Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter in Macau

It seemed like a great idea.  No flying necessary, just hop onto a ferry, bop on the water about for an hour, and be transported to a place which is an eclectic mix of the old and new.  And of course, watch the newest and hottest show in town, House of Dancing Water by Franco Dragone.  Well, as it turned out, every other Hong Kong resident had the same idea.

The entire Macau immigration area was filled to the brim, literally.  Officers couldn't get arrivals out of the hall as quickly as the Turbojets arrived.  Of course, just queuing alone would be boring.  You have to guard your spot and pre-empt queue jumpers.  I told off about 4 different people within the space of the 45 minute wait.  After you make it through, join yet another queue for one of the many hotel shuttles you booked into.  And where do all these people head to after they gain access to the world's largest gambling destination by revenue?

Senado Square
You can find all of them at the Senado Square, now part of the Unesco Heritage site "historic centre of Macau".

Ruins of St. Paul
Or the ruins of St. Paul, also part of the same historic site.  Macau is still very pretty in its own old European colony way, but could be that much prettier if these places had room to breathe.  I've never been able to walk through comfortably and obviously on public holidays, the crowds multiply that much more.

The crowds are a little more bearable in the evenings, since most are trying their luck in the gazillion casinos in this tiny special administrative region of the Peoples' Republic of China.  The only enclave in the entire Peoples' Republic where gambling is legalized.

The Wynn
The Venetian
When Dr. Stanley Ho's gambling monopoly ended in 2001 after 40 years, the opening up saw a lot of US players enter the market, including Wynn, Sands, MGM and a whole host of other traditional big Vegas players.  With massive development, thy've changed the skyline of this once sleepy town.

Grand Lisboa
Even Dr. Ho has had to revamp and build the new Grand Lisboa to compete effectively in this segment.

Scene from House of Dancing Water
And in line with the government's push to make this more than just a gambling destination, ventures bring in sporting events and top shows like Cirque du Soleil.  The latest at the City of Dreams, a venture between Lawrence Ho (Dr. Ho's son by his second wife) and the Aussie Melco Crown group, is the House of Dancing Water.  Such was their promotional prowess that it seemed to have even overshadowed Zaia, Cirque's show at the Venetian.  But honestly, it wasn't really worth the money in my opinion.  Decent show of acrobatics but not worth the hassle and the hype.

But it is really the throwback in time that Macau brings, which appeals to me.  The old Macau is still very much reminiscent of Singapore or Hong Kong in the 1950s.

Drying Bacalhau
Where you can see and smell the territory's quintessential dried and salted codfish drying on every other street corner in town.

Where old style shophouses still sell noodles made the traditional way, especially the famous shrimp roe infused noodles, which you can smell a block away.

And aside from the Chinese, you can of course still see Portuguese influences, through quaint houses on bouquet-lined cobble stone streets.

All this eclecticism is translated into the cuisines found here and in the next few posts, I'll hopefully bring a taste of Macau to you too.  Stay tuned...

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