Macau Musings

St. Paul's Church Ruins (Macau)

The Ruins of St. Paul’s Church in Macau, China (January 2017).

This wanderlust has been an effective family therapy for us.  I’ve been writing here for a while but I forgot to mention that I work abroad (currently based in Singapore) and away from my family.  Like most overseas worker, I made it a point to go back to my hometown every 6 months and spend a week or so with my family.  But before that one week is over however, we were already crying; knowing it will take another 6 months or more for us to see each other again.  My father also used to work overseas when I was a kid; so I know how it feels like now for my own family.  Nowadays however, distance (and long distance communication) is dead and modest travel is available for everyone.  So instead of just me traveling alone, my family and I decided that (if I have the resources) we will meet regularly in some nearby foreign lands and explore those places together.  Parting ways at the end of those journeys however is stll difficult; but now, the sadness is eclipsed by the memories of those travel experiences .  Whatever. 🙂

Anyway, I am being cheesy and talking gibberish back there.  Sorry about that.  It’s been a month since I took the photos in this write-up and I really don’t know what to say about this recent trip.  Except maybe that I was glad my new employer announced the Chinese New Year break a bit early last year; which gave me enough time to plan on spending the week-long break in a place that’s Chinese.  I could have chosen Hong Kong (which would be the easiest), but decided to see Macau instead; a small Chinese outpost known mostly as a day trip destination for most people touring Hong Kong.  You can’t blame them; as Macau is generally a walkable city and most of the major sights are within walking distances from each other.

But that wouldn’t do justice to the beauty of this place.  I love Asian cities especially if it has a history of colonization.  Because the end product would always be a blending of cultures of sorts; confusing but exciting.  Which is very much like Macau.  Known as “The Vegas of China”, the city obviously comes alive at night with its megacasinos, luxury resort hotels, and shopping districts.  So the word “day trip” wouldn’t be correct. 🙂  But Macau is more than that.  A Portuguese colony for more than 300 years, it only became part of China in 1999; two years after the British withdrawal from Hong Kong.  Remnants of colonial architecture, churches, and grand public squares give the place a tangible Mediterranean flavor; oddly picturesque and peculiar in a city that is strongly and culturally Chinese.  You can walk through cobblestone lanes and hear people chatter in Cantonese; asking for directions to find streets with Portuguese names.  To add to this, megacasinos and modern high-rise hotels in ambitious themes and scale appear almost every minute in districts with well-preserved Macanese architecture.  I fell in love with the confusion almost immediately. 🙂  If you’re a fan of postcards, night photography, and architecture, your day trip to Macau will not be enough for you.

City of Dreams. One of the recently completed attractions along Cotai Strip in Macau.

Needless to say, food is a part of the general travel experience.  But you won’t find it here.  I’m a mindless eater and a really lousy food photographer (sadly) so you just have to believe me (or anybody else who has been here) when I say that the local food here is one that you should try and experience. 🙂  Obviously, my bias has always been towards the major sights and architecture of a place; which is my way of understanding a new city.  So a typical photowalk in Macau covers its 2 main islands; within any of the two you can do some exploring on foot as the major attractions are close to each other.  A bus ride however is needed to get from one island to another.

The Macau Peninsula holds the Old City Center, with its 2 most popular day trip attractions: The Ruins of St. Paul’s Church and Senado Square, a grand public plaza. It is also the site of some of the earliest hotels and casinos including the Grand Lisboa, Lisboa Hotel, Wynn Macau, and MGM Hotel.  Along the fringes of the peninsula are Macau Fisherman’s Wharf (a themed park) and Macau Tower with its open-air observation deck.  Towards the south are the integrated islands of Taipa, Coloane, and Cotai.  Taipa has well-preserved colonial houses. Coloane has Macau’s beaches, and Cotai is home to the high-rolling Cotai Strip (Macau’s version of the famous Strip in Vegas), an avenue of megacasinos, luxury hotel and shopping centers including The Venetian Macau and Galaxy Macau, as well as the recently completed City of Dreams, Studio City, and The Parisian with its Eiffel Tower replica.  As much as I would like to give a description of each of these (and for fear of boring you to death), I will just allow my personal postcards below to hopefully speak of the glitz and beauty of this city. 🙂 I tried to cover as much places as I can during my 5-day stay here but missed out on the important Chinese temples and colonial churches (which speaks so much about the place’s history) because of a rain shower on the day I planned to visit them.  Sorry about that.

Not surprisingly, I was able to take home more photos from this trip as compared to previous ones.  Only because my family and in-laws decided on our fourth day to take a day trip to Hong Kong to do some shopping (only to find out later that most of the stores there were closed for the holidays) while I decided to stay behind and catch up with my personal photowalk.  So what happened to that family bonding we were looking forward to that I was talking about earlier?  And I thought Macau is supposed to be the day trip destination (and not Hong Kong). 🙂  I hate to say it, but I have to admit that the brief moment alone helped me maximize my time.  Don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but I guess the travel therapy really worked. 🙂

So there you go.  My two cents worth on this beautiful and quaint city (which I think deserves more than just being called a day trip destination) and my first of many other adventures I am looking forward to in days to come.  Enjoy the postcards below.  Stay grateful and inspired.

See you in my next post.  Cheers!!! 🙂

(click on any of the images below to activate the photo carousel)

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A New Orient

Quiet After The Storm. Sunrise at the Shanghai Pudong District.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”– Anonymous

This fascination with the east has been going on for quite some time now.  Well obviously, I grew up in this neighbourhood.  And if you are here, you are spot on.  Now is the perfect time to be living, thriving, and breathing in this part of the world.

So why Shanghai?  Because Shanghai is positively electric.  It is a testament to China’s aspirations and a centerpiece of its status as an emerging global economy.  A place rich in tradition and dreams for the future.  It is a fascinating mix of traditional buildings, colonial architecture, and futuristic skyscrapers most of which have no precedent.  Shopping, dining, sightseeing, museum, or bar-hopping; Shanghai has all that and more.  Not so surprised why so many people want to come here.  I read somewhere that people in Shanghai are smart.  To this a local cleverly replied: “Not really.  But only smart people come to Shanghai”.  So I guess that’s why I’m here. 🙂

Old and New. Historic buildings along the Bund Strip in Shanghai, China.

I have a thousand and one photos from this recent Shanghai trip which I plan to share and write about in a next post.  Sorry about that.  So what I wrote up there was sort of a false introduction.  I have this problem.  Everytime I want to write about something, some flow of random thoughts come to mind and I end up writing about something else.  It does bother me at times but I couldn’t discount it either.  Just wanted to share it here and get it off my system.  So bear with me for a while.  This could get a little sappy.

Honestly, I wanted to go as far and as high as I could.  They call Shanghai “The Paris of the East”.  I really wanted to go as far as Paris but at the moment, this is as close as I could get to being there. 🙂  So here I am on Day 5 of this trip (my last night here) standing on top of the Shanghai World Financial Center as high as I could get at 474 meters with the office 2,363 miles behind me.  I am looking through misty glass windows towards a horizon that seems to stretch on forever; oblivious of the maddening crowd of smartphone-wielding tourists around me trying to get photos and the usual selfies.  I am looking at the city below but with part of my mind somehow still back there with the work that I love very much and a heart disappointed by a few personal plans that didn’t turn out the way I expected.

You know what?  We all get tired, drained, stressed, disappointed, and confused (distracted) sometimes.  It’s the design fault of human nature.  Constantly running does not always get you somewhere.  Activity does not necessarily mean achievement.  One philosopher said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  So we stop and drop everything.  We take a few steps back and try to see where we are in the grand scheme of things.  A few weeks back, I heard a senior mentor say that standing too close to the tree makes you lose sight of the forest.  He was right.  Recently, I was doing exactly just that.  So I was snapped out of this selfish daze.

So that is why I am here.

One Last Look. Shanghai viewed from the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center.

  1. Maybe that’s why I love the Orient (the East).  The Orient is a descriptive word which means appearing or rising especially from below the horizon.  Like the morning or orient sun.  It is a promise of something better and a chance to make up for opportunities lost.  The verb form of the word means to re-align or to position oneself towards a proper direction.  Put simply, to focus on the path that is more important.  Much like the way you use a compass when you get lost somewhere.  I love the way that sounds.
  2. That’s why I love architecture.  It helps me think in three dimensions.  In my line of work, we call it perspective.  On this side of heaven, we only see things in two dimensions.  The perspective is the master architect’s way of communicating to laymen and mere mortals the meaning of two-dimensional drawings.  It helps us understand context and where things are in the masterplan of everything.  Nothing exists in a vacuum.  The tree mentioned above needs to co-exist with the other trees in the forest.  All things work together for the good.  We call it the big picture.
  3. That’s why I love high places like this.  It helps me experience and appreciate the perspective mentioned above.  It is also comforting to know that there is someone up there who is really in control and who sees my life (our lives) from this point of view.  Someone who sees every beginning and ending from a higher vantage point.  I like the illustration of the tapestry.  You  don’t get to appreciate a tapestry when you are still working on it from the underside.  Only when the workings on the underside are done can you only look at it from the top and understand its real beauty.  It’s pretty much like that.

Fly by Night. After-hours at the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center.

So while waiting for the daylight to fade and the city lights below to turn on,  I noticed my reflection on the glass before me.  I suddenly remember a conversation I read somewhere a few years back.  I could almost hear the reflection speaking to me with the words from that dialogue:  “Hey brother.  I miss you already.  Snap out of the daze and get back on track.  Life is short and architecture is too long.  There’s still a lot of things to do.  And one more thing:  take care of yourself because if you drop dead, I will kill you.” 🙂

See you in my next post.  Cheers!!

 

I will be adding more photos from this Shanghai trip here in this link.