Text and photos by Army Alcayaga-Granada
Published in the Manila Bulletin May 10, 2012
Fresh from the Cebu Pacific flight, my two friends and I were giddy with excitement. My son who worked at the Four Seasons Hotel picked us up at the airport.
We were thrilled to see tourist busses paraded for our picking, compliments of The Venetian, The Galaxy, The Sands, The Crown, The Four Seasons and The City of Dreams. Hotel hopping was an addicting experience. Other freebies in the casinos were bottled water, juices, maps and travel brochures from the concierge. Some of these places were nearby, giving us the chance to stroll from hotel to hotel.
We were ushered into the extravagance of the Venetian Hotel and Casino. Several frescoes on the ceilings depicted Italian scenes. The dazzling chandeliers mesmerized us. Delighted and unabashed, we aimed our cameras at just about everything we came in contact with.
Horror of horrors, a uniformed official sporting beret and red tassels literally ruined my chance to capture the shameful waste in that gambling arena. We were politely but firmly asked to erase the photos we took in the casino area.
From out of nowhere there appeared masked medieval characters that regaled us with a spectacle only imagined in an Edgar Allan Poe tale. They paraded and danced with sheer debauchery; minstrels, jugglers, fire eaters and sorcerers. The scene was reminiscent of the “Mask of the Red Death”. One of the performers looked like Vincent Price, it gave me goose bumps.
The Venetian experience will not be complete without riding the gondola on a stretch of a manmade canal. The gondola ride is 118MOP (642PHP).
Parched and famished, we tried the Chinese noodles which is 40MOP (240PHP) a bowl in the Venetian food court and cafes.
We walked at night time for it was scorching hot at noon. Some hotels were nearby, giving us a chance to meander the Macau avenues and feel the thrill of just walking into any hotel without qualms because we were welcome.
The iconic Ruins of St. Paul is a popular destination and nearby is the Mount Fortress where one can see the Macau horizon, a place so well assimilated one can spot a cathedral side by side a Chinese temple. The Macau museum houses an extensive collection of treasures that can make Jack Sparrow and his band of pirates make another sequel.
We stopped on Rua de Cunha to satisfy our craving for Macanese food. We ate at a nondescript restaurant but the food was heaven. We ordered beef brisket that melted in the mouth. The dumpling I tasted was dipped in tamarind sauce that reminded me of the Indian samosas. The dumpling was 8MOP (40PHP) for 3pieces. Milk tea was 19MOP (103PHP). It’s better to find a grocery store where you can buy water and other drinks for a lot less.
What struck me in Senado Square was the charm of the mosaic images on tiled pathways. There were sketches of gypsy women, galleons, religious icons, and more. The famed piazza is the Mecca of tourists much like Rizal Park and Intramuros in Manila. Senado Square is at the center of historic public buildings. Portuguese influence on architecture is unmistakable in this Chinese port that jutted off from mainland China. There you can try the bicycle or the rickshaw. Many wanted rickshaw photos. I preferred the tried and tested strolling where I can hobnob with other tourists around Senado Square, tasting the dried meat jerky, cookies and champoy Chinese stores give away for free. Yummy!
There were a lot of trinkets and souvenirs. I bought a small bust of Bodhisattva, the solemn Buddha .Souvenir shopping in San Malo felt like being transported to Avenida Rizal in the 70’s with it small shoe stores and other specialty shops. If you want mall ambience, go to The Venetian. There you can find original Pradas and Louis Vuittons.
The Soul of Macau
I do believe that if we care for the soul of people in any place or country, we should create some small nooks and spaces where one can be alone, in company of butterflies and flowers.
I brought a book by Isabel Allende. I really meant to read the last chapters of the book in Macau. So my last two days, I went to a place I called ‘secret garden’ (actually the courtyard in Leal Senado) and refreshed my senses. The soul of Macau lies in its gardens, the Camoes, the Guia Fortress, Lilau square, small pockets of nature to soothe the spirit.
Dreamy Day at the Macau Tower
Macau Tower shot up high and mighty, lording it over the waters of Sai Van Lake and the waterfront. Before hitting the elevators, we got entrance tickets (adults/ 120MOP View only/ or 150MOP with snacks) for a view at the top. This ticket included a snack at the Cafe on 4 of mini bagel sandwich, tuna salad, and two pixie cakes. We took our sweet time enjoying food and mood watching the boats coming to and from Hongkong. You can stay at the top until night time. If you go there at 5pm, you can be dazzled by the sunset, and who knows by a full moon at night time. Awesome!
After the much needed breather, my two friends and I rode the transparent lift to the top which gave us a sneak preview of the outdoor scene.
We stepped into a glass enclosure of 360 degrees of jaw dropping splendour. The sky descended and we were metaphorically in heaven. One’s spirit is at once uplifted. There were glass floors on which we posed dramatically as if falling from the tower. Tourists crowded us but the atmosphere was gay and the excitement unbearable.
While we did our Vogue poses, screams would ring out as skyjumpers and bungyjumpers fall like birds from the top. There was all we could do to stop one friend from bungy jumping.
The tower was almost surrounded by water. God and man built this astounding scenery. There was sunset at the west, and mist at the east, buildings rising like sentinels guarding the secret of the dragons.
As I gazed into the landscape, I can almost hear Isabel Allende’s voice...