Friday, July 27, 2007


This trip to Macao was interesting because I managed to visit the Southern Island of Coloane’ (pronounced as colo anne). In my previous blog titled “Macao” published on April 21st and “More of Macao” on April 28th of this year, I had written about Macao peninsula mostly and in the second part I had mentioned about making a visit to the countryside of Macao. Fortune favored me and I was able to visit briefly an island called Taipa on which the International Airport is located and is also a residential island. Taipa hosts many schools and has some open spaces.

(Macau streets along the main casino belt)

I went on my usual wanderings around Macao peninsula close to the casinos and it took me a while to locate the bus stop that takes one to Taipa, continuing on to Coloane’. The bus stop is behind the new Hotel Lisboa. Bus number 25, 26A or 21 can take one to these places. The bus route takes one over the new bridge that connects Taipa with Macao and the vista is magnificent. The weather this time was better in terms of visibility but hot and humid in terms of temperature and sweat factor-not an easy combination to have when one is on a field trip of sorts involving lots of walking. I stayed on the bus as it went around Taipa, having nothing much to see there at the moment and continued on towards Coloane picking up some loud, boisterous North American kids in school uniforms. Looking at Taipa one felt that the American invasion of Macao had taken place. I assumed that their folks perhaps worked at the numerous casinos or involved in building them. As I had said in my last post on Macao, this country/S.A.R of china has overtaken Las Vegas in the casino business.

It is unbelievable to see that there is no real “sea” between Taipa and Coloane like I had expected. They have filled it up and the area is rapidly being developed to accommodate more casinos. Some of them like “The Venetian” looked complete to me, a shiny new edifice with a lot of undeveloped dirt areas surrounding it. This strip that has been reclaimed from the sea is known as the Cotai strip and this is going to presumable make Las Vegas look small.

(Quite Coloane)

Moving further south to Coloane’, the “island” if it can be called that presently, appears quiet and pleasing. It is hilly and green and as the road winds up and down the hill side, one cannot but appreciate the abundance of nature, a short ride away from the upcoming bustling metropolis of Cotai.

The American kids and their Chinese look-a-likes got off at what looked like expensive bungalows by the sea. It pays to be an expatriate working on a casino project for sure. I sat in the bus till the last stop at a beach, getting off to walk around a bit and watch those who were running in and out of the surf. Not adequately equipped for a frolic in the sea, I avoided a dip but noticed that the facilities like fresh water showers and well maintained toilets were easily accessible, something that beaches in India (although more spectacular than these in Coloane”) lack. Heck, people lack these amenities such as clean public toilets even in large cities in India, forget beaches.

Coloane beechside, bungalows in background)

I ventured back on another bus, they all retrace the route back to Macao and it was easy to get off in the middle of Coloane’ where the main village is located. It is a quiet sleepy village, neat and tidy and with loads of history and has a distinctly Portuguese influence in its architecture and general feel. I was famished and thought that I’d need an energy drink and ordered a Banana milk shake. Vegetarians need not worry, this place called Lord Stowe’s Garden restaurant has a nice selection of pure veggie food and I settled for a Veggie Lasagna. It was really good, I was impressed. Staff speak good English, not strange because I guess the local village economy thrives from tourists. I did not find hoards of tourists though and I liked that immensely.

(Bus stop opposite Lord Stowe's with a Fanta Bottle!)

Lord Stowe’s is located at the Villa Coloane square, as one comes out the main door, turning right will tale you to where people live. Turning left takes one to a mini roundabout where the road meanders around to the sea and splits up with one branch going to the left and the other to the right. Both roads hug the shore. The tide was low and I figured one could have walked over to the neighboring island (part of mainland china).

(Road leading to sea-coloane')

I took the road going left and left again near the shore, a short walk brought me to St Francis Xavier, a figure who left a mark on the lives of South East Asians in the 1540-1550 A. D. This church is fairly new built in 1928 but dedicated to the saint who did a lot of work around these parts in the 1500’s. Further there is a “large” square dedicated to a victory over pirates. This part of the World has seen pirate activities since ages, since there was shipping I guess. Coloane’ was supposed to have been a pirate base till 1910 A.D. when they were finally driven out to sea. This square commemorates the event.

(Church of St. Francis Xavier)

Walking further along the shore, I saw dehydrated young people struggling to find the strength and in various states of distress due to the heat and humidity. Tourists for sure, made me think that youngsters these days are not as tough outside their air-conditioned environment. This fool (your truly) kept going on, and reached a point that serves as a dead end where there is a Chinese temple called Tam Kung, a Taoist sea faring god who looks after sea farers welfare. The notable thing here is a whale bone carving of a dragon boat and their crew. There are short trees with not much foliage along the shore and the walk balk to Lord Stowe’s feels longish at 2:00PM. That’s why the tour guide book recommends visits during summer during early morning or late evening time. For those like me who cannot acquire any more tan that we are born with, and with some rough backpacking experience, the time does not matter not does the heat.

(Tam Kung Temple)

Lord Stowe’s has a bakery on the corner near the roundabout and I ran into an Indian looking guy who gave me a smile. I stopped to have a small chat and that made him happy, not seeing “his kind” in great numbers in Macao and that too in desolate Coloane’. He was from the Southern Indian state of Kerala and was serving as a baker at Lord Stowe’s.

I walked around the little roundabout, pleased with the surroundings, enjoying the peace and quiet and ended up at the bus stop that has a large Fanta next to it. One does not have to wait for long as busses are frequent. I was back in Macao and spent the evening at the fisherman’s walk that I had mentioned in my last posts on Macao, along the outer harbor, watching helicopters coming in and out. A sudden downpour drove everyone in and while I was sitting and sipping my Hoegaarden brew, I was entertained for free, by a group of Americans who were as usual loud, boisterous and funny. I didn’t mind that, after all they did bring out a laugh out of me with their various antics. The invasion is complete, Macao is full of them.

(Fishermans Wharf Macau)

Monday, July 16, 2007


ACM as it is popularly known as in acronym loving Singapore is a relatively new museum, opening its doors in 1997. However, the original building was first constructed in the middle part of the 1860’s apparently using convict labor. It was always a Government Building and was known as such until the early 20th Century and at that time the name was changed to Empress Place. That was to commemorate Queen Victoria.

(looking towards Boat Quay)

A few Singaporeans still remember the building used to be a ‘one stop shop’ Government office looking after birth and death registry, immigration department, citizen’s registry and also marriage registry. It began its new avatar as a museum in 1997 hosting a series of exhibitions from China.

(Asian Civilizations Museum)

There are events going on all the time at the museum and I believe a visit is well worth it because of the building itself, beautifully maintained heritage structure that it is and also to spend time in the museum’s surroundings. Currently “Beauty in Asia” is an exhibit featuring more than 300 pieces of art and art forms collected from all over Asia from 200 BCE to date.

(ACM from across the river)

The ACM is situated right next to the Singapore River, a favorite place of mine in Singapore. The river is lined with restaurants and boutique watering holes along a stretch called as Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. These are places where, in the past, trading boats sailed up river to the warehouses (godowns as they were known as in British India and Malaya) for storage and for traders to sell their wares. The old buildings are still there, being used these days as brew pubs, restaurants and bars.

(Sir Stamford Raffles)

Surrounding the ACM are metal sculptures depicting life as it is was on the river in the early days of Singapore. Right next to the ACM is the place where the legendary (but real) chap called Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore and reportedly changed the sleepy fishing village that it was, into a modern trading outpost of the British Empire. There are many structures bearing his name. He was knighted suitably of course.

(Plaque commemorating Sir Raffles landing site in Singapore)

(Sculpture depicting trade in the old days)

(Sculpture depicting an indian chettiar money lender and chinese trader)

(The art museum next door)

(View across river-Boat Quay)

(ACM from near the statue of Sir Raffles)

I’d suggest a walk around the area, crossing old heritage bridges that are for pedestrian only. The nice broad walkways, light breeze coming off the river, the lights, the ambience of Boat Quay and Clarke Quay can entice many a weary traveler to sit down for the evening and dip his moustache (or the area around the upper lip for the non-moustache types) into a pint of cold draft and tuck into some indigenous food or a selection of many cuisines from around the World.