TRAVEL: The flip side of Macau

Last month, my mom treated my dad to a meal at the three Michelin-starred Galera a Robuchon in Macau’s fading Lisboa Hotel; yet all I can remember is the shuddering horror that was my main course. And the assortment of women teetering aimlessly around the hotel’s arcade, dressed to the nines at 10 in the morning. Still, top marks for the extraordinary île flottante with caramel custard, though the crackly pop rocks, in this environment, felt like the restaurant’s half-hearted attempt at seeming more ‘of the moment’ than it actually was.

Doesn’t that just seem to describe Macau in a nutshell? This little former Portuguese colony can sometimes seem all glitz and no glamour, with superficial attempts at upping the game. We laughed and laughed at the sheer over-the-top ridiculousness of The Venetian (we had a blast) and craned our necks observing the skeletons of yet another mega casino soon to open across from it. Bigger is always better in this place. We snickered at the confused mess that was Fisherman’s Wharf, with its plastic fantastic volcano replica (nicely foregrounded by a branch of Freshness Burger) and faux Colosseo. And I’m told that the Wynn hotel houses a particularly bonkers ‘tree of prosperity‘ that comes spinning out of the ground.

No fan of bling, gambling or excess (apart from the edible variety, natch), I found the little backstreets of the town a far more interesting place to wander. It’s a cliché, but the contrast between old and new is striking and oddly beautiful. I think these are the parts of Macau that keeps me sane.

29 Responses

  1. I prefer the back streets of Macau too. I don’t like the blingy Casino culture and the designer label malls. Macau is a funny old place.

    March 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm

  2. Lok

    Are those faces on the big dried things in the fourth picture?

    I went to Macau for the first time last month and felt the same way. Old Macau is so charming, but the casinos… Saw something similar to the tree of prosperity in the Galaxy group of casino/hotels: a giant “diamond” that rose out of a fountain to dramatic music. Every half hour.

    So glad you’re blogging again!

    March 7, 2012 at 2:37 am

  3. Charmaine

    Winnie – Same here. I feel similarly in HK, but it seems like Macau has an even greater contrast sometimes!

    Lok – Yeah, those are faces! I didn’t even really realise at the time I was taking the photo. Oh dear, casinos and their loud, brash gimmicks…

    March 7, 2012 at 11:32 am

  4. As a kid I was often in Macau, and often at The Lisboa – I still remember careering around the corridors and staring with fascination at the intricately marzipaned confectionary in the shop windows of the hotel. And, the, er, ladies of the night hanging out in the lobby.

    Old is where it’s at.

    March 26, 2012 at 7:01 pm

  5. I can still remember the first time we went to the BOC at the Lisboa Hotel and how surprised & shocked my hubs and I were with the `lady´ ambiance in there.

    To me Macau is a loving city because of its shocking, kitschy contrasts. Since its mixed Chinese/Portuguese heritage to what it is today, although I agree, what I enjoy the most is wander around its little streets.

    ps. Next time you come we have to meet up!. I´ll show you my food secret gardens. ;)

    April 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm

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