Wednesday, May 23, 2012


MACAU. The very first thing that pops in my head at the mention of Macau is that, this was one of the settings of that romantic-drama movie popularized by Angelica-Aga-Maricel entitled "A Love Story". Yes, if you can recall, some scenes in the movie were partly shot in Macau. Apparently, through the idyllic Macau spots highlighted in this film, Filipinos were drawn to visit this place. Little did I know, there is much more Macau has to offer than those shown in the movie.

As soon as we entered the Macau terminal around 4pm, we were welcomed by a group of people handing out different flyers of casinos to visitors. Known as the Las Vegas counterpart of Asia, Macau economy essentially relies on gambling and tourism. Outside the terminal, hotel shuttle buses queued up patiently waiting for their arriving passengers to board. Our hotel, Sintra Hotel, shares a shuttle bus with Lisboa Casino. As our bus entered Macau's central business district, our already-tired selves turned ecstatic in an instant. We were completely mesmerized by the whole view around us it felt like we're being transported to a different world. Exceptional, glittering casinos stood in grandeur almost everywhere. Each casino had its own unique form and structure with rainbow-colored lights dancing on its facade as if to entertain and invite viewers and gamblers. Everything was so surreal, that at the back of my mind, I told myself "I wanna live here!". The sad part was that, our digital camera couldn't work well with bright lighting. A DSLR could have served better. (Macau actually convinced my husband to buy a DSLR, wahaha). Nevertheless, this did not stop us from taking pictures and videos. We didn't enter in any of the casinos as we were all clueless how it goes inside, nyehehe.

Macau casinos at night

After our "casino-appreciation" moments, we hopped in a bus heading to the Macau tower, another tourist attraction Macau is known for. When riding a bus in Macau, always prepare an exact amount for the fare because there will be no bus conductor who will give you change. Bus fare is fairly cheap, Lisboa Casino to Macau tower costs 3.2 MOP (1 MOP [Macau Pataca] = 5.4 pesos). The Macau tower offers the best views of Macau and has been used for different adventurous activities like the bungee jump. Unfortunately, we arrived only a few minutes before the closing time of the observation deck so we decided to just skip this as it would be a waste for our money. Luckily though, we found a good spot just outside the tower which gave us a perfect view of the tower, the Macau-Taipa bridge and Taipa island. The bridge was so breathtaking at night, brightly-lit with luminous lights. Below the bridge, we found a small boat adorned with colorful lights traversing the sea. Everything in the city was well-lighted. Even the Macau tower is a sight to behold with its romantic illumination. We just couldn't help it but ask ourselves "Barato siguro ang kurente sa Macau noh?". With the sea and bridge in front of us and the tower on our side, we just found an excellent spot for picture taking and take note, for free!

Macau Tower and Macau-Taipa Bridge
Part of our itinerary was to visit the Venetian, the largest casino in Macau and take the gondola ride there. Sadly, we missed it because the gondola ride was already closed at that time and the Venetian is still in Taipa so going there would take time. I was so upset since the gondola ride was the one I was most excited about. Missing it felt like accomplishing only 50% of the itinerary (char!). So I promised myself I will definitely come back for this one.

gondola ride in the Venetian Macau
After our photo shoot session outside the Macau tower, we went back to Lisboa Casino through bus again and walked our way to Senado Square. It was already around 9pm by then so most of the stores were already closed. Along our way we stopped at a noodle house and took our late dinner. The Senado Square (or Senate Square) is an area in the center of Macau paved with a wave-pattern mosaic of colored stones. It is surrounded by the Leal Senado, General Post Office and the St. Dominic Church. With Macau being a former territory of Portugal, European influence is still visible in the place through the building structures, street names, food and even language. Some locals still speak Portuguese. Walking along the streets of this old city gives you the feeling of being in Europe (though I haven't been in Europe haha) that's why I like it much better here than in HongKong. Just like HongKong, Macau is also populated by a huge number of Filipinos (more than the ones in HongKong I think). We even had a funny encounter with a Filipino there. One time, we stopped at a store in Senado Square to check out their displayed gadgets. The store had 2 doors, one for the exit and the other for the entrance. Between the 2 doors a security guard was standing, keeping watch of the store and the customers that go in and out. Since the entrance and exit labels were in Portuguese, we tried to figure out which one is which. Our conversation would go "Asa kaha ani ang entrance noh? Di mn masabtan". After still not getting any clue, we pointed to one of the doors and asked the guard in English "Can we enter here?". And the guard replied with a smile "Pwede kaau". wahahaha. We all laughed in unison (including the guard). hahaha. Turned out the security guard is Bisdak and was listening to our conversation the whole time.

Macau streets and Senado Square

The next day, we woke up early for our last spot, the St. Paul ruins. The St. Paul ruins refers to the remains of the Cathedral of St. Paul which include the stone facade and grand staircase. We went there very early, around 6am, so except for a few Chinese elders who were having their morning exercises, we had the whole place to ourselves. In the middle of the day up to late in the evening this place is usually crowded because of tourists. Below the ruins is a narrow path that leads to the Senado Square. Different souvenir shops and food houses can be found in the area. Unfortunately again, we were too early the shops were still closed at that time. We followed the path until we reached the Senado Square. After a few minutes of stay in Senado, we rushed to our hotel to checkout and head back to Hong Kong.

St. Paul Ruins and Senado Square

Though our length of stay in Macau was very short, it was still a very memorable one. There are still many Macau attractions that we missed but hopefully we could come back again for these. Another wonderful experience I should thank God for. Till we meet again MACAU!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Hong Kong - Day 3

Now to the 3rd and last leg of our trip. This day was "our day" since Vicky already flew back the night before. To conclude our mini-vacation, we decided to just stroll around and follow where our happy feet would take us. Since winter had just commenced, the temperature outside was still bearable for a walk. At around 10am, we started our track in the streets of Mongkok, looking for great finds for pasalubongs. Ironically at 10am though, the city was still half-asleep. Stores were still closed. Some malls were already opened, but only for access to commuters who were to take the MTR since the mall leads to the MTR station. But with the exception of a few coffee shops, stores inside were still closed. A fact is, in Hong Kong, shops/establishments open late and close late. Daily life routine in general ends late in the evening. Even at 11 in the evening, the city would still be well-lit and jam-packed with pedestrians crossing the streets, students still in their uniforms chatting with friends on sidewalks, shoppers going in and out of shops and so on. Just picture what a more crowded Cebu looks like at 7pm. So after we'd covered already a few blocks but still no potential open retail shops in sight, we decided to take our early lunch instead and resume our hunt after. We settled in one of our "suki" foodchain, KFC haha..(McDo is the other one). We were always hesitant to try HK cuisine for fear that we'll end up with upset stomachs. It may sound bizarre since one of the reasons why a person travels is to experience a country's culture, which includes discovering local cooking. But I tell you, if you get to see and smell their own version of street foods (intestines, weird-looking sausages, dried pork meat and others) you'll have second thoughts. What's interesting though is that McDo in HongKong won't disappoint your appetite. They have this so juicy spicy chicken wings (which isn't available in McDo here) which is so addicting. I can finish 4pcs in just 1 sitting, to think I am not a McDo fan. And their regular-sized drinks are already large compared to the sizes here. Not only that, prices are fairly affordable.

Hong Kong street foods. Taken from the web.

After our lunch we resumed our pasalubong hunt. By this time (12:30pm) shops were already opened. Mongkok (where our hostel is) is where the densest population of locals live which makes it one of the busiest spots in Hong Kong. A shopping paradise itself, this area offers a wide selection of retail shops from electronic gadgets, cosmetics, clothing from designer labels to ukay-ukay, sports equipments and many others. The known Ladies Market is also located in this area, just a 5-minute walk from our hostel. Having only a limited budget for shopping, we chose to look for pasalubong in the Ladies Market. There are plenty of bargain items to choose from there. Souvenirs, shoes, undies, clothing, accessories, designer bags replicas and household items to name a few. Most of the buyers here are tourists. And what's good about buying in Ladies Market? Your haggling skills will be put to test and measured. Yes, you can haggle as much as you want until you and the seller will come up with a reasonable price you'll both agree upon. Just a tip of advice, start asking for half the price. For example, if a shirt costs 100HKD, ask if you can have it for 50HKD. And also be careful since the saleswomen here are a bit aggressive. They will really convince you to buy to the point that body contact happens (ex grab your hands). And if you start to haggle for an item, be sure you really like it and will buy it in the end or else the saleswomen would get mad , haha. It took us 4hrs to complete our pasalubong list.

The night before, I was googling for toy stores in Hong Kong where I could possibly purchase a Hong Kong-inspired Barbie Doll. For those who haven't known, I collect Barbie dolls, hehe. Upon searching the web, I came across this article about an ongoing Barbie exhibit happening in Times Square, Causeway Bay. To our delight, Causeway Bay is just 15mins away from Mongkok. So after our Ladies Market moment, off we went to Times Square.

Contrary to Mongkok, Causeway Bay is a more modern, business-class district with skyscrapers, trendy shops, hotels in every corners of the streets. Giant billboards hung everywhere. It has this modern vibe. As Gigie had said, it strongly resembles New York (char!). And in the heart of Causeway Bay stands the Time Square, one of the major shopping center in Causeway Bay where the Barbie exhibit took place. Unfortunately I haven't found a HongKong-inspired barbie doll here. But still, I enjoyed the exhibit. Hundreds of Barbie dolls were dressed by known HK designers, a feast for a collector's eyes.

Times Square
Causeway Bay