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.


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Minus 8 degrees Celcius in Macau

7 10 2012

In between sky and water there has to be ice and fire. At least that was how it did seem on the second half of the third day of a Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) sponsored trip to the former Portuguese territory.

A different side of Macau. A frozen replica of the A-Ma Temple at the CotaiExpo.

The afternoon had started high in the sky with lunch at Sky 21, and before we found ourselves immersed in the lychee wood fire of the Jade Dragon for a quick dinner before the spectacle of The House of Dancing Water, there was still time to be led by Venetian canals, and to explore the frozen world that with temperatures of minus eight degrees Celcius, certainly seemed far removed from the heat of the Macanese summer.

The passage to the frozen world took us by the canals of Venice brought to Macau by the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel.

We even had an accordionist to entertain us along the way.

The frozen world was that of Ice World 2012, this year’s edition of highly popular display of ice carvings which was at the tail end of a four month run that ended on 16 September 2012, held at CotaiExpo within the Venetian Macao. For this edition, the 18,000 square foot ice hall was divided into ten zones with the works of 50 of the best ice sculptors on display. Among the eye-catching ice sculptures were replicas of many recognisable landmarks included several large scale ones that included Tiananmen, the A-Ma Temple, the Petronas Towers, and even Singapore’s tourism symbol, the Merlion.

At the entrance to the frozen world in which temperatures are maintained at -8 degrees C.

An ice sculpture of Tiananmen.

The recognisable Merlion.

Sculpture at the entrance.

Another sculpture at the entrance.

Pandas close to the entrance.

There were also several interesting sculptures, which being the year of the dragon, included several that incorporated the mythical beast such as a Dragon Boat and a Double Dragon Slide. It was on the slide where several of us were able to revisit our lost childhoods and where one did find out that ice wasn’t as slippery as one might have imagined (Ai Sakura got stuck on the slide not just once but in all three of her attempts to slide).

Dragons made an appearance.

Down the slide I went …

Someone did manage getting stuck on the slide.

Other notable sculptures were a 100 metre Magic Ice Maze, which amazingly, was constructed out of 1,000 blocks of coloured ice; and a piano that could actually be played! The four month run of what was the second edition of the ice sculpture exhibition attracted some 176,000 visitors … and certainly is another surprise packed into the 29 square kilometres that is Macau. Tickets to Ice World 2012 were sponsored by The Venetian Macao.

The Magic Ice Maze.

The ice piano that could be played on.


More photographs


All photographs in this post were taken using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 which Panasonic Singapore kindly lent to all ten bloggers for the trip to Macau. The trip was made possible by the kind sponsorship of MGTO which included a three night stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, and also Tiger Airways who sponsored the two way flights.


Links to being put on ice:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
The Venetian Macao
CotaiExpo


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).
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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.






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.