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

Friday, September 13, 2019

Needing Sleep: Four (or Five) Chinese Cities in Two Days

Early Tuesday morning I was surprised when my phone's alarm woke me up at 5:10 a.m. It was supposed to wake me up a 5:00 a.m. Presumably I had slept through the first round of the alarm, and it had tried again.

Those 10 minutes mattered a lot. So I ended up taking a taxi to the Nanning East Railway Station instead of the subway. The taxi cost less than expected, just 35 yuan (a little less than U.S. $5 at the moment), and I arrived at the station with just enough time to pick up a sausage mcmuffin with egg for breakfast.

After about three hours on a high-speed train, I arrived at the Guangzhou South Railway Station.

Guangzhou South Railway Station departure hall


Less than 15 minutes later I boarded another high-speed train, and in little more than an hour I arrived in Zhuhai. Not long after checking into my hotel there, I crossed the border to Macau by foot. Soon I was at favorite cafe for a grilled onion pork chop bun where I noticed a Hong Kong channel was broadcasting a police news conference.

Hong Kong police news conference on TV at a Macau cafe


The sound was off but text on the screen indicated it was about the responsibilities of off duty Hong Kong police. Presumably this was in response to the protest-related news which broke the day before about the issuing of extendable batons to off duty police.

Later in the day, I spotted an animal that taxonomically baffled me for a very brief moment. But then I realized it was just your everyday Macanese duck-dog.

dog wearing a duck bill muzzle


Honestly, the animal attracted my attention to such a degree at the time I didn't even notice the "Do not sit on the staircase to avoid blocking" sign above the sitting-on-the-step woman until now. This raises the question of why, presumably, people like to sit there. Could it be related to the duck-dog?

As this animal experience suggests, as usual I enjoyed my time in Macau. I would've happily stayed longer, but that evening I had to cross the border back to Zhuhai.

young man wearing an "Obey Obey Obey" shirt


After a successful crossing where I learned a key fact from an immigration officer, I was at my favorite place for post-midnight razor clams.

yummy razor clams


I didn't sleep much that night. Actually, I'm not sure I really slept at all. In any case, at 5:30 a.m. I boarded a shared van to Zhuhai's airport.

Soon after arrival, I noticed my plane was already at its gate. So that was nice.

China Southern Airlines airplane at gate at Zhuhai Airport


Since I had plenty of time to spare, I ordered a grilled cheese & ham sandwich at a popular Hong Kong chain restaurant.

grilled ham & cheese sandwich cut unusually (for the US)

I'm not clear why they cut the sandwich that way. I probably shouldn't, but I'm still pondering it.


Anyway, soon I was in the sky and presented with an airplane snack.


Not so thrilling flight snack

The steamed bun on the far left was stuffed with some sort of meat-like substance. I will just say I have eaten many, many different types of steamed buns in China, and this one may have been the worst. But at least the turtle shell herbal jelly was decent enough, though I wondered whether it actually had any turtle shell in it.

Whatever the case, the flight was otherwise uneventful, which I mostly count as a very good thing.

After about 2 hours in the air, I found myself much farther north in China than I have been in nearly two years. Yet incredibly I am still in what they call the south.

So I would say in two days I was in four cities, though if you want to count Guangzhou (I wouldn't) you could say five. I need to sleep now. A lot. Once that happens, at some point I hope to mention the fourth (or fifth) city.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

More Macanese Casino Architecture: A Mocha at Night

Some recent posts include photos of architecturally intriguing buildings, such as the Morpheus Hotel, that if I were seeing them for the first time in Macau I would guess they must be part of a casino resort. There was a building in Macau Peninsula I recently passed at night, though, with a design that caught my eye yet I didn't even consider it might be a casino.

Mocha Inner Harbour casino in Macau at night


Honestly, if people hadn't entered the building while I was near the front door I might have not paid attention to the Chinese name over the door "摩卡娛樂" and left assuming it only had a cafe inside based on its English name "Mocha". But after getting a peek of the interior, I realized there was a bit more going on than I had thought. The Mocha Inner Harbour, one of several Mocha locations Macau, does offer coffee that "can refresh the senses and relax the mind", but presumably the casino makes much more money from people gambling.

Nifty building either way.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A Girls Power Mural Outloud in Macau

Recently I shared some art on display in Taipa, Macau. For a contrast, here is a mural I stumbled across at night on the street Travessa da Assunção just off of Rua do Almirante Sérgio in one of the historic areas of Macau Peninsula that feel like another world from the casinos not far away:



The artist Rainbo was born in Hunan and now lives in Hong Kong. You can find out more about her and her work here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A Changing Gambling View at a Wetland in Macau

More than seven years ago in a post about Macau's gambling world I shared a photo of several of Macau's casinos as seen from the other side of the Baía de Nossa Senhora da Esperança Wetland Ecological Viewing Zone. Here is another photo I took at the same time from a slightly different vantage point:

Baía de Nossa Senhora da Esperança Wetland Ecological Viewing Zone and casinos in the distance in 2012
2012


I chose the above photo because it captures almost exactly the same perspective as a photo I took last week while walking in Avenida da Praia, Taipa, where I also saw some colorful artwork on display.

Baía de Nossa Senhora da Esperança Wetland Ecological Viewing Zone and casinos in the distance in 2019
2019

The photos were taken at different times of the day under different lighting conditions and with different cameras and lenses. The more recent photo includes more greenery and Macanese clouds as well. But perhaps the most remarkable difference is the additional buildings in the second photo. Most notably, the architecturally intriguing Morpheus Hotel on the far left now blocks the view of another building of the City of Dreams resort and casino.

There are many other similar significant additions to this part of Macau, including the boxy MGM Cotai, the Wynn Palace with its gondola lift, and The Parisian Macau. If you know what to look for, you can find slivers of each of those three casinos resorts as well in the second photo. I'm not sure what this view will look like in another seven years, but the casino resort construction in this region of Macau certainly continues — just not in the wetland.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Colors of Macau and Hong Kong by Artist Francesco Lietti

I will be continuing the theme of recents posts about Yulin, but I suspect some readers would appreciate a break from all of the dogs and such. I know I could use a change of pace. So for the next two posts or so I will share a bit from Macau, a city I have visited many times and where I spent a couple of days recently. To say the least, Macau and Yulin are quite different.

So for today, here are two of the mixed media paintings by the Italian artist Francesco Lietti on display at the Taipa Houses Exhibitions Gallery as part of the Art Macau International Art Exhibition. The first painting below captures a side of Macau and the second Hong Kong. Lietti has lived in Hong Kong since 2006 and many of his pieces feature the city. More about Lietti and his art can be found online at his website.

Mixed media on canvas "Macau International" by Francesco Lietti
Macau International - 2019


Mixed media on canvas "A Palette of Flavours" by Francesco Lietti
A Palette of Flavours - 2019

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Bird Falling From the Sky in Macau

A few days ago while walking down a pedestrian lane off of Largo Maia de Magalhães in Macau's Taipa Village, I froze when I unexpectedly saw something small fall straight down from above 15 feet directly in front me. The object landed with a clearly audible thud and cracking sound.

I continued forward, and to my surprise found a small bird — I believe a sparrow.

dead sparrow on the ground


Although there were some high ledges on a nearby building, straight above was only sky. Perhaps the bird had experienced a heart attack while flying. On closer inspection, one of the bird's legs slowly moved and it slowly opened and closed its eyes a couple of times. I am not an expert on birds, but given how it had hit the ground and its current condition I felt confident I was witnessing its final moments of life or postmortem reflexes.

In either case, it felt wrong to just leave the bird in the middle of an area where there were many pedestrians who could unwittingly step on it. So I picked up the bird. It didn't react. I then looked for the most fitting nearby location.

After relocating the bird and noticing similar birds flying around, I went to a nearby public restroom that I knew had soap and washed my hands. I then returned to the quieter side of a tree to take one last photo of the bird that I had seen come out of the sky for its last time.

dead sparrow next to a tree

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.