Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Afterthoughts of Macau Holiday Trip with The Changed Man (Day 2 of 3)

Day 2/Dim Sum Breakfast/Macau Island/0900hrs

It was a really cold morning and our stomachs were grumbling for a nice hot breakfast. Not knowing which shops were opened for business, we donned on our jackets and started searching the streets of Macau until we found a corner-sited Chinese restaurant selling dim sum. We ordered meatball porridge, shrimp dumplings, some roasted pork buns and washed them down with hot Chinese tea. Satisfied, we pored through the tourist map, deciding that day to be spent visiting the various world heritage sites on Macau Island.

Day 2/Visiting World Heritage Sites/Macau Island/1000hrs

We started by heading towards the famous A-Ma Temple at the south-western tip of Macau Island and as we walked through streets of Macau Island, I could not help but be amazed by how narrow the pedestrian walkways were and how the residential houses reminded me of Hongkong. They were really tightly-packed, a tad dirty and gloomy but all of these were muted by the shivering cold in the morning. We passed by only a handful of locals and odd backpacking tourists before we arrived at the already crowded A-Ma Temple - so that was where they gathered in the morning.

Both the Changed Man and myself bought huge incense sticks and began praying at the main temple hall (there were quite a few small temples including a huge Tai-Yi stone at the top of the small knoll). There was also a bronze cauldron for people to try and rub their hands on until the cauldron vibrates but we were interested in pressing on as there were at least another ten more sites to visit.

Subsequently, we visited the Lilau Square, the Mandarin's House, St Lawrence Church, and stopped at St Joseph's Church. The latter was worth a more detailed mention here because it was such a beautiful Portuguese church, with every nook and corner filled with something divine and related to Christianity. The whole place was imbued with a solemn and stately feel that one cannot help but keep one's volume down to really enjoy the visit there.

We then moved on to visit the signature Senado Square, Ruins of St Paul's, Mount Fortress and of course, the Macau Museum at the summit of Mount Fortress. The Museum was very well-decorated with relics from both Portuguese and Chinese heritage, which showed the fusion of the two cultures on Macau itself. I loved the display formats within the museum as they had very clear and different ways to present actual artifacts or even replicas with minimal barriers so one can get really close to the artifacts.

Day 2/Buying Local Goodies To Bring Back Home/Macau Island/1200hrs

The Changed Man dragged me into this store Koi Kei Bakery to buy some of the local goodies to bring back which includes black sesame biscuits, almond cookies and egg rolls. Not wanting to miss out since I like to eat, I bought as much as I could carry before we headed back to Metropole Hotel to unload and take a small break from all the walking up and down the slopes, nooks and corners for the entire morning.

Day 2/More Casino Visiting/Macau Island/1500hrs

The Changed Man fell asleep again and not wishing to wake him up, I took the liberty to watch more television until he managed to rouse himself up again. The poor sod was overworking and the trip was more like some form of escape from the drudgery. Feeling hungry again, we hunted down the elusive Portuguese egg tart store (which I could not remember the name..haha) and shoved down some egg tarts before proceeding to visit more casinos - Casino Wynn and Casino MGM Grand. I remember Casino Wynn better because we managed to catch a mechanized performance of some golden tree and a beautiful rooftop that opened up to reveal a gigantic chandelier. A lot of the gamblers were throwing money onto the tree, hoping to get some good luck for their gambling later on. Casino or not, I like places that offer a twist for the people milling within because they add that kind of excitement and anticipation which is seriously lacking in Singapore's shopping malls.

Day 2/Dinner at Portuguese Restaurant/Macau Island/1900hrs

The Changed Man wanted to watch some soccer match at any pub he could find in Macau so we went to look around but after more than one hour, we still could not find any working pubs. We settled down for a nice dinner at some Portuguese restaurant located at the south-western tip of Macau Island with red wine and a five-course dinner. I remembered I had some appetizer vegetables, soup, some really interesting sardines, steak and desserts with some odd nut powder I could not recognize. It was one slow dinner but we were more than happy to be out of the way of the coldness.

Day 2/Soccer Pub Hunting/Macau Island/2200hrs
Rejuvenated by the food, we kept on asking passers-by until we managed to find a small stretch of soccer pubs on the far side of that section of shops near Avenida de Sagres. Most of the pubs were quite poorly decorated and the only one which seemed decent enough with a proper screen and live singing performances was that place called Moonwalker. On hindsight, Singapore has a much better pub culture - more variety, better pubs and crowds. We ordered some gin volka and chicken wings and watched the match before Manchester United and Wolves but the Changed Man was actually trying to find the Arsenal match. By around 0100hrs, we were heading back to Metropole Hotel again for the closure of the day.

(Stay tuned for the third and final blog post on Day 3 of the Holiday Trip to Macau)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Afterthoughts of Macau Holiday Trip with The Changed Man (Day 1 of 3)

Day 1/Prelude/On a cab towards Budget Terminal/1030hrs
A chance to go on a holiday - finally - after slogging for a year at work and attending a couple of volunteering camps in December. The trip to Macau was planned within the space of a few hours because The Changed Man (A VIP friend of mine) was so busy with work that he could only grab leave from work on the day before and he was actually in full work attire when he turned up to meet me at the Budget Terminal in Singapore prior to our flight itself.

We packed really light and with no exact plan in mind, we hopped onto the flight we booked and off we go on a holiday together to explore Macau - a group of three islands - the casino city of Asia.

(Photos are still inside The Changed Man's superior camera phone. Will upload them once I have them on hand.)

Day 1/Budget Terminal/Singapore Changi/1230hrs

My first time taking Tiger Airways from the Budget Terminal in Changi. The seats were really cramped and there wasn't any entertainment onboard. I must have looked so bored from studying the lines on my palms that the Singaporean middle-aged couple offered their Straits Times newspapers for me to read. Thankfully, that helped me pass some time for the four hour flight.

Day 1/Macau International Airport/Taipa Island/1630hrs

Customs are tough and vague in Macau International Airport and after several attempts, I finally got the arrival and departure blue slips right by running to and fro from the check-in counters to the writing counters several times, much to the amusement of the customs officials. Hey, it's my first time in Macau and nobody told me that the slips are to be filled in together in the midst of all the frantic rush by the frequent travelers.

The first thing I grabbed after clearing the customs was a tourist map of Macau. The map was one bizarre labyrinth of streets clustered with hotels, sightseeing venues, casinos, residential housing, colonial fortresses and churches. That would take some head-scratching to interpret them all to plan some decent itinerary.

The weather was blisteringly cold when we waited at the taxi stand. An icy northern wind was blowing across the whole island and temperature plummeted to 12 Degrees Celsius in a matter of hours.

Day 1/Metropole Hotel/Macau Island/1730hrs

Finally checked into the hotel that the Changed Man had booked last minute. The room rate was unfortunately higher since it was done at last notice - around 660 SGD for a 3D2N stay. I was a little skeptical since the hotel was nothing much to look at from the exterior - a bland-looking building smack right alongside a busy mainstreet road but I was delightfully surprised when we entered the room. It was on the top floor and was actually an executive suite with sofa, two televisions, two bathrooms, one bathtub, bedroom on the second floor and an excellent view of the island of Macau itself.

Day 1/God of Kitchen Restaurant (食神)/ Macau Island/1830hrs

Our first dinner was at a fairly large restaurant tucked at one of the many streets of Macau Island nearby to our Hotel. The Changed Man ordered some salted egg toufu, green kailan, duck meat stir-fried with beans and Peking Duck.

Day 1/Touring The Grand Lisboa, Lisboa/Macau Island/2030hrs

Casinos are the main attractions in Macau and obviously I am not going to miss the chance to tour the casinos even though I don't even gamble at all. After dinner, we made our way down the streets and came across The Grand Lisboa and Lisboa Casino - brother casinos of the same company and their differences - the stakes at each time. Lisboa is the less glitzy one with stakes from HKD200 while Grand Lisboa can easily be at HKD500 onwards. They have every game imaginable - baccarat (the most popular one), blackjack, slot machines, dominoes, texas poker, dice, roulette and many discreet VIP rooms for the high rollers whom I imagine to put at least HKD10,000 per hand. I shudder at the sheer amount of money that changed hands in the space of just one night in one casino alone, let alone the twenty odd ones in Macau itself.

Being the less experienced when it comes to casinos, I asked The Changed Man what the average working hours of the croupiers are and the answer came in: easily more than 14hours. No wonder some of the croupiers were haggard looking and yawning away whenever their supervisors were not looking. As I have studied a couple of modules in architectural design when I was still an undergraduate, I turned my attention to the designs of the casinos - high ceiling, plenty of glided gold, ambient light to reflect on the glitz and glamor intended to seduce the customers with extra wads of money to spend on.

Day 1/Metropole Hotel/Macau Island/1030hrs

Lazing on the bed watching B.I.O channel on the bedroom wall. The Changed Man was fast asleep and snoring away. I had a hot shower to fend off the coldness in my bones and was trying to figure out about compulsive hoarding which is being featured on the television program then. Maybe gamblers themselves are also compulsive hoarders too - they hoard winning streaks to boost to friends and peers? Hmm...maybe...

Yes, I am a weird person who suddenly watches psychology related shows in the middle of a holiday trip. Oh well, I like to learn new things everyday, no matter where I am and I knocked out around midnight. Zzzzz....

Stay tuned for the next two blog posts on what I did for the remaining impromptu trip at Macau. ^__^