a helicopter is parked. There is a replica of the US Helicopter that was used for the evacuation of the President before the North Vietnamese arrived..

The residential quarters are in the back of the building. The fourth floor was used for dancing.

Basement Room
The basement levels contain a bomb shelter built with thick walls and underground tunnels housing a command centre. This area served as headquaters and the heart of operations for the South during the war. Included are a telecommunications centre, operation room, mobile radio section, a spare radio station, war room (full of 1960s phones, radios, office equipment and maps) President's bedroom, large kitchen, and a shooting range. It is left exactly as it was found when the war ended.

The Palace also garages a Mercedes car which was one of the cars used by the President of the Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Van Thieu

The Reunification Palace is one the most important attractions in Ho Chi Minh City because it was the site where the Vietnam war ended.

The Palace is most famous for Tank (No.  843) crashing through the gates on April 30th 1975, when South Vietnam surrendered and the war finished. The two tanks in the palace grounds were used to break through the gates of the palace by the North Vietnamese Army

Entrance Ticket : 15,000 dong which includes free guided tours (English, French, Chinese and Japanese).
Ticket sales: 7:30 am until 11:00 am and 13:00pm until 16:00pm.
Palace open: 7:30 am until noon, 13:00 until 17:00 pm

Website -

India and China to Strengthen Tourism Cooperation

Mr. Zhu Shanzhong
India and China have expressed their willingness to strengthen bilateral tourism cooperation. This was decided at a meeting between Mr. Zhu Shanzhong, Vice Chairman of China National Tourism Administration and Shri Girish Shankar, Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Tourism in New Delhi today.

It was also decided that exchange visit of students and faculty from Hotel Management Institutes between the two countries which started in September 2007 may be continued on regular basis. Both the sides were of the opinion that Faculty exchange programmes should be organized between the Human Resource Development Institutes in India and China. It was also decided that a special programme can be organized wherein the HRD experts from India and China can visit some of the Institutes in both countries and interact with the teaching faculty through conferences and seminars. Tour Operators and Travel Agents of both the countries may interact with each other in order to promote two way tourism between India and China. The possibilities for promoting more package tours in either of the countries could also be explored by the travel trade of the two countries. Both the countries would like to exchange relevant information/statistics with regard to tourist arrivals, targets and projection, infrastructure facilities, etc. Now that Hotels and Tourism sector has been opened for Foreign Direct Investment up to 100% on automatic routes, Chinese investment in tourism infrastructure in India could be one of the major areas of cooperation.

Shri Girish Shankar
It may be recalled that a MoU was signed on December 08, 2002 between the Ministry of Tourism and National Tourism Administration of the People’s Republic of China on the implementation plan for organized group travel by Chinese citizens to India. In addition, China has accorded ‘Approved Destination Status’ to India to enable Chinese Travel Agencies to organize the outbound travel groups of Chinese citizens to India.

The Chinese delegation is on a visit to India under Ministry of External Affairs Distinguished Visitor’s Programme (DVP) for China. Under this programme MEA invites provincial leaders and influential opinion makers from China to visit India and get firsthand experience of recent developments in India.

Dusit International Showcases Hotels and Resorts in China

James Ramage,
Dusit International is staging a major roadshow in China and Hong Kong aimed at the travel trade and MICE markets from 19 – 28 September 2012.  Led by James Ramage, Assistant Vice President - Sales, Dusit International, the timely promotional initiative that aims also to consolidate partner relationships while gaining brand exposure in the market, features the group’s widely acclaimed hotel and resort properties including those in Thailand, Maldives, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.

“The Dusit brand, long synonymous with the highest standards of comfort and service in luxurious settings, is poised to increase its regional and international presence with an aggressive development strategy well underway,” explained James Ramage.

“That programme has already been bolstered by the recent appointment of Dennis Lee as the new Regional Director of Sales in the Hong Kong sales office and who brings more that 18 years of wide ranging hospitality sales management experience to his new role. A new Director of Sales has also been appointed to the China Sales Office.   The current roadshow serves not only as potent sales tool, but also reinforces the Dusit brand which is set to be boosted even further with the opening of two new properties in China – the Dusit Thani Hainan and Dusit Devarana Hainan. Both properties, while encapsulating the Dusit Thani experience also include extensive world-class meeting facilities designed to respond to the ever growing demands of a MICE market seeking new and exclusive destinations. The Dusit Thani Hainan and Dusit Devarana Hainan are scheduled for an operational debut in 2013,” added the Assistant Vice President – Sales.

Dusit International views China as one of the key growth markets globally, Chinese arrivals to Thailand during the first six months of 2012 were reported as more than 1,124,00 by the Thailand Ministry of Sports and Tourism, making it the most important inbound tourism market for the Kingdom.

Significantly, during the same period, Dusit International enjoyed a  dramatic increase in the number of Chinese guests – up almost 67.27 per cent over a similar period in 2011.  Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai are all popular destinations for Chinese visitors while in other markets served by Dusit International hotels and resorts, such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and more recently, the Maldives, the importance of the Chinese tourism market continues to increase.

Dennis Lee
Travellers from Hong Kong have long been a significant conributor to the inbound arrivals to Thailand. The Kingdom is currently rated one of the top preferred destinations for Hong Kongers  with their arrival numbers estimated to reach more than 450,000. Overall, the average stay in Thailand for a visitor from Hong Kong is 6.54 days, with average daily spending of 5,599.70 baht. They are expected to spend an average of around 37,000THB per trip on luxury items and services, and more than 80% of Hong Kong arrivals are repeat visitors. New market trends responding to the increasingly discerning needs of the Hong traveller focus on Health and Wellness, Fly and Drive, Wedding and Photography and Golf.

Enjoy A Stopover In Ipswich - Queensland's Best Kept Secret

Metro Hotel Ipswich International.
With summer just months away, thousands of NSW residents are planning to enjoy a truly Australian summer holiday on the iconic beaches of the Queensland coast. Yet when planning their trip, only a few regular travellers along this route are likely to know to stop off in what is Queensland's best kept secret - the city of Ipswich.

Located just 30 minutes from Brisbane, Ipswich is Queensland's oldest provincial city and the perfect place to break your journey. This wonderfully historic city offers visitors plenty to see and do, be it exploring some of the country's finest examples of domestic architecture with houses dating back to the 1800s, wandering through the award-winning Workshops Rail Museum (the birthplace of Queensland Rail), visiting the Ipswich Art Gallery, and visiting more than 500 parks, wineries, cafes and restaurants.

Ipswich is also known for its local art and craft cottage industries, with art galleries, markets and craft and antique stores centrally located as well as being scattered in the many beautiful townships that dot the surrounding countryside.

And when in Ipswich, Metro Hotel Ipswich International is the perfect place to stay. Rated four and half stars, the Metro Hotel Ipswich International is boutique in size but equipped with all the facilities of a much larger hotel. This six-storey hotel overlooks pristine parklands, offering 97 rooms including nine one-bedroom Serviced Apartments, two Executive Spa Suites and 68 Superior Rooms and 16 Deluxe Rooms.

Hotel General Manager Ted Matthews said Ipswich is an ideal stopover destination for NSW holidaymakers who are considering a stop to break their journey on their way to Brisbane or the Gold Coast.

"Ipswich is indeed a hidden gem, often missed in the rush to get to another destination in Queensland when in fact people will enjoy the journey more if they take the time to stop and soak in some of the wonderful atmosphere of this historical city," he said.

To enjoy a meal during your stay, the hotel's signature restaurant Platform 9 serves a delicious a-la-carte menu. Adjoining the main restaurant is a stylish lounge and bar - the perfect place for a cooling drink after a long day on the road.

Metro Hotel Ipswich International.
Metro Hotels is the public face of Transmetro Corporation, an Australian owned public company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The Group currently provides a national accommodation network of properties, with over 1000 rooms in key locations and major cities across Australia.

A wide range of accommodation packages are available at Metro Hotel Ipswich International.  To book, log onto or call the property direct on 07 3812 8077.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Be a Legend and Stay at the Legend Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City

Legend Hotel
I had the privilege of staying at the Legend Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City from the 11 -15 September when I attended ITE HCMC 2012. The slogan of the hotel is “Not a myth, but a legend”, and it certainly lived up to this.

The Legend Hotel, Saigon combines natural beauty and sheer opulence to provide the best for the discerning traveller. The breathtaking resort setting and its distinctive architectural interior gives one a feeling of luxury and tranquillity. The Legend Hotel is nestled in Saigon's scenic riverside area and is within walking distance to major commercial addresses.

The Legend Hotel takes business and pleasure to heart. Guests can enjoy the best of Saigon while being pampered with superb accommodation and excellent service.

The foyer is large and spacious, with fresh flower arrangements and a grand piano played in the evenings. The breakfast buffet was amazing with more than enough different types of Vietnamese, other Asian and Western food to choose from.


The 283 luxuriously appointed rooms at the Legend Hotel Saigon includes 11 suites and 60 executive rooms. All rooms are tastefully designed to provide space and comfort with top-of-the line guest amenities. My room was lovely, as it was large, comfortable and overlooked the pool area.

Legend Privileges for all Room Categories

  • Free Wi-Fi and cable internet access 
  • Daily English newspaper 
  • Turn-down service 
  • Complimentary mineral water daily (2 bottles) 
  • Voice message system 
  • In-room tea/coffee making facilities 
  • Satellite cable TV programs 
  • In-room safe 
  • Free local calls 
  • 10% discount at selected shops in hotel
  • Free use of fitness center and swimming pool. 
  • Complimentary hotel-city shuttle service

Privileges for executive guests

  • Welcome Fruit Basket 
  • Welcome flower in room
  • Welcome Drink
  • Continental Breakfast in executive lounge or International buffet breakfast in Atrium Cafe. 
  • Free Broadband internet in the comfort and privacy of your own room
  • Free meeting room in the executive lounge (Upon availability)
  • Express Check In/Check Out in the executive lounge
  • Coffee, tea and snack from 2pm to 5pm
  • Cocktails from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm


Business Center
Located on the second floor, the Business Center is complete with state-of-the-art facilities that enable guests to set up virtual offices of varying sizes. Also available are Executive Offices that can be rented on daily, weekly or monthly terms. Secretarial services, typing, translation and telephone answering services are also readily available.
Open from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm
Fitness Center
Guests can enjoy a full-body workout with top-of-the-line exercise equipment at the Fitness Center. Cap this with a steam bath or a refreshing dip in the pool
Open from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm

Wellness Center
Need to get away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day work? Feeling stressed?  Pamper yourself with a full body massage at the Massage Center. Free your body and mind from your worries and let the highly trained lady masseuse ease the tension away through our body and foot massages and foot reflexology.
Open from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm

Swimming pool
Take a dip in the Legend Swimming Pool and relax in the exotic garden setting. Enjoy a refreshing drink and the snack menu including home-made ice-cream.
Open from 6:00 am to 09:00 pm


Lobby Lounge
Enjoy a hot cup of coffee or a soothing cup of tea and couple these with our mouthwatering cakes, pastries and bread at the Legend hotel’s lobby lounge. While your time away with friends and family and enjoy our daily High Tea Buffet – a sure delight for those with a penchant for sweets and desserts.
Operating hours 07:00 am – 12:00 am

Atrium Café
The Atrium Café is known as the mother of buffets in Ho Chi Minh City. Tour the world and experience a wide variety of Asian and Euro-Continental cuisine. The Atrium Café offers exciting theme dishes on a monthly basis.
Breakfast 6:00 am – 10:00 am, Lunch 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, Dinner 6:00 pm – 11:30 pm 

OGGI steak & bar
Enjoy American and Australia beef together with premium wines. A place to relax and unwind.
Operating hours 5:00 pm – 1:00 am

Crystal Jade Palace
Crystal Jade serves authentic Cantonese cuisine with fresh live seafood, and many kinds of Dim Sum.
Lunch 11:00 am – 2:30 pm, Dinner  6:00 pm – 10:30 pm

Yoshino Japanese Restaurant
Yoshino Japanese Restaurant is located on the second floor of Legend Hotel Saigon, and will enchant you with its delicate traditional "Omakase" set dinner and a wide range of a la carte menu.
Lunch 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, Dinner  6:00 pm – 10:00 pm


In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, along Ton Duc Thang Street and fronting the scenic Saigon River stands the Legend Hotel Saigon. Within walking distance to major business addresses and points of interest, it is ideally located for travelers to explore the charm of the historic and progressive city.

2A-4A Ton Duc Thang Street
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel : (84-8) 3823 3333 Fax : (84-8) 3823 2333

75th Annual Grampians Wildflower Show

This is a unique chance to get up close to experience the Grampians region's endemic woodland, heathland and wetland wildflowers and orchids, ask questions of wildflower experts, take part in a bus and walk tour and take the kids along for fun craft activities.

The Grampians Wildflower Show will celebrate its milestone 75th birthday at Centenary Hall in Halls Gap, Victoria, Australia, from October 4-7.

75th Annual Grampians Wildflower Show
Take your camera to capture their delicate form, vibrant colour and natural beauty. Better still see the wildflowers in their natural environment on one of our twice daily bus/walk tours in the Grampians National Park.

A great family activity for the school holidays, the show will also feature entertainment for the children including fantastic crafts using natural fibres and clay.

Other features of the show will include:
  • exhibits highlighting conservation issues, particularly the work going on to protect our threatened and rare species, particularly orchids.
  • an inspiring collection of local native terrestrial orchids
  • displays celebrating 75 wildflower shows since 1933.
  • hands on children’s activities. Puzzles, quizzes, painting, clay……
  • twice daily bus tours with expert guides to see wildflowers – limited numbers (cost $5)
  • enjoy a Devonshire tea among the flowers
  • gift shop with a wide variety of publications and wildflower related souvenirs
  • Wildflower Tours If you’re keen to see the wildflowers and orchids in their natural environment, experts will take you on a Wildflower Tour. To be held twice daily at 10.15 am and 2pm, the tours will take guests to wildflower hot spots where they can walk amongst the flowers, take photos and absorb the natural beauty of the Grampians National Park. Tours must be booked and paid for on the day. Numbers strictly limited. For those who prefer to tour independently, written drive and walk suggestions will be available,
75th Annual Grampians Wildflower Show
Entry $5 ($4 concession), children for Under 16 free. More info: call 1800 065 599, visit
When: 4th to 7th October 2012 10:30am-4:30pm
Where: Centenary Hall, Halls Gap, Victoria, Australia
Inquiries: Margo Sietsma,  0429 201139,
Further information: or on Facebook.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Free Family Fun at Macau Festival in Sydney

Macau Festival
For the second successive year, Tumbalong Park in Sydney's Darling Harbour will be transformed into a mini Macau in October for a weekend of free family fun.

And all guests who visit the event stand the chance to win a holiday for two to Macau, flying Virgin Atlantic and staying at the plush new Sheraton Macau on the Cotai Strip.

To be staged over two days (October 20-21), the Macau Festival will be colourful open-air event with a jam-packed program of non-stop free entertainment, free activities for the young and young-at-heart and a piazza of food stalls with more than enough delicacies to whet the appetites of guests seeking an exotic dish.

It will run in conjunction with Macau Food Week at Sydney's five-star Sheraton on the Park's newly upgraded Feast restaurant.

Darling Harbour's second annual Macau Festival 2012, once again organised by the Macau Government Tourist Office (Australia and New Zealand), will carry a theme supporting the Asian centre's "Touching Moments, Experience Macau" tourism motto.

Macau Festival
When: weekend of 20th to 21st October 2012 10am-4pm free,
Where: Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour, Sydney
More Information: phone (02) 9264 1488,

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Enjoy Metro Hotel on Pitt's Great Spring Special

Metro Hotel on Pitt
Treat yourself and your partner to an indulgent break this Spring at Metro Hotel on Pitt, a stylish boutique hotel in the heart of Sydney's CBD.  Guests can enjoy Metro Hotel on Pitt's great value Spring Special for $250* per night (a saving of $200 on the normal cost of the package)
Included are
- One night's accommodation for two in a Superior Deluxe Queen room
- Bottle of wine on arrival
- Extended checkout till 12 noon
- Dinner for two people at Paradiso Restaurant on the ground floor (entree, main & coffee/tea)
*offer valid from September 1st - November 30, 2012; subject to availability

Previously a central city Post Office, the 4 star Hotel is located in a charming, heritage-listed building at 300 Pitt Street, making it easy for guests keen to brave the chilly winter air to explore the city.

It is within easy walking distance of Darling Harbour, The Rocks, Pitt Street Mall, Queen Victoria Building, Hyde Park and Chinatown. Metro Hotel on Pitt is only minutes away from Town Hall and Central railway stations and with monorail and buses at the hotel's doorstep, making it easy for guests to travel with no fuss to the airport and Sydney's outlying attractions.

Metro Hotel on Pitt offers 115 comfortable four-star guest rooms complete with modern facilities such as broadband Internet connectivity, key card access to rooms and lift, and cable television.  The Hotel offers a mix of standard, superior and executive rooms, all with ensuite bathrooms, and offers 24 hour reception and room service till 10 pm.

The Hotel's facilities include a fully licensed bar and restaurant, Paradiso, offering a range of Modern Australian and European dishes, and a comprehensive wine list with a choice of local and imported wines. 

Guests will be able to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy a smoke free environment when they stay at the Metro Hotel on Pitt, a 100% smoke free hotel.

Metro Hotel on Pitt
Guests are able to book the Spring Special at Metro Hotel on Pitt by calling the toll free Central Reservations line on 1800 004 321. Alternately guests can book online by logging onto Metro Hotels' website at

Metro Hotels is the public face of Transmetro Corporation, an Australian owned public company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The Group currently provides a national accommodation network of properties, with over 1000 rooms in key locations and major cities across Australia.

For more information on Metro Hotel on Pitt, please contact Sarah Peattie, Peattie Public Relations on (02) 9487 6555.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Accor Celebrates 'International Day of the Older Persons' with Special Discounted Rates for Seniors

Older Australians aged 60 years and over are set to be celebrated on Monday 1st October as part of The United Nations' (UN) International Day of the Older Persons - a special day to recognise the contributions of older people across the globe.

To celebrate the annual day of recognition, Accor hotels is proud to offer older Australians a 10% discount off the best unrestricted rate of the day at selected hotels and resorts right across the country.

People aged 60 years and over with a valid Seniors Card can relax for less with discounted hotel rates from 1 October - 31 December 2012, subject to availability. From economy to luxury hotels and resorts including Ibis, All Seasons, Mercure, Grand Mercure, Novotel, MGallery, Pullman and Sofitel brands, over 60's can relax for less at more than 150 hotels throughout Australia.

Accor is proud to give something back to older people who are making a major contribution to the workforce and society.

"In our ever-aging world, older people are already making a major contribution to society by way of volunteer work through to helping families care for loved ones. And at Accor as we continue to expand our network, our seniors will increasingly play a critical role in our hotels and in their local communities," said Chief Operating Officer Accor Pacific, Simon McGrath.

The Menzies Accor Hotel Sydney
"We are pleased to support Australia's older generation in any way we can, so offering discounted accommodation to honour International Day of the Older Persons is just one small way we can give something back to those who give so much to us with their tremendous knowledge and life experience," added Simon.

Accor's Seniors Accommodation offer is valid from 1 October -31 December 2012 and bookings must be made online at

A maximum of three rooms can be booked per booking and a valid Seniors Card must be presented at check in. Subject to availability and terms and conditions apply.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Sydney Aquarium Relaunches as SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
Sydney Aquarium today revealed the results of a nine-month, $10 million overhaul and opened its doors as the all-new SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. Launching a spectacular $5 million ocean tunnel walk-through, Shark Valley, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore was present to officially open the doors to the iconic Sydney establishment, which now flies the world-famous SEA LIFE flag.

Celebrating its status as one of the world's largest aquariums - with over 70 exhibits of 700 different species and 13,000 animals in an impressive eight million litres of water - SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium will also become home to the world's largest variety of sharks and rays, as well as Australia's most famed marine animals, including the iconic platypus, Little Penguins and the dugongs.

Following a meticulous and large-scale animal re-homing mission - which saw over 300 animals transitioned to temporary homes - SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium aquarists today welcomed their residents back home with an inaugural feed.

Jade McKellar, Head of Merlin Sydney, commented: "The transition from Sydney Aquarium to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium has been a labour of love for nine months. The journey has seen everything from the re-homing of over 300 marine animals to the meticulous construction of a 20 metre Blue Whale skeleton, and I speak on behalf of the team when I say we are extremely proud to be sharing what is an absolute world class aquarium experience with both our loyal and new visitors."

Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, added: "For more than 20 years Sydney Aquarium has been attracting visitors to our city. This latest multi-million dollar transformation puts the Aquarium on a global scale. From local families, interstate visitors and people who come to our city from around the world, the relaunch of SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium will be a welcome boost to our local tourism industry."

In celebration of one of nature's most magnificent creatures, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium also unveiled the spectacular new Shark Walk. This glass walkway literally allows guests to walk above a stunning shoal of over 50 sharks, including Grey Nurse and Lemon Sharks as well as wobbegong and Port Jackson Sharks as they swim just inches beneath.

Encouraging visitors to come face-to-fin with these awe-inspiring creatures in their magnificent underwater display, Shark Valley spans an impressive 100 metres of ocean-tunnel walkthrough that delves deep into the underwater world. Shark Valley is dominated by a giant whale skeleton amongst the tumbled-down ruins of an ancient Lost City temple as a collection of sharks and rays glide amongst the rocks.

Located in the heart of Sydney at Darling Harbour, visitors to the new SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium will be taken on a journey of amazing discovery through 14 newly-themed areas, including the Tropical Bay of Rays, Discovery Rockpool, Mangrove Swamps, South Coast Shipwreck, Dugong Island, new Shark Walk and the stunning new ocean tunnel walk-through, Shark Valley.

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
For more information on the newly relaunched SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, please visit:

What: SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium official reopen, Aquarium Wharf, Darling Harbour (right next door to WILD LIFE Sydney and Madame Tussauds Sydney)
Opening hours: 9am - 8pm daily. Last admission 7pm
Cost: Walk-up price - Adults: $36, Children (4-15yrs): $20

For the best value, combine Sydney Aquarium with a pick and mix of your other favourite Sydney attractions including WILD LIFE Sydney, Madame Tussauds Sydney, Sydney Tower Eye and Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary. The more you see, the more you save.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

New Ibis "Sweet Bed" Launches Economy Hotel Revolution

A new "Sweet Bed", new uniforms, new signage and - in the future - new lobby and restaurant designs are part of a radical overhaul of Accor's pioneering economy hotel brand, Ibis.

The launch of the Sweet Bed is to the evolution of the Ibis brand, which will become a triple-tier brand from next month adding Ibis Budget (from the current Formule 1 brand) and Ibis Styles (from the former All Seasons brand) to the existing Ibis hotel network. Following the re-brand of the hotels, Ibis will grow to over 70 hotels in Australia and 1600 worldwide, making it the largest global economy hotel.

The new era for Ibis comes on the 20th anniversary of the first Ibis in Australia - Ibis Melbourne. All existing and new Ibis hotels will get new signage by the end of the year, while Ibis Hotels and Ibis Budget will introduce the Sweet Bed over the next six months.

Changes to the brand followed a recent survey which showed that some 70 per cent of guests ranked comfortable beds as "the single most important factor when they choose an economy hotel", and as a result the group consulted a team including sociologists and doctors to create a brand new bed from scratch.

The Sweet Bed being introduced into Ibis Hotels features a 7cm topper, which in the past would normally be associated with a luxury brand. The bed has been adapted to suit different geographical markets and cultures, and in Australia, Ibis Brisbane and Ibis Sydney Darling Harbour have already trialed the beds with outstanding guest reaction.

Also to be unveiled across the Australian Ibis network will be new uniforms.  In an industry first, Ibis worked with renowned designer Charlie Brown and students from the Whitehouse Institute of Design to create new uniforms for each of the brands. These new uniforms will be introduced into the hotels from February 2013 and will immediately give guests a sense of something new and exciting in the hotels.

In Europe next year, a number of Ibis hotels will unveil new public area designs that are a real departure from the existing brands. The spaces will be transformed into a more open-plan style with materials and colors combined to create a warm, casual atmosphere that nurtures interaction. The first Ibis to showcase the full new global design will be Ibis Adelaide that is currently being developed in Grenfell Street. The hotel is scheduled to open in 2014.

To coincide with the overhaul of Accor's economy portfolio, the group will launch a new-look website at  later this month, where guests will be able to book rooms at Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget properties in one place.

But Accor Pacific Chief Operating Officer, Simon McGrath, stressed that while Accor was bringing three separate brands under the Ibis umbrella, it was not merging the brands: "The new-look brand will highlight the shared DNA through three concepts - modernity, simplicity and well-being - while clearly differentiating the distinct offers of each separate sub-brand.

"The economy hotel sector in Australia and around the rest of the world has often been inconsistent in delivering quality facilities and service. Ibis is changing that perception with its innovation and guarantee of quality. Beds in particular will change the face of the sector, and the initial feedback from the introduction of the Sweet Bed highlights that this is the most important factor for most hotel guests. To get such a prime sleep experience for such value-for-money rates will re-define the economy hotel sector.

"The implementation of the new triple-tier segmentation will increase the clarity, consistency and strength of the three economy brands, and will enable Accor to achieve critical mass in several markets, particularly Australia and New Zealand, where Ibis will become the region's largest economy hotel network."

Accor, the world's leading hotel operator and market leader in Europe, is present in 92 countries with more than 4,400 hotels and 530,000 rooms. Accor's broad portfolio of hotel brands - Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Suite Novotel, Mercure, Adagio, ibis, all seasons/ibis Styles, Etap Hotel/Formule 1/ibis budget, hotelF1 and Motel 6 - provide an extensive offer from luxury to budget. With more than 180,000 employees* in Accor brand hotels worldwide, the Group offers to its clients and partners nearly 45 years of know-how and expertise.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Sydney Icons Rebuilt with Chocolate

Witness the construction of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House sails topped off with fireworks at the new Josophan's Fine Chocolates of Leura Sydney CBD store next Friday (September 28).
Members of the Australian Pastry Team will build a Sydney-themed chocolate showpiece under public gaze in the window of the store.
Josophan's Fine Chocolates of Leura owner Jodie van der Velden said the showpiece was originally created in Singapore at the Asian Pastry Cup competition, where the team placed first earlier this year, qualifying to represent Australia and compete in the Coupe du Monde (World Pastry Cup) in Lyon, France, in January 2013.
``This is a rare opportunity to see a large, complex competition chocolate showpiece being constructed,'' she said.
The new shop stacked with decadent fine chocolates is a satellite boutique store to the multi award-winning Josophan's Fine Chocolates laboratory and store in the upmarket Leura Mall in the Blue Mountains.
``To be able to bring a little of the beautiful Blue Mountains magic to the city is a very special thing,'' Ms van der Velden said.
Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker congratulated Ms van der Velden on the new store.
``It will be a fantastic opportunity for people working and living in the city to sample the exquisite products Jodie and her team create before heading up to the Blue Mountains to see where and how the chocolates are made and explore the magnificent World Heritage Area in general.
``Josophan's is one example of the many unique attractions and businesses in the region, and Jodie opening a retail outlet in Sydney CBD is obviously a sign of the Josophan's success and we wish her the very best.''
Chocolate lovers can expect an array of handcrafted goodies using Fairtrade Certified Belgian couverture chocolate and fresh flavour infusions, luxurious hot chocolate powder, chocolate bars, figurines and confectionery when they visit the new boutique.
The delicate centres infuse cream with fresh herbs like basil and mint and premium ingredients including saffron, coffee beans and the aromatic Tahitian vanilla bean, to name a few.
Blue Gum and Yellow Box honey, hazelnuts from Orange and fine chocolate imported from France and Belgium blend together to make extraordinary chocolates.
In fact, Josophan's - Fine Chocolates products are so fresh they are best consumed within seven days.

WHEN:                 Friday, September 28, 2012

WHERE:               Josophan's Fine Chocolates of Leura Sydney CBD store, 66 King St (corner of King and York streets) opposite the Grace Hotel and around the corner from the Apple Store and Louis Vuitton store in George St

WHAT:                 Live construction of award-winning chocolate showpiece

Monday, 17 September 2012

Namibia Wins Bid to Host the Adventure Travel Trade Association's 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit

For its 10th Adventure Travel World Summit, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has selected Namibia – one of the few countries in the world with conservation and environmental management mandated in its Constitution – to host the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) set for 26-31 October in Swakopmund and Windhoek, the first time the ATTA has placed its global gathering in Africa.

The Adventure Travel World Summit has become the industry’s marquee event for networking, discussion and collaboration around industry best practices and global tourism issues affecting adventure travel. For 2013, the ATTA will introduce a new Summit format for its 600 delegates, which will occur over a five-day period, including in-field sessions in real-world situations providing unprecedented learning experiences in a destination whose stark challenges are shared by many other destinations worldwide.

“In Chiapas, Mexico, at the 2011 Adventure Travel World Summit, Namibia boldly said, ‘let us bring the Summit home’,” said the Honorable Minister of Environment and Tourism Netumbo Nandi-Ndwitah. “Today I am happy to report that the efforts of our strong public-private partnership have resulted in Namibia being chosen as the FIRST African country to host the Summit.  We are justly proud of our tourism industry and our conservation initiatives that have made this selection possible.”   
In selecting Namibia, the ATTA in part is recognizing the developing nation’s achievements in becoming one of the world’s most progressive destinations working to find the most effective balance between conservation, tourism and community development.

“Namibia offers one of the most compelling success stories in tourism today, one of joint venture tourism and partnerships between communal conservancies and tourism enterprises,” said ATTA President Shannon Stowell, who returned from Namibia in June 2012. “Namibia’s model of conservancies, joint venture partnerships and conservation is a model that we should put on display. It’s a story that should be told.  I’d previously heard the discussions, watched the films and I still didn’t understand it fully it until I came and saw it in action. Our delegates are sure to gain immense insights from their experiences in Namibia.”

Namibia, a nation committed to ensuring tourism benefits reach everyone, has a proactive community tourism policy and recently gave tourism concession rights to communities that border state protected areas. Namibia also is a nation committed to conservation and has, since its independence in 1990, expanded from 13% to an outstanding 42% of land area under some form of conservation management. Furthermore, Namibia recently established the largest national park in Africa, and is the only country in the world with an entirely protected coastline.

“As Namibians we are ready for the challenge of hosting the Summit and are thrilled to welcome the Adventure Travel Tribe to the land of endless horizons where wildlife and humans are free to roam and still experience true nature,” added the Honorable Minister. “Together with the ATTA and the overall Adventure Travel Trade, Namibia is ready to showcase to the world the spirit and essence of a nation committed to conservation, community empowerment and social and economic transformation through partnerships and innovation.”

The ATTA’s Summit conferences engage and energize the leaders of the adventure travel community with networking, business and professional development programs, educational seminars and emerging adventure destination product review opportunities. In addition to the keynotes, a cadre of experts covering core business disciplines of the adventure tourism industry will deliver two key content tracks over the course of three days, one designed primarily for adventure tour operators and the other primarily for tourism boards.

Registration for the 2013 ATWS will open September 17, 2012, at

ITE HCMC 2012 – Day 7 – 17 September 2012

Vietnam House Restaurant

An early morning start to pack my bags ready for departure, then down to the Cliff Resort restaurant for breakfast, again sitting outside enjoying the weather and views.

Back on the bus again for our return to Ho Chi Minh City and farewell to the ocean.  Once again we drove past many tropical; fruits plantations, homes, shops, schools and market stalls.

Spring Hotel
On arrival we went to the Vietnam House Restaurant for an enjoyable lunch. Most of our group were flying out of Vietnam that afternoon, so they dropped me off at my hotel for the next two nights, the Spring Hotel before they were taken to the airport.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

ITE HCMC 2012 – Day 6 – 16 September 2012

fishing boats
I awoke from my slumbers and saw the rising suns rays glistening on the oceans waters. A few fishing boats were still scattered in the distance, but most had returned to shore with their evenings haul.

After a shower and soak in the bathtub, I ventured downstairs and enjoyed the buffet breakfast sitting on the balcony under the shade of a beach umbrella.

Phan Thiet Markets
The bus picked us up for our mornings sightseeing trip. First stop was a brief visit to the Phan Thiet Markets. Here hundreds of market stalls sold clothing, tropical fruits and a wide assortments of other goods.

Takou Mountain gondola ride
We then drove to Takou Mountain, about one hour’s drive from Mui Ne. Rather than hiking up the mountain, we took the gondola ride high above the beautiful tropical rain forest full of birds and wildlife to the Mountain Pagoda at the peak. Here we saw tomb towers and the largest reclining Buddha in Vietnam, measuring 49 meters in length.

Mui Ne’s sand dunes
The bus took us back to a delightful beach front restaurant for lunch. We then went to see the edge of surprisingly Saharan-like sand dunes located not far from Mui Ne’s important beaches. The child in me wished to go sliding down the sand dunes on a plastic toboggan. There are more than 60 different colours of the sand, and talented artists use the various colours to create amazing sand art pictures. 

fishing village
We then returned to the Cliff Resort via a fishing village and inspected another amazing resort, which I will detail in a separate article.

That evening we dined at another resort restaurant before heading back to our Cliff Resort for our last nights rest at the beach.