Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Venetian Macao Experience

Today was our last day in Macau and we are already on the airport, waiting for boarding as I write this blog post. Our last day was spent briefly at The Venetian Macao, a hotel and casino resort located at Cotai Strip (a newly-developed area away from where Lisboa and Grand Lisboa are). The hotel is designed much to how its sister hotel, The Venetian, in Las Vegas is, a mixed use complex of hotel, shops, entertainment and convention space.

The Venetian is well-known among visitors mimicking in style the gondolas of Venice, Italy, cruising at the network of canals and bridges in the city.

There were other entertainment going here and there along the complex like short opera performances, pantomimes, or even jugglers to entertain passers-by.
 
I've been to The Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas and I could say that the one in Macau is very similar and just as grandiose as the original one. The place was still under construction when I went here last 2007 and was glad to finally visit this complex. Similar to the Las Vegas one, the design of the shops, restaurants and outlets inside is like walking at the streets of Venice. They even had the ceiling painted with blue sky and clouds so you would really feel you are outside on the streets, minus the heat of course.
 

We had our lunch first after walking around at Shanghai Cuisine, one of the restaurants inside The Venetian.

There we had sampled dumplings, chicken with buns, and other things that I forgot to take pictures of some due to hunger (it was past lunch time already).
 
me and Roshie
 
 
Of course, we cannot leave the place (as we were in honeymoon) without trying their signature gondola ride. Price per person was MOP108 and since there wasn't a lot of riders that time, we had a gondola for ourselves, accompanied of course by a singing gondolier.

Here are some pictures I took as we breezed through the canals of The Venetian Macau
 
 
It was a quick 10 minute or so ride of the gondola. It was a good experience, specially for us newly-weds, as it felt very romantic with a gondolier singing as me and my wife sit down comfortably together.

After this, we left The Venetian to go back to Hotel Lisboa and take our things on the way to the airport (we had checked out earlier that morning and just left our things). The night was cap of with a short dinner (noodles and chicken nuggets) at the airport as we wait for our flight back in Manila which should be boarding in a few minutes.
 
In a honeymoon mood or not, Macau has been very good for us, despite the challenge in language (we speak no Cantonese nor Mandarin), every moment spent for the past days will be cherished and we definitely look forward to getting back again even before we leave this city.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Crossing over to Macau

Coming from Hong Kong Disneyland yesterday late afternoon, we took the MTR to Sheung Wan station, which has direct access to Shun Tak Centre, a transport complex catering mostly to ferry services to Macau.
 
We took the 7PM sailing of Turbojet from Hong Kong to Macau (HKD168 each for economy tickets). Apparently night service (1745 - 0630) was more expensive than day service (0700 - 1730). We were just minutes away from 7PM when we reached the ferry terminal but they still allowed us to purchase the tickets, so we were actually in a hurry to catch up the service and didn't waste much time in the terminal. We were told they departure every 15 minutes or so anyway so nothing to worry about being left at the terminal.

The ferry wasn't full, in fact it wasn't even loaded 50% of the capacity. We were asked to bring our luggage on board (no more check-in) and went to look for our seats. Apparently the boat is so empty that we can have rows for ourselves.

As it was dinner time, we were hungry and glad to find out that they serve meals onboard. I just had a spicy beef noodle and softdrinks (HKD35 for both), and glad

It was already dark when we reached Macau Maritime Ferry Terminal. After an hour's trip, we finally reached Macau and was surprised because it was still sunny when we got in the ferry and just sat for a short time but it was already dark outside when we got out.

We waited for a shuttle that runs between the ferry terminal and our hotel, and it took almost 30 minutes of waiting before it got there. The trip from the terminal to the hotel however was short (around 10 minutes) and we really look forward to resting as we spent the tiring day at Hong Kong Disneyland earlier then had to cross the sea to reach Macau. I've been to Macau last April 2007, 3 years back (on a separate trip before we went to Hong Kong) and stayed on the same hotel we are staying now. Hotel Lisboa, one of the oldest hotel in Macau, as it is one of the pioneers in the gaming and entertainment industry in the city.

I booked for a room for a Tower Room and prepaid USD325.04 via Agoda. We were given a room facing the lake and Macau Tower and I think the room is supposedly more expensive than the regular one. Anyway, we are still happy to take it. Inclusive in all rooms are local calls, internet access and all items you will find inside the mini-bar (like juice, softdrinks and beer) which they refill everyday.

The room is very spacious and comfy. The rooms in the West Tower are newer than those in East Wing. Comparing it with the pictures of my stay in the hotel before, there definitely is difference and I love it.

There were chocolates at the table when we arrived, a standard welcome amenity.

The bathroom was also nice, equipped with Jacuzzi bathtub and massage shower, not to mention fine toiletries.

Again, what I love with the room they gave us is the view. We are able to see the Macau Tower from our window and it is such a beauty that I never get so used to just staring at it. The nearby ground area is also nice to look at from the window.

The view from the window is just as nice, but on a different scale in the morning as we woke up earlier today. Clear blue skies and good weather awaits us outside the hotel.

a closer look of the Macau Tower view from our room

a grandiose staircase inside Hotel Lisboa

We walked to Senado Square, a 10-minute leisure walk away from our hotel. A paved area built during Portuguese colonization era, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of "Historic Centre of Macau".

The fountain at the square looks different from what I've seen before, as it is now fenced up and we couldn't actually get into it unlike before when we still had a chance to sit down on its edge for a photo opp.

Most shops and restaurants were still closed, so we just went to McDonald's across the square for breakfast. The menu was quite different from the usual I had in different countries. For this meal, I tried the Sausage N' Egg Twisty Pasta with Cheese. It was okay but I find it queer as it was actually soup based.

After breakfast, we roamed around Senado Square and the nearby shops. Unfortunately most of them was still closed so we just made our way to the Ruins of St. Paul. It was once a Cathedral built during Portuguese time, it was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon centuries ago and today only its façade is standing still. It is now also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Centre of Macau".

Mr. Truffles at the Ruins of St. Paul
 
The smell from nearby pastelaria or bakery always catches attention of tourist and passers-by. As soon as they were ready, we headed into this bakery, Pastelaria Koi Kei, to munch on their yummy Portuguese egg tarts.
 
The bakery is also famous for other traditional products such as meat jerkies, almond cakes, egg rolls, and other baked and preserved products. I personally like their almond cakes and egg tarts and scheduled to come back to this shop to bring home some stuff at home.

After which, we went back to the hotel as it was still early in the morning to leave some stuff and rest for a while as we plan to take an organized tour group from the ferry terminal later that day.

This is how Hotel Lisboa (and the Casino herein) façade looks like in the morning. During night time, the structure is very well lighted.
 
Across this hotel is Grand Lisboa, the tallest building in the city, owned by the same group with Hotel Lisboa (Stanley Ho). 

Also nearby is Club Militar de Macau (Military Club of Macau).

 
 

From the Ferry Terminal, we took the Macau Highlights Tour of Grayline (reserved and paid via walk-in in the terminal) for MOP118 each. Our first stop was at the Golden Lotus Square which features a huge lotus flower in full bloom. It is in some way similar to Golden Bauhinia Square.

flags of Macau and China raised

Our next stop was in Museu de Macau, although we didn't enter as we didn't have much time and weren't that interested then (been here before).


escalators leading to the museum

some murals outside the museum

outside the museum

cannon at the museum grounds, facing the area of Grand Lisboa

view from the top
 
Then we proceed to walk closer to the Ruins of St. Paul. Since we went there earlier today, it wasn't much of interest to us anymore.

We were then led to walk towards Senado Square, passing by the streets and alleys of shops nearby. This time most of the shops are now open, however, we don't have much shopping time.
 
nice shirt that says "kamusta ka na", which in Filipino means "how are you?"

The group was left at Senado Square to have an hour for lunch and shopping.

As I've been here before, we went to this eatery near the Senado Square for lunch. My family ate here before and love their chicken.


We had white hainanese style chicken and brown roasted duck (MOP44 for both meals). 

It was yummy and somewhat "authentic" experience of a Chinese eatery at this otherwise tourist destination. I still remember the time my family ate here before and people were looking and smiling at us. Perhaps they were surprised or we're doing something wrongfully.
 
We had much time so we just strolled around the area. We passed by St. Dominic's Church at Senado Square.

inside the church

We also went inside their museum, where they showcase a lot of historical and religious artifact, although this box caught my attention.

We passed by Macau Cathedral as well. We were told the place also houses Archbishop's Palace.

inside the church looking over the main altar

an altar dedicated to Christ the King
 
 As we convened with the group, they brought us next to Macau Tower. The place is actually a combined complex of shopping and convention center. The 338m tower is the most remarkable icon of Macau (that sticks to the mind of tourists). Its observation deck is located 223m above ground.
 
 
 The tower gives a good 360 degree glimpse of the whole Macau region. Visible from here are the different islands connected by complex network of bridges across a body of water, as well as the skyline of Macau.

The observation deck has some glass floors. I am admittedly afraid of heights and doing this or even going for a step on the transparent glass with clear view of the ground below still gives me the creeps.

For those who are more adventurous, one can do SkyWalk (walking at the edge of the structure) or even bungee jumping.
 
other views of the surrounding area from the top 
 
tower levels

At the ground, as we went down from the observation deck and exiting the premises, there were a few arts on display today.

Roshie staring at a Jackie Chan sketch

We went outdoors while still waiting for the assembly time of the group to relax at the benches outside and take picture. The bridges are simply wonderful.

view of the tower from the bottom

Next, we went to A-Ma Temple, considered as one of the oldest Taoist temple in Macau, built in 1488. Its namesake is thought by some to be where the name Macau originated from.

A-Ma Temple marker

inside the temple
 
 At the end of the tour, we were brought to the museum houses in Taipa island, near The Cotai Strip.

near the houses, with backdrop of The Venetian Macao

The houses, built in 1921 are old colonial buildings depicting how lives of well-off families were during that period of time.

me and Roshie

We were dropped off at the ferry terminal after the tour and we immediately took the shuttle back to hotel for some rest. It was nice to see that as sun goes down, the lights of the area come to illuminate the place.
 
 Then after, we proceeded to Macau Fisherman's Wharf to explore the place, and probably look for something to eat. The place is very near (walking distance) from the ferry terminal.

water cube-like structure (similar to Beijing Olympics 2008) across the wharf

at the wharf

The Underground Amusement Centre

replica of Colosseum
 
 
We ended up going back to the hotel area as most shops and restaurants there were either too high-end or closed. What we did is just walk at the back alley area near the hotel to look for open restaurants.
 
Restaurante Fong Fong Kei caught our attention and since I was already late, we decided to eat there.
 

We had Chili Beef and Spicy Steam Fish Head for dinner. Both are good but too spicy for our taste.
 
Still, we finished both, specially the fish head, which looks like there was more chili peppers than anything on it.
 
After dinner, we crossed the street to check out the other casino hotel in the area - Wynn Macau.
 
Hotel Lisboa, viewed from Wynn

The musical fountain show outside Wynn Macau is an attraction itself. We waited for a few minutes and then the show started. We were told that there are different music played at different times and not the same always.

Wynn Macau

bridge, viewed from near Wynn Macau

It was already late at night when we got back at the hotel tonight. It looks like we spent more than an hour waiting and watching the musical fountain show. A good night rest is in order for our final day tomorrow in the city.
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