I met an imposing gent in the middle of a park in the middle of Macao literally. He stood there, looking quite imposing (I said that already didn’t I?) and unmoving. I am sure, in his time, he moved and how! I am talking about the statue of the Portuguese sea farer, navigator, Captain, explorer, call him by any name and it fits him for sure. His real name? Jorge Alvares, the first Westerner to reach the Pearl River Delta in the year 1513. Take a look at the photo of this gent and how strange he may have appeared to the Chinese fisher folk who had been living along the Pearl River Delta for millennia perhaps.
Imposing Gent! (Click on all pictures for bigger view)
Yes, Macao also has one and it’s not quite like the one in San Francisco. This one is a mini Disneyland of sorts with a huge man made volcano, a Roman amphitheatre and Roman themed shopping complex and a few other attractions that run along the outer harbor of Macao starting from just of the Macao Ferry terminal. The ferry terminal brings in visitors and locals from mainly Hong Kong by high speed ferry boats. One can reach Hong Kong this way in one hour, a distance of around 70 kilometers away. What I liked about fisherman’s wharf is that it is a nice place to unwind in the evening, not too many people hanging about, at least for now while the place is still new and unknown. There are neat little watering holes, bars and café’s by the sea with a boardwalk kind of feel. I sat at one that featured Dutch beer (finally the Dutch had invaded Macao!) and a live band that was playing some rather good rock music. I’ll take pictures on my next visit.
Like flies landing on rotten meat:
Sitting by the seaside at fisherman’s wharf, sipping a big pint of beer and watch the ferries go by is a nice way to spend the evening. I sat at a American sounding café’ outside, by the water, taking in the sights of the early night and the astounding part were the helicopters taking off and landing one after the other on the roof of the ferry terminal. There’s a full fledged helipad on the roof and regular transfers, mostly back and forth from Hong Kong keeps the choppers busy. I was told that the flight between HK and Macao takes only a little over 15 minutes. It takes me double that time to go by train to downtown Singapore from where I live! However, I can reach downtown Singapore from my place for a little more than a Singapore Dollar. The helicopter costs HK$1,800 each way I was told (US$230) and that’s no small change unless you happened to be a high roller and then it would be peanuts really.
The high rollers were coming into town; one could only imagine the tycoons stepping off the helicopters to be driven straight to the casinos for a night of gambling. Was James Bond on one such flight? Was it him in the tuxedo with Miss Pussycat or whoever his girl friend was this time around? Macao had this air about it, a James Bond set, in living color. A word about the casinos- there’s plenty of them (oops that’s four words!). There are many casinos here and this year, the news was that Macao beat Las Vegas (you heard me right) in casino volumes (numbers and revenues). Gamblers in SE Asia know where to head, before the Integrated Resorts starts in Singapore starts in 2009 (I guess) but then that’s only one casino and Macao has plenty more options) to choose from.
I’d say that the frequency of the helicopters coming in, with their landing lights on, circling around waiting to land one after another was almost like swarms of flies landing on a piece of rotten meat. There’s nothing rotten about the helipad or the ferry terminal, let me assure you but I in the distance that’s what it looked like. A beer too many perhaps?
The foods quite alright and the options were not limited. A vegetarian can certainly not get lost here for sure and the menu featured western delights, too many to list but starters included the stock tortilla chips with salsa and baked potato skins with cheese and sour cream. Assorted pasta and pizza made up the menu. Any more beer or anymore food and I was certain to fall overboard and become fish feed. A little walk was necessary and in the pleasant evening, it rather felt good. Getting back from fisherman’s wharf is a cinch; taxis at the ferry terminal will get you back to wherever you are staying. Adventurous chaps like me can take the regular city buses that go on the usual hotel routes. Like I said before, it is damn difficult to get lost in Macao.
Inner harbour-looking towards Macao Tower
Other evenings can be spent at the inner harbor and yes there is one such place, with a board walk and café’s lining the waterfront there as well. I have posted photos of this place as well. Along side the inner harbor are various heritage and modern buildings among them, the administrative offices of Macao and an imposing façade of a mansion on a cliff, a heritage building that forms the residence of the Portuguese Ambassador. His predecessors were probably Governors for Macao during the time Macao was a territory of Portugal.
One need not walk on the boardwalk of the inner harbor and may opt to walk on the road side because of the enormous and well laid out sidewalks, and still be able to look at the fountains and laser light shows in the inner harbor with the lights of the casinos in the background.
Walk way -inner harbor area
A rather long walk from here leads one to the Macao tower, a place that I did not go to this time. I chose to walk, but like I said before, taxis and busses are available to ensure that you don't overwork those legs, unless you love walking like I do. Local information mentions this tower as the tenth tallest in the World. Perhaps it is and I did not see much sense in going up, just to be swallowed by mist and being unable to get a clear view of the surroundings and into mainland China. That’s for another day for sure. I do have photos posted here of the tower below, on another cloudy, cool, misty day.
I could not, obviously, complete this tour without paying my respects to the patron goddess of Macao. No, not the one featured before in the first part of this story but another one after whom the country/city of Macao is named. Naturally, I tool another one of those real convenient and cheap city buses to the A-Ma temple, also known locally as the Mak Kok Miu, named after the goddess who is the protector of the sea. It is the oldest standing temple in Macao, over 500 years old. Apparently the Portuguese landed right across from the temple when the sailors came ashore and asked the locals what the name of the place was, the local told them that it was called the Ma kok. Hence the name stuck and the Portuguese contributed for some local language corruption and called this land as Macao.
The A-Ma (Ma Kok) Temple
Another heritage building in mid town Macao
Mid Town Macao
Another view of St. Paul's Ruins
More Canons on the fort
Local Administration building-another heritage structure, close to inner harbor area
There’s more to see and that will have to wait for my next trip and I am sure that I’ll do Taipa and the “country side” on Coloane. Let me round off this rather long piece by saying that Macao was pleasant to visit, not too many hassles, good places to walk around and for those with the desire to play the tables, some very fine casinos indeed that will make sure you go back home feeling light (weight reduction as a result of cash reduction). Next time you do that and go to a casino in Macao, have a vodka martini on me, shaken but not stirred!