Visiting Xin Xin and Kai Kai

xin-xin

In a simulated indoor garden, Xin Xin munched on bamboo leaves. She seemed unfazed by the crowd, albeit small at 10 in the morning.

kai-kai

Outside, Kai Kai is the same, although he seemed more playful than his friend.

We took the 26A bus from just across Hotel Lisboa to the Seac Pai Van Park in Coloane to visit a pair of pandas from Chengdu.  Set in the southernmost island, we’ve never been to this part of Macau, and thought we’d visit the city and spend a few hours in the park.  We started early and arrived at the park before it opened, so we hopped on another bus that dropped us off at the Coloane Village Square.

coloane

At 9 in the morning, the village was half awake.  We explored a bit of the area but didn’t reach the village center.

seafront

Right next to the square, however, as you walk toward the sea front promenade is Lord Stowe’s Bakery.

lord's-stowe

We walked in, bought ourselves a piece of their famous Portuguese egg tart

lord-stowe's-egg-tart

and devoured it while waiting for the bus to take us back to the park.

Nestled against the hillside with Alto do Coloane serving as backdrop, Seac Pai Van Park is designed around the terrain.

panda-pavilion

Found within the park is the Giant Panda Pavilion, the pair’s new home, simulating their natural habitat.

kai-kai-2

The multifunctional park, once a farm, is now considered as the largest natural green belt of Macau.

aviary

Besides the pavilion, the park has a mini zoo that houses a few animals from macaques to deers, a walkthrough aviary that has a few rare birds,

Flamingoes

and a pond with a few flamingos and other waterfowl.

pond

The 20-hectare lot is easy to explore in just a few hours. If you are into flora and fauna, this place may disappoint, but for the price (MOP$10) and the pandas, the park is worth the morning.

The village, I believe, though, is worth exploring… on my next visit.

But while in Macau check out the many good eats this island has to offer here, here, here and here.

Useful Info:

Seac Pai Van Park
Estrada de Seac Pai Van
Transport:  21A, 26A, 50
Hours:  9am-6pm (Tues-Sun); Aviary: 9am-5pm (Tues-Sun)

So We’re Back in Macau

For one reason and one reason only – Franco Dragone’s spectacular water-based show staged in an almost circular theater they call “theater-in-the-round”.

As we entered, we were instantly drawn to the magnificent center stage where the acrobatic stunts, beautiful lighting and creative use of water takes place.

The House of Dancing Waters is the centerpiece of the newest integrated resort in Macau – City of Dreams.

It tells of a princess and how a handsome, brave stranger tries to save her kingdom and free her from the clutches of her cruel stepmother. Of course they fall in love in the process.

Typical Cinderella story of sort but you forgive the mushy storyline for the outstanding performance and theatrical artistry.

The stage shifts from aquatic to solid dry floor with the help of 8 ten-ton elevators.

Colorful fountains surround the princess and the stranger

Installed and cleverly used on stage were more than 200 automated fountains.

Clever use of water spray and lights to create snow.

And the most spectacular, as far as I’m concerned, was the motorcycle stunts.

One could not help but admire these daredevils for their preciseness as they do their stunts in a small and confined stage.  I cringe as I watch them fly into the air, one after the other, sometimes at the same time even – I can only imagine how fatal a mistake could be.  This alone is worth the effort and the price.

Believe you me, this show will not disappoint.  Running since September 2010, this impressive water show is worth the trip to Macau.

Different hotel packages of nearby hotels are available or if budget is a concern, you may opt for cheaper hotels outside the complex,

there are free shuttles every 15 minutes plying the downtown Macau-Taipa route.   The shuttle stopped just outside our hotel.

Before or after the show, make it a point to have dinner at Beijing Kitchen, just outside the theater.  Good food guaranteed.  We enjoyed a splendid dinner of Fried Pigeons and Baby Cabbage in Duck Broth.

A Must See

Cirque du Soleil.  Oh yes, O Manel was part of the lure but this 90-minute mega production was one major reason why I found my way back to Macau.  The award winning creation that began with a group of street performers in Quebec is known the world over for its innovative shows.  Zaia – the one staged at The Venetian Resort in Macau – is wall-to-wall with breathtaking aerial acrobatics, entrancing special effects and fluid dance and movements, that captivated me from the moment the stage lit up.

So to The Venetian we went just for this.  And while we were there, we might as well explore the much talked about Resort-Hotel that supposedly played a crucial role in transforming this once rural part of Macau – even sleepier than old Macau towns – into one of the biggest tourist destination in Asia.  It is home to Asia’s largest casino with 1,000 slot machines and over 600 gaming tables bustling 24/7.

Never a dull moment, The Venetian is filled to the brim with activities at every turn.

As one enters, one gets transported to lavishness, owing to its décor.  The resort boasts of 19 remarkable restaurants but because we were pressed for time, we settled for the food court, which in itself had quite an interesting selection.

We also found ourselves wandering around, browsing through boutiques and brand name outlets along the Grand Canal Shoppes.

The Venetian sits on Cotai strip, a 5.2 km section of reclaimed land that now links the 2 former islands of Coloane and Taipa in the Pearl River Delta just across from Peninsular Macau.

Getting There:

Complimentary Venetian shuttle buses depart throughout the day from the Macau Ferry Terminal, Border Get and Lotus Ferry Terminal to the Venetian Macau Hotel – Resort.   Sands Casino also provides shuttle buses between the 2 hotels.  For a more up to date schedule, click here.

Other useful information:

Book Cirque du Soleil online here.

Scenic Sunday

Making Good Use of Downtime

We were at the sea area in front of the Macau Tower early to catch the Annual Macau Fireworks Display contest.

Early birds have its drawback… a long wait.  Its reward however outweighs it inconvenience.  Securing good front row seats afforded great captures of the fireworks and these series of shots of the Sai Van Bridge as the sun sets.

Once considered remote from Peninsular Macau, when they were accessible only by small ferries, the islands of Taipa and Coloane have developed as integrated suburbs since being linked to the mainland by 3 bridges.

One of them is Sai Van Bridge, opened in January of 2005.  It is the first cable-stayed bridge in Macau.  The double deck bridge has 6 lanes in the upper deck and 4 at the lower deck.

More of the fireworks in upcoming posts.  For more scenes from around the world click image below.

Scenic Sunday

The Ruins of St. Paul’s (Ruínas de São Paulo)

The sixty-eight granite steps from the square will lead you to a façade of what was once the greatest cathedral in Macau.  Built from 1582-1602 by the Jesuits, the remains of St. Paul’s Cathedral was the largest Catholic Church in Asia at the time.

It is a fine example of Macau’s unique characteristic as a city of Europeans, Chinese and other Asian exchange.  Ruined by fire twice, ravaging the other buildings and destroying the church ad almost all the complex.  From 1990 – 1995 work was carried out to restore the back of the church, turning it into a museum.

Regarded today as the symbol of Macau, St. Paul’s ruins was considered the core area when the historical center of Macau was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2005.  It is today one of Macau’s most famous landmark where music performances are held regularly.

If you enjoyed these sepia scenes, click image below for more.

Oh Manuel!

It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you often get it. – W. Somerset Maughem

Reservations were made and off we went to Taipa to lunch.  Those with insider knowledge or Macanese connections will head to Taipa for some great culinary experience.  Tucked away in a quiet street just on the edge of Taipa Village is one of Macau’s best-kept secret, a homey, welcoming hole in a wall called O’ Manel or more formally known as Manuel Cozinha Portuguesa.  Manuel Pena, a Portuguese and his Chinese wife owns this tiny restaurant that serves fantastic Portuguese food.

In his restaurant, Manuel waits on tables himself, supervises the preparation of the dishes and does the cooking himself, sometimes with the help of his wife.  There are no menus only a blackboard; in it written are the specialties for the day.

Clockwise:  menu board; Manuel Pena and his Pata Negra; Caramel Creme; Roasted Suckling Pig; one order of Pata Negra, sliced.

For starters, we had slices of Pata Negra (or jamon iberico in Spain), a favorite since I first tried it in Seville years ago.  So memorable this Pata Negra was during my first visit to this restaurant some 3 years back, I came back with that in mind.  Fresh fish and shellfish are found on virtually every Portuguese menu and it is not surprising that we were served Garlic Prawns and a wonderfully citrus Clams in lemon sauce with a hint of coriander.  Roast suckling pigs, popular in the north of Portugal came highly recommended.  We were ecstatic that it was perfectly roasted with skin that crackled so loud we ordered one more.

We washed all these down with a glass or two of this lovely Portuguese Merlot and capped this splendid meal with a most typical Portuguese dessert, Caramel Cream.  Mmmm…  overindulged, most definitely.

The restaurant when we entered

In less than thirty minutes

This small casual restaurant with its limited number of tables fills up quickly so book ahead.

Manuel Cozinha Portuguesa
Rua de Femão Mendes Pinto, N90 R/C
Taipa, Macau
For reservations call:  (853) 28827571 or 28825811

The Real Macau

Beaches, ancestral Chinese villages and forested hills with nature trails… traditional countryside still exists in the islands of Taipa and Coloane.

Here in the narrow streets and alleys with multi-hued buildings with peeling paints and stained walls lives the real Macau contrary to just a few meters away where The Venetian Macau Resort and Hotel stands.

Oblivious to the developments that will eventually comprise 14 resorts, the locals still while away time, chatting on benches around the square.

Although this rural part of Macau is slowly transforming into one of the biggest tourist destination in Asia, there still remains a section that is evidence to Macau’s centuries-old cultural heritage.  A quaint village on what was once Taipa Island’s southern shoreline.

Pak Tai Temple — one of the biggest temple of Taipa

Taipa Village or Tamzhai (in Cantonese) is still made up of Chinese shophouses, Portuguese-style offices, and temples all around.

Incense inside Pak Tai temple

A good place to learn about the history and culture of the area as there are plenty of them to explore.

The museum of Taipa & Coloane History is a comprehensive exhibit of historical relics unearthed on Coloane,

The glass floor to view the relics from the basement

the stone architectural remains in the basement of the former Island Council Building.

A few minutes walk to the east from the village is a waterfront area where remains a superb old colonial promenade, Avenida de Praia, complete with original houses.  The Taipa House Museum (or the Casas- Museu da Taipa)  shows a number of 20th century houses restored to depict details of turn-of-the-century domestic life of the Macanese families, highly religious, well-to-do but not extremely wealthy.

The Macanese House is one of macao’s typical houses in colonial style reminiscent of a period of Portuguese splendor characterized by frequent influx of the Portuguese, British, Mandarins and merchants in this tiny territory.

Carmo Church — 0ne of the eight views of Macau

Although Taipa’s northern shore is hardly worth a stop now, Taipa Village on the southern shore and Avenida de Praia is definitely a pleasant walk where faded mansions and wooden benches seem frozen in time.

Scenic Sunday

Take A Stroll With Me

In Macau.  Not only is the center an urban area with an old city, it is a World Heritage site to boot.  Inscribed on 25th July 2005 by UNESCO, the Historic Centre of Macau is a product of cultural exchange between East and West.  It could be the oldest, most complete and consolidated selection of European architectural legacy standing intact on Chinese Territory.  The center spans 8 squares but 2 hours will only allow for 3 squares, a ruin, a church and a whole lot of eating and window-shopping.

From our hotel, we walked all the way, passing casinos, to our first square.

Senado Square

I would have loved a photo of an empty square to showcase the cobble-stoned grounds with exquisite black and white wave patterns.

Not to mention the pastel colored neo-classical buildings flanking the square on all sides giving it a Mediterranean atmosphere.

But Senado will not be Senado if it was not busy (at least on both times that I’ve been there).  It has been the center of Macau since the square was built sometime in the 19th century.

From the main road to the church of St. Dominic’s, the pavement extends and eventually leads to a different kind of city – the cathedral of St. Paul’s, now in ruins located on top of a hill, making the stroll a paradise with so much eye candy.

St. Dominic’s Church

Not too far from Senado Square is St. Dominic’s Square.

It is one of the most popular squares because it is close to where the shops and little food vendors are.

It was fun strolling through the shops gobbling through these tasty fishballs in satay sauce.

Standing on the square is an imposing façade of cream-colored stone with white stucco moldings and beautifully designed green doors.

The first church ever built in China; Dominican priest, originally constructed from wooden slats, built St. Dominic’s Church in the mid 16th century.  A far cry from what we see today.

The church has an interesting past swathed with drama and violence.  A military man was murdered at the altar during Mass because he supported the Spanish against the Portuguese.  There was also a time that the Dominicans sided with the Pope against Macau’s bishop.  When local soldiers tried to enforce an excommunication order on them, the friars locked themselves in the church for 3 days.  In 1834 the monastic order was suppressed and for a time, the church was used by the government as barracks, stable and office.

Pasteria Koi Kei

On our way to the ruins of St. Paul’s, we entered a small alley brimming with more little antique and food shops.

You’ve gotta taste these babies!

One that caught our eye was this food shop selling dried pork and beef fillet similar to a jerky but so much yummier.

A small storefront extends really deep inside.

The biggest attraction though appeared to be their almond cookies.  Tracing its roots back to a cart selling only crunchy peanuts and ginger candies, Koi Kei put up its first store in 1997 and today it has gained recognition as the “most popular food souvenir” champion in Macau.  Like us, many bought items to take a taste of Macau home with them.

Sampling some egg rolls as they make ’em!  Great way to entice people to buy!

From peanut candies to almond cookies and egg rolls, Koi Kei Bakery is currently selling more than 300 varieties of products – almond cookies, egg rolls, crunchy peanut candies and the dried beef and pork fillet being among the more popular ones.

Ou Mun Cafe

After a good couple of hours, we were famished (even after all the goodies we bought and sampled).   In a cozy looking restaurant in one of the alleys in St. Dominic’s Square, I had a Bacalhau à bras – salted cod fish sautéed with potatoes, onion and eggs, in short, a bacalhau omelette.   🙂

The Cathedral in Cathedral Square

On our way back to our hotel, we passed another route and found ourselves in another square.  The façade of the Cathedral is simple but when lit at night, it transforms into something grandiose.  The present building stands on the site of several previous cathedrals, the original was the Church of Our Lady of Hope of St. Lazarus.  The first stone Cathedral, consecrated in the mid 1800s was almost destroyed in a typhoon 24 years later.  Extensive repair was done.  In 1937, the church was completely rebuilt.

Macau is not all about the gambling, you gotta admit though, they do add character to this urban area in an old city especially at night!

Ou Mun Café
12 Travessa de São Domingos, Macau
+853 2837 2207

Scenic Sunday