Pages

Showing posts with label Macau. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Macau. Show all posts

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dogs, Lions, and Inflatable Israeli Hammers: The Macau Lunar New Year Festival at Tap Seac Square

Dog lantern display at Tap Seac Square
Dog-themed display part of the Lunar New Year festivities at Tap Seac Square in Macau

Recently Macau held a Lunar New Year fair at Tap Seac Square, a regular event there since 2009. I visited the fair last Wednesday and was interested to compare it to the Lunar New Year fairs I have seen in Taipei and in Hong Kong.

Macau Lunar New Year Market at Tap Seac Square
Part of the Lunar New Year Market at Tap Seac Square

In general, with the exception of it lacking any political activism, I found it more similar to what I saw in Hong Kong due to the many aspects which weren't specific to the Lunar New Year and more like a typical fair. That said, there was still plenty which clearly tied to the holiday.

For example, a number of the stalls had a distinct dog theme — appropriate for the upcoming Year of the Dog.

stall selling dog-themed items at Tap Seac Square Lunar New Year Market


stall selling dog-themed items at Tap Seac Square Lunar New Year Market


One of those stalls, though, rebelled a bit by including the slogan "I Like Cats More" on their sign.

stall selling dog-themed items with the slogan "I Like Cats More"


Accordingly, a number of doggish items were on sale, which meant that some people left with a new inflatable pet.

girl pulling inflatable dog on wheels


Some items mixed aspects of the holiday: for example, dog-themed pinwheels.

various pinwheels including several with dog themes


And as is traditional in this region of China, the market included many flowers for sale.

flowers for sale at Tap Seac Square Lunar New Year Market


Ample photographic opportunities were available. One popular option was having your photo taken with a cheerful God of Wealth.

people taking a photograph with person in a God of Wealth costume


people taking a photo with somebody in a God of Wealth costume


The biggest difference between my experience at this fair and others elsewhere was the number of live performances. While I was there, two Chinese orchestras performed.

Chinese orchestra performance at Macau Lunar New Year Fair


And, not surprisingly, nearby traditional drums came out as well.

traditional Chinese drum performance


This was a clear sign a lion dance was at hand. The performance was entertaining for most everyone except a snake that didn't fare so well.

black Chinese lion


Red Chinese lion looking at a scroll and stuffed snake
Lion vs. Snake

Red Chinese lion holding a banner
Snake now in the lion's belly

White Chinese lion dancing
Lion vs. Me?


Other aspects of the fair weren't so traditional or specific to the Lunar New Year. There were several food stalls offering items which would be common at a night market, including one with black cuttlefish sausage.

menu in Chinese with various items


For reasons I can't explain, they didn't have a giant black cuttlefish sausage on hand like I saw at the Lunar New Year festival in Taipei.

There was also a clown modeling balloons — as usual, a hit with children.

Clown modeling balloons for children


Reminiscent of the giant stuffed cigarettes I saw for sale at a Lunar New Year fair in Hong Kong, I found that some items for sale made me do a double take.

inflatable hammers and hands with symbols from Israeli flag


If you were looking for inflatable hands and hammers with an Israeli theme, it was your lucky day.

And finally, the day I went to the fair was February 14 — Valentine's Day. In the spirit of that other holiday some people were selling heart-shaped red balloons.

people selling red heart-shaped balloons


One of the things I personally enjoyed about the fair, at least during my time there, was it had a good crowd but wasn't packed to the point where moving around was difficult — an issue I faced at times in both Taipei and Hong Kong. The fair unexpectedly captivated me for long enough that by the time I left the Macanese restaurant where I had planned to eat dinner had already closed.

I should have picked up some black cuttlefish sausage before leaving. I didn't even get to eat a stuffed snake.



Added note: As pointed out by a reader, Valentine's Day may have also influenced the name of one of the dog-themed stalls that appears in the photos above. "單身狗" includes the Chinese character for dog and is unflattering / self-deprecating slang for a person who is single. The reader wrote, "I guess one of the stalls got away with the sarcastic flavor."

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Rambling Travel Tale: One Way to Go From Taipei to Guangdong

The previous post may have seemed out of the blue not only because it was about trash collection but also because it featured Macau. So I will take this opportunity to share a personal travel experience that captures a few of the issues involved in traveling to the Pearl River Delta area.

After an unexpectedly long stay in Taipei, it was time to leave. I knew I wanted to head to Guangdong province but had some flexibility in how to do that. For example, I could take a cheap (less than US $60) flight from Taipei to the island of Kinmen, a ferry to Xiamen in mainland China, and then high-speed rail to Guangdong. Or I could fly directly from Taipei to Shenzhen or Guangzhou in Guangdong. The differing options had various tradeoffs regarding price and convenience. One issue was that there was no way to fly directly from Taipei to where I expected to spend the Lunar New Year holiday.

Then I discovered some cheap direct flights from Taipei to Macau — just US $80 one way. Macau borders Zhuhai, a city in Guangdong. There are no direct flights from Taipei to Zhuhai. But even if there were, the Zhuhai airport is actually farther from the most urban areas of Zhuhai than the Macau airport. The catch is that as a Special Administrative Region in the People's Republic of China, Macau has its own immigration procedures. And they take time to go through.

Overall, I felt the Macau to Zhuhai route was reasonably convenient, and the price was sweet. Oh, and the flight was on Air Macau. I could add yet another airline to my list. So, I bought the ticket.

The flight left the gate about 15 minutes early. The breakfast on the flight, some sort of chicken noodles, was surprisingly tasty. Upon arriving at the airport in Macau, I considered taking a special bus that allows you to avoid Macau immigration and head straight to one of the mainland China immigrations checkpoints on the border with Zhuhai. A policewoman saw me reading a relevant sign, though, and asked if I had a reservation. I said the website indicated that tickets for a bus to the checkpoint I wanted could only be bought at the airport. She then said the tickets must be sold out and that Chinese tour groups often buy them out. I explained the website didn't indicate they were sold out, just that you had to buy them in person. She repeated the point about Chinese tour groups.

I was tempted to check things out with the bus company myself. But given the departure of the next bus (they aren't very freqent) I thought I might make it to Zhuhai more quickly another way.

So, I went through Macau immigration, which was very fast at the airport. Then I wanted to take a convenient city bus to the border at Portas do Cerco. I had some change in both Macau patacas and Hong Kong dollars, both usable on buses in Macau, but not enough. So I exchanged some Chinese yuan knowing I would be making my way back to Macau later. Then I took a bus to Portas do Cerco where I passed through Macanese immigration once again — not as quickly as at the airport but 10 minutes is fine. The line for mainland China immigration was reasonable as well. In the end, I made it to Zhuhai quicker than I would have had I taken the more expensive bus which bypasses Macau's immigration process.

After settling in Zhuhai for a bit, I returned to Macau for a day. And later I finally made the next leg of this journey.

So here's a photo from today, the first day of the new Lunar New Year, next to the Jiangmen River in Jiangmen, Guangdong:

Man and boy sitting next to the Jiangmen River


One take home message from all of this is that when one making a long trip to this part of Guangdong, there can be a variety of options worth considering (I have other tales to share). I wouldn't have guessed that flying to Macau would be the winner in this case. But it was. And it worked just fine.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Sign of the Upcoming Lunar New Year: Bulky Trash Collection in Macau

Last year I shared a special Lunar New Year trash collection activity in Macau which occurred during the holiday period. So it is only fitting that I now share a special Lunar New Year trash collection activity in Macau which is occurring just before yet another year begins.

"Collection point for bulky waste before Lunar New Year" sign


As announced on a government website:
In view of the sharp increase in the amount of garbage during Lunar New Year period as residents clean their homes to welcome the new year, the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) and the Macau Residue System Company, Ltd. will strengthen their city cleaning and garbage collection efforts from 28 January to 5 March 2018 to ensure the cleanliness of the city.

From 2 to 15 February 2018, 128 collection points for large-sized garbage will be set up in Macao. Among those collection points, 106 will be set up in Macao Peninsula, and 13 and 9 collection points will be set up in Taipa and Coloane respectively. Residents can make use of the mentioned collection points for large-sized garbage from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The Macau Residue System Company, Ltd. will put up signs at the mentioned locations.
At one site yesterday afternoon there was already an assortment of bulky items, presumably free to a good home.

broken seat, worn tires, and broken baby stroller at trash collection point in Macau


This is shared in the spirit of shining a brief light on a side of the of the Lunar New Year holiday in Macau which typically doesn't receive so much, if any, attention elsewhere. And it seemingly contrasts with neighboring Zhuhai across the border in mainland China. Trash is collected there in one form or the other, but I have never seen similarly-marked sites for collection activities specific to the Lunar New Year holiday.

Hurry up if you still have bulky trash in Macau though. You now only have just a little more than an hour left.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Two Lions Guarding the Casino Dreams in Macau

Recent posts regarding the casino resort world in Cotai, Macau, took a look at the yet-to-open MGM Cotai, the yet-to-open Morpheus hotel, a promotion combining dinosaurs and Lamborghinis at City of Dreams, the gondola at the Wynn Palace, and some of the creative works inside the Wynn Palace. To conclude the series, here are photos of the two guardian lions which sit on both sides of an entrance to the City of Dreams.

guardian lion at City of Dreams in Macau


guardian lion at City of Dreams in Macau


Instead of the common pairing of one guardian lion (male) with a ball and the other (female) with a lion cub under one of their front paws, both of these lions have a ball. As a non-expert on guardian lions, I would particularly welcome thoughts others may have about this.

In any case, they are not typical-looking guardian lions — unsurprising for a place that has a triceratops with keys as its horns inside.

Friday, October 20, 2017

An Ornate Hallway and Some Colorful Art at the Wynn Palace in Macau

Although the experience inside the Wynn Palace in Macau after a gondola with dragons is initially a bit underwhelming, visitors can soon find themselves in the resort's ground-level hallways, which few people would describe as understated.



The hallways lead to luxury shops, restaurants, and, of course, the main casino. Walking around will also take one past a number of creative works.

For example, there is the Tulips sculpture by the American artist Jeff Koons.

Tulips sculpture by Jeff Koons at the Wynn Palace in Macau



There are also floral sculptures designed by Preston Bailey. All of them were made in Las Vegas, dismantled, shipped to Macau, and then reassembled. With eight available in total, the two sculptures on display at the Wynn Palace change every few months. During my recent visit, the hot air balloon floral sculpture was out.

Hot air ballon floral sculpture by Preston Bailey at the Wynn Palace


Each of the balloons slowly rises and falls, and the largest is nearly 17 feet (about 5 meters) in height.

The other floral sculpture now on display at first only appears to be your everyday 12-foot-tall Fabergé egg.

12-foot-tall Fabergé egg floral sculpture by Preston Bailey at the Wynn Palace


[Spoiler alert: there is more than meets the eye here. To avoid the big egg reveal do not read any further and take a ride on the nearest gondola.]


But periodically a phoenix appears accompanied by a condensed version* of the end of Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird.

Phoenix rising from Fabergé egg floral sculpture by Preston Bailey at the Wynn Palace


Perhaps the regenerating phoenix can give people hope if they lost a lot of money in the casino. Or in Preston Bailey's words: “We knew that we needed to keep people amused and surprised.” Whatever the case, after the short performance the phoenix returns to its egg until it decides to emerge once again.

Somebody recently posted a video of the phoenix doing its thing, so if you need a bit of phoenix inspiration:



And now I am going to do a bit of regeneration myself with a more complete performance of The Firebird.




*Stravinsky composed several versions of The Firebird. I didn't check them all but am not aware of any being shortened in this manner.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Flying Past Dragons for an Escalator Ride: The SkyCab at the Wynn Palace in Macau

The Wynn Palace casino resort opened last year in Cotai, Macau. Although the building's architecture may not impress as many people as the nearby MGM Cotai casino resort or Morpheus hotel, it visually stands out for another reason.

SkyCab in front of the Wynn Palace in Cotai, Macau


The Wynn Palace has its own mono-cable detachable gondola (MDG) system, a type of cable car, which it calls the SkyCab. Along with sharing some of the early reaction, the Gondola Project detailed the gondola's special features:
Typically cable cars can’t turn corners without a mid-station, but this system is able to make a total of 6 turns with 2 stations because it operates in an unidirectional configuration. As we’ve discussed before with the Kolmarden Wildlife gondola in Sweden, the basic rule of turning without intermediary stations is this: Cabins can only flow in one direction and all turns must be either to the left (in the event of a clockwise traffic flow) or right (in the even of a counter-clockwise traffic flow).

Aside from its unique operating characteristics, the gondola was undoubtedly designed with opulence and glitz in mind to match its environment. Two of the system’s towers were built in the form of a golden dragon while the cabins were all equipped with a custom audio system and air conditioning. Despite the advances made in ropeway technology, air conditioned cabins are still uncommon.
The SkyCab has yet another great feature:

"Complimentary Ride Into Wynn Palace" on a digital sign


And not only is the ride complimentary, but when I arrived there wasn't any line. So I quickly found myself headed towards the head of a golden dragon for free.

SkyCab Dragon


The ride was smooth and enjoyable, but I did experience one problem — the air conditioning.

air conditioning unit inside a SkyCab car


Although the air conditioner was blowing air, the cabin felt like a sauna and wasn't much better than the hot outdoors. I don't know whether or not the problem was specific to this car.

In any case, soon I was at the other station. At a nearby outdoor area, the view includes Wynn Palace's Performance Lake as well as the City of Dreams casino resort, though the Morpheus hotel is mostly hidden.

View of City of Dreams and a Macau LRT Station in front of the Wynn Palace


Also easy to spot is a station for the Macau Light Rapid Transit (LRT) next to the StarCab station. The LRT was originally expected to have opened last year. There were some slight delays, though, and now the planned opening is in 2019 for just this particular line, which doesn't reach much of the most densely populated area of Macau or the land border with mainland China. It will be a while before the SkyCab's full potential can be realized.

Finally, after reaching the SkyCab station at the edge of the main building complex, riders may be eager to discover what greets them inside. And they may be surprised when the only option other than enjoying the outdoor viewing area, which is easy to miss, is to return to ground level.

escalator from the SkyCab station at Wynn Palace

escalators to and from the SkyCab station at Wynn Palace


After the excitement of taking a gondola into a world class resort, a nondescript hallway and unremarkable long escalator ride can be a buzzkill and feel inconsistent with the resort's claim that the "SkyCab delivers you into the heart of Wynn Palace". Other possibilities could have been an upper level shopping / entertainment area as found in some other nearby casino resorts or the gondola returning the ground the level, perhaps to an internal courtyard. The possibilities are seemingly endless for a resort with many resources at its disposal. The gondola clearly wasn't built for purely pragmatic reasons and is intended to impress, yet it ends (or begins) on such a relatively mundane note.

So you could say the experience left me hanging and feeling it could have been much more. Still, I can say SkyCab is now my favorite free gondola ride with dragons.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dinosaurs (and Lamborghinis) Featured in a Promotion at City of Dreams in Macau

Admittedly, I would have a tough time deciding if given the chance to choose one of these:

Lamborghinis and Tyrannosaurus sculpture display at City of Dreams Macau


back of yellow Lamborghini on display at City of Dreams Macau


Lamborghini and Triceratops sculpture display at City of Dreams Macau


But after much consideration, I suspect in the end I would go with the Tyrannosaurus. Unfortunately, winning one of the dinosaur sculptures did not appear to be a possibility in the "Unlock the Power" promotional campaign at the City of Dreams casino resort in Macau:
Promotional car keys will be distributed at prominent locations around Macau, including ferry terminals, border gates and shuttle-bus stops, giving lucky guests the chance to win a Lamborghini. Keys can also be obtained by visiting City of Dreams, or by playing the mobile app game. The WeChat-based competition allows players to race a supercar by using their “engine voice” to propel the car around the track – the louder you roar, the faster you go! The more keys entrants can accumulate, the more chances they will have to win a Lamborghini.

Guests at City of Dreams can also participate in a daily instant game to be in with a chance of scooping the grand prize by spending at any of the resort’s many shopping, dining, entertainment or hospitality outlets during the campaign period, and enter the stage game that will take place every Thursday to Sunday at 8pm. The entrants drawn to play the game will have the chance to drive home a Lamborghini, or to receive HKD2 million [about U.S. $250,000] in cash.
I haven't played the mobile game, which can be downloaded from either Google Play or Apple's App Store, so my engine voice remains untested. I also didn't watch a stage game, so I can't report whether it too involved using one's engine voice.

As far as the dinosaurs, without further explanation the press release states they "personify the Italian supercar". I am not aware of any evidence indicating dinosaurs had good engine voices though.

Anyway, after yet another look . . .

view from above of Lamborghinis and Tyrannosaurus sculpture display at City of Dreams Macau


Lamborghini and Triceratops sculpture display at City of Dreams Macau


I must say, maybe I would go with the Triceratops after all.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Morpheus Hotel in Macau: Architecture Filling a Void with Voids

The MGM Cotai casino resort won't be the only building with a creative contemporary design to open in Macau early next year. A pair of connected towers under construction nearby will be the fifth hotel at the City of Dreams casino resort. The structural steel exoskeleton of the Morpheus already stands out amongst the neighboring towers.

City of Dreams casino resort in Macau including the new Morpheus hotel


The building was designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid, the first woman recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. According to the City of Dreams website:
Inspired by jade artifacts, Morpheus is a sculpture, mysterious and intriguing in its unconventional architectural composition. A series of voids gives it complexity and volume, a unique appearance as well as exciting internal spaces. Its two towers are connected at the podium levels and the roof, and there are two additional bridges for guests to experience the external voids within the building.
A few different perspectives from ground level on the north side of the building highlight the irregular patterns formed around the hard-to-miss voids:

north side of the Morpheus hotel at City of Dreams in Macau


north side of the Morpheus hotel at City of Dreams in Macau


north side of the Morpheus hotel at City of Dreams in Macau


A City of Dreams video from several years ago more fully reveals the building's design from a wide range of perspectives not available to your average passerby:



And a Kyotec Group video from half a year ago shows some of the building's actual construction without any android-like simulated humans walking around:



Near the top of one of the nearby towers at the City of Dreams is the Count:Down Clock, which appears in the upper right of this photo:

Count-down clock at City of Dreams in Macau


The clock not only counts down to the opening of the Morpheus but also the reveal for the rebranding of the round tower, formerly the Hard Rock Hotel. The hotel there currently uses the placeholder name The Countdown.

In an interview for the Macau Tatler, designer Maarten Baas shared some of the inspiration for the clock, the latest edition for his “Real Time” series:
For this project, obviously we wanted to do something with the theme of counting down. Yet, there are plenty of ways to count down. The first thought was to make it look like real people were each individually making a digit. There are digits for hours and digits for minutes. So some digits have to go very fast, while others only change every 100 or 1,000 hours. So there was this contrast between the activities, which I liked. I gave them all a black suit, as if they are chic servers of time, similar to personal butlers. I was also inspired by the luxury lifestyle in Macau.
Inside Asian Gaming posted a brief video showing a little of how the clock counts down with the help of recorded actors:



So before the middle of next year, the Morpheus with its impressive voids will open and another hotel at the City of Dreams will have a new name. More surprises may be in store as well. The Count:Down Clock hits zero on April 1.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Casino Resort in Macau Turns on the Lights While Waiting to Open

The MGM Cotai, MGM China's second casino resort in Macau, has yet to open despite previous plans to open as early as 2016 and then by October 1 of this year. Reportedly, Typhoon Hato played a role in the latest delay:
MGM China said its previously stated Q4 2017 timeline for the opening of its in-development MGM Cotai resort casino was no longer attainable, and thus the company was delaying the property’s launch date until January 29, 2018. . . .

MGM Cotai didn’t escape Hato’s wrath, and the company says repairing the damage will “slightly” delay the inspections by local government officials that are necessary for MGM Cotai to obtain its various operating licenses.
Even when it opens, the resort casino will be holding back some offerings:
The casino resort MGM Cotai – promoted by Macau-based gaming operator MGM China Holdings Ltd – is set to open only with mass gaming tables, but VIP gaming is to be offered at a later stage, said on Thursday the firm’s chief executive, Grant Bowie. . . .

“We certainly will be opening [MGM Cotai with] only mass tables but we are looking to develop relationships and we have already developed relationships with a number of junkets,” Mr Bowie told reporters on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Macau Oktoberfest at MGM Macau.
The delays are obviously frustrating to MGM China, its investors, future employees, and anybody desiring to visit the casino resort.

On the bright side, though, barring more delays the resort casino will be open in time for the next Lunar New Year holiday. And the lights already turn on at night at the architecturally intriguing building.

MGM Cotai with its lights turned on

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Medicina Chinesa and B.S. Medical Signs in Macau

I have had a cold for the past few days. At first I thought it would be low impact and quick. The cold has had other ideas though.

So in that spirit, I will share photos of two contrasting signs for medical establishments I recently noticed in Macau.

The first sign is for the Mestre de Medicina Chinesa Kong Tong Sam on Rua de Coelho do Amaral.

sign for the Mestre de Medicina Chinesa Kong Tong Sam in Macau


I liked the look of the sign.

The second sign is for a medical center with a focus on dermatology on Rua da Colina.

sign for the B.S. Medical Center in Macau


In this case I was struck by its English name — in particular, my first reading of "B.S." as "bullshit". For the obvious reasons, I doubt that was intended though.

In all likelihood, "B.S." represents the first letters of the romanization of the first two Chinese characters in its name. It also may be no coincidence that the doctor who practices there uses the English name Dr. Benny Si.

If I were now in Macau, I probably would have just gone to an outlet of a familiar health care and beauty chainstore with a pharmacy and picked up some medicine there. But these two places definitely have more interesting signs.