Where the second day of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) sponsored trip was all about the pursuit of happiness, the third seemed to be about the celebration of life. The morning started with a visit to the Tourism Activities Centre, where drinking and driving is very much celebrated. The centre, located at Rua Luis Gonzaga Gomes, is run by the MGTO and houses two museums which take a look at two interesting sides of the former Portuguese territory: one celebrates the appreciation of wine and its place in Portuguese culture; and the other celebrates the Macau Grand Prix, a famous street race which will see its 59th edition held later this year.
I found the Wine Museum, our first stop is, even without the wine tasting session that came at the end of the visit, quite absorbing. A series of panels leads visitors through the origins of wine making and the spread of it through Europe and the rest of the world, bringing visitors into a mock-up of a wine cellar. The cellar is where an exhibition which has on display various implements, traditional and more modern, that is used through the wine-making process. One implement that couldn’t be missed seemed to resemble a medieval torture device – with a large wooden screw like extension. Much to my disappointment, it turned out that it had a less than sinister application, that of a wine press.
The part of the cellar must surely have had everyone’s attention was the part that was kept under lock and key. On the racks of the dusty bottles that the area contains some 359 bottles of special collection wines, including a Madeira wine that dates back to 1815! The 359 is among some 1115 Portuguese and 28 Chinese wines in the museum’s collection! An area which many found fascinating was one with many colourful and unique looking costumes – traditional dress of the various regions of Portugal, on display, including one rather interesting outfit that is made from straw!
That it was early in the day, did not prevent some of us from taking a few sips at the tasting session which came right at the end of the visit. One that we tried that must have had quite a lot of appeal was a Port on the evidence of the number of bottles the group bought at the shop immediately after the session.
Straight after having a drink, it was time for us to get behind the wheel of a Formula 3 (F3) car to have a feel of a street circuit that has sometimes been referred to as the Monaco of the East. It wasn’t surprising to see most of us, including myself, spending more time in the safety barriers than doing actual driving … good fun, only because it wasn’t in a real car (of course), but in a simulator at the Macau Grand Prix Museum. The museum, which opened in 1993 for the 40th anniversary of the event, which goes all the way back to 1954 when three Portuguese residents of Macau, Fernando de Macedo Pinto, Carlos da Silva and Paulo Antas organised the first Macau Grand Prix (Macau GP).
Even if not for the chance to drink and drive (I don’t of course support combining the two), the visit to the museum was very enjoyable. Stepping into it I was immediately took me back to halcyon days (as the first main exhibit did suggest it was taking us to), days which for me were ones associated with the pre Formula 1 editions of the Singapore GP which I had the good fortune of watching on the muddy slopes at Old Upper Thomson Road with my father back at the end of the 1960s and in the early 1970s.
The exhibit is that of a a red Triumph TR2, the car driven by the winner of the inaugural race in 1954, Eduardo de Carvalho. The museum has also assembled a display of cars (some purchased, some donated and some on loan) that were used through the history of the race, which since 1983 features a F3 race. These include several F3 cars used by drivers who have moved on to illustrious careers in F1, including that of the late Ayrton Senna (the 1983 race winner), Michael Schumacher (winner in 1990), and one driver I have been a fan of through much of his career, David Coulthard (winner in 1991). Speaking of race winners, those from Singapore may also be interested to find the name of a driver who hailed from Singapore, Chan Lye-Choon, among the names listed on the roll of winners. He won the race in 1958 with a Aston Martin DB35.
We were quick to leave our wrecks on street circuit behind, as we headed to our next destination – a magical world in which we would be taken not on, by in by what can be described as flights of fancy. The flights of fancy, colourful butterflies, were to be found at a specially created Butterfly Pavilion, set up in a world that in itself seems like a very magical one, the MGM Macau. The Butterfly Pavilion is part of ‘The Magic of Butterfly Reinvention’, taking place in the MGM Macau’s visually stunning Grande Praça, a square set inside the MGM complex which opened in 2007. With a glass ceiling some 25 metres above through which light is most beautifully cast into the space, the Grande Praça, surrounded by façades inspired European architecture, has got to get my vote as the most strikingly beautiful atria that I have seen.
‘The Magic of Butterfly Reinvention’ which opened in May this year and will be on until the end of October this year, has been put up in collaboration with US based Stephen Stefanou from Design Solutions. While the Butterfly Pavilion is very much the focal point, stepping into the Grande Praça does in itself seem like stepping into a fantasy world with giant pinwheel trees, willow-vine sculptures and giant butterflies. The pavilion draws inspiration from the late multi-disciplined inventor and designer Buckminster Fuller’s concept of the geodesic dome, measuring 7.8 metres in diameter, and serving as the butterfly habitat. It is in the habitat where one is taken on a flight of fancy, interacting with mesmerising flutters of colours – the flights of fancy that are some 130 species of butterflies which have been imported from Malaysia, South America, Africa and China.
The visit not only allowed us to immerse ourselves in the fanciful flights of the beautiful winged creatures, creatures that spend only fleeting moments in colouring our world, but also to hear from Dr. Victor Wu, a butterfly expert and guest consultant. He had much to share on the lives of the butterflies. An especially interesting part of the visit involved the a look at the Incubation Room. In the room imported pupae are incubated in carefully controlled conditions and I managed to for the first time in my life, see pupae of moths and butterflies. A huge thrill was seeing butterflies which are newly emerged, with wings too soft to fly, hanging from some of the pupae.
Leaving the flights of fancy and the Grande Praça behind, there was time before we left for lunch, to be taken by Ms. Vanessa Estorninho of MGM on another flight of fancy. This was in or I should say, through, the opulence of the very exclusive private lobby where VIPs have access through private elevators to the MGM’s Grand Suites and Villas all of which is housed in a separate tower. That certainly was an eye-opener and one that set the tone for the lunch on a high that was to follow.
The visit to Macau was made possible by the kind sponsorship of MGTO, flights were sponsored by Tiger Airways with check-in baggage allowances included.
Macau Wine Museum:
Opens: Daily 10 am to 6 pm except Tuesdays
Admission: MOP/HKD15 per adult (inclusive of wine tasting), MOP/HKD5 for visitor age 11 to 18 years old **
(FREE for visitors age 10 & below and above 60 yrs old)
Macau Grand Prix Museum:
Opens: Daily 10 am to 6 pm except Tuesdays)
Admission: MOP/HKD10 per adult, MOP/HKD5 for visitor age 11 to 18 years old **
(FREE for visitors age 10 & below and above 60 yrs old)
** Joint admission ticket @ MOP/HKD20 for Wine Museum + Grand Prix Museum
Opens: Daily 10 am to 10 pm until 31 October 2012
Admission is free.
Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy.sg My Macau Experience 2012 site which sees 10 bloggers share experiences of their visit to Macau. Readers will get a chance to vote for their favourite My Macau Experience 2012 blogger and stand a chance to win $1000 worth of Macau travel vouchers. Voting starts on 28 September 2012 and details can be found at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.