August 21, 2016


Sydney Town Hall was the venue for a recent concert by the Macao Youth Symphony Orchestra as part of their Australian tour. Music lovers were delighted to experience the varied classical programme performed during the evening by this very professional youth orchestra, whose members’ ages ranged from pre-teens to young adults.

Founded in 1997, the Macao Youth Symphony Orchestra has given more than two hundred public performances. The Orchestra, which draws its members from local universities, secondary and primary schools, strives to keep its initial objectives of providing musical training and performing opportunities for the local youth, many of whom have decided to make music a career.

Mike Smith, Jimson, Hoi Kin Wa, Ms Wong, Helen Wong

Mike Smith, Jimson, Hoi Kin Wa, Ms Wong, Helen Wong

By regular training from guest instructors from Hong Kong, Macao and mainland China, the Orchestra works to improve the standard of the students’ music appreciation and performance. In January 2010, the Orchestra was awarded the Order of Merit in Culture by the government of the Macau Special Administrative Region of China.

The orchestra has previously performed in Washington’s Kennedy Centre, the Berlin Konzerhaus, Singapore’s Victoria Hall, Salzburger Mozarteum and the National Grand Theatre in Beijing, as well as tours to Prague, Vienna, the Florence International Youth Festival in 2014, Shanghai’s Summer Festival, Ao Lago Festival in Lisbon and many more.

Sandra Tiltman         Photos: John Pond



February 22, 2015


Chinese communities around the globe are making preparations to celebrate and herald the arrival of the Year of the Ram (Goat).

During Chinese New Year, one of the traditions is for people to visit and greet each other with plenty of “Kung Hei Fat Choy” and by offering “Lai Si” (red packets) containing money to wish good luck and prosperity.

February is a great time to travel to Macau, where plenty of festive fun is planned to celebrate the 2015 Chinese New Year. Beginning on February 19, visitors can join in with the locals and take part in the many celebrations that include the traditional Golden Dragon parade and Lion Dance Performances, as well as two vibrant street parades featuring floats from around Asia. These parades are to be held on Saturday, February 21 and Saturday, February 28.

The Golden Dragon Parade, to be held on February 19, will begin at the iconic Ruins of St. Paul’s at 10am while the Lion Dance Performance will kick off from Senado Square at 11am on February 21, and from Tap Seac Square at 4.30pm the following day.

No celebration would be complete without the traditional fireworks, so on Saturday, February 21, a spectacular fireworks display will take place over the city, along with ten days of performances by more than 1000 artists.

Local Chinese, Portuguese and Macanese restaurants will be decorated to be a part of the fun filled festivities.

DSC03681Helen Wong, General Manager of the Macau Government Tourist Office in Australia and New Zealand said “nclude a vibrant street parade on both February 21 and 28. To top that off, there will also be a giant fireworks display on February 21. And, as usual, prepare for a feast – Chinese, Portuguese and Macanese style. Now that’s food for thoughtIt is the most important and colourful Chinese festival of the year. A majority of the local population celebrate, where shops, offices, factories close for what is an exciting traditional holiday. Over ten days celebrations involve a huge number of events, including the traditional long dragon and lions dance on the streets. Crowds visit the temples, and there are countless lanterns and floral displays, not to forget the entertainment and fireworks.”

The grand outdoor and indoor events will be presented by the Macau Government Tourist Office and it will be the first time mainland China will include a float in the international processions.

The Lanterns Festival occurs on the 15th day of the first moon, where colourful lanterns are placed around the city. Small balls of glutinous rice are prepared as dessert, symbolising the “ribbon of friendship”, “family reunion” or “good luck” for the Chinese.

Coinciding with the Chinese New Year festivities is a unique Macau Christian religious celebration where an image of Christ carrying the Cross is taken in a procession from St Augustine’s Church to the Cathedral for an overnight vigil. It is then returned through the city accompanied by a magenta-robed escort.

Sandra Tiltman

Photos: John Pond


July 12, 2013

Viet Bikes

It’s always a good time to visit China and Vietnam.  Both countries have been popular destinations with Australian travellers for many years and visitor numbers continue to grow.  Whatever the season, there is always something happening in China and Vietnam.  Festivals are celebrated throughout the year, so no matter which month you choose to travel, you will find a festival or three.

One of Vietnam’s main Festivals occurs between late January and February.  Depending on the Lunar Calendar, this four day national holiday falls on a different date each year.  Tet, the Lunar New Year, is Vietnam’s biggest holiday.  The festivities begin on New Year’s Eve and the first three days of the Lunar New Year, but most people celebrate for a week or more.  It’s a time to be with family members.

February 3 each year sees the Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party.  Celebrated nationwide, visitors can expect to see cultural displays and the waving of massive red flags in open air shows.

In China, the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year, is held nationwide on the day of the first new moon after January 21 and no later than February 20.  January 31, 2014 will see celebrations begin for Year of the Horse.  Lion dances, fireworks, the giving of red envelopes, visiting friends and relatives and enjoying family meals are just some of the many ways Chinese people enjoy this time of year.

The Lantern Festival, which falls fifteen days after the Spring Festival, concludes celebrations for the Chinese New Year.  A main feature is the carrying of brightly lit lanterns and lighting lanterns on towers or floating sky lanterns.

Popular with tourists is the Water Splashing Festival, held in mid April.  Dai New Year is ushered in with a large market on the first day, dragon boat races on the second and copious amounts of water splashing on the third day.  Apparently, the wetter you are, the more luck you will have.

Celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese, the Mid-Autumn Festival is held during a full moon in September or early October.  The festival was a time to enjoy the successful reaping of rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon.  Today, it is an occasion for outdoor reunions with friends and relatives, eating mooncakes and watching the moon, a symbol of harmony and unity.

Beijing 25An Asian specialist for 26 years, Helen Wong’s Tours, is now making it even more appealing to visit Vietnam by shaving up to $500 a couple off the price of some of their selected group tours and up to $600 a couple on selected group tours to China.

These money saving deals apply to packages involving Cathay Pacific air fares, making the starting price of a 12 day China Discovery itinerary $3,690 per person, twin share from Australia.

The 12 day Glimpse of Vietnam tour visiting Saigon, Mekong Delta, Hoi An, Hanoi and Halong Bay is now priced from $3,200 per person, twin share from Australia.

Both deals apply to bookings and full payments by August 30, 2013 for travel between February 1 and April 30, 2014 in China and from February 1 until March 30, 2014 in Vietnam.

Founder and Managing Director, Helen Wong, said “If you want to travel at other times of the year, we are offering savings of up to $400 a couple on China group tours from Australia and from $300 a couple on Vietnam tours from Australia, providing you fly with Cathay Pacific”.

Sandra Tiltman    Photos: John Pond & Helen Wong