Three faces of Macau

I was not particularly interested in going to Macau, the casino capital of Asia, until Suman enlightened me that it was a former Portuguese colony, and had plenty of heritage architecture to show for it. Then Liz mentioned that one of the most popular Formula 3 races happens there in November every year. That was good enough for Souvik & me to head there last weekend.

We stayed the one night at the Venetian for the heck of it. The room didn’t disappoint, and Zaia, the performance by Cirque du Soleil, positively lifted our spirits, making up for the over-the-top decor of the public spaces of the hotel (canals, gondolas, shops, bright-sky-ceiling, the works). Neither of us are gambling enthusiasts, and were not even tempted to try a hand at any of the scary tables, in spite of the fact that we crossed the casino floor every time we went from one section of the hotel to another. Like true losers, we went looking for the gym and pool, and figured that the Venetian does not encourage either – the walk through all the corridors was totally off-putting. The food options were excellent, especially because of Indian stuff on the menu. We pigged out. Forgot to check out the Portuguese restaurant! Souvik got his kicks at the Manchester United store with the gaming pods, where he discovered that a Bong never loses his phutbol touch!

The Grand Canal!

Oops! missed that one

On day 1, we started out for the Portuguese old quarters – Largo do Senado – on the way, we heard the revving of the racecars, and painstakingly found our way to the grand stand. Painstakingly because we looked for a cab, got a bus, got off early, then caught another, walked up and down the subway before we could figure out where to buy the tickets. Saturday was the qualifying round, we were planning to watch a few laps, so we bought the cheapest tickets. Fortuitously, we got there right at the start of the Formula 3 qualifier (there were a number of races that day). I practised my photography techniques through the wire fence, and Souvik was enthralled by the roar of the racing cars. Next time, Grand Stand seats!

The pits

The Grand Stands

The mean machines

 

The next morning we went back to Largo do Senado. The heritage quarters were everything and more than my expectations. The elegance of the paving took my breath away, as did the church of St Dominic. We ambled excitedly towards the ruins of St. Paul’s church, and were absolutely delighted to spot the steps leading to church facade. The ruins are actually the surprisingly well-preserved facade, while the church was destroyed in a fire. The Monte fort next door is pretty interesting too.

Largo do Senado

House of Mercy

Church of St Dominic

 

Antique furniture shop

 

 

Ruins of the Church of St Paul

Reflections

Monte Fort

Macau roofscape view from the fort

The Grand Lisboa was one of the ugliest buildings in Macau, and the cannon was perfectly positioned to give it the treatment it deserved!

 

We had no time to look at any of the museums during our short visit. Next time? Maybe, maybe not.

Getting back was smooth – Bus ride to the Macau Ferry Terminal, Turbojet Ferry to HK airport, shuttle train to the terminal, flight to Hanoi, and finally, the car to take us home! Missed cycling.

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Hong Kong update

It’s been a week since I got back from Hong Kong and Macau – quite an eventful trip that – but my busy life of leisure just got more busy with less leisure, and it’s time I corrected that. So I stayed away from the computer for most of the week; now the blog bug is biting!

Hong Kong got mixed reactions from me. I had one bad experience trying to buy an iPhone for Reva, but recovered without any material losses and many lessons learnt. I’d been to Hong Kong 11 or 12 years ago, and was pretty awestruck then. It was a great mix of shiny new and quaint old. This time, I felt that the ‘shiny new’ had taken over most of the city, or maybe I didn’t look closely enough. Got bombarded by the luxury brands which do nothing for me (except Mont Blanc, that too, once in a lifetime, and I’ve already got it). Loved the public transport system with its numerous options of train, bus, tram, ferry, and some of the tall glass buildings were impressive too!

One of the most interesting spots for us was Lan Kwai Fong. I went on a self-guided walk to look at it, and this is what I found:

Then Souvik & I went back in the evening to meet friends, and this was the sight:

Did some exploring on Nathan street (ewww, according to Vaishnavi) and came off not impressed. This was where I had the iPhone ‘scuffle’ (not literally, Mom!), then went exploring Chunking Mansion for Indian groceries – it only reinforces a bad reputation of India, with its extremely down-market look, and activities to match.

I’d saved the touristy bits for Souvik, which we checked out on Friday. A morning well-spent in the Hong Kong Park, in the aviary, and a pleasant exhibition at the Teaware Museum. Couldn’t help being trigger happy, and have painstakingly uploaded some of the results.

This one is my favourite (look at the wings closely for the finer details):

We HAD to do the Peak tour in the evening – Souvik has travelled to HK half a dozen times, but never to the Peak – to the top by tram on a route that is at a perpetual 45-deg incline. The view is breathtaking. Reminds Souvik of one of his favourite films – Blade Runner (or Bladerunner (whatever!)). The B&W looks sensational too.

The food was also good, and we got a table with a view at the Cafe Deco. A great end to part 1 of our hectic vacation.

A pleasant evening

Desperately needed a break from wandering around, so I got back to the hotel, recharged my batteries, and my phone’s too, and contemplated the plan for the evening. Souvik had to stick around his office for a 25th rework on his presentation, and I continued to have the pleasure of my own company :-/
Hong Kong by night is a different animal altogether. I strolled over toward the harbor in search of dinner, and followed it up with a very pleasant walk on the promenade. Some Christmas decorations have come up already, to mar the, uh, natural beauty of the harbor. The tall buildings across the harbor that make up those iconic shots of HK didn’t disappoint, but as I haven’t learnt how to upload pictures from the iPhone directly, you shall have to wait a bit to see them.
Lining up some electronics shopping for tomorrow, and probably meeting some friends too . . .

(updated) Now I’m home, and, as promised, here are the pictures from the promenade.

All the glittering lights and the high-speed traffic tempted me to practise some photography techniques:

 

 

Hitting the hotspots of Hong Kong

Got into Hong Kong very late last night, and took a while to start out this morning.
Armed with a bunch of guides and maps and sage advice from Yshe who’s lived there and loved that, I found my way to the Central Station. Explored the glitzy streets with big brand shops, Lan Kwai Fong, midlevel escalators, Man Mo temple, Graham Street wet market, all the way to Chater Garden. Admired the iconic Bank of China tower. Guzzling cups of hot chocolate, to give my aching feet some rest. Plenty of retail therapy in The Body Shop! Looking for the easiest way to head back to Tsim Sha Tsui (that does not involve any more walking!). But then, I have to burn off all the chocolate…
And poor Souvik is busy, working hard on his presentation.

Man Mo Temple

Incense coils at the temple

A rare heritage building

Ladder street

Midlevel escalators

Looks like idiot-proofing, but great for people who are used to the opposite side!

The bustle