Festive Coloane

21 06 2013

It is for a few days every year that the village of Coloane in Macau shakes off its normally sleepy demeanour which accounts for much of its charm, to show off its livelier side during its celebration of the Tam Kong Festival. The festival, celebrated on the eight day of the fourth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar – the same day that the drunken parade of dragons takes place on the streets around Senado Square, attracts larges crowds to the village, drawn to the host of activities held in and around the village.

A sea of celebratory red at the Tam Kong Temple - red paper left on the ground after the firing of fire crackers.

A sea of celebratory red at the Tam Kong Temple – red paper left on the ground after the firing of fire crackers.

Devotees offering joss sticks at the Tam Kong Temple.

Devotees offering joss sticks at the Tam Kong Temple.

The village celebrating the festival, which commemorates the birthday of Tam Kong, a Taoist child-deity, in a big way, does provides a clue into the village’s origins and its early inhabitants – Tam Kong who is believed to have the power to calm storms, is very much revered by the village’s fisher-folk as their protector.

The Tam Kong Temple in Coloane seen during the Tam Kong Festival.

The Tam Kong Temple in Coloane seen during the Tam Kong Festival.

A girl seen at the temple.

A girl seen at the temple.

Paying respects to the deity.

Paying respects to the deity.

It is at the Tam Kong Temple at the south end of the village’s seaside promenade where much of the festival’s atmosphere can be soaked in. A temporary stage along with a huge canopy – all constructed of bamboo poles in the fashion of the scaffolding common in this part of the world which hides the temple from view, is where much of the temples activities are held over three days, watched by the hundreds who make their way there specially for the occasion. The festival’s entertainment is provided by Cantonese opera troupes – in a way, sans the canopy, reminiscent of how the masses would have been entertained during the celebration of Chinese religious festivals commonly seen in the Singapore of my younger days.

The stage with the massive bamboo frame canopy over it.

The stage with the massive bamboo frame canopy over it.

A Cantonese Opera performance seen on stage.

A Cantonese Opera performance seen on stage.

A close-up of the stage area.

A close-up of the stage area.

A view of the crowd.

A view of the crowd.

It isn’t however at the temple where festivities take place. The village’s Eduardo Marques Square (Largo da Eduardo Marques) does also see some very spirited excitement. With another temporary stage set up on which less religiously related entertainment was being provided that included (at least this year) a beer drinking contest, that certainly is another area where one can soak up the festive atmosphere.

Not much effort was required by these two  pretty ladies in promoting beer at the stands they were manning.

Not much effort was required by these two pretty ladies in promoting beer at the stands they were manning.

A touch of Hawaii in Coloane - hula dancers at Eduardo Marques Square during the Tam Kong Festival.

A touch of Hawaii in Coloane – hula dancers at Eduardo Marques Square during the Tam Kong Festival.

A sleepy village square comes alive.

A sleepy village square comes alive.

Many were in good spirits!

Many were in good spirits!

The village, crawling with cars and people, does still provide the quiet escape, many including myself like the it for, with it many quiet corners and its labyrinth of alleyways. It wasn’t of course what I was there for, but it was nice to indulge in some quiet with all the commotion that was going on. And since I was where I was, there was this little stop I had to make – one of two Lord Stow’s Cafes in the village for the irresistibly delicious treat on offer – product from the nearby bakery of the same name  that Macau and Coloane have to thank an Englishman for – Lord Stow’s egg tarts, before getting on the unusually crowded bus back to the busy streets and bright lights of Macau’s city centre.

A relatively sleepy spot in the village during the festival.

A relatively sleepy spot in the village during the festival.

The village's main attraction - Lord Stow's Bakery, was ever so popular.

The village’s main attraction – Lord Stow’s Bakery, was ever so popular.

Some decided to take shelter from the afternoon's heat in one of two Lord Stow's Cafe found in the village.

Some decided to take shelter from the afternoon’s heat in one of two Lord Stow’s Cafe found in the village.





Black under blue

18 06 2013

Another part of the former Portuguese colony of Macau which I was quite happy to discover was Hac Sa Beach ( 黑沙海灘), which translates into “Black Sand Beach” – so named because of its black volcanic sand,  on the island of Coloane. I visited it not so much for the beach but for lunch at a Hac Sa Beach institution, the Portuguese Restaurant Fernando’s, on a rain washed Friday during which the Tam Kong Festival was being celebrated on the island’s main village, Coloane Village. On what was mostly a grey day, the sky momentarily cleared to provide me with the gorgeous sight of the beach as it is best seen – under a bright blue sky.

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Where time stands very still in Macau

11 06 2013

One of the many life experiences that I am glad to have had is the opportunity provided to discover a world which might otherwise have remained hidden to me – that of the magical world of Coloane Village in Macau. The village is one I first got a glimpse of, on a stopover during a whirlwind trip to Macau with nine other bloggers, sponsored by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO), as a prize for last year’s edition of the Singapore Blog Awards. The visit was brief, but enough to give me a yearning to return to the sleepy village and its labyrinth of narrow passageways and discover it in full.

Coloane on a sleepy afternoon.

Time seems to stand very still in Coloane Village on a sleepy afternoon.

The labyrinth of narrow lanes provides many opportunities for little discoveries.

The labyrinth of narrow lanes provides many opportunities for little discoveries.

The opportunity for a quick return came with the prize I got for winning the blogging contest for the first trip, which again was sponsored by the MGTO. This allowed me not just to make a second trip, but also to time it to include two of the former Portuguese colony’s more colourful festivals and plan my own itinerary around it, such that I could have the experience of two of the faces that the normally sleepy village of Coloane wears.

Eduardo Marques Square.

Eduardo Marques Square.

Coloane is now perhaps more of a tourist destination as a stopover for the sweet and irresistible treat which the famous Lord Stow’s Bakery provides and at the same time to see Eduardo Marques Square (Largo da Eduardo Marques) and its little chapel, which is a popular spot for wedding photography. There is however certainly much more of Coloane, both the island as well as the village, for any visitor to discover.

Life in Coloane, like the village itself, seems to come very much to a standstill.

Life in Coloane, like the village itself, seems to come very much to a standstill.

Villagers watching the world go by.

Villagers watching the world go by.

Just a short bus ride from the glitz of the Las Vegas like Cotai Strip, Coloane Village, tucked away in the rolling hills of the west of the island of the same name, does seem a world apart from the strip, and where time does seem long to have stood still. Much of the village is bathed in that old world charm that Macau seems to be slowly but surely losing, wearing the look of that the blending of east and west most of the first half of the  century that has passed – when most of the village’s development did take place.

There is very much an air of the old world, just a stone's throw away from the glitz of the Cotai Strip.

There is very much an air of the old world, just a stone’s throw away from the glitz of the Cotai Strip.

A house in Coloane.

A house in Coloane.

Laid out along the shoreline which looks across a narrow channel to the Zhuhai area of China – seemingly an arm’s length away, the village’s many narrow passages reveal quaint rows of pastel shaded houses, making it a photographer’s dream. In all of this, one stumbles on Eduardo Marques Square (Largo da Eduardo Marques) where a lovely little chapel, St. Francis Xavier’s (see a previous post), can be found. The chapel once housed the relics of the Catholic saint it is named after, a saint who is very much revered throughout Asia for his pioneering ministry to an area of the world which has largely resisted the many attempts at its Christian conversion.

The view across the channel to Zhuhai.

The view across the channel to Zhuhai.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier at one end of  Eduardo Marques Square with a monument erected to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over pirates in 1910.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier at one end of Eduardo Marques Square with a monument erected to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over pirates in 1910.

Shutters of a shop.

Shutters of a shop.

Besides the Portuguese influence being very much in evidence, there is much that is also to be found of Coloane’s origins as a village. A walk along the northern reaches of the seaside promenade takes one along zinc walled shelters built on stilts – shelters used by the village’s folk who lived off the harvest from the sea.  Their descendants of the village’s fishermen, are the ones perhaps who sit by the shelters, keeping watch on a world which may soon pass them by.

The Portuguese influence is very much in evidence.

The Portuguese influence is very much in evidence.

A passage through the village.

A passage through the village.

Zinc shelters on stilts can be found along the water's edge at the northern reaches of the village.

Zinc shelters on stilts can be found along the water’s edge at the northern reaches of the village.

Across the road there is more evidence of the once thriving trade. The tiniest of temples – the Sam Seng or Kam Fa temple which is dedicated to the goddess Kam Fa can be found. The temple traces its origins to a time some two hundred years ago, when a statue of the deity brought to the village by its fisher-folk.

Smoke trails from incense coils at the Sma Seng Temple.

Smoke trails from incense coils at the Sam Seng Temple.

A window into the past.

A window into the past.

Just up from the temple lies Coloane Pier (Ponte Cais de Coloane) around which several other reminders of the village’s past awaits. One is a coal tar coated anchor mounted on a circular pedestal close to the pier’s front. It is more however, the sight of salted fish on sale, which provides that link to the past which does sum the origins of the village up. Originally known as “Salt Stove Bay”, it was also where sea salt was farmed, as well as being a fishing village.

An anchor mounted on a pedestal near the Coloane Pier provides a link to the village's maritime past.

An anchor mounted on a pedestal near the Coloane Pier provides a link to the village’s maritime past.

Salted fish on sale also provides a link to Coloane's origins - the village was where sea salt was farmed as well as a fishing village.

Salted fish on sale also provides a link to Coloane’s origins – the village was where sea salt was farmed as well as a fishing village.

Turning right past the pier, I hear the sound of animated voices which punctures the calm and quiet on what was a sleepy afternoon. The voices are ones which come from a small crowd gathered in front of a building which has retained much of the flavour it must have had under the Portuguese. The women each bore loads of detergent and liquid soap, providing a clue as to why they had congregated by the building – one used by the Customs (Alfândega).  The loads they bore were typical of mainland Chinese headed home, as the women must surely have been and were probably standing in queue to purchase tickets for the ferry across to Zhuhai.

Benches line the wall of the Customs building which transports one straight into the colonial era.

Benches line the wall of the Customs building which transports one straight into the colonial era.

Coloane in the mid 20th century - taken off an exhibition of old photographs at the village square.

Coloane in the mid 20th century – taken off an exhibition of old photographs at the village square.

The road by the Customs building narrows running up an steep enough incline to have me huffing and puffing. It was an effort that was rewarded by the sight of rather a sad looking shack of wood and zinc.  It is under this structure, one of several which dot the coastline as it runs north-east, where the sheltered slips and berths of an abandoned boat yard can clearly be seen along with chains and blocks dangling seemingly precariously from age worn wooden beams. This again, provides a reminder another side of the village’s past. The village had once had the proud distinction of being one of the main centres in the Pearl River Delta area for traditional wooden boat and junk building.

The sheltered slip of a abandoned boat yard. The village was a main centre for traditional wooden boat building in the Pearl River delta.

The sheltered slip of a abandoned boat yard. The village was a main centre for traditional wooden boat building in the Pearl River delta.

While there is of course much more to Coloane – I got to see a gaier and festive side of it during the Tam Kung Festival (of which I will devote another post to), it is this side I was able to discover that does appeal most to me. Coming from a part of the world where there is little left to remind me of a beautiful world that did once exist there, it is always nice for me to find a place such as this which does show how progress and the gentler side of life is able to co-exist.

The Tam Kung Temple.

The Tam Kung Temple.





A secret garden

30 05 2013

One of the wonderful things about Macau is its little pockets of surprises which await discovery in the midst of the urban sprawl. One seemingly unlikely place that I was to find on a recent trip is one which in being well hidden behind its walls must surely have once been a secret garden. The garden, landscaped in the classical Suzhou style and now public garden, the Lou Lim Ieoc Garden (Jardim Lou Lim Ieoc / 盧廉若公園), was built as a private garden.

A secret garden in Macau where touch of Suzhou in a colonial style house can be found.

A secret garden in Macau where touch of Suzhou in a colonial style house can be found.

A lady practicing tai-chi chuan at the garden.

A lady practicing tai-chi chuan in the garden.

The garden with its winding paths, some leading to spaces hidden behind artificial concrete “rock” formations and weeping willows, provides an escape for many residents of the overly crowded city. Constructed around a large pond with the colonial style column lined Spring Grass Pavilion which served as a guest residence at one edge, it does perhaps reflect one of the quirky sides of what was an enclave in China which for long was caught in between the West and the East.

The Spring Grass Pavilion across the pond.

The Spring Grass Pavilion across the pond.

A bridge of twists and turns takes one across the northern end of the pond. The bridge, a nine-turn bridge laid out such that evil spirits, which as belief would have it, can only navigate on the straight; leads to an area at the northern fringe of the garden at which an imposing pastel green coloured building can be seen beyond the fence – that, which became the Pui Ching Middle School in 1938,  apparently was the mansion that the garden was built to serve and the residence of a wealthy merchant Lou Wah Siu.

The nine-turn bridge with the former mansion, now part of Pui Ching Middle School, beyond it.

The nine-turn bridge with the former mansion, now part of Pui Ching Middle School, beyond it.

Based on information found at the Macau Cultural Institute’s website, the garden’s construction was started by Mr Lou, who purchased the land on which the mansion and the garden was built on – a plot of vegetables in what then was Long Tin Village, in 1870. Mr Lou also started with the building of the garden which was later completed by his son Lou Lim Ieoc, after who the garden is now named. The garden’s most notable visitor was the great Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen. Dr Sun was a guest at the Spring Grass Pavilion in May 1912.

A pavilion at the edge of the pond - the garden is an oasis of tranquility in a sea of concrete.

A pavilion at the edge of the pond – the garden is an oasis of tranquility in a sea of concrete.

The back part of the Spring Grass Pavilion - with Chinese  architectural features. The former guest house - now used as an exhibition space, played host to Dr Sun Yat-sen in 1912.

The back part of the Spring Grass Pavilion – with Chinese architectural features. The former guest house – now used as an exhibition space, played host to Dr Sun Yat-sen in 1912.

The grounds were split up and sold to separate buyers after the junior Lou’s passing, the mansion passing into the hands of the school. By the time the administration in Macau bought the southern side of the garden which wasn’t owned by the school in the early 1970s, it was in a poorly maintained state. It took some restoration effort before it was opened as a public garden in 1974. The garden has today become a popular spot for many of the area’s residents and comes alive in the early part of the morning. Taking a stroll, one sees many using it for their daily exercise, to meditate, read the newspaper or a book, or to practice tai-chi moves which does make it an excellent place to take in a slice of daily life in the former Portuguese colony as well as provide many opportunities for photography.  The Lou Lim Ieoc Garden is found off Estrada de Adolfo Loureiro and is close to Praça do Tap Seac and the beautiful St. Lazarus area. Opening hours are from 6 am to 9 pm.

The inner entrance arch to the garden off Estrada de Adolfo Loureiro.

The inner entrance arch to the garden off Estrada de Adolfo Loureiro.

The garden is particularly busy in the mornings - many of the area's residents use it for their daily exercise.

The garden is particularly busy in the mornings – many of the area’s residents use it for their daily exercise.

Migrant workers seen taking in the calm at one of the gardens pavilions.

Migrant workers seen taking in the calm at one of the gardens pavilions.





Drunk and dancing on a Friday morning

19 05 2013

Coming from a somewhat sedate Singapore where, despite its rich multi-cultural make-up, religious and cultural celebrations are generally calm and controlled affairs, finding myself caught in one of the many colourful street celebrations that take place in the countries around is always an experience to remember. I was in Macau recently to catch not just one, but two of the larger celebrations that takes place on the streets of the former Portuguese colony around the month of May. The first, perhaps more of a calm and contemplative affair, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, takes place on 13 May every year. The second is celebrated with a drunken frenzy on the streets. That, the feast of the Drunken Dragon, takes place every year on the 8th day of the 4th Chinese lunar month which fell on 17 May this year.

The feast of the Drunken Dragon is celebrated with a drunken frenzy on the streets of Macau.

The feast of the Drunken Dragon is celebrated with a drunken frenzy on the streets of Macau.

The Drunken Dragon Festival is definitely a spectacle for photographers.

The Drunken Dragon Festival is definitely a spectacle for photographers.

The festival, Tchoi Long Chit (醉龍節 or 醉龙节) – as it is spelled in Cantonese in Macau, would have its roots in neighbouring Zhongshan, Guangdong Province where it is thought to have been celebrated since the Song Dynasty and may have been celebrated in Macau since the reign of Emperor Kangxi during the Qing Dynasty based on information at the website of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) and is described in the following manner:

… a very strange festival if compared with the other major Chinese festivals. It dates from the misty past from the Kangxi Kingdom of the Qing Dynasty. Praying to the Buddha for help against a disastrous plague, villagers were carrying his statue when suddenly a giant python leaped out of the river on to the bank, blocking the way. A Buddhist monk slashed at the monster, cutting it into three pieces which were tossed into the river. 

The pieces writhed about and then, amid a great wind and thunder, they flew up into the sky. Miraculously, the people recovered from the plague and the turf which has been stained with the creature’s blood proved to be unusually fertile. Believing that they had been saved by a divine dragon, the people carved its image and at the annual festival when the Buddha is bathed they drank wildly and danced with the dragon.

The fishermen associations organize this festival, which start in the morning in the Kuan Tai Temple near S. Domingos Market (near Senado Square), where men perform a drunken dance with wooden heads and tails of a dragon. Then, they go on the direction of the Inner Harbour and pay a visit some shops and piers on the waterfront. At each stop they drink wine until they are not able to go on. All the participants and observers end the day with a great dinner.

Participants arriving at the Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple, the starting point of the street celebration.

Participants arriving at the Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple, the starting point of the street celebration.

Participants gather at the temple at around 8 in the morning.

Participants gather at the Kuan Tai Temple near Senado Square at around 8 in the morning.

Wooden head and tail sections of dragons lie in wait at the Kuan Tai Temple.

Wooden head and tail sections of dragons lie in wait at the Kuan Tai Temple.

A monk blessing offerings at the Kuan Tai Temple.

A monk blessing offerings at the Kuan Tai Temple.

The celebration in Macau of the “strange” festival sees participants start with prayers and blessings at the Sam Kai Vui Kun or Kuan Tai Temple – about half an hour before a ceremony proper is held in a tent in Senado Square at 9 am. It is at the temple where participants collect the two dragon pieces in pairs – at which many are already visibly intoxicated, downing cans of beer and blowing mouthfuls of the liquid into the air – making for a spectacle best observed up close as both observers and jostling photographers (and their equipment) risk getting a splashing from the alcohol laden spray and mist that is propelled into the air.

The celebrations are best observed close-up but be prepared to jostle with the frenzy of photographers eager to capture the best shots at the risk of getting their equipment wet and sticky.

The celebrations are best observed close-up but be prepared to jostle with the frenzy of photographers eager to capture the best shots at the risk of getting their equipment wet and sticky.

Prayers are also offered.

Prayers are also offered.

Participants collecting the dragon pieces.

Participants collecting the dragon pieces.

The participants and their dragons seek blessings at the temple.

The participants and their dragons seek blessings at the temple.

A participant offering a joss stick.

A participant offering a joss stick.

Participants downing cans of beer outside the Kuan Tai Temple.

Participants downing cans of beer outside the Kuan Tai Temple.

And spray mouthfuls of it into the air.

And spray mouthfuls of it into the air.

The ceremony in Senado Square is one at which the participants are introduced before lion dance lions have their eyes dotted to bring them to life after which the participants perform a dance ritual in a prelude to the drunken journey through the streets.

Participants being introduced during the ceremony.

Participants being introduced during the ceremony.

An introduction being made.

An introduction being made.

Red cloth is tied to the dragons.

Red cloth is tied to the dragons.

Lion dance lions await the eye-dotting ceremony which brings them to life.

Lion dance lions await the eye-dotting ceremony which brings them to life.

The eye-dotting ceremony.

The eye-dotting ceremony.

A jar of wine and wooden dragons for the ritual dance before the participants set off.

A jar of wine and wooden dragons for the ritual dance before the participants set off.

Participants performing a dance ritual.

Participants performing a dance ritual …

... before setting off ...

… before setting off …

At this point, the participants seem to already have difficulty keeping upright – that however does not stop them from getting organised before the journey through the cobblestone streets begins, the younger ones – some boys, lead the procession in a martial art inspired dance, wooden dragons in hand. Even on the move, the action does not stop – the men continue to down jars of wine, spraying some of the contents of the jars into the air. As they make their way, occasionally taking a wrong turn, they stop at shops where offerings placed on stools are left at the entrances, moving the dragons in a way that made it appear that they were greedily devouring what was left on the stools. The dragons enter the shops before continuing on their way – a dancing lion dance takes the place vacated as firecrackers are lit as those in the crowd put their hands over their ears in anticipation.

Even in a state of drunkennesssome organising has to be done.

Even in a state of drunkennesssome organising has to be done.

The participants set off ...

The participants set off …

A drummer accompanies the participants.

A drummer accompanies the participants.

The procession of participants in martial art inspired dance makes its way through the narrow streets off Senado Square.

The procession of participants in martial art inspired dance makes its way through the narrow streets off Senado Square.

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Stopping along at shops along the way outside which offerings are made.

Stopping along at shops along the way outside which offerings are made.

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A lion dance follows the participants.

A lion dance follows the participants.

I follow for a distance, reeking of not just of the sticky alcoholic residue a deposit of which was left on my skin, clothes and equipment but also of the mix of perspiration and rain which fell earlier that I was completely drenched in. After some three quarters of an hour running after the drunken men I decided to break away. Despite the sticky mess my equipment and I were in, I would have most willingly continued if it wasn’t for a gluttony motivated bus ride I wanted to make to Fernando’s in Hac Sa Beach in Coloane – after which the Tam Kong Festival celebrations in Coloane Village beckoned. The very unique way in which the festival is celebrated must count as one of my more memorable experiences and one which I certainly am thankful to have remained sober enough to have been able to observe.

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Mixed with the crowd of curious tourists and photographers are many locals who line the streets to observe the procession.

Mixed with the crowd of curious tourists and photographers are many locals who line the streets to observe the procession.

Information on the festival and its origins:

Drunken Dance (about the origins of the festival in Zhongshan)

Feast of Drunken Dragon (China Central Television – CCTV video report)

MGTO Calendar of Events





The Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in Macau

16 05 2013

The thirteenth of May marks the Roman Catholic feast of Our Lady of Fatima and is the day in 1917 when the Virgin Mary made the first of her six appearances to three children in a remote village north of Lisbon near Fátima. Widely commemorated especially by churches in the Portuguese tradition, the feast is also one in which we see the rich Portuguese heritage of Macau being celebrated. Although followers of a religion introduced by its former masters number only 5% of the total population in the one-time Portuguese territory, it is very much one which cannot escape the eye in Macau, with not just its many beautiful churches and religious buildings  in clear sight, but also in the many ways in which the faith manifests itself.

The feast of Our Lady of Fatima is one way in which the Portuguese heritage of Macau is celebrated.

The feast of Our Lady of Fatima is one way in which the Portuguese heritage of Macau is celebrated.

The congregation streaming out of St. Dominic's Church in Senado Square during the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

The congregation streaming out of St. Dominic’s Church in Senado Square during the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

The Bishop of Macau, José Lai, celebrates mass at St. Dominic's Church before the procession.

The Bishop of Macau, José Lai, celebrates mass at St. Dominic’s Church before the procession.

The feast in Macau is an important date in the Special Administrative Region’s calendar of religious celebrations. The commemoration of the feast day in Macau involves a huge religious procession in which an image of the Our Lady of Fatima is carried followed by many devotees who are not just from the local community but also many who come from far and wide.

Our Lady of Fatima watches over the faithful in St. Dominic's Church during mass.

Our Lady of Fatima watches over the faithful in St. Dominic’s Church during mass.

One of the flower girls who lays the path taken by the procession with rose petals.

One of the flower girls who lays the path taken by the procession with rose petals.

The procession starts inside St. Dominic's Church.

The procession starts inside St. Dominic’s Church.

The commemoration which starts with the celebration of mass at St. Dominic’s Church in Senado Square, sees the famous square turn into a sea of people and candlelight as thousands of Catholics follow a statue of the Virgin, placed on a bed of roses, as it is carried on a two and a half kilometre route from St. Dominic’s to the Church of Our Lady of Penha. The procession, during which the Rosary is recited and hymns sung, makes its way from the square through narrow streets by the square up to the Cathedral. From the Cathedral, it turns down to the Avenida da Praia Grande on which it makes its way south before turning west to the Avenida da Republica. The final third of the route involves an uphill climb up the steep road to Penha Hill on which Our Lady of Penha chapel is perched.

The start of the procession.

The start of the procession.

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The procession making its way through Senado Square.

The procession making its way through Senado Square.

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The procession is a moving experience for anyone attending and ends with a Benediction which is held at the entrance of the Church of Our Lady of Penha. Following this the congregation streams into the church to receive a rose which comes from the bed of roses the statue of Our Lady is carried on.

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The statue being brought into Our Lady of Penha Church.

The statue being brought into Our Lady of Penha Church.

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Benediction takes place outside Our Lady of Penha Church.

Benediction takes place outside Our Lady of Penha Church.

The congregation making their way into the church.

The congregation making their way into the church.

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Inside the church the members of the congregation are presented with a rose from the bed of roses the image of Our Lady is carried on..

Inside the church the members of the congregation are presented with a rose from the bed of roses the image of Our Lady is carried on..

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Three children who were selected to represent  Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco, the three children Our Lady appeared to having a photograph taken.

Three children who were selected to represent Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco, the three children Our Lady appeared to having a photograph taken.





O mercado

13 05 2013

Once again, I find myself in Macau and to escape the crowds around Senado Square in Macau I decided to pop into the multi-storey market complex which houses the Mercado de São Domingos. Sited just a short distance from the square, the market is one where perhaps one of the few places in and around the busy square that lies at the centre of tourist Macau and is where the real and hidden Macau awaits discovery. It is a wonderful place to bring a camera to and even when seen without colour, is an extremely colourful place. The market complex, the Complexo Municipal do Mercado de São Domingos, was built in 1996 to replace and older market and is clean and surprisingly air-conditioned and certainly a fascinating place to wander through and can be reached from Senado Square via Rua Sul do Mercado de São Domingos.

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Colours of Macau

14 10 2012

Having revelled in the many contrasts that gives Macau a unique flavour, and finding gold and happiness as well as having taken flights of fancy in the tiny territory, getting high up in Sky before getting wet in a dream, I must say that Macau is a lot more than just that blend of east and west and of old and new that the initial impressions I had of the territory had given me. A territory that I would certainly want to get lost in just to have a deeper appreciation of its unique culture, its wonderful mix of old in the new, and most certainly the delectable treats one seems to find in almost every corner, the impression that a four day trip courtesy of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) and Tiger Airways has left on me is one of the celebration of colour that is what makes the territory what it is – a celebration that is certainly a much more colourful one that what I have attempted to capture through the lens:

Colours of old Macau

Colours of a shop window on the streets of old Macau.

Colours of celebration at the ruins of St. Paul’s (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Green of the entrance to an apartment block in old Taipa (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Green of a soda bottle in a Portuguese restaurant in old Taipa (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Colours of almond cookies on the streets of old Macau.

Colours of almond cookies on Taipa’s food street.

Colours overhead at Taipa’s food street.

Colours of old Taipa.

Gold of fried wan tons at Wong Chi Kei in Senado Square.

Red and gold of ‘jerky’ displays on the streets of old Macau.

The glow of red lanterns at Tak Seng On Pawnshop in old Macau.

Red and gold of lighted candles flickering in St. Dominic’s Church.

Red of the A-Ma Temple in old Macau.

Red of plastic drink crates in Taipa Village.

Colours of a toy store along Taipa’s food street.

Gold in pastel shades on the streets of old Macau.

The light gold of columns of a colonial building in Taipa.

Gold of a door in old Coloane.

Light gold of a window at the Moorish Barracks in old Macau.

Colours of new Macau

A golden dragon in the City of Dreams (Photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The gold of luxury goods in the CIty of Dreams.

The gold of The Venetian Macao (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The gold of lychee wood fire at the Jade Dragon in the City of Dreams.

The gold of chair coverings at the Macau Tower Convention Centre (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Gold, white and black of a queue of taxis at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Red and gold of the new world at the City of Dreams.

The golden glow of the amphitheatre at Fisherman’s Wharf and the Macau Sands in the background (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Dark gold of of a ceiling decoration in the City of Dreams.

Blood red of a scene at The House of Dancing Water.

Silver of ice cubes at Sky 21 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Red and gold of corks at the Macau Wine Museum (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The colours of an annual celebration of fireworks.

Colours of the sunset over the Cotai Strip.

Colours of a glorious sunrise over the Friendship Bridge (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


The trip was made possible by the kind sponsorship of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) which included a three night stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, and also Tiger Airways who sponsored the two way flights.


Links to Macau’s colours:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways


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 has started (on 28 September 2012) and ends on 15 October 2012. Votes can be cast on a daily basis at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.






Gold that certainly needs guarding

11 10 2012

It was right on the last day that we found it, coming away with bagfuls of what must surely have been a very precious commodity that we had two of our toughest ladies, Valyn and Yiwei, to stand guard over it.

Pure gold that required two of our toughest ladies to stand guard over! (Photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The commodity has to be nothing short of pure gold – many come from near and wide, descending on a humble village away from the bustle of Macau’s bright lights and fluid streets just for it, or rather a taste of it. The golden item, is nothing less than the most sought after piece of pastry in the territory, a Lord Stow’s egg tart, smooth and creamy custard given a tinge of gold when baked in a pastry cup.

Gold in a pastry cup, Lord Stow’s Egg Tarts (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The egg tarts or pastéis de nata (pastel de nata, singular), is what certainly draws the crowds to the sleepy village, Coloane Village, which is as far away as one can get in the tiny 29 square kilometres that is Macau. The village takes its name from the island, the southernmost of two main islands beyond the Macau Peninsula – an island that is sometimes referred to as Macau’s countryside. It was for long a neglected part of the former Portuguese colony, becoming a hotbed of pirate activity until the problem was eventually dealt with by the Portuguese in 1910.

Coloane Village is a sleepy village that seems far removed from the bright lights of the nearby Cotai Strip (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The village, as is the bakery, is a curious place. Seemingly out of touch with the glitz and glamour of the integrated resorts sprouting up not so far away on the Cotai Strip – a piece of reclaimed land which has connected the Coloane Island to its northern counterpart, Taipa Island, it (and what is found in it), must be a wonderful example perhaps of how east and west has blended during the rule of the territory’s former masters.

Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane Village – it is not just in the bakery, but in the entire village where east has blended well with the west (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

At the heart of Coloane Village is a little piece of Portugal, the Eduardo Marques Square (Largo da Eduardo Marques). The square takes its name from the Portuguese governor Eduardo Marques who oversaw the victory over the pirates. This is in fact commemorated in the square in the form of a monument which stands at one end of it. It is at the opposite end however, that the attention of the visitor will be drawn to – the yellow of the baroque façade of the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier is one that will certainly not be missed.

A monument in the Largo da Eduardo Marques to commemorate the defeat of the pirates in 1910 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Eduardo Marques Square is also known for its food outlets which apparently are a must-try (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The yellow baroque façade of the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier at the other end of the square.

The yellow chapel, built in 1928, is definitely one that should not be missed. Besides containing some of the most sacred Catholic relics found in Asia (at one time it also housed relics of St. Francis Xavier – the missionary who is attributed bringing the faith to Asia), it does also contain a rather interesting religious painting. On the painting there is an image of a woman bearing the likeness of the Chiness Goddess of Mercy, Kun Iam or Kuan Yin, carrying a child, which is in very much a similar fashion as a very popular Catholic depiction of the Mother and Child. This surely is a wonderful example of how well east and west have blended here.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier was built in 1928 and once housed some relics of St. Francis Xavier, a missionary who is attributed with bringing the Catholic faith to Asia.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier is where many important Catholic relics are found (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

An example of east and west meeting inside the chapel – a painting with the likeness of Kum Iam carrying a child shown in a popular pose used by Catholics to depict Mother and Child.

The peace and calm that is the sanctuary of the chapel (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The narrow lanes that took us through to the main square, the Largo Presidente António Ramalho Eanes, where gold was to be discovered, are equally captivating. Full of colour and interesting details, the streets are ones that I would, if I had another opportunity, like to spend perhaps a whole day exploring. There certainly is much more in the sleepy little village than the golden coloured pastries. Time I didn’t have, and with the egg tarts calling, it was to Lord Stow’s Bakery for our final stop at the village before we were to have lunch.

A colourful narrow lane in Coloane Village (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A village shop (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The area around Largo Presidente António Ramalho Eanes is certainly worth exploring (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Largo Presidente António Ramalho Eanes is also where the bus stop is (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Another shop found in the narrow lanes of Coloane.

That Lord Stow’s is as curious as the village is, there is no doubt. The bakery, is the brainchild of an English pharmacist (yes you read right!), the late Andrew Stow (whose ex-wife serves a slightly sweeter version of the popular pastry at Margaret’s Café in downtown Macau). He started the little bakery in 1989, perfecting his recipe using his skills as a pharmacist, achieving phenomenal success very quickly – with the bakery itself becoming a tourist draw. Many tourists make it a point to head to the bakery to pack the tarts, which are sold for MOP/HKD8 per piece, MOP/HKD45 for a box of 6, or MOP/HKD90 for a box of 12, before heading home.

Gold production (photographs taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Curiosity aside, the bakery does make that egg tart that is certain to give one a ‘love at first bite’ experience and certainly with a taste that is no less than divine – well worth that pilgrimage to Coloane just to worship it. That together with the desire to explore the narrow lanes of the charming little part of Macau and the rest of the island (which does seem well worth exploring), will make it my first, and also last stop the next time I am in Macau.

An extremely happy customer (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Look how much this one bought! (Photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

More expressions of happiness (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Worship (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


The trip was made possible by the kind sponsorship of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) which included a three night stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, and also Tiger Airways who sponsored the two way flights.


Links to finding gold:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Coloane Village (MGTO site)
More on Coloane Island (MGTO site)
Lord Stow’s Bakery


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 has started (on 28 September 2012) and ends on 15 October 2012. Votes can be cast on a daily basis at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.






High on Sky

1 10 2012

Lunch on the third day was to be quite a surprise, the venue for it being high in the Sky above the Macau peninsula. It was on the 21st level of the AIA Tower, at the aptly named Sky 21 to be exact, a destination that as I was to discover, offered more than just a great dining experience in a room with a view.

Sky 21 is a surprise that awaits on the 21st and 22nd floors of the AIA Tower in Macau. Sky Life – an action and entertainment venue on the 22nd floor is seen here (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The sign at the entrance to Sky 21 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Much of the decor found in the MOP 20 million dining and entertainment venue is Zen inspired (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Stepping through into the restaurant, the view offered not only out the windows but of the restaurant itself was a pretty eye-catching one. The 80 seat main dining area’s Zen inspired décor, was certainly one with a lot of appeal. It was at a private room where we were to have lunch, and stepping inside, it did not take very long for the cameras to come out. The views out the window and the room itself certainly seemed to catch the fancy of everyone in the group. The VIP Room accommodates a maximum of 16 people, and can be reserved for private events such as birthday parties, private dining, and small meetings and is equipped with a private restroom, projector and screen.

The Zen inspired decor seen in the main dining area (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The VIP Room is a room that certainly has a view (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The southward view from the VIP Room (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Decor inside the VIP Room.

The lunch menu at Sky 21 offers a selection of set meals, a Pan-Asian selection that gives diners a choice of Macanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Japanese and Vietnamese. I decided on the Japanese which proved to be an excellent choice, as was the various other choices made by the other in the group. After a common raw tuna salad that was served, my set was served. Beautifully arranged on a tray, it had a bowl of a crab roe salad with aloe, another of udon noodles in soup with Japanese roast pork, a generous serving of sushi, and a rather attractively presented slice of wasabi cheesecake.

Inside the VIP Room (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Choices, choices! Willy probably wishes he could order everything on the menu (i did too!) (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Japanese set that I ordered (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Wasabi cheesecake – yummy!

Valyn staring into her dessert – one that came with the Macanese set.

Being one who eats first and asks questions later, I will leave reviewing the food to one of my favourite food bloggers, Yiwei. I can however say that the food certainly did not disappoint and is very good value based on the prices that were on the menu.

The food review is best left to food blogger Yiwei.

There was some time for a small presentation of prizes to the winners of the previous day’s race through the streets of old Macau at which no one came away disappointed. Even with the team I was in coming in an embarrassing last, Kaika (my teammate) and I did receive a prize – for a photo posted during the race. The prizes were presented by Iris of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) in Singapore, who we have to thank for making the trip such a wonderful experience. The MGTO were the kind sponsors of the trip, with Tiger Airways, which flies to Macau daily, sponsoring the flights to and from Macau.

Iris announcing who the winners of the race were (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A shot of my race teammate Kaika.

Valyn showing the prize that she got … (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A short tour followed of the MOP 20 million luxury dining, shopping and entertainment destination, which is not only on the 21st floor AIA Tower, but also extends one floor up to the 22nd floor. On the same level as the restaurant, we were to discover a surprise that was hidden in a room behind closed doors – an exclusive luxury retail showroom that is reserved for Sky’s VIP guests. Designed to attract the big spender, there is a selection of hard-to-find luxury goods on offer behind the showcases … something that certainly opened the eyes of the ladies in the group (and most of the men too)! Access to the showroom can also be made via a concierge service that is available through one of the Suncity group VIP rooms which can be found in all Macau 5 star Casinos.

Inside Sky Luxe (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Leaving Sky Luxe behind, we went up a flight of stairs to the 22nd level where we got a look at Sky Life, an action and entertainment venue which offers live entertainment and features guest DJs; and also the SKY B bar and lounge with an open terrace which has great views of Macau Tower and of the area around the Grand Lisboa. The two outlets do also offer dining – a semi-buffet Western Excutive Lunch is available as well as a Classic / Asian Afternoon Tea. Both certainly are cool places I wouldn’t at all mind an evening out in.

Sky B is a bar on the 22nd level (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The open terrace of Sky B offers magnificent views of the area around Macau Tower … (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5) …

… and the skyscrapers around the Grand Lisboa (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Another view of Sky B (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

At this point I would like to express my appreciation to Sky 21 for the scrumptious lunch and also for showing what a wonderful concept Sky is all about. It certainly is a place to see and also be seen in. More information on Sky 21 can be found at its website (click here).


Links to getting high:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Sky 21


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.






Wet in the City of Dreams

26 09 2012

My recent four day sojourn in Macau was one that provided me with a deeper appreciation of the very compact territory, and what it has to offer the visitor, which certainly is a lot more than I had imagined. I was fascinated by every bit of the territory that I got to experience, a territory which is a world not just where east and west have blended well together, but also where the new world and the old seem have found an equilibrium. Among the different experiences that I did have over the four days, one certainly stands out from an entertainment perspective. It is also one which perhaps showcases how east and west, as well as old and new, have managed to come together to provide not only a harmonious outcome – but one that will surely mesmerise. It was one that I must say captured my imagination, and one found not on the absorbing streets, but off them in the new world in which dreams must surely made in – the very aptly named City of Dreams.

What surely must be a dream in the City of Dreams.

The House of Dancing Water blends influences from East and West with 80 performers representing some 25 countries.

It is at the City of Dreams, Melco Crown Entertainment’s integrated entertainment resort on the Cotai Strip, that one of the most stunning theatre productions I have been fortunate to witness, takes to the stage. The production is Franco Dragone’s The House of Dancing Water, which goes beyond the description of the word ‘stunning’ and possible synonyms in a sentence. In fact, the production provides audiences with an experience which words can not sufficiently describe. That it plays to packed houses show after show since it made its debut two years ago on 16 September 2010, with some 1.5 million having watched the show during the period, is testament to how well it has been received and continues to be received.

Shanghai born ballerina Faye Leung takes on the leading role of the Princess.

The show has played to packed audiences since it opened in September 2010. More than 1.5 million have watched the spectacular show since then.

The House of Dancing Water is a production that is certainly like no other that I have watched. It combines on a water stage, 270 degrees around which the audience is seated, an explosion of dance, theatre, music, swimming, diving and acrobatics, part of which goes into some very daring stunts that go beyond simple circus acts. That, together with the stunningly dramatic visual effects that is provided by projections, movement, elaborate costumes, lighting and props, as well as some 239 water fountains (some of which go as high up as 18 metres), makes it a show that has to be not just watched but also to marvel at, even with a storyline which can be said to be rather clichéd. The storyline is intended to take the audience on a roller-coaster ride of human emotions, culminating in the triumph of good over evil. It is perhaps the manner in which that storyline is delivered that renders it secondary.

239 fountains are used to propel jets of water as high up as 18 metres in the air (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Dance and water combine to provide a dramatic effect.

The storyline revolves around the well told story of the triumph of good over evil. One of the ‘evil’ characters takes the form of the Dark Queen, played by Ana Arroyo.

Very elaborate costumes are used – up to 400 in total. Some like the ones seen here weight up to 2 kilogrammes.

The performance combines dance, theatre, music, swimming, diving and acrobatics with effects provided by water, movement, lighting and and daring stunts that go beyond simple circus acts.

East and West meet on water.

The efforts of the performers in going through their routines on stage is certainly one that is challenging both technically as well as being physically demanding, and that alone justified the generous applause that they received at the end of the show. The roles require the artists, 80 in total from 25 different countries, not just to be dancers, but also swimmers, divers, acrobats and stuntmen in constant motion. The stunts that are performed are spectacular and certainly not without peril, and has some fly through the air, seemingly with the greatest of ease, which the loudest ‘oohs and aahs’ from the audience seemed to be reserved for. One scene has performers launched into somersaults from swings, while another performers hurtle through the air Evel Knievel style on motorcycles (motorcycle which we were to learn that are changed every six months) 15 metres above stage. All of this does make for an extremely dynamic show, one that left me breathless in my seat trying to keep up with all that was happening on stage.

The performers go through technically challenging and physically demanding routines. Many stunts are also performed at height.

One of the scenes has performers hurtling through the air, launched by giant swings.

Another highlight is a scene which see motorcycle jumps Evel Knievel style.

The motorcycles go as high up as 15 metres in the air.

Special motorcycles are used which are replaced every six months.

Having been completely enthralled by what I witnessed on stage, there was a treat that awaited the group of bloggers I was in – a tour backstage scheduled for the morning after we watched the show. It was through the backstage tour from which I received a much better appreciation of what does go behind the scenes to make the show what it is. The production must be one that has to be appreciated not just for what we see on stage, but also in what does go on behind the scenes. The coordination effort alone is a monumental one that involves not just the 80 performers, but also another 160 crew members from 35 different nationalities working behind the scenes. That everything does seem to go according to clockwork show after show must surely be a marvellous achievement.

The male leading role of the Stranger is played by Jesko von den Steinen.


The grace of Faye Leung as the Princess.

The clown in the show – Lago the Dark Queen’s Fenelon Minister.

The performer who plays Wabo the Wiseman is also a contortionist.

An expression of joy at the moment that love triumphs over hate.

The theatre as seen during the ‘backstage’ tour (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

At the centre of the purpose-built theatre is the huge pool. The pool, which contains some 3.7 million gallons or 17 million litres of very clean water (we were told it is kept a lot cleaner than any other commercial pools), or that contained by more than 5 Olympic sized swimming pools, serves as the stage. In the pool 11 hydraulically operated ten-ton elevators are moved up a metre and down 7 metres, allowing it to be converted from an aquatic stage to a dry one – a perforated non-slip metal floor allows water to rapidly be drained away. Some 36 scuba divers are deployed to assist with underwater work with 20 providing support (and assistance to the performers) during the show, including during a seemingly perilous scene where a cage containing one of the main characters, The Princess, is lowered into the pool. In this case, divers assist no only to open the cage to help the performer out, but are also on standby with a spare breathing apparatus should anything untoward happen.

Looking into the depths of the 3.7 million gallon pool – which has a depth of some 8 metres – some 36 scuba divers work in the depths with up to 20 deployed to provide support during the show (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The entry and exit point for divers and performers below the seating – different colour lighting is used to identify each quadrant to allow cast and crew to know where they are (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The red quadrant (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Divers provide assistance to performers in circumstances such as this where a performer is lowered into the depths inside a cage.

The stage as seen ‘backstage’ (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The flooring of the stage at the top of hydraulic elevators is perforated to allow water to drain quickly (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

From the depths of the pool, we were taken to the heights above the stage, first to the fourth level, some 17 metres above. It is from a 360 degree catwalk at this level that the scenery props and the artists are lowered from and raised to, an effort that requires the use of the 40 rigging winches found on the catwalk. Just looking down from the catwalk to the pool level is enough to give the same effect that standing on the glass floor at the top of Macau Tower gave, and that was only level four … there was still level 8 to go up to, but not before a look at the dressing rooms. In the dressing rooms we could have a closer look at some of the 400 costumes that are used including one that weighs 2 kilogrammes. It is no wonder that the artists have such well toned bodies! An amazing fact we learned was that over 15,000 pieces of Swarovski crystals are used in the costumes! We also had an appreciation of the effort made in the selection of textiles for the costumes – neoprene is used to keep its shape and withstand the effects of the water.

A view of the stage, pool and seating from the catwalk 17 metres up (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A scene during which the cage is hoisted up to the catwalk level – a retractable platform allows performers to get in and out of such props safely.

The cage being raised.

A close examination of a mask in the dressing room.

The view from level 8 provides an appreciation of the scale of the 2000 seat theatre and the efforts that have gone into setting up the USD 250 million production. The purpose-built theatre was designed by the Pei Partnership in collaboration with Franco Dragone’s team. At level 8, 40 metres above the stage, we see the world that the performer sees descending and more … a foldable platform below us – some 24.5 metres above the stage can be seen. That is where another highlight of the show – a high dive that takes place close to the end of it, is made from. It certainly does take nerves of steel to take a dive from that high! Level 8 is also where the bungee cords are suspended from and stored under lock and key – safety certainly is paramount in production where much can possibly go wrong.

The view from 40 metres above the stage from level 8 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

One interesting fact that was shared on the elevator ride down to the last stop, the Control Booth, was that the elevators were equipped with mirrors and did not have cameras in them as they served as changing rooms for the artists as they moved from one routine to the next. The Control Booth is certainly an amazing place, and it is through the mess of the computers which control just about everything mechanical, the cables that run to them and the numerous monitors, and the technicians and crew, that the stage director, a lady we were told, sees that everything is as well executed and coordinated as can be. The director who is often required to make on the spot decisions and has the authority to call a performance off if need to has to remain in her seat throughout the length of entire 85 minute performance during which it is impossible even to have a comfort break.

Inside the Control Booth.

The view through the window of the huge Control Booth where operations are coordinated (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The view that the director sees.

One of the observations I did make during the backstage tour was that was picked up by the omy reporter, Rui Long (see Exclusive: To the backstage of a breathtaking water-based show! was that there were so many things that could have gone wrong during the performance which made me appreciate how well-coordinated and executed everything was. I also noted the physically demands that each performance placed on the artists and was surprised to learn that the roles are each played by a single performer for every one of the shows (under most circumstances). The show does usually play 5 days a week and twice a day on most days (the performers do get a two week break every two months), which makes the effort of the performance and the performers a truly remarkable one in a remarkable show that when in Macau, should not be missed! More information on the show can be found at the show’s website.

The show requires its cast members to be multi-disciplined.


The opportunity to watch the amazing show and also go on the backstage tour was made possible by the City of Dreams for which I am eternally grateful, as I am to the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) for the sponsorship of the trip which included the 3 night stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, and to Tiger Airways for the sponsorship of flights, an on-board meal and check-in baggage allowances.


About The House of Dancing Water:

A dramatic scene from the show (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

‘The House of Dancing Water’, the centerpiece of City of Dreams envisioned by Mr. Lawrence Ho, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Melco Crown Entertainment Limited, is a production by Franco Dragone Entertainment Group at City of Dreams, personally created and directed by Mr. Franco Dragone. This over HKD 2 billion (over USD250 million) breathtaking water-based show which draws creative inspiration from Chinese culture particularly on the ‘seven emotions’ principle derived from the classical Confucian beliefs, is destined to be the most extravagant live production ever seen in Asia.

Mr. Franco Dragone toured China exploring the country’s cultural and artistic history as inspiration for The House of Dancing Water, the world’s largest water show, and was drawn to China’s deep story-telling heritage within its art and particularly the ‘seven emotions’ principle derived from the classical Confucian beliefs before deciding on an epic spectacular love story that transcends time and space.

The show, set at City of Dreams’ awe-inspiring ‘Dancing Water Theater’, begins in the coast of Coloane, a Fisherman travelling with his boat enjoys his journey. Suddenly, a mysterious energy from the water creates a terrible whirlpool, grabs the fisherman and pulls him to a place and a time of legends…He cannot realize what is happening at this very moment within a lengthy time. He observes, lost and intrigued… when a storm brings a survivor from a shipwreck, a Stranger to this magical kingdom. The young brave Stranger encounters and falls in love with a beautiful Princess who was thrown into a cage by her evil stepmother, the Dark Queen. Without hesitating, the Fisherman decides to help the Stranger to fight against to the Dark Queen and rescue the Princess. With his help, the Stranger & the Princess defeat the Dark Queen and the Fisherman obtains an unexpected reward.

‘The House of Dancing Water’ will take audiences on an awe-inspiring journey through the heights and depths of human emotions from the abyss of Sadness and Anger, to the heights of Desire and the summit of Joy, between the cliffs of Fear to a glorious resolution where Love triumphs over Hate and its sinister forces.

This spectacular water-based show takes physical performance to its ultimate limits through combat, wit, creativity, incredible expertise and agility. Experience a magical journey, that transcends even time, as Mr. Franco Dragone transports us on a theatrical masterpiece of incredible artistry, outstanding physical performance and special effects in the most spectacular show that Asia has ever seen.

Another scene from the show.


Links to getting wet:

Getting there:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways

Dreaming:

The House of Dancing Water
City of Dreams

Interpreting Dreams:

The Cast
About Franco Dragone
About Franco Dragone Entertainment
About City of Dreams


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.






Macau: a celebration of contrasts

24 09 2012

Having spent a amazing four days in Macau courtesy of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) and Tiger Airways, I was able to see for myself the wonderment that is packed into the 29 square kilometres of the tiny former Portuguese territory. It is for me a world certainly worth exploring, a world which is more than just that unique blend of east and west we have come to expect, but also a fascinating world where two other worlds, the glitzy new world has collided with the charming old world. With the two now forced into a tight embrace, it is in the compact territory where contrasts, and as one might see it the contradiction of new with old, are as apparent as black and white, black and white as is how it looks to me:


The celebration of the new world:

A scene from Franco Dragone’s The House of Dancing Water playing at the City of Dreams.

The Outer Harbour with the Friendship Bridge and the waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf at the break of day (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf at the break of day (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Breakfast at the Café Bela Vista in the Grand Lapa Macau (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Roman Amphitheatre at Fisherman’s Wharf (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Daybreak over the Roman Amphitheatre (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Ponte Governador Nobre de Carvalho as seen from Sky 21.

Bottles behind a frosted glass counter, Sky 21.

A new arrival embracing the arrival of the new day in the new world.


Windows into the old world:

The window into an unseen side of Macau – the quays at the Inner Harbour (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A window from the past … louvered windows seen at the Taipa Houses-Museum, which is housed in a set of charming old colonial houses at Taipa Village.

Fish being dried in the sun.

A street named happiness, the Rua da Felicidade.

An almond cookie maker on the street of happiness.

Almond cookie samples to be offered to passers-by near the ruins of St. Paul’s.

A street food vendor.

A side street near the street of happiness.

Shutters of an old shop (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Street scene.

Barra Square.

East meets West and old meets new: A western couple leaving the A-Ma Temple.

A fortune teller at the A-Ma Temple.

An archway under a building along an old street of Macau.

A car workshop in an old shophouse.

A female worker at an old building being refurbished.

Disused pellets by the quayside at the Inner Harbour.

Where two worlds are made to collide: the bow of a ship peeks out at the Inner Harbour.

Coloane Village scene (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A square in Coloane Village (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The writing on the wall in Taipa Village (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


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.


Useful Links:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways


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.






Wild rides and flights of fancy

23 09 2012

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.

The third day seemed to be about the celebration of life, which fellow blogger Valyn seemed to be doing at the Wine Museum (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

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.

Traditional implements used in wine making are on display (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A wine storage jar (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Not quite a medieval torture device … a wine press on display (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

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!

Prized bottles of wine. The Wine Museum has a number of bottles of collection wine including a 1815 vintage Madeira.

The Wine Museum also features mannequins in various regional dress.

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.

We had an opportunity to do some wine tasting (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Valyn tasting a Port.

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).

Kaika coolly showing how to manoeuvre a F3 car with one hand (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The winners of the race on the simulator: Valyn, Leo and Yiwei (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

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.

An exhibit that takes the visitor back to halcyon days … a red Triumph TR2 driven by the winner of the inaugural Macau Grand Prix, Eduardo de Carvalho (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Ai Sakura did find out that life can often be lonely at the top (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

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.

The car driven by David Coulthard, a Ralt RT35-Honda/Mugen, in winning the 1992 edition of the race. The Reynard 903-Volkswagen/Spies driven by the illustrious Michael Schumacher during his victorious 1991 race is seen further back (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Several other F3 cars used over the years are also on display … (photographs taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

One from Teddy Yip’s Theodore Racing team (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5)..

The museum does also have a display of vintage cars (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).
.

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.

Not one we left behind … an exhibit of a rescue vehicle and crew in action (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Impressions of the Grande Praça.

The Grande Praça of MGM Macau dressed up for The Magic of Butterfly Reinvention (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

‘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 Buckminster Fuller inspired geodesic dome which serves as a temporary habitat, the Butterfly Pavilion (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Giant pinwheels on the pinwheel tree.

There are a total of some 130 species that visitors can interact with in the Butterfly Pavilion (photographs taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

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.

Yiwei with a flight of fancy.

Chun See of Good Morning Yesterday with Dr. Walter Wu (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A newly emerged butterfly among the pupae in the incubator.

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.

Through the MGM Macau VIP Lobby (photographs taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Goodbye MGM! Leo the Lion says goodbye – seen from the back window of the bus (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


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.


Fanciful Links:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways

Tourism Activities Centre
Macau Grand Prix
MGM Macau
Butterfly Pavilion


Admission Information:

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

Butterfly Pavilion:
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.






In pursuit of happiness on the streets of old Macau

20 09 2012

Much of the second day of our trip to Macau seemed to be spent in the pursuit of happiness. Happiness, not as one might imagine, found in the brightly lit gaming rooms that one can’t really get far away from in the territory, but rather found in and around the narrow streets and back lanes of old Macau, streets and back lanes that given more time, are ones that I certainly would want find myself getting lost in.

A dance of joy at the foot of the steps leading up to the iconic ruins of St. Paul’s, one of the many pockets of happiness that awaited us on the second day (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Scrambling around the streets late on what was a muggy Sunday morning, it didn’t take long to find ourselves dripping in perspiration and it did seem for a while, that that was the last thing that would lead us to any form of happiness. We had found ourselves involved in a Mini Macau Amazing Race, split into five teams of two, wandering around seemingly aimlessly seeking answers which were to be found in the narrow streets in and around Senado Square.

Have GPS will race … not that it helped … as my team was the last to arrive (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

We did in the course of the race, stumble upon happiness. We found that in the name of a street – Rua da Felicidade or 福隆新街,which translates to the Street of Happiness. The name has its origins in a seedy past, one that was associated with the pleasures of the flesh. The street is today (along with the narrow streets around it), where pleasures are still to be found, in indulgences that some would say are no less sinful. This we had to leave for a little later with the little matter of having first to finish the race.

The pursuit of happiness brought us to a street called ‘happiness’, the Rua da Felicidade / 福隆新街 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Being paired with a very able partner in Kaika, of The Cosplay Chronicles fame, somehow wasn’t enough. Arriving drenched in the morning’s exertions at the pit stop, we were to hear the dreaded ‘you are the last team to arrive’. Looking back, we had perhaps spent a little too much time on happiness, in search of what one might call a purveyor of happiness that eluded us. We did find some momentary happiness at the end point though. That came in the form of what has to be one of the simple pleasures of Macau – a Portuguese Egg Tart or Pastel de Nata as some refer to it. The Macau favourite was one that came from Margaret’s Café (玛嘉烈蛋挞), tucked away in what seemed like an obscure alley not far from the Grand Lisboa Hotel, which served as the end point.

A jump of joy in front of St. Dominic’s Church, one of the stops along the race route … I was paired up with Kaika of The Cosplay Chronicles for the race (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Happiness at the pit stop – found after having an egg tart (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Margaret’s Café (玛嘉烈蛋挞) is tucked away in what seemed like an obscure alley not far from the Grand Lisboa Hotel (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The scene that greeted us at Margaret’s Café, might have had fuelled some delusions some of us might have had that the large crowd that was present was there to cheer our efforts. It was however clear that they had come for the rich creamy custard filled flaky pastry cases that can only be described as a little piece of heaven. There was just a queue that was in evidence, with tables laid on the outside all filled up, many were seen, egg tarts in hand, standing around in the alleyway. The café had been one of the many pockets of happiness surprising us in the labyrinth of streets of the race route and looking back at it, the race certainly was an well thought of means devised by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) to help get us acquainted the streets in and around Senado Square and what they have to offer.

There was a large crowd at the café when we arrived (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Those who could not find seats did not seem to mind having their egg tarts standing (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

With the newly acquired local knowledge fresh in our heads, a number of us decided to use the free time we had after the race to embark on a quest to seek out the pockets of happiness we now knew the streets had to offer. Retracing our steps back to the street called happiness, we sought out Cheong Kei Noodle House (Loja Sopa Da Fita Cheong Kei or 祥记面食专家) and the famed shrimp roe noodles we were made aware of. Undeterred by the queue that had formed when we arrived, we patiently waited for the reward that awaited us, shrimp roe noodles of which we each had one (we realised that the portions served were small enough), sharing a bowl of wan ton soup, and what seemed like house specialities fish skin salad and fish balls deep fried with a coating of rice that resembled balls of Fererro Rocher. The shrimp roe noodles, noodles sprinkled with dried shrimp roe on top, made an interesting eat and turned out to be quite a happy treat. The fish balls and wan ton were too, but I think the jury was out on the fish skin which if anything was rich, as I learned from the ladies with us, in collagen.

The queue to get into Cheong Kei did not deter us (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Fish Skin Salad, a specialty – the jury seemed to be out on this (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Fererro Rocher balls? Deep fried fish balls coated with rice (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

What we came for, happiness in a serving of shrimp roe noodles (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

… which Ai Sakura seemed to find (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Feeling happy from the exercise of gluttony at Cheong Kei, there was more happiness to be sought. We decided to find it in some sweet delights that Macau does have an abundance of – desserts! We headed to the Leitaria I Son (義順牛奶公司) along San Ma Lo (新馬路 / Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro), known to many who visit Hong Kong as the Yee Shun Milk Company. The dessert shop, which I understand originated in Macau, offers a range of smooth and creamy steamed milk puddings with a variety of toppings, all of which would probably require several trips to Macau to have a complete taste of. We shared a few different bowls – a plain milk pudding, as well as one each with ginger, lotus seeds and red beans. The ginger was quite an interesting experience, and if you are fond of having a cup of strong ginger tea we find at the sarabat stalls in Singapore, it is something you certainly will like – which I did. Seeing the expression on the face of one in the group, Rui Long, the omy.sg representative, as she had a taste of it also told me that ginger wasn’t everyone’s bowl of milk pudding. I did however find, and I think many would agree with me, that the bowl with the red beans topping came closest to happiness in a bowl – red beans seemed to best complement the joy of milk pudding.

The search for more happiness took us into Leitaria I Son (義順牛奶公司) along San Ma Lo (新馬路 / Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro), known to many who visit Hong Kong as the Yee Shun Milk Company and famous for their steamed milk puddings.

Happiness found in bowls of steamed milk pudding at I Son … just so good! (Photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

It was at this point that some decided to head to the shops in Senado Square in search of the happiness that shopping does bring. A few headed back to the starting point of the morning’s race, Ponte 16, to visit the MJ Gallery and MJ Café there. The gallery, the only one in Asia devoted to the late ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson (MJ), is where MJ fans will take great delight in the 40 well-known pieces of MJ memorabilia on display. This includes the iconic white rhinestone glove which he wore worn during his first moonwalk performance which was televised during Motown’s 25th Anniversary in 1983, and also a fedora hat and crystal socks worn during his Victory Tour in 1984. MJ was certainly a big part of the generation I am in and I was quite happy to see that he has fans in the young bloggers who came along. One big fan we were to discover amongst us was Rui Long, who I must say did an excellent impression of MJ next to a life-sized standee of MJ doing the legendary moonwalk.

Some headed back to Ponte 16 to visit the MJ Gallery.

Paying homage to the late ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson at the MJ Gallery at Ponte 16 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The MJ Café at Ponte 16.

The time tunnel at the MJ Gallery captures the key milestones of MJ’s legendary career (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Rui Long during a perfect impression of MJ.



The MJ Gallery features 40 items of MJ memorabilia including some iconic items such as the white rhinestone studded glove he wore during his legendary moonwalk performance televised during Motown’s 25th Anniversary in 1983 (photographs taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

I decided next to head on my own in an attempt to discover the heart of old Macau, starting with the A-Ma Temple (媽閣廟) which is thought to be at the origins of the Portuguese given name of its former colony. The temple, I will write on in part of another post, which dedicated to the Taoist protector of fishermen, the goddess of the sea, Mazu or Matsu (妈祖 / 媽祖), serves as the starting point of any heritage trail through the streets of old Macau. It is also a stone’s throw from Lilau Square, the heart of the first Portuguese settlement. It was at the square where peeking through a window of a convenience kiosk, I spotted Yiwei, of Foodeology fame, seemingly in a state of happiness peeking (quite coincidentally) through a window at the opposite side of the kiosk.

The A-Ma Temple (媽閣廟) is at the origin of the Portuguese given name for Macau.

Having spent a little more time that I thought at the A-Ma Temple, the Moorish Barracks along the way and at Lilau Square, and perhaps a little distracted by the sweet smile at the other end of the kiosk, I abandoned thoughts of continuing with my trek through old Macau. I decided on heading back to Senado Square where I would find the larger part of the group, with the promise of a raid on more places of culinary happiness later that evening.

The joy that accompanied the surprise through a window of a kiosk at Lilau Square.

I found the group close to the steps leading up to the ruins of St. Paul’s, looking for happiness in the many shops selling Macanese / Cantonese confectionery and biscuits found in the streets leading up to the ruins. It is at these shops that Macau favourites such as boxes of almond cookies fly off the racks like hot cakes, and where another favourite, what I is best described as sweet barbequed meat or 肉乾, referred to locally as jerky (or in Singapore as ‘bak kwa’ or ‘long yuk’), is displayed in folded sheets as large as a piece of A4 sized paper– something I would certainly would have found happiness in as a child!

The streets below the ruins of St. Paul’s are littered with shops offering happiness in the many local snacks and confectioneries.

Sweet BBQ Meat a.k.a. jerky or 肉乾 is displayed in A4 sized sheets.

A shop assistant with a flat basket of a local favourite, almond cookies.

Ai Sakura finding happiness in a confectionery shop.

Tired from what was a long day out, it was then time to seek the dose of happiness at one of Macau’s food institutions – one we found out about during the race, Wong Chi Kei Noodle House (黃枝記麵家) in Senado Square. Wong Chi Kei has been in business some for some 66 years, having started in 1946. Set in an old shophouse in Senado Square, the wait to get into the restaurant, popular with locals and visitors, proved to be well worth it. The noodles and the soup in which they were served can be described as nothing less than a bowl of great happiness! As with any visit to the region, I had to have a bowl of beef brisket noodles. I thoroughly enjoyed and would if I could, return for more. The wan ton noodles and crab congee are apparently among the favourites here, as is the shrimp roe noodles, which served in larger portions with a generous helping of wan ton, was received well by those who did try it.

A happy customer leaving Wong Chi Kei Noodle House (黃枝記麵家) in Senado Square, a local institution.

The verdict was that the shrimp roe noodles at Wong Chi Kei brought happiness to those who tried it.

Leo of Spin or Bin Music must be wondering how Ai Sakura is going to eat all that!

Another house specialty is the crab congee.

Before we were prepared to call it a day, there was still one last bit of happiness we had to seek. We headed back to the dessert shop that had eluded Kaika and me during the race, Hang Heong Un (Loja De Doces Hang Heong Un / 杏香园雪糕甜品屋), in which their walnut cream desserts are said to bring pure joy. I decided on ordering something that would cool me down instead, it having been a hot day – a cold water chestnut based dessert. That did bring pure joy to me, certainly an excellent way to bring what I must say was a very successful pursuit of happiness through the streets of Macau to a very happy conclusion.

Last stop for finding happiness was Hang Heong Un (Loja De Doces Hang Heong Un / 杏香园雪糕甜品屋) off the street of happiness.

A refreshing bowl of water chestnut based dessert – a perfect way to end a happy day.


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.


Links to Happiness:

Getting there
Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways

Pockets of ‘yum’:
Margaret’s Café
Cheong Kei Noodle House
Leitaria I Son
Wong Chi Kei
Hang Heong Un

Happy places:
Suggested Walking Tour of Macau
Rua da Felicadade
Senado Square
Ruins of St. Paul’s
St. Dominic’s Church
A-Ma Temple
Lilau Square
MJ Gallery at Ponte 16


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.


Video of Mini Macau Amazing Race as captured by the crew of omy.sg:






Dances in Macau’s night sky

17 09 2012

Fireworks have to be one of the best gifts that the Middle Kingdom has given us. A show does always seem to bring out a celebratory mood on any occasion – even when there is no occasion … the explosive burst of colours is in itself a celebration. I for one have long held a fascination for fireworks since my youthful days watching them from the window of my flat in Toa Payoh. And now in my second childhood (perhaps third or fourth), displays still captivate me and I often chase them whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Fireworks displays never fail to put audiences in a celebratory mood.

I found myself not having to chase one of my more recent encounters … being a participant on a trip to Macau that I had the good fortune of being on. The trip, sponsored and hosted by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO), coincided with the annual celebration of fireworks – the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest, which this year is in its 24th edition. That it was hosted by the MGTO, also meant that the group I was in, were able to watch the pyrotechnic displays from a comfortable position and unobstructed position in a reserved area at the Macau Tower Outdoor Plaza.

The judges for the contest seated at the Outdoor Plaza.

Entertainment at the Outdoor Plaza in between the two displays.

This year’s edition of the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest sees 10 teams attempting to outdo each other in painting the night sky over the Pearl River Estuary between the Macau Peninsula and Taipa Island, each in a choreographed show of pyrotechnic bursts accompanied by music. Taking place over a period of some five weeks from September to early October, the 24th Macau International Fireworks Display Contest sees the displays of two teams on each of the Saturdays in September, and that of the last two on 1 October, China’s National Day, in a contest that sees the participation of teams from Korea; Thailand; Taiwan, China; United States; Portugal; France; Japan; Australia; Italy and Mainland China. This annual contest is supported and sponsored by the MGTO with a subsidy given to the participating teams for fireworks. This year sees the participation of teams from France and Italy for the first time, and boasts several well-established names in pyrotechnic displays including the Australian company which was responsible for the fireworks during the opening and closing of Sydney 2000.

Four of the bloggers in the group: (from L to R) Valyn, Joey, Chun See and Yiwei.

After a short ceremony at the Outdoor Plaza, the contest got underway. Featuring two teams on opening evening, the Korean team represented by Woori Fireworks Inc and the team from Thailand, Thailand Fireworks, the audience which also included guests to a BBQ Dinner Buffet which is served to coincide with fireworks nights, was treated to two wondrous 14 minute long shows which saw the colourful bursts dancing to music the teams had specially selected for their respective shows. The displays by the two teams were certainly well planned and choreographed and despite not having a remote release for it, I decided to attempt using the Lumix DMC-GF5 camera that Panasonic had kindly provided for our use during the trip to capture some stills of the displays using the self-timer, the results of which are seen in the sequences of photographs below. The sequence by the Korean team was a little more dynamic and alternated between large and small bursts and capturing them did prove quite a challenge, whereas the Thai display I thought had prettier and subtler combinations of fireworks with lengthier pauses in between – which presented another set of challenges, particularly in anticipating when the bursts would start.

On the way back to the hotel … the bloggers, and even the bus, were in an exuberant and colourful mood!

Although exhausted from what was a very long day (plus the fact that I only got two hours of sleep due to packing at the very last minute for the trip), I must say that enjoyed watching and trying to photograph the two displays, the likes of which I have only got to see up close and unobstructed on very few occasions before … an occasion that will certainly long be remembered …


Performance by Woori Fireworks Inc of Korea










Performance by Thailand Fireworks












The visit to Macau was made possible by the kind sponsorship of MGTO, flights have been sponsored by Tiger Airways with check-in baggage allowances included. The visit to the Macau Tower for the 24th Macau International Fireworks Display Contest was also made possible by Macau Tower.

All photographs of fireworks in this post were taken using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 camera.


Useful links:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Macau Tower
24th Macau International Fireworks Display Contest


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.






Macau on a high

16 09 2012

That it was going to be an interesting 4 day trip to Macau, there wasn’t any doubt. What with it being my very first trip there, plus the added bonus of being in the company of nine very highly spirited bloggers, two members of the omy.sg team and a representative from trip sponsors, the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO). It all began on a Saturday morning with what has to be my last check-in at the Budget Terminal (it is scheduled to close on 25 September 2012). A very smooth and hassle free flight of just over 3 hours on flight sponsors Tiger Airways, one of two airlines that flies direct to the territory and the only one that has daily flights there, was all it took, and we soon found ourselves walking down the ladder right onto the tarmac of Macau’s very unique airport on the sea.

Boarding the Tiger Airways flight bound for Macau. Tiger Airways is the only carrier which flies daily to Macau (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Inside the very comfortable cabin of the Tiger Airways Airbus A320 (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

It didn’t take long before we found ourselves taking in the gorgeous views that any drive across the Friendship Bridge offers and in no time we were dropped off at the hotel’s doorstep. The hotel that we were staying at over the 3 nights, the Grand Lapa Macau, a five-star hotel in the Mandarin Oriental group located close to the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal on the Macau Peninsula, is a luxuriously decorated resort hotel which is set in a very relaxing garden setting. Having checked –in, there wasn’t time to really appreciate what the hotel offered until later, as with some of my new-found friends and travel companions, we decided on looking for a quick bite – something that perhaps set the tone for the culinary adventures that lay in wait.

The room in the Grand Lapa Macau which I found myself in (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The beautiful setting of the Café Bela Vista in the Grand Lapa where breakfast is served (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Too many choices for our Y-blogger Joey – as some of us decided to grab a quick bite before heading out (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

First bite – the much talked about Pork Chop bun (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Having momentarily satisfied cravings that were to accompany me for the rest of the trip, it was time to set off for the first adventures that the MGTO had in store for us. This was to take us on a high – up the heights of the tallest structure in Macau, Macau Tower, which soars to a height of 338 metres and is currently the 20th tallest tower in the world. It would be at the tower where we were to have dinner at the tower’s revolving restaurant, the 360° Café and also where we were to catch the opening of the 24th International Macau Fireworks Display Contest at the tower’s Outdoor Plaza.

Macau Tower at a height of 338 metres is the tallest structure in the territory (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The tower is a truly fascinating place – a lot more than just an observation tower that offers magnificent views of the Special Administrative Region and Zhuhai in mainland China and the Pearl River Delta, but a location that offers dining, entertainment as well as convention and exhibition facilities as we were to discover in the company of Money, which took the form of a Macau Tower representative named Money.

Macau Tower offers excellent views of Macau and the Peral River Delta.

We first had an introduction to the Grand Hall in the convention centre located next to the base of the tower. The Grand Hall is a huge hall that accommodates up to 1800 people for seminars and 1000 people for banquets which can be divided into 8 smaller halls. There are also private rooms arranged along the outer edge – rooms with a view offering a magnificent view of the Sai Van Bridge, more popularly referred to as the ‘M & M’ Bridge for the shape of the arches on the pylons, for private functions. Interestingly, the bridge, which is the 3rd bridge to be built linking the island of Taipa to the Macau Peninsula, has two decks – an open upper deck which is normally used and an enclosed lower deck that is opened up during typhoons.

Chairs inside the Grand Hall (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The Macau Tower representative, Money, introducing the tower’s convention facilities to the group.

Private rooms are arranged on the outside (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The rooms provides a beautiful view of the ‘M&M’ or Sai Van Bridge (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The view of the Sai Van Bridge we got from the private rooms (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

It was then time to get high … and in some 50 seconds we were transported up via high-speed elevators with a maximum speed of 5 metres per second up the 223 metres to the lower Indoor Observation Deck of the tower on the 58th floor. And if that wasn’t exhilarating enough, the fully air-conditioned Indoor Observation Deck, besides offering sky-high views of the surroundings, has thick glass floor panels fitted in some areas that offers the sensation of walking with nothing but 223 metres of air below one’s feet and is certain to make one’s legs go soft.

223 metres high with nothing but a thick pane of glass below me (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

And, if that isn’t enough, Macau Tower offers several unique experiences for the thrill seeking height defying visitor. Up on the upper observation deck – the Outdoor Adventure View Deck, visitors have the choice of ascending the mast, walking exposed to the elements along the edge of the tower, or even jumping off … activities that are certainly not for the faint hearted! It is from this deck, some 61 floors up that A J Hackett, a pioneer in commercial bungy jumping, runs the four activities that will at the very least provide some adrenaline moments, the Mast Climb, the Skywalk X and the Bungy Jump and the Skyjump. The Bungy Jump which at 233 metres up is ranked as the second highest commercial bungee jump in the world and which has been identified as one of the top 5 bungee jumps to do takes one down the tower and offers some spectacular views … something I might have thought of doing if it weren’t for time (yeah, right!). We did get a chance to watch as one very brave man went through his preparations before taking the plunge – wearing a look of calm (or maybe putting on a brave face) throughout. There is also a slower more controlled descent 20 second one can make – the Skyjump, if the bungee is not for you.

The Outdoor Adventure View Deck (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The view from the Outdoor Adventure View Deck (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The Mast Climb allows visitors to climb up the mast (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

A couple of brave souls being prepared for the Bungy Jump and Skywalk (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Must be a wonderful experience being out there and seeing the sunset.

Giving the thumbs up! (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Taking the plunge.

A participant being guided along the Skywalk (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

Skywalk participants get to sit on the edge some 233 metres above ground!

It was soon time to move down to the 60th level where the 360° Café is located to indulge in its huge buffet spread. It did seem like the one hour we had for dinner wasn’t quite enough to fully savour the scrumptious spread of Macanese, Portuguese, Cantonese and even Indian delights plus take the time to view and photograph the wonderful views we were dining to, before it was time to head down for the opening of the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest. On the evidence of the ladies seated at my table, the dessert spread was very well received … including tiramisu to die for – that alone I suppose makes the dining experience one that, for also the delicious spread and wonderful views, is one that should not be missed when in Macau.

The buffet at 360° Café includes local favourites (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The dessert spread was popular with the ladies in the group (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The experience at Macau Tower is certainly a great way to start off the adventure we were to have in Macau, and was one that provided a wonderful first impression of the surprises that Macau holds. We soon found ourselves seated right below the tower ready for the next segment of an eventful first evening, the opening of the 24th Macau International Fireworks Display Contest to which I would devote the next post to.

The view of the Pearl River Delta and the ‘M&M’ Bridge was spectacular from the revolving restaurant (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).

The ‘M&M’ or Sai Van Bridge features an enclosed lower deck for use during typhoons (photo taken with a Panasonic LUMIX GF-5 camera).


The visit to Macau was made possible by the kind sponsorship of MGTO including sponsorship of our stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, flights have been sponsored by Tiger Airways with check-in baggage allowances included. The visit to Macau Tower and dinner at 360° Café was also made possible by Macau Tower.


Useful links:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Grand Lapa Macau
Macau Tower
360° Café
A J Hackett
Bungy Jump
Skyjump
Skywalk X
Mast Climb


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.






A new world in an old to discover

7 09 2012

I’ll soon be off on a new adventure to a place that I have only seen in pictures, Macau. It will be one that I certainly am looking forward to, given the opportunities that will be presented to photograph its wonderful diversity of culture and architecture in the former Portuguese colony.

Macau, one of the earliest European colonies in Asia, and also the longest held, offers and interesting blend of east and west.

The adventure will be one that I will take in the company of an equally diverse group of bloggers, diverse from the age range and areas of interest. That in itself promises to make the four day trip, kindly sponsored by the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO), with flights there sponsored by Tiger Airways which flies there everyday. The itinerary is also one that makes the trip one to look forward to. MGTO has lined up an exciting programme that will include visits to some of the main attractions such as Macau Tower, Macau Grand Prix Museum and Wine Musuem, the Butterfly Pavilion at MGM Macau, Ice World @ The Venetian Macau, The House of Dancing Water, Coloane Village and Taipa Village. During the time, we will also have an experience of some of the scrumptious cuisine that combines the best of east and west.

Macau Tower and the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest.

The highlight of the trip could possibly be the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest, which is in its 24th year. Held over five Saturdays, the event will see ten teams compete with their creative displays for the top prize – two each evening. We will get to see the first set of teams – from Korea and from Thailand on the first evening – and I hope to see and hopefully photograph a spectacular show that evening.

Senado Square.

One of the things that I will look to be doing – especially with a free afternoon after what should be an interesting Amazing Race style race that is planned for the morning of the second day, would be to explore some of Macau on my own. I would be particularly interested to try to discover the mix of east and west in a territory that was one of the earliest European colonies in the Far East. Macau also is the earliest European colony on Chinese territory and the last to be held by a European nation and is certainly a place that is steeped in the history of the golden age of Portuguese ‘discovery’ in Asia. This is a subject that I have been fascinated with since my introduction to it attending a church in Singapore that traces its history, interestingly enough to the first Catholic missionaries who arrived in Singapore, coming from the Portuguese colony of Macau, as well as in the ruins of the A Famosa and St Paul’s Church in Malacca.

A-Ma Temple.

For more information, and also to follow the ten bloggers on the trip, do visit the My Macau Experience page on omy.sg http://blog.omy.sg/experience-macau. We will be updating with blog posts on our experiences before, (maybe during), and in the few weeks after the trip as well flooding it with instant feeds on Twitter (#sba2012) and Instagram (#surprisingmomentsinmacau) during the trip.


Photographs in this post courtesy of MGTO.