Monday, January 24, 2011

Checking Out Macau Part 1

It happened in the beautiful month of August, a trip booked on impulse thanks to an irresistible offer made by a budget airline. By beautiful I meant that the weather was just ideal — it was neither too hot nor too cold, and the occasional rains during our stay weren't strong enough nor didn't pour long enough to ruin our itinerary. By beautiful I meant that Macau, a place one would expect to be swarmed with tourists all throughout the year, seemed to have just the right amount of visitors during those days.

It was a three-hour flight from Singapore, getting us to the Macau International Airport at 2 a.m. Thankfully it was uneventful, and the only minor complaint I had was of the two ladies seated in front of us who were a little too enthusiastic about their storytelling that no passenger was spared of their boisterous laughter, which also made it impossible for me to get any sleep. We were met at the airport by our dear friend, kind host and would-be tour guide, Bel, who took us to her place, which was a mere 10 minutes away by cab.

We had about four hours of sleep that night. Despite this and what appeared to be early symptoms of a flu relapse for me, we felt energetic in the morning, and were excited to begin exploring the former Portuguese colony.

Our first destination was the Largo de Carmo or Our Lady of Carmel, a church atop a hill overlooking the Taipa Village where Bel was attending a Baptism. During our 10-minute walk going there, we learned from Bel that the Macau peninsula and the Taipa and Coloane islands comprise Macau. The airport, Bel's place and Largo de Carmo are all situated in Taipa.

The church, it turns out, was originally built in 1855. Just below was a lake, which used to be part of the sea before the land around it was reclaimed. It was a bit foggy that morning, but from the lakeshore we could make out the popular casinos, The Venetian and the City of Dreams on the other side.

When the baptismal ceremony was finished, it was time to cross over to the Macau Peninsula for the reception. It was held at the StarWorld's Temptations restaurant, and we had become guests. We found the restaurant's name undeniably apt, but not before we were tempted to eat more than we should have. Of course we also got to meet the proud parents of the newly baptized, the cute baby himself, and Bel's truly hospitable friends.

After having the equivalent of two meals in one sitting, it was only fitting that we took a walk. Our next stop was Wynn hotel, which was just across the street.

We were just in time for the Tree of Prosperity show. A lot of people had already gathered around the area where the spectacle was taking place, and we were fortunate to still be able to see in front of us. The crowd, who seemed to take the music that started playing as a sign that the show was commencing, began to settle in their places before falling completely silent. True enough dazzling lights soon filled the place; the show had began. The ceiling with sculpted Chinese horoscope animals slowly opened apart to reveal a holographic display of lights. Soon a huge chandelier descended, then the dome-shaped floor with sculpted Western zodiac figures opened to unveil a golden tree rising up. With apposite music playing in the background, the Tree of Prosperity made a 360-degree turn, like a ballerina in slow motion, dancing to the different seasons before it bowed down to a graceful exit, descending once more to the hidden cove where it came from. The show concluded with the closing of the ceiling and the floor.

To be continued...

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Atop Singapore's First Vertical Mall, Orchard Central

Orchard Central is Singapore's first vertical mall. This fact wasn't apparent to us during our earliest visits, so we got to explore only the first few levels then. It was through friends that we learned the entire building was actually a mall, and that the upper levels were worth checking out. Last week, in the company of friends, we decided to spend a few hours of our Saturday afternoon wandering through the place.

We had a grand time gallivanting around the 18-month-old establishment going shop by shop, floor by floor. Some of the things that made a lasting impression were the indoor climbing wall, the Asian Food Channel's kitchen studio, the virtual indoor golf simulation center and the dance studio. (More on this, including pictures in a future post.)

We also didn't pass up the opportunity to go see the roof garden. Aside from giving a view from above of Orchard Road and its neighboring surroundings, the roof garden also features several restaurants — Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese and Singaporean —, and exhibits a number of artworks. Waterfalls, pools, garden walls, hyacinths, orchids, bamboo groves, and other types of trees and plants make the rooftop an oasis of calm in the center of the city.

Trying out the different restaurants is certainly a good reason to come back. There shall be more pictures to take too — hopefully there would be no lovers talking by the waterfalls to interrupt next time around. ;)

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Little India's Masala Hut

A trip to Little India became the consensus when we couldn't find a place to eat in Suntec City. It was past ten o'clock in the evening on a Tuesday night.

I made the suggestion of looking for a place to eat near the hotel of our visitors. After all, they had a four-year old daughter in tow, and I wanted to make it easy for them. Eva agreed, and suggested we go very near their hotel, which was located in Farrer Park. Her husband —who's originally from Finland by the way — turns out to be a lover of Indian food. Feeling a little adventurous, we alighted at Little India instead of Farrer Park.

Except for a few stalls, the market right beside the Little India station was already closed. We had second thoughts about our adventure and thought of taking the sure route to Clarke Quay instead. But we trudged on and after only about two minutes of walking, we seemed to have found what we were looking for.

From a distance Masala Hut appeared inviting. It was well lit, its patrons and homey interiors could be seen through the windows. Inside, the place was spick and span, with wooden tables and chairs and the familiar stainless utensils common in Indian restaurants.

I had learned to eat Indian food only here in Singapore. In previous posts, I had documented my adventures in Aangan, a North Indian restaurant, and Annalakshmi in Amoy St., which practiced the Eat what you want, Give as you feel concept. Well, this was a somewhat different experience, a delightful one still.

We had dosa, cheese naan, garlic naan and Masala chicken. I gave the kulfi or Indian ice cream a try too. I didn't regret it. The total bill came to S$50 — not bad at all for five people.

If I ever get lost and hungry on Little India again, I know where to go.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Suntec City's Fountain of Wealth

We had a chance to visit Suntec City's Fountain of Wealth, which is also known as the World's Largest Fountain a few days ago, thanks to visiting relatives who were touring Southeast Asia. The place made it to our relative Eva's list of places to go in Singapore and we were glad to meet her and her family for dinner there.

Unfortunately, they arrived late and only made it towards the end of the last laser show for the day. All wasn't lost though as Eva's four-year-old daughter had a grand time admiring the colorful lights, the spurting, pouring and flowing water, and the towering bronze figure (almost 14 meters high). There was also no stopping her from getting her hands (not feet) wet from touching the water.

They also didn't pass up the chance to get up close and take part of the ritual of going around the fountain three times while touching the water for good luck!

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