Marvellous Macau

 

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I knew, the minute I caught sight of such colour as we stepped out into Largo do Senado – the square in the centre of the city – that we were going to enjoy our day.

 

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The decorations from the Lunar New Year were still hanging and the contrast between the bright reds, pinks and gold against the blue and white colonial era tiles was lovely.

 

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A rather larger installation was there in the square, around the fountain and then around a temporary stage, too.

 

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I tried to work out how these figures were constructed, but there’s lots to see, so had to hurry along.  I’m thinking bamboo/cane framework with thin fabric covering – very clever construction.

 

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The Portuguese heritage is plain to see.  Black and white tiled pavements, colonial style buildings with arcades, and a little later…

 

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Pasteis de Nata!!

 

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We admired the fine decoration on the facade of St Dominic’s church as we passed by

 

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and peered through the old residential buildings to the towering “Grand Lisboa” hotel and casino.  We’d seen this unmistakeable structure last night as we’d arrived, colourfully floodlit and looking rather gaudy alongside rather more tastefully decorated buildings in the same area.  Now, wherever we were, it loomed large, overpowering everything around it.

 

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Another collection of tiled panels in the Portuguese style

 

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right opposite a very Chinese feature in the same street.  This is such an interesting place!

 

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See what I mean about “distinctive shape” of the Grand Lisboa?

 

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Our next stop was the cathedral, rather plainer than St Dominic’s from the outside at least.

 

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Inside was fairly simple too, reminding us of the churches we’d seen in Cochin.  Simple, cool decor and a haven of peace in a busy city.

 

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Outside, things were waking up and shops were opening for business.

 

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Though some of the closed shutters were equally interesting.

 

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Never far away…

 

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We were climbing up a steep street by now, heading towards the Monte Fort, beneath which a banyan tree with an interesting collection of offerings stood.

 

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Once we reached the walled fort, we took a breather and watched the ladies work on their Tai Chi and others posing for photographs.  Though there seem to be quite a few local tourists here, there are fewer Europeans and Americans and we are very much in the minority.

 

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Though it was quite hazy, the view from the fort was interesting and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around before making our way into the museum.

 

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In here was a fine collection of historical artefacts and interesting displays of Maccanese everyday life in more recent times.

 

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For some reason, this knight struck me as being rather cute

 

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and I wondered how many pieces of china I’d need to make a dress!  (Dorothy, I haven’t forgotten and have taken some better pictures of the hotel art this morning…to follow!)

 

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The various reconstructions of rooms and shop houses were so well done but insufficiently lit to give a good impression, I fear.  I especially liked the display of street sellers, each with a distinctive call to announce their arrival.  The small fisherman’s display was well done too, with a soundtrack of music to accompany a short narrative.  Very atmospheric and so attractive.

 

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My main problem was that much of the display was behind glass, with lighting set in such a way that reflections made photography a challenge.  These puppets caught my eye immediately,

 

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as did the small display of household objects.

Having climbed the steep hill and some further steps to reach the fort and the museum, we were amused to discover an escalator to take us down the other side of the hill, to the ruined St Paul’s church – another “must see” according to our guidebook. 

 

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Just the facade still stands, reminiscent of the library at Ephesus, we thought!  It was a busy spot and popular location for photography, virtually impossible to negotiate a path through without being caught in someone’s picture, I think, and therefore equally impossible to take a photo without some stranger in there too!

 

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Down the steps then, to browse the shops on the way back, turning around first, however, to see

 

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where we’d just been.

 

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Here were many bakeries, selling not only Pasteis de Nata, but also varieties of a kind of pressed meat, chopped into squares with scissors and freely handed out for sampling.  I stuck to the custard tart but my hero was brave enough to give the pressed meat a try and declared it a resounding “ok”.

 

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Retracing our steps back through the Largo Do Senada, we thought that we’d take a look at the building which seemed to have followed us around all day, like the eyes of a portrait in a gallery; the Grand Lisboa was just along the street and according to the guidebook, was worth a visit.  The tiled wall of the Portuguese High School looked lovely in the afternoon sunshine and I stopped a moment to admire it.

 

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What could be attracting so much interest in the lobby here in the Grand Lisboa, though?  A closer look revealed the contents of that cylindrical showcase: The largest cushion-cut diamond in the world.  OK.  It’s pretty big.  It’s a diamond.

Moving right along.

 

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The exhibits in glass cases all over the lobby attracted similar interest, including huge jade pieces, gold dragon boats and carved tusks of immense proportions. A degree of cultural difference here, because though we were able to admire the craftmanship required to create such pieces, the actual aesthetic didn’t really appeal.

 

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A short walk beyond the Grand Lisboa lobby was the original Lisboa Hotel and Casino, which our guidebook described as worth a visit.  Very different in style and atmosphere, this was the older, traditional place alongside the younger, flashier newcomer.  We took the guidebook’s advice and ventured into the casino itself, watching as a couple of men played Baccarat and trying to work out for ourselves what was really going on.  Who was losing?  Who was winning?  How much?  The circular casino was teeming with people – mostly men, almost all Chinese in appearance and business appeared to be going well. 

Just outside the casino itself, business of a different kind was going on, too.  Being the naive sort, it took a while and a couple of nudges from Jane before I realised that the very thin young women wearing rather a lot of makeup and extremely short skirts were not actually going very far at all, but were simply walking up and down a short stretch of this corridor.  Hmmm.  Obvious once the penny dropped, and then oddly fascinating and disconcerting at the same time.

 

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Once outside the Lisboa, we could see the two contrasting structures alongside one another and appreciate what a landmark they are in the city.  At the same time, we caught sight of our own hotel, just down the road and our feet felt suddenly the worse for wear!

 

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Stopping for a short while in Wynn’s hotel and casino to explore the contrasting atmosphere with the Lisboa (Wynn’s being altogether quieter, more elegant and more pleasant a place, though vast in scale), we strolled back along the Avenida to spend an hour or two with our feet up in the cool of our gorgeous hotel room.

We’ve had a great day and have found so much to interest us here.  The temperature is very comfortable and the pace relaxed.   Macau is so much more than the casinos, for sure!

The China Dress

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