Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Margaret Mahy adaption The Changeover to premiere in Christchurch

The Changeover
The supernatural is alive and well in Christchurch with the world premiere of The Changeover just around the corner.

The young adult film is about a teenager who must ‘change over’ and become a witch in order to save her little brother from an evil spirit.

It was shot in Christchurch in 2016 using locations in the city centre such as the Dance-O-Mat and the cleared residential red zone.

The film is based on a wildly-popular young adult novel by New Zealand author Margaret Mahy.

The movie adaption, by husband-and-wife film directors Miranda Harcourt and Stuart McKenzie, will premiere at the Isaac Theatre Royal in central Christchurch on September 25.

McKenzie, who was born and bred in Christchurch, says the city is the “spiritual home” of The Changeover as it is where Margaret Mahy lived and did her work.

The story was updated to fit “a dynamic city in the midst of change” and filming was welcomed to the city by Ngai Tahu in a moving whakatau.

The Changeover stars young Maori actors Erana James and Benji Purchase, who play Laura and Jacko.

They feature alongside Harry Potter actor Timothy Spall and Nicholas Galitzine and other Kiwi stars Melanie Lynskey, Lucy Lawless and Dame Kate Harcourt.

Mahy, who died in 2012, is renowned internationally as the godmother of the young adult genre.

Her novel, The Changeover, was first published in 1984 in Britain and the United States and immediately won the Carnegie Medal.

The Guardian described it as “a seamless combination of supernatural thriller and entirely authentic teenage story”.

Eat Your Way Around the World, All in One City

San Francisco is known for its incredible diversity, and that extends to food. That’s why it should be no surprise that it’s one of the few cities in the world where you can taste the cuisine from dozens of countries without stepping foot outside of its 49 square miles. So if you’re looking for a unique global experience rather than just another meal, take a look at how you can enjoy the food of several countries without leaving San Francisco.

Mexican - Tacolicious (741 Valencia St.)
There are plenty of spots in the Mission to put on this list, and if you've gotten a Mission Burrito at one you might feel like you’ve been to all of them. But if you want to try something you can’t find just anywhere, such as shot-and-a-beer braised chicken or corn, summer squash and sweet peppers tacos, it’s time to visit Tacolicious.

Spanish - Alegrias (2018 Lombard St.)
We get. After eating your way through San Francisco, you might be in search of something on the smaller side. Might we suggest tapas - or Spanish snacks - at Alegrias. The most popular dishes on the menu are empanadillas de carne, machego flambeado, patatas alioli and the much talked about flan. You'll feel like you've been instantly transported across the Atlantic Ocean to Spain.

Moroccan - Mourad (140 New Montgomery St.)
If you’ve never tried Moroccan food, your trip to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without a trip to Mourad, a recently Michelin Star awarded restaurant. Popular Moroccan dishes include tagine, couscous and b’stilla. If you don't want to splurge, check out Mourad between lunch and dinner service at the bar for a great, and more affordable, dining experience.

French - La Folie (2316 Polk St.)
La Folie is a critically acclaimed yet intimate, family-run restaurant located in Russian Hill in San Francisco. Chef Roland Passot and his wife Jamie opened La Folie in 1988 and, for decades, have thrived in their original location Polk street. La Folie’s dining room offer exquisitely prepared meals in an elegant ambience with warm lighting, sophisticated wood and mirrored panels, and top notch service.

German - Schroeder's (240 Front St.)
When you get a sudden craving for bratwurst, strudel or any sort of schnitzel, you’ll be happy you're in San Francisco, where you can find Schroeder's billing itself as the West Coast's oldest German restaurant since 1893. The restaurant, which has been in the same spot since shortly after the 1906 earthquake, was remodeled a few years ago, ushering in a new era for the German eatery.

Italian - Locanda Osteria & Bar (557 Valencia St.)
North Beach, the West Coast's Italian mecca, is a great destination for delicious Italian food like lasagna, spaghetti, ravioli and, of course, pizza. However, San Francisco is home to dozens and dozens of Italian restaurants and one of the top-rated Italian restaurants is actually in the Mission District called Locanda, which has a menu that includes rigatoni, prosciutto, roasted eggplant and the Jewish-style artichoke. Pair that with one of their signature cocktails and you have yourself an amazing night.

Greek - Souvla (517 Hayes St.)
If baklava, lamb, Greek fries or gyros sound good to you, it’s time to find a Greek restaurant. Fortunately, there's Souvla, a fast-casual, affordable option in Hayes Valley that is quickly becoming famous for their photogenic food and inexpensive prices.

Ethiopian - New Eritrea (907 Irving St.)
Typical Ethiopian cuisine includes injera, wat and kitfo. If none of these terms sound familiar, it’s time to try out some Ethiopian food, preferably at one of the top-rated eateries here, such as New Eritrea Restaurant and Bar in the foggy, but delicious Sunset District.

Russian - Red Tavern (2229 Clement St.)
Considering the extreme diversity of food in San Francisco, it should come as no surprise that you can get some incredible Russian food here without traveling to St. Petersburg and back. When you want beef stroganoff, pelmeni or kotlety, the Red Tavern has just what you need.

Indian - Amber India (25 Yerba Buena Ln.)
Indian cuisine is known for combining practically every spice in the pantry to result in a flavorful, unique dish that’s unforgettable. So if you’re craving curry, tandoori chicken or some soft naan or any other North Indian specialties, Amber India Restaurant in SOMA has you covered.

Chinese - Crystal Jade (Four Embarcadero Center)
When you’re in the mood for authentic Chinese food, it makes sense to expect a city with its own Chinatown to satisfy you, but there are options outside of the famous neighborhood. Whether you want Hong Kong, Chinese or Cantonese style cuisine, Crystal Jade, which overlooks the Embarcadero, has what you desire, from dumplings and dim sum to crispy pork belly and Peking duck.

Thai - Thai Spice (1730 Polk St.)
Some of the most popular foods from Thailand include moo nam tok, green curry, som tam, pad Thai and Thai fried rice. If you have a hankering for any of these delicious dishes, Thai Spice Restaurant can satisfy your craving. To our astonishment, they serve 80 more unique Thai dishes. After all, the "San Francisco Chronicle" named it one of the top five Thai restaurants in this city.

Korean - Han Il Kwan (1802 Balboa St.)
Kimchi, guksu or bokkeum might sound good to you right now. Then it’s essential that you find an amazing Korean restaurant while you’re in San Francisco. Han II Kwan consistently gets great reviews and is known for both delicious food and excellent customer service.

Japanese - Ozumo (161 Steuert St.)
If you’re craving Japanese food during your trip to San Francisco, conventional wisdom would tell you to go to the historic Japantown, but you’ll be glad to know that Ozumo Restaurant near the Embarcadero likely has what you need. Its menu includes traditional Japanese dishes like miso and edamame to start, followed by main dishes like shabu-shabu, tempura, sashimi and sushi. The extensive menu is complemented by a sake lounge and amazing views of the bay.

American - The Dorian (2001 Chestnut St.)
Sometimes you just need a burger, ribs or tender steak with a side of baked beans and tater tots, followed by apple pie. Good 'ole hearty American Fare at its finest. Fortunately, you can get all that plus more American food at the Dorian, which serves everything from burgers and steaks to chicken sliders and oysters in the Marina.

California - Foreign Cinema (2543 Mission St.)
The final stop on the world tour is right back where you started, California and Californian cuisine, which tends to mix different cooking styles. In other words, don’t show up expecting to get a simple pasta dish or house salad that you could get anywhere else. Instead, excite your palate with interesting options like sea bass ceviche or Pacific ahi seared rare, which you can find at Foreign Cinema.

Are you hungry yet? Then choose the cuisine you want to try tonight to kick off the global experience you can only find in San Francisco.

Tourism EXPO Japan 2017

The Tourism EXPO Japan is the world’s largest event to promote the many charms of Japan and its prefectures to both international and Japanese tourists. Not only the travel industry is widely represented, but all kinds of businesses and organisations focusing on “tourism” gather to promote and revitalise regions throughout Japan.

The exhibition space is especially exciting, as regions and places both from all around the world and all around Japan are showcased, allowing you to discover their many unique attractions. It really feels like a tiny trip around the world! Look forward to various performances and savouring local cuisines as well. (Ticket: 1,300 yen)

September 23rd (Sat) and 24th (Sun)
※21st and 22nd are trade and press days.

Ninh Thuan’s orchards opened for visitors

The central province of Ninh Thuan is developing eco-tourism activities by opening up farmers’ fruit orchards to visitors, according to the province’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Visitors enjoy rambutan they picked at a fruit orchard in Ninh Son District’s Lam Son commune in Ninh Thuan Province (Photo:

About 800 hectares of many kinds of fruits, including mangosteen, durian, and rambutan, are grown in Lam Son Commune in the province’s Ninh Son District.

Visitors can pick the fruits for a low price of 10,000 (0.45 USD) per kilo for rambutan, 35,000 VND (1.5 USD) per kilo for mangosteen and 40,000 VND (1.8 USD) per kg for durian.

About eight years ago, the orchard owners began inviting friends during the harvest season to introduce them to fruits grown in the provinces of the Mekong Delta.

Since the fruits cultivated in Ninh Thuan Province have a much higher quality than others planted in the Mekong Delta, and a higher productivity rate, farmers now earn about three times more than they made from rice or corn.

Phan Huu Thanh, a farmer from Lam Son Commune in Ninh Son District, said he started a fruit orchard in 1990 and now has about 2.3ha with 370 plants of various kinds of fruits, including durian, mangosteen, green grapefruit and rambutan. He earns about 150 million VND (7,000 USD) per year.

Most orchard owners collect an average of 40,000 VND (1.8 USD) per visitor, he said, adding that most visitors book a day or week before the harvest season. There is no need to buy a ticket, but visitors must pay for the fruits they pick.

To protect the orchard from damage, Thanh receives no more than 50 visitors a day.

Nguyen Thi Hoa, from Da Lat, said her family visits Thanh’s fruit orchard every harvest season to pick fruits and enjoy chicken dishes made with fruits.

Lam Son commune has about 210 households cultivating fruit on a total of 236ha that once was used to grow rice or corn.

Truong Thanh Quyen, chairman of the commune’s People’s Committee, said the fruit orchards had improved the lives of local farmers, who have been encouraged to expand their orchards.

Besides fruit orchards, the province is developing the cultivation of vineyard grapes for winemaking.

About 400 households cultivate grapes on a total area of 180ha in Ninh Hai District, according to Luu Xuan Hai, vice chairman of Ninh Hai District’s Vinh Hai Commune.

Chau Thanh Hai, Director of the province’s Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism, said the department was working with other districts and cities in the province to expand the fruit orchard model.


Creations from the world’s most iconic menswear designers will be coming to NSW as part of an exhibition from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Secured by the NSW Government through Destination NSW, Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall and Minister for the Arts Don Harwin, announced Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear 1715 – 2017, will open exclusively in Australia at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum in May.

The exhibition will feature over 130 garments, from extravagant silks worn by 18th-century aristocrats to contemporary clothes created by designers including Tom Ford, Gucci, Armani, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Giorgio Jean Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent.

Mr Harwin said, “Securing this exhibition exclusively for Sydney showcases the city as a dynamic and leading global fashion destination.”

Reigning Men is estimated to generate more than $1.3 million in overnight visitor expenditure for NSW and will be presented at the Powerhouse Museum from 12 May to 14 October 2018.

To find out more, visit the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


Discover Sonoma County, just an hour north of San Francisco, with world-class wines, delicious craft beers, tempting farm-to-fork food, charming small towns, urban amenities, stunning scenery and beautiful, wide-open spaces. It's the perfect addition to your trip to San Francisco.

Driving from one side of Sonoma County to the other only takes an hour or so, but exploring the beauties and abundance of that same territory can take several days. Here’s a quick blueprint for your Sonoma County getaway. If you only have one day, choose the areas that interest you the most. But if you have several, that’s wonderful, because Sonoma County offers so many enticing options.

Petaluma: Gateway to Sonoma County

Driving up Highway 101 from the Golden Gate Bridge, the first Sonoma County outpost you’ll reach is Petaluma, a foodie haven also known for its wines and world-class beer and ales. Nestled along the Petaluma River and built on secure bedrock, Petaluma was one of the few Bay Area communities not seriously damaged in the 1906 earthquake. Its downtown includes well-preserved historic buildings that now house boutiques, antique shops, specialty stores and restaurants. Explore some of the possibilities in 5 Fun Things to do in Petaluma and What Petaluma is Famous For.

The Sonoma Valley

Making your way east from Petaluma on two-lane roads brings you to the Sonoma Valley, nestled between two mountain ranges along Sonoma County’s eastern edge. Known as the birthplace of wine in California, this 17-mile long valley includes an amazing variety of landscapes and microclimates, five of Sonoma County’s 17 distinct American Viticultural Areas (known as AVAs or appellations), and the welcoming communities of Sonoma, Glen Ellen and Kenwood. For more details, read the Guide to the Sonoma Valley.

The Pacific Coast

Heading west from Petaluma on scenic back roads takes you through the farming communities of Two Rock Valley and Valley Ford, to the inland town of Bodega and the coastal community of Bodega Bay, a picturesque fishing village on the Sonoma Coast. Play on the sandy beach at Doran Regional Park, go whale watching at Bodega Head, take a deep sea fishing charter, and enjoy fresh local seafood in restaurants along the Sonoma Coast.

From Bodega Bay, famed Highway 1 winds its way north, hugging the cliffs and revealing stunning views of the rugged, dynamic and scenic coastline. Every inch of this highway beckons you to stop, get out of the car, relax and soak in the sublime.

Explore the 17 miles of beaches and rocky bluffs that make up the Sonoma Coast State Park. It stretches from Bodega Head to four miles north of the town of Jenner, which offers spectacular bluff-top views where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Head farther north on Highway 1 and you’ll discover a former Russian colony at Fort Ross State Historic Park, six gorgeous coastal access trails at The Sea Ranch, and white sandy dunes and riverside campsites nestled under redwood trees at Gualala Point Regional Park.

For details about don’t-miss coastal adventures, read Best Beaches on the Sonoma Coast and Pacific Coast 3-Day Roadtrip Itinerary.

Central Sonoma County

Driving north from Petaluma on Highway 101, you’ll reach Cotati, a modern community with strong historic roots. The heart of Cotati is La Plaza Park, a California Historic Landmark that hosts seasonal farmers markets, an array of community events and festivals, and the annual Cotati Accordion Festival.

Immediately to the north is Rohnert Park, home to Sonoma State University and its acclaimed Green Music Center, and a variety of family-friendly activities, like miniature golf, an electric cart raceway, batting cages, and hiking, biking and horseback riding at the 128-acre Crane Creek Regional Park.

North of Rohnert Park you’ll find Santa Rosa, the county’s capital city. Its thriving downtown boasts three shopping districts, five historic residential neighborhoods, arts and cultural events, great restaurants with famous chefs, wine tasting rooms, brew pubs and more.

And just north of Santa Rosa, the town of Windsor is designed to be family-friendly, with a pedestrian-friendly town green that hosts concerts, movies and a farmers market each summer.

Learn more in 4 Fun Things to do in Cotati, 5 Fun Things to do in Rohnert Park, 5 Fun Things to do in Santa Rosa, and Getaway to Windsor.

Russian River Resorts

Both north and west of Santa Rosa, the Russian River winds its way to the Pacific Ocean, creating a special corridor of gently moving water, riverside greenery and unique towns large and small. It’s a diverse area of vineyards, towering redwood trees and rolling hills.

Going north on Highway 101 from Windsor, trendy riverside Healdsburg mixes small-town charm with wine and culinary delights for a hip, eclectic mix centered around a charming downtown plaza. About two dozen art galleries are within walking distance of the plaza, along with acclaimed restaurants, wine tasting rooms and diverse specialty shops.

A little further north on the 101 corridor, the Wild West storefronts and wooden boardwalks in tiny Geyserville reflect its founding in the mid-1800s. The town is surrounded by picturesque vineyards, wineries and hills, and the area is a magnet for bicyclists, artists and photographers.

On Sonoma County’s northern border, Cloverdale offers a compact downtown filled with rambling Victorian homes, a burgeoning arts community and a family-friendly atmosphere. It was recently named one of “America’s Coolest Small Towns.”

To follow the meandering Russian River west to the coast, take two-lane roadways from Santa Rosa (River Road exit off Highway 101) or Healdsburg (Eastside Road). Along the riverbanks and under towering redwoods, you’ll find quirky riverside communities like Rio Nido, Forestville, Guerneville, Monte Rio, and Duncans Mills. To learn more, read Guide to the Russian River Resort Area.

Western Sonoma County

From Monte Rio, the two-lane Bohemian Highway winds its way for 10 highly scenic miles south through Occidental to the tiny community of Freestone. A bit to the east of Freestone are tiny Graton and the larger town of Sebastopol. Diverse landscapes overlap here: around one bend you’ll find a majestic redwood grove, around the next rolling pastureland, neat rows of grapevines, or a fruit orchard. To learn more, read Highlights of the Rivers & Redwoods: West County Tour Itinerary.
Planning Ahead

The best way to experience Sonoma County is to stay awhile and explore. Search our listings of Sonoma County Hotels & Lodgings and Restaurants, and check our special Sonoma County deals for money-saving offers in Sonoma Wine Country.

Movie buffs spoilt for choice in Canterbury

Chronicles of Narnia
Movie buffs are spoilt for choice when it comes to film locations to visit in New Zealand – and Canterbury is no exception. Check out eight films showcasing intriguing locations and outstanding scenery in the Canterbury region.

1. Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe
Flock Hill, an area of unique rock formations near Arthur’s Pass, was the setting for the climactic great battle for Narnia in Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.
2. The Lord of the Rings
Mount Sunday in Hakatere Conservation Park provided the scenery for Edoras, the capital of Rohan, in The Lord of the Rings. Visitors can park their vehicles on Hakatere Potts Rd and walk to the site – though nothing remains of the epic set.
3. The Hobbit
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park provided a spectacular backdrop to aerial filming in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Lake Pukaki was chosen as the location for ‘Laketown’ in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
4. Vertical Limit
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park featured prominently in 2000 survival thriller Vertical Limit. The blockbuster by Kiwi-born director Martin Campbell was about a climbing drama on K2.
5. Heavenly Creatures
Filming locations for Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson’s 1994 film about the Parker-Hulme murder, included Victoria Park, The Isaac Theatre Royal, The Sign of the Kiwi and an Ilam homestead.
6. Human Traces
Human Traces is set in a fictional location based loosely on Campbell Island – 750 kilometres south of New Zealand, and was shot amongst the tussock spurs, volcanic rocks and sharp outcrops of Banks Peninsula and in the Catlins.
The Changover
7. The Stolen
Historic buildings at Ferrymead Heritage Park feature in The Stolen, a colonial drama filmed in Christchurch in 2016. The film crew also visited Ashley Gorge, Little River, Birdling's Flat, Arthur's Pass and Waikuku Beach.
8. The Changover
The Changeover is set in post-earthquake Christchurch and filming locations included an empty site in the CBD, the residential red zone and a 1950s architectural home.

Namaste India 2017

Giving an authentic glimpse into the many different faces of India, from daily life such as clothing and housing to the vast food culture, India’s charms can be felt and explored to the fullest at Japan’s largest India festival - around 200,000 visitors are expected in the two days in which the festival is held. 

The autumn festival has a long tradition as 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Namaste India. Indian culture can be savored in many different ways: whether you get your hands on the many spices on display, dive into the world of Indian cuisine with classics such as Ayurveda, purchase your own colorful sari or experience Henna art first-hand, there’s much and more to discover. 

Dance and musical performances are being held back to back, showcasing India’s many performance arts.

September 23rd (Sat) and September 24th (Sun)

More walking streets to be opened in Hue

Hue authorities will open more walking zones on Chu Van An, Pham Ngu Lao and Vo Thi Sau Streets later this month, according to Vice Chairman of Hue municipal People’s Committee Nguyen Dang Thanh.

The entire pavement of facades on these walking streets will be used for business purposes and business households will have to pay fees to local authorities.

All vehicles will be banned from Friday to Sunday to prioritise pedestrian and business activities.

Five parking lots will be established near the walking streets to facilitate travel for local residents and tourists.

In addition, a land lot under a stadium on the Nguyen Thai Hoc Street will also be used to keep vehicles for the tourists during the walking time.

The Truong Tien Bridge is also scheduled to be used for pedestrians on weekend evenings. The Thua Thien-Hue provincial People’s Committee has invested VND3.8 billion in repairing this bridge in a bid to attract more visitors to Hue.

The previous repair was carried out more than 20 years ago in 1995.

The local authorities hope that these moves will help create a boost in tourism and in the local economy.


Image: Chen Pen Bin. Credit: Craig Golding
Ultra-marathon champion Chen Pen Bin has been announced as the first Chinese ambassador for this weekend’s Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, to promote the event and encourage visitors to NSW.

China’s first international ultra-marathon champion, Chen Pen Bin, is famous for running 100 marathons in 100 consecutive days across nine provinces in China, and being the first Chinese runner to compete in an ultra-marathon on every continent.

Secured by the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, the agreement with Chen Pen Bin will see Sydney and NSW promoted in the key inbound visitor market of mainland China.

Destination NSW Chief Executive Officer Sandra Chipchase said, “China is NSW’s largest inbound tourism market and we are delighted to see this iconic event showing our beautiful Harbour City to even more potential Chinese visitors.”

Find out more about the Sydney Running Festival.