Wednesday, 28 February 2018


The worlds of science and theatre will collide at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre with double headline theatre extravaganza Back to Back (15 March – 24 March, 2018). The show will feature How I Saved the Western Black Rhino, an uplifting call to action on wildlife extinction, alongside Everything You Ever Wanted, exploring extreme diet culture.

Presented by Nathan Harrison and Rachel Roberts, the fascinating double bill was produced by Q Theatre, The Joan’s resident theatre program creating unique works for, and from, the heart of Penrith.

“Two shows, one ticket, one great night - what more could you ask for?” said Creative Producer, Nick Atkins. “These fantastic productions blend the best parts of science and theatre into an incredible show that is as entertaining as it is educational.”

How do you save a species from the brink of disappearing forever? How I Saved the Western Black Rhino confronts audiences with a shocking fact: we are in the midst of an extinction crisis rivalling that of the dinosaurs. Featuring an uplifting story of rescuing one of the last Western Black Rhinos in existence, Nathan Harrison’s incredible solo performance explores the complexity of wildlife conservation.

Everything You Ever Wanted is a deeply personal exploration of the touchy subjects of diet culture and disordered eating. Joining the voices of fat activists and scientists before her, future-dietitian-turned-theatre maker Rachel Roberts stars in this captivating show revealing the dark underbelly of dieting.

Tickets are $55 Standard, $50 Concession or $30 for Under 30s. 
Bookings online at

What: Back to Back: Q Theatre
When: Thursday 15 March – Saturday 24 March 2018
Where: Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, 597 High Street Penrith 2750

Hong Kong Arts Festival

Hong Kong Arts Festival
The Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) — the pinnacle of Hong Kong’s performing arts events — showcases Asia’s top talents alongside leading artists from around the world. 

The festival’s broad spectrum of events pitches to a wide range of appetites, from the classical, to the avant-garde, to the electrifying.

Date:23 February to 24 March 2018
Time:Various times
Venue:Various venues
Tel:+852 2824 2430


All the fun and action of Big Skies kicks off on Saturday 28 April 2018 and comes to a close on Sunday 6 May 2018.

Saturday, 28 April 2018, will see the Bunya Park Racecourse come alive for the 106th Dalby Picnic Race Day. Prior to attending the races make sure that you have set up your camp at the Jimbour Station Camp area.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018 starts with a FREE tour of the Dalby Saleyards. Don’t miss this opportunity to join an exclusive tour of the Dalby Saleyards and to experience the thrill of Sale Day. Then take the opportunity to take your seat among friends and fellow food lovers as you’re you’re treated to a sumptuous feast showcasing the best of our region’s produce at our Big Skies Long Lunch. Spend the evening relaxing and unwinding whilst watching a new release movie at our very own FREE Cinema under the Stars at Jimbour Station.

Thursday, 3 May 2018 is a day to explore all the things to see and do on the Western Downs at your leisure.. What better way to finish your day than with a a taste of country hospitality where the camp kitchen comes alive for the ultimate Camp Oven Experience. Enjoy a two-course meal consisting of a succulent roast meal with all the trimmings as well as a true-blue Aussie dessert. Spend the evening relaxing and unwinding whilst watching a new release movie at our very own FREE Cinema under the Stars at Jimbour Station.

Friday, 4 May 2018 is a day for you to continue ticking off your Western Downs Bucket List of items things to see and do. Once again dinner is ready and waiting when you return with the ultimate Camp Oven Experience. Enjoy a two-course meal consisting of a succulent roast meal with all the trimmings as well as a true-blue Aussie dessert. Love our night skies? Join us for a FREE guided tour of the galaxy at Big Night Sky – Guided Tour of the Galaxy where you will be treated to a guided tour of the galaxy.

On Saturday, 5 May 2018, the Jimbour Amphitheatre will come alive with a line-up of Australia’s best Rock ‘n’ Roll artists for Day on the Plain.

It’s time to rise and shine early on Sunday, 6 May 2018 to view the Western Downs like you have never seen it before as you ascend into the sky to enjoy a spectacular Hot Air Balloon Ride over the majestic Jimbour Plain. Don’t like heights? We have you covered with a Hot Air Balloon Breakfast where you will have the opportunity to watch the balloons come to life as they are inflated along the Jimbour Airstrip. Be treated to an experience of the senses with a flurry of colour, sound and movement. After your balloon ride and or breakfast, join us for Food and Fibre which showcases everything locally grown and sewn on the Western Downs.

For the ultimate Big Skies experience, camping is conveniently located onsite to enjoy the HUGE program of events on offer. Alternatively, motel accommodation is also available and details can be found on our accommodation page.


Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc will lead a high-ranking delegation of the Vietnamese Government to the event at the invitation of his Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith.

Vietnam and Laos set up diplomatic ties on September 5, 1962 and signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation on July 18, 1977, which are considered important milestones in bilateral relations.

The two countries organised hundreds of activities during the Vietnam-Laos Solidarity and Friendship Year 2017, attracting the participation of all-level authorities, sectors and a large number of people. Notably, they exchanged nearly 300 delegations at all levels.

During the visits, their leaders reiterated the resolve to enhance the Vietnam-Laos special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation while unceasingly promoting cooperation quality for the sake of each country’s people and for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world.

As of August 2017, Vietnam was the third biggest foreign investor in Laos, following China and Thailand. Major Vietnamese investment projects in the neighbouring country include the Sekaman No. 1 and 3 hydropower plants, the power transmission line from Sekaman to Vietnam’s Pleiku city, a potassium salt processing project in Khammouane province, and industrial tree planting projects.

The Lao Government assessed Vietnamese investments as effective projects helping to boost socio-economic development and create jobs for local people.

A number of meetings between the two countries’ leaders and Vietnamese businesses investing in Laos have been held, showing the two Governments’ determination to strengthen economic partnership. Vietnamese firms also affirmed that Laos is a potential investment market.

The two sides signed a new trade agreement and a border trade agreement. In 2017, bilateral trade was estimated at over 900 million USD, up 10 percent from a year earlier. Vietnam mainly exported petrol, oil, steel, vehicles and spare parts while importing rubber, fertilizer, ore and minerals from Laos.

Bilateral transport connectivity projects have been accelerated within the framework of bilateral and Greater Mekong Sub-region cooperation. The sides have also worked to expand the one-stop shop model at Lao Bao and Den Savan border gates to other pairs of international border gates along their border line.

Education-training is also a successful cooperation area. Hundreds of Lao students come to Vietnam while a great number of Vietnamese students receive the Lao Government’s scholarships every year. The countries have also implemented many projects improving educational facilities in Laos.

Cultural and tourism cooperation has continued to develop with rising numbers of Laos and Vietnamese tourists to the other’s country. Partnerships in health care have also been tightened, especially between border provinces.

Meanwhile, security and defence ties have also been enhanced in all aspects, especially personnel training. The two countries have done a good job of implementing security and defence agreements, finished the project on increasing and upgrading border markers long their shared border, and signed a protocol on the Vietnam-Laos borderline and border markers and an agreement on regulations on the management of their border and border gates.

Both sides have also pushed ahead with carrying out the two Governments’ agreement on solving the issue of unregulated migration and marriage in their border areas. The search for and repatriation of the remains of Vietnam’s soldiers and voluntary experts have also implemented well.

Read full article at VietNamNet:

Family History Workshops

Are you interested in your family history? Do you love watching 'Who do you think you are?' Then this workshop is for you.
Five locations available in the inner west, and it's free!

Attendees will be able to develop skills to research their family history and genealogy enable them to;
  • Determine & validate if family stories about their ancestors are true
  • Determine genealogical proof of a family connection, find and reconnect with living relatives
  • Tracing family photos
  • Learning about parent, grandparent or sibling after their death
  • Preserve knowledge of ancestors who contributed to family traditions, such as a family recipe book, allow families that have migrated to another country the opportunity to preserve some of the culture of their old country
  • Resolving family trees

Workshop. 1. Introduction to family History

Introduces you to what family history is, before you can familiarise yourself with ways to start searching, what is required of you, how to source information and which records to look for. This session will guide you through the general research process for eliciting your own family history. You will follow step-by step processes of how and what to research, gain knowledge and understandings about the availability of various family history resources and online programs. How to use various cheat sheets, pedigree charts and other forms to record dates, events and research findings to start building your family history.

Prerequisite: Participants need to have a moderate level of skills with using computers, the internet and the web.

Workshop.2: Introduction to Ancestry

Learn how to navigate your way in searching your family history by using It is the most comprehensive database of family history information available online, containing billions of records across thousands of local, state, federal and international record collections. It includes records from the census; military records; court, land and probate records; vital and church records; directories; passenger lists and more. These collections are continuously expanding, with new content added every business day.

Prerequisite: Participants need to have a moderate level of skills with using computers, the internet and the web and have completed Workshop 1 - Introduction to Family History

Important Note: You are required to bring the completed cheat sheets and other forms (from Workshop 1 - Introduction to Family History) with facts, dates & events to progress in this second session.

Workshop.3: Introduction to Trove for Family History

Learn how to use Trove for your family history research. Trove provides a wealth of resources across more than 90 million items in one go. Digitised newspapers and gazettes form the largest of Trove’s collections, with access provided to over 18.5 million pages from more than 1000 Australian newspapers. This free search engine allows family history searches across major Australian collections, with one click of a button. Come along and discover how Trove can assist with your family history.

Prerequisite: Participants need to have a moderate level of skills with using computers, the internet and the web and have completed Workshop 1 - Introduction to Family History & Workshop 2 - Introduction to Ancestry.

Important Note: You are required to bring the completed cheat sheets and other forms (from the Workshop 1 - Introduction to Family History) with updated facts, dates & events and results from your search via Ancestry (from Workshop 2 - Introduction to Ancestry) to progress in this third and final session.


This is a three part workshop, please only book if you are able to attend all three workshops.

Marrickville Town Hall meeting room
Monday 5, 19 March and 9 April, 10am-12noon book here

Leichhardt Library
Saturday 10, 24 March and 14 April, 10am-12noon book here

Ashfield Library
Monday 16, 30 April and 21 May, 10am-12noon book here

Balmain Library
Monday 4, 18 June and 2 July, 10am-12noon book here

Haberfield Library
Wednesday 13, 27 June and 11 June, 2pm-4pm book here

Viet Nam joins Asia’s largest street festival in Singapore

An art delegation of Viet Nam joined the 2018 Chingay Parade celebrating the Lunar New Year in Singapore, which drew the participation of more than 6,000 performers.

The annual festival, held at the Formula One Pit building near the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel on February 23-24 and the China Town on February 25, is a highly-anticipated event and also the largest street performance and parade in Asia.

Mai Ba Hung, Deputy Director of HCM City Department of Cultural, Sports and Tourism and head of the Vietnamese delegation to the 2018 Chingay Parade, said that this is the third time that Viet Nam has joined the event.

The Viet Nam’s delegation wants to foster cultural exchange with Singaporean and international artists, as well as learn more experience to organise large-scale street festival in HCM City in the future.

Started in 1973, the Chingay Parade has become one of the major cultural events of Singapore.

This year, the event included a series of multi-ethnic cultural performances by local talents and international acts featuring decorated floats, along with a display of lights, lasers, pyrotechnic and firework display of host Singapore.

Source: VNA

Slow Food Earth Market Maitland

The Slow Food Earth Market Maitland is open to the public and operates on the first and third Thursdays of each month featuring Good Clean and Fair farmers and producers who will sell local, seasonal produce from 1pm - 6pm in The levee located in the center of Maitland, New South Wales. 

The Slow Food Earth Maitland is a first in Australia and is the 60th Earth market in the Global network that is part of the work of Slow Food. Slow Food is a global grassroots organisations that work to protect food biodiversity and believes in the philosophy of Good Clean and Fair food for all.

The Earth market brings together farmers from the local region and helps to build capacity and encourage young farmers to grow food and supply the community to ensure food security and for good health. 

Maitland is situated on the Hunter River and is easily accessible from Newcastle and Sydney (approximately 1.5 hours by car) and is connected by rail and bus services. It is the gateway to the famous wine grown region situated 40 minutes from Maitland.

First and third Thursdays of each month, Maitland, NSW, Australia

For more information:

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


Sailfish Catamarans burst on to the Australian boating scene way back in January 1993 with their impressive, locally manufactured aluminium twin hull designs that hit the mark with Australian sportsfishers, divers and nomadic seafarers. Twenty five years on Sailfish have risen from humble beginnings to become one of Australia’s most successful marine manufacturers.

Sailfish have always offered a blend of seaworthy, offshore capable packages with maximised hull efficiency delivering huge volume, deck space and stability; and all wrapped up into towable sized packages. They pack enormous facility into the compact dimensions and weigh considerably less than equivalent fibreglass boats with similar purpose enhanced by their innovations in alloy trailer construction.

Sailfish offer a range of cabin layouts and options to suit long range sojourns and weekenders, but mostly with a leaning toward enhanced outdoor facilities for day sports.


To mark a quarter of a century of quality and innovation Sailfish are offering an extensive upgrade package worth over $17,500 for only $4,990 to the first 25 customers who purchase a new package. See details attached for this terrific offer.


Sailfish Catamarans Darren Foster commenced his career building aluminium catamarans in 1984. He started from humble beginnings in a little factory in the Northern Rivers NSW township of Alstonville with two staff producing five boats a year. They now employ over twenty full time tradesmen and apprentices producing approximately thirty custom built plate aluminium power catamarans per year with a very respectable total of over 440 vessels in their 25 year history. In 2000 Sailfish built their own factory that includes 7 x boat building bays, spray painting booth, trailer building bay and 2 x fit up bays to deliver turnkey packages.

Whilst recreational boats dominate sales, Sailfish have also supplied nearly 100 Commercial Series vessels for survey and working applications including Government Authorities, safety organisations and marine service providers, plus international exports to USA, PNG, Russia and New Zealand.


A mere three years after the birth of Sailfish a partnership was formed with Sydney’s Webbe Marine. This partnership grows stronger to this day, now some 22 years later. In 1998 Sailfish also joined forces with Sports Marine in Western Australia further strengthening the national alliance and service representation.

Sailfish Catamarans say, “Our success is dependent on the teamwork that exists in our company and we will continue to cultivate the highest levels on ethical standards and workmanship within our workplace. The aims of our business are to ensure a professional, custom built, high quality range of aluminium power catamarans for the leisure, commercial and rescue boating markets.”


Success can also be quantified by the high volume of repeat business with satisfied customers often returning to update or upsize. Wise investors realise that premium products reflect high retainment value with Sailfish packages being eagerly sort after on the second hand market.

Quote Sailfish, “Sailfish Catamarans will always continue to be market leaders not market followers. Our philosophy is to build quality boats that not only meet, but exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Success has been further recognised by industry peers with the Canyon Master, S7 and S8 models both invited to the finals of Trade A Boat Magazine, Australia’s Greatest Boats awards for 3 years running, with the S7 taking out the Aluminium Award for 2015 and S8 in 2016. Sailfish are the only manufacturer to have won this award twice in the history of the competition.


The Sailfish Catamarans future is here and now with the new and exclusive Hydroflow GEN 3 hull that offers unmatched performance, amazing efficiency, maximum stability plus lightning fast hole shot performance! The traditional “cushion of air” has advanced to a magic carpet ride with improved hydrodynamics providing the softest, most predictable and reliable off-shore hulls available.

The sales network combines with innovative design and flexible manufacturing to customize your dream machine to suit your lifestyle.

Who said the perfect boat will never be made? – Sailfish Catamarans have been doing it for 25 years!

A brief look at just some of the recent Sailfish Awards tell their story of success:
  • 2014 Trade A Boat Magazine – Finalist Aluminium Boat Of The Year (Canyon Master)
  • 2015 Trade A Boat Magazine Aluminium Boat Of The Year (S7)
  • 2016 Trade A Boat magazine Aluminium Boat Of The Year (S8)
  • 2012 Australian Marine Export Industry – Best export performer – medium exporter
  • Ballina Chamber Of Commerce – Business of the year – Industrial & Trade Services + Manufacturer Of The Year
  • 2012 Trade A Boat magazine – Aluminium Catamaran Of The Year
  • First ever Aluminium Catamaran to be approved for Volvo Penta IPS Installation.
  • 2017 NSW Safework Awards Winner – Excellence In Workplace Health & Safety Culture


Webbe Marine (Sydney) PH 1800 885635 W:
Sports Marine (WA) PH 08 97214390 W:

MTCO Weekly

This week, we spoke to students at Mahidol University as start of an exciting partnership to create responsible tourism case studies to showcase the most innovative responsible operators in the Experience Mekong Collection ( The first six Experience Mekong Showcases (one of each of the GMS countries) will be presented at Mekong Tourism Forum in Nakhon Phanom in June 26-29 at the Gala Dinner. The Experience Mekong Showcase will be an annual selection of innovative responsible businesses in the GMS, written up as case studies to build capacity and inspire other businesses to learn and become more responsible and sustainable. Please nominate your favorite responsible travel experiences at

Any startups interested in being part of the 2018 edition of the Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism (MIST) Program, the MIST Startup Accelerator is welcoming applications from tourism, hospitality, and travel tech startups headquartered in Thailand as well as from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam, and applications close on March 10, 2018.

For anybody attending ITB Berlin in March, we are happy to announce that we were just confirmed that we will have our 2nd Mekong Tourism Forum at ITB Berlin on March 8th at 11am. After our successful 1st MEKONG@ITB session last year with the theme "Human Capital Development", this year the theme will be "Innovations in Tourism Marketing Collaboration - leveraging the power of Social Commerce". Please RSVP at

At the recent ASEAN Tourism Forum, we officially launched the first regional tourism marketing campaign in the GMS - the Mekong Mini Movie Festival. We hope many of you share their experiences in mini movie format, and encourage your guests and staff to do the same. Prizes for country categories will be given out at the Mekong Tourism Forum in Nakhon Phanom during our Mekong Minis Movie Festival on June 26th when we screen the finalists. As part of the campaign, we also look to raise awareness of the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins. Don't miss to be part of our tourism marketing movement in the GMS, and please spread the word. Watch the mini movie introducing the Mekong Minis.

We look forward to hearing from you as always, and hope you enjoy this third newsletter in 2018.

Have a great week!
Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director, MTCO

Whitsundays wins at Australian Tourism Awards

The Whitsundays is on top of the world after operators won a swag of medals at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards last night [Friday, February 23, 2018].

Ocean Rafting took out Gold in the Major Tour and Transport Operator category, Cumberland Charter Yachts won Silver in the Unique Accommodation Category, and BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort was awarded Bronze in the Caravan and Holiday Parks category at the prestigious awards ceremony, held at the new Optus Stadium, in Perth.

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Craig Turner said to have so many operators recognised at the highest level really demonstrates the quality of experiences offered in the Whitsundays.

“We have a strong, resilient tourism industry in the Whitsundays with some of the best operators in the country, and this was borne out at last night’s awards,” he said.

“Big congratulations go to Ocean Rafting, Cumberland Charter Yachts and BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort who absolutely deserve these awards.

“As CEO of our regional tourism organisation I see the hard work and effort our operators put in every day as they continually strive for excellence and it’s fantastic when they are recognised like this.

“I would also like to mention Island Jet Boating and Abell Point Marina, who were also in the running on Friday night and should be congratulated on reaching the Australian Tourism Awards, having both won awards at Queensland level last November.”

Whitsunday Regional Mayor Andrew Willcox said it was always great to see Whitsundays operators rewarded for their hard work and commitment to the region’s tourism industry.

“We have amazing icons in the Whitsundays, including the Great Barrier Reef, Heart Reef and Whitehaven Beach, but it is the hardworking operators who turn these icons into memorable experiences for tourists from all over the world.

“These are the guys who make sure our visitors go home with memories to last a lifetime and tell all their family and friends about the wonderful Whitsundays.

“I commend them all – just being up for an award at national level is a fantastic achievement."


This summer, chakras will align at Darling Quarter Kids’ Yoga, a new FREE yoga program for young ones. With two sessions every Friday (10:30-11am, 11:30am-12:00pm) at the Village Green, Kids’ Yoga promises all the fun of Twister, just without the coloured dots!

No prior experience is necessary, with qualified children’s yoga specialist Dee Dee Connor guiding kids through the invigorating, pre-school-tailored sessions. Parents and carers are encouraged to get in on the stretchy, bendy fun alongside their little ones.

“It’s never too early to get the kids into healthy habits!” said Marketing Manager for Darling Quarter Sam Vicars. “The Kids’ Yoga sessions are fun, relaxing, and fantastic for your child’s wellbeing. Mats are provided, so no need to bring anything - just wear something comfy, and come get a head start on that New Year’s resolution with the kids!”

Afterwards, be sure to nama-stay for lunch at one of Darling Quarter’s many mouth-watering eateries. Take your pick from sushi (Umi Sushi & Udon), steak (Stacks Taverna and Bar), Thai (Nok Nok Thai Eating House), burgers (The Social Quarter), Asian (Wok n Bowl), Churrasco (Braza Churrascaria), fish & chips (Taste), or pizza (Vesta). Take the kids for a cheeky treat with gelato (Gelatissimo) or chocolate delights (Guylian) for dessert.


WHEN: Two sessions every Friday, 10:30am-11am, and 11:30am – 12pm
WHERE: Village Green (North), Darling Quarter, 1-25 Harbour St, Sydney NSW 2000
COST: FREE Public Event
PARKING: Parking is available at Wilson Parking

INSTAGRAM: @darlingquarter

Bac Ninh to host love duet singing festival

The annual love duet singing festival will be organised on February 27 and 28 in Lim town, Noi Due and Lien Bao commune of Tien Du district in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

The two-day festival is expected to gather dozens of local amateur and professional love duet (quan ho) singers and thousands of tourists.

The artists will perform on six stages on Lim Mountain, floating boats in nearby lake and at veteran singers’ houses.

The singing will be in a cappella style (singing without musical instruments), which was the local style of love duets, Nguyen Manh Hung, deputy head of the festival’s organising board, said.

Folk games such as traditional swinging, wrestling, hide and seek and card games will be organised.

The singers are allowed to sing only quan ho, not other traditional vocal arts like cheo (traditional opera) and chau van (ceremonial singing) or modern pop music, he said.

The organisers also ban computer games, circus, flying motor and other games that use loudspeakers and would affect the festival’s atmosphere.

“This year, we will tighten management for the event,” Hung said. “If any individuals or clubs violate regulations, the locality will not permit them to perform at the event next year or at any other event hosted by the locality.”

The art of love duets was inscribed in the UNESCO’s representative list of intangible cultural heritage in September 2009.

Quan ho is an art form that combines various elements, including music, lyrics and costumes, and features the distinctive culture of people in the region formerly called Kinh Bac.

The singing represents different kinds of relationships - the relationship between male and female singers as romantic lovers, the relationship between two friendly villages and the relationship between performers and the audience. Each element helps define quan ho, give it life and meaning, and the resulting harmony is so much more than just a beautiful song.

Source: VNA

Sail Port Stephens

Sail Port Stephens is an annual yachting regatta held in the gorgeous waterways of the Port Stephens Marine Park, with the regatta centre hosted at d'Albora Marina, Nelson Bay.

The regatta offers great sailing for all classes of boats plus a dynamic social and entertainment program.

Sail Port Stephens is one of the fastest growing regattas on the Australian calendar and becoming an internationally recognised yachting event. It's family friendly, affordable and fun!

You can drive to Port Stephens from Sydney in less than three hours. Alternatively, fly from Melbourne or Queensland direct to Newcastle Airport. There's a wide range of accommodation available to suit any budget.

9 - 15 April 2018, d'Albora Marina, Nelson Bay, NSW, Australia

For more information:

Monday, 26 February 2018

The Mercure Sydney Hotel - the conveniently located hotel in Sydney

The Mercure Sydney Hotel
The Mercure Sydney Hotel is an ideal hotel for people to stay in when they visit Sydney for pleasure or business.

During my recent stay at the Mercure, I discovered that its best feature is its brilliant location. It is conveniently located on Railway Square, just behind Central Station. As I live in country NSW and travel to Sydney by train, I found the short walk to the hotel with my wheelie bag very convenient. There is also a suburban bus terminus on the George Street side of Railway Square. The hotel has its own underground carpark for those who wish to drive.

Railway Square is an oddly named part of Sydney, as it is not a square, but actually a triangle, bordered by George St, Lee Street and the Mercure Hotel. The Square has a Michel's Patisserie and public art sculptures of four towers with coloured steel ribbons inside, representing the four elements (Air, Water, Earth and Fire). Escalators go down to the Devonshire Street Tunnel that goes under the platforms of Central Sation to the other side. A variety of shops are located along this popular walkway.

View from The Mercure Sydney Hotel
The Mercure Sydney Hotel's address is 818-820 George Street, but the two entrances to the hotel are elsewhere. The closest one when walking from Central Station is on the Sydney Square side of the hotel with steps down to the hotel lobby. The main entrance of the Mercure is on Little Regent Street. This has no steps to the hotel lobby and is where taxis drop off guests.

The attractive hotel lobby has a concierge desk and a long check-in desk. A huge video screen takes up an entire wall behind comfy seating. When I was there the screen displayed a relaxing aquarium scene video. There is also a bar and convenience store next to the lobby.

The 14-storey hotel is designed with all guest rooms having picture windows to the outside, with the lift wells and corridors in the middle of the building. A variety of guest room styles are offered, from standard to family, deluxe rooms and suites. Most of the floors are non- smoking floors, but two floors allow for smokers. 

The Mercure Sydney Hotel
My superior city view guest room overlooking Railway Square was on the 8th floor. It was not huge, but large enough for me to move around in. It had a bright modern decor of white walls, a purple feature wall, purple cushions and accent pink chair. The room had a plush queen sized bed, desk and office chair. A TV was mounted on the wall, with free viewing channels as well as pay movies to watch. A clock radio with USB charging ports was next to the bed. I found the free wi-fi available in my room and throughout the hotel was fast and did not drop out. A well stocked was behind a cupboard door. An electric jug, Dilmah tea bags, Nescafe instant coffee and long life milk were provided for self-serve hot drinks. A wardrobe provided hanging space for clothes, a mini-safe, an ironing board and iron.

I had a comfortable nights sleep in the room, as the room was above the street level noise and the double glazed window had a block out blind to make the room dark. The queen sized mattress meant I could sprawl out on the bed. Several pillows and cushions were on the bed, but I made use of the Pillow Menu, selecting a contour pillow which was recommended for side sleepers.

The Mercure Sydney Hotel
The separate gleaming white bathroom had a toilet, vanity basin and shower over a small bathtub. A hairdryer, soap and hair shampoos were provided. 
I am fussy about the hotel rooms I stay in particularly with regards to cleanliness. I was very pleased with how clean my guest room was. There were no signs of dust or wear and tear marks anywhere in my  guest room. 

There are three on-site dining venues at the Mercure Sydney Hotel. Unfortunately, breakfast was not included with my room, so I did not enjoy the warm full buffet breakfast that some of the other guests enjoyed. 

The Mercure Sydney Hotel
The Mercure Sydney Hotel has an indoor rooftop fitness centre with several exercise machines to make use of. Along with other guests, I made use of the heated indoor rooftop pool, sauna and change rooms. The enclosed space had seating with large windows that looked over the Sydney CBD. The attractive setting was only marred by the mould and cracked paint on the ceiling above the pool. It was pleasing to note that it was open to midnight every night to allow for late night relaxation or exercise.

The extra services provided to me by the Mercure Sydney Hotel were excellent. They brought up a toothbrush for me when I realised I had left mine at home. The pillow I chose from the Pillow menu arrived promptly. Late checkout was arranged when I requested it. 

Eight indoor and outdoor spacious and flexible meeting and event venues are available at The Mercure Sydney Hotel. Audiovisual and theming services are offered, with events and personalised meeting packages available.

The Mercure Sydney Hotel is located not only close to Central Station but also China Town, Paddy's Market, Darling Harbour, and the Capitol Theatre. The Light Rail can be boarded at Central Station to go to Darling Harbour, Star Casino, Fish Markets and out to Dulwich Hill.

The Mercure Sydney Hotel
Next time you come to Sydney and are looking for a great hotel with a convenient location book into the Mercure Sydney Hotel. Look on the hotel's website to discover the current specials on offer.

Mercure Hotel Sydney
818 - 820 George Street, Chippendale Sydney NSW 2008, Australia
Phone: (+61) 2 9217 6666Toll Free: 1 (800) 633 948    Fax: (+61) 2 9217 661

Sunday, 25 February 2018

MAMMA MIA! - here we go again!

Mamma Mia! the Musical Australian Cast 
The exciting new Australian production of MAMMA MIA! has just opened in Sydney. I was one of the fortunate people to attend the opening night to see this brilliant musical full of song and laughter. 

In 1974 ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with "Waterloo" and then took the world by storm with many No. 1 hits. I was swept up in the ABBA mania in 1977 when I was one of the thousands who blocked Swanston Street to see ABBA appear on the Melbourne Town Hall balcony. They performed at the Myer Music Bowl, where I was one of the 16,000 thousand who gathered outside the Bowl to hear them without a concert ticket. 

The MAMMA MIA! musical was the brainchild of producer Judy Craymer. In 1997, Craymer commissioned British playwright Catherine Johnson to write the book for the musical. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, who composed the original music for ABBA, were involved in the development of the show from the beginning.

Stephen Mahy, Sarah Morrison
MAMMA MIA! first appeared on stage in London in 1999, then opened in Canada and the USA in 2000. Due to its popularity, it appeared on stage in more than 50 countries, including Australia. 

MAMMA MIA! was made into a hit movie in 2008.

Twenty two of ABBA's greatest hits have been featured in MAMMA MIA!, which tells the story of a 21-year-old Sophie who has been brought up by her mother Donna without knowing who her father was. Just before her wedding to Sky she discovers her mother's diary and reads of her mother's romantic liaisons with 3 men 20 years ago on a Greek Island. In her desire to know who her father was, she invites these 3 men to her wedding, thinking that she will be able to recognise her true father by his looks.

Mamma Mia! the Musical Australian Cast
This production MAMMA MIA! has a wonderful cast of singers and dancers. They bring all of ABBA's song alive on stage in a humorous light-hearted way. 

The four main women in this production of MAMMA MIA! excel in their roles. 

Natalie O’Donnell is mother-of-the-bride Donna Sheridan. She singers her solos and duets with enthusiasm and compassion, and is a great dancer too. Natalie has appeared in the Australian production of Les Miserables and has had a remarkable career in theatre, television and film across the world. Natalie starred in the original Australian production of MAMMA MIA! as Sophie in 2001.

The emerging young Australian actor Sarah Morrison is Donna’s daughter and bride-to-be Sophie. Sarah brings to the stage the love of both her fiancee and her mother, together with the long-held desire of knowing her true father. She combines the loves of her life, pre-wedding nerves, and longing for her father well in her singing and dancing.

Alicia Gardiner and Jayde Westaby star as Donna’s best two friends Rosie and Tanya. Each of these two characters are very different in personality and provide great comic moments to MAMMA MIA! as they burst out in sing and dance.

Not to be outdone by the women, 4 brilliant men have lead roles in MAMMA MIA!

Phillip Lowe, Ian Stenlake, Josef Ber
The 3 possible fathers are played by Ian Stenlake, Phillip Lowe and Josef Ber. Each of these 3 possibilities is very different from each other, with each actor bringing out these differences in the characters they play.

Award-winning actor Ian Stenlake stars as Sam Carmichael, one of Sophie’s possible fathers. Ian has an extensive theatre and television career over the years. Stage and screen actor Phillip Lowe plays Harry Bright, another man from Donna’s past who could be Sophie’s father. Phillip has appeared in many theatre productions. Josef Ber, acclaimed theatre and screen actor plays Bill Austin the third potential father. Josef has appeared in many and varied theatre, television and film productions.

Sarah Morrison, Stephen Mahy
Sophie’s adoring fiancé Sky is played by Stephen Mahy who’s career spans roles in many musical theatre productions. He plays his role of loving Sophie but not really understanding her desire to find her father well.

Other lead actors who add to the fun and drama of MAMMA MIA! are Monique Sallém who plays the role of Ali, Jessica Di Costa as Lisa, Sam Hooper as Pepper and Alex Gibson-Giorgio as Eddie.

The incredible supporting cast includes Stephen Anderson, Jadie Bastow, Dion Bilios, Du Toit Bredenkamp, Annie Chiswell, Matt Edwards, Josh Gates, Catty Hamilton, Matthew Hamilton, Emma Hawthorne, Zoe Komazec, Sarah Kate Landy, Courtney Monsma, Clay Roberts, Leigh Sleightholme, Thalia Smith, Lisa Sontag and Zachary Webster.

The singing of all the ABBA songs is wonderful. They are not sung exactly as the ABBA originals, they are more like interpretations of them. With some musicals, the songs are best appreciated with closed eyes.  However, with MAMMA MIA! it is best to keep them wide open as all the singer's movements bring the songs alive. Apart from the singing, the highlight of the show is the dancing. The dancers must be exhausted after each show with all the energetic moves they make on stage.

The band that plays the music is excellent. I was surprised by the small number of muscicians that provided such depth of music for all the songs. 

At first glance, the sets are over simplistic, consisting of just a the outside wall of a small two-storey Greek hotel building that is always present on stage. The only changes are the shuttered doors that open and close and various pieces of furniture that are brought on and off the stage. However, the simple staging puts the focus on the singers and dancers, as it should be. The costumes are simple island beachwear with relaxed bright colours that add to the fun of MAMMA MIA!

Sarah Morrison, Natalie O’Donnell
This brand new Australian production is of MAMMA MIA is produced by Michael Coppel, Louise Withers & Linda Bewick. It is directed by Helpmann Award winner Gary Young, with the creative team also including Choreographer Tom Hodgson, Musical Supervisor Stephen Amos, Set Design by Linda Bewick, Costume Design by Suzy Strout and Lighting Design by Gavan Swift and Sound design by Michael Waters.

MAMMA MIA! is a fabulous night out for audiences of all ages. It is a celebration of ABBA music, love, laughter and friendship. Any person who rememnbers just one of ABBA's songs should get a group of people together and go and see MAMMA MIA! for a fun night out.

MAMMA MIA! commenced its new Australian national tour at the Canberra Theatre Centre last year with a sold-out season and has just completed the season in Brisbane to standing ovations at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre. The production commenced last week in Sydney at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. 

SYDNEY Capitol Theatre From February 11th 2018 
PERTH Crown Theatre From May 15th 2018 
MELBOURNE Princess Theatre From July 10th 2018 
ADELAIDE Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre From October 9th 2018 

Saturday, 24 February 2018


Photo credit: Hamilton Lund
The world’s best surfers will hit the water off Manly Beach for nine days from today as more than 200 surfers take to the waves in the inaugural Vissla Sydney Surf Pro.

Supported by the NSW Government via its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro combines a Pro Junior event with men’s and women’s World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 6000 events.

NSW Member for Manly James Griffin said he expected a festival-like atmosphere in Manly with a range of activities and events scheduled to complement the action in the water.

“There are 6,000 QS points up for grabs for the men and women as well as valuable ranking points in the Pro Junior event, ensuring the competition will be fierce and spectators guaranteed to see some spectacular surfing,” Mr Griffin said.

“We expect close to 1,000 visitors will travel for the event, boosting the local economy by an estimated $800,000, and providing a great opportunity for local businesses and tourism operators to capitalise on the influx of visitors and interest in surfing.”

The Vissla Sydney Pro will be held at Manly Beach from 24 February to 4 March 2018.

Manly Beach is popular with more than just surfers; this week travel planning and booking site TripAdvisor announced the winners of its Travellers’ Choice Awards for global beaches, with Manly Beach taking the number one spot in the Australian beach category.

The Magic Eight!

Prague Castle
2018 is a very important year for the Czech Republic, as October 28th will mark the centennial anniversary of Czech statehood.

The magical number eight has played a significant role in modern Czech history:

* In 1938, Czechoslovakia lost its border territories that had been part of the country since the Middle Ages.

* In February 1948, the Communist Party seized power and for the next 40 years, a totalitarian regime ruled in Czechoslovakia.

* The Prague Spring of 1968, which was the dawn of socialism with a human face, ended with the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops in August of the same year.

* Democratic movements in late 1989 brought the totalitarian dominance of the Communist Party to an end in Czechoslovakia and in other European countries and provided the chance to again be free. Maybe it should have happened one year earlier to stay true to our number eight tradition

This is just the beginning of 2018 and like one hundred years ago, everything is in place for us to live a happy, and in all respects, a fulfilled life in a democratic and prosperous country. 

Despite all the turbulent times mentioned above, no historic Czech cities, nor its nature, castles or chateaux were destroyed. Twelve incredible sites together with other surviving intangible traditions have been inscribed in UNESCO s World Heritage List.

We are very happy to be able to offer so many beautiful places for your personal and work events. In addition, this year we can also enhance your stay in the Czech Republic with countless exhibitions and concerts dedicated to our country s centennial celebration, which will be felt throughout Europe.

We wish all a successful 2018 full of optimism and bright prospects!
Your Maxin TEAM

For more information and/or requests, please contact Jarmila Skorikova at

Club Marine Trailer Boat Fishing Tournament

First held in 1994, the annual Trailer Boat Fishing Tournament is held at Port Stephens just outside peak holiday periods. This is a fishing tournament for small boat anglers of all ages and skill levels with a strong focus on family groups.

The Trailer Boat Fishing Tournament is primarily for people who have never previously entered a fishing tournament (around 50 per cent each year). The format remains deliberately aimed at family groups and the Junior contingent is always strong and keenly contested. It is very easy to enter and enjoy with many species and lucky draw prizes to be won and you do not need to be a fishing club member. 

Despite the high angler numbers over the three days, there are very few (under 200) fish weighed in each year, with many of these released back into Port Stephens after the Event. This means that the Tournament is always welcome in the area because of its minimal impact on local fish stocks.

Friday 23 March to Sunday 25 March 2018, Nelson Bay, NSW, Australia

For more information:

Friday, 23 February 2018

Queensland's top tourist operators chase national acclaim

The Sarina Sugar Shed is chasing
gold at the Australian Tourism Awards
NEXT Hotel Brisbane, the Whitsunday’s Abell Point Marina, Tropical North Queensland’s Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and Outback Pioneers are among 25 Queensland tourism experiences vying to be recognised as the best in the country.

Chair of the Australian Tourism Awards and QTIC Chief Executive, Daniel Gschwind said Queensland’s national finalists offered unforgettable experiences and world-class service.

“We are very proud of the Queensland finalists who are representing our state and take our hats off to the 225,000 hardworking families and staff employed in our industry who provide wonderful experiences to visitors every day.”

Mr Gschwind said it was fantastic to see regional products such as the Sarina Sugar Shed competing with the likes of Barossa Valley Cheese Company for the Excellence in Food Tourism Award cementing the Mackay regions reputation as an exciting tourism destination.

Queensland’s national gold winners from 2016 including Ocean Rafting, Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo and Fun Over Fifty are all in the running for back to back gold awards at this years awards.

“The quality of finalists from across the country in race for gold is very high,” Mr Gschwind said.

“Queensland continues to produce outstanding events such as Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo and 2017 Queensland Tourism Awards Hall of Fame inductee, the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers that are drawing thousands of visitors from interstate to outback and regional Queensland.”

Mr Gschwind said 2017 was a milestone year for Australia’s tourism industry with 7.9 million people visiting cities and regions throughout the country.

“Visitors spent a phenomenal $122.9 billion with $25 billion being spent in Queensland,” he said.

“Money being spent by international and domestic travellers supports a wide range of industries across the nation and in turn supports regional communities across the nation.”

The Australian Tourism Award winners will be announced Friday evening (February 23) in Perth.

Queensland nominations at the 2017 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards: