Prior to our 2-days-1-night trip to Macau, the most I knew about 澳門 were the references to it from Hong Kong shows I used to watch. I knew that people would take the ferry there to gamble. When the Korean drama Boys Over Flowers came out, the cast went on location to the Venetian hotel and casino in Macau, which is modeled on the one in Las Vegas. I knew what the one in Las Vegas looked like as I’ve been there with my family years ago. To be honest, my knowledge of Macau is pretty shallow. I know a little bit more of its history and its rich and diverse culture now but when we first arrived, I’ll be honest – half the time, I was on the lookout for Boys Over Flowers locations.
The Venetian Macao
My dad’s friend is a frequent visitor to Macau and is thus a VIP member of the Venetian. We were led to the VIP entrance of the hotel, where Jan Di in the drama was forcefully escorted out. Yes, that’s right. We were treated like special guests. I have to admit – that felt kind of nice. My dad kept telling us that if we came by ourselves, we wouldn’t be allowed into this area and to enjoy it while we could. Very true, dad. But the one-time experience is still better than nothing.
Best part of the suite: the bed. No doubt about that. I believe it’s that one moment in my life where I felt like I was a princess. It’s been years since this trip, but if I do recall, I slept very well that night.
The San Luca canal that runs inside the hotel is a world within itself. I’ve never been to Venice (I’ll get there one day) but I imagine that the city is ten times more beautiful than this replication. Although the sky and buildings are all fake, you almost get the feeling that you’re actually outside, walking along the streets of Venice. If Venice is like this. If it isn’t, well, it’s a little hard for me to know. I shall just have to base it on my experience here.
Macau Tower – 360˚ Cafe
I do believe that the Macau Tower is the tallest tower in Macau with one of the best views of the city. Our family had lunch up in the 360˚ Cafe, named so because it provides a 360˚ view of the city. Basically the entire floor slowly rotates, so you can enjoy the view as you eat. Very cool, I know. But the best part of the meal was when we were watching people bungee jump above us. There was one person who looked more like they were tipping over or falling than actually jumping. I really wanted to bungee jump (#155 on my life list) but as we were pressed for time, we decided to move on to our next destination.
Boys Over Flowers interlude
We were walking along the streets of Macau when we saw a store with a tv set up and lots of laminated signs. It’s one of the stores featured in Boys Over Flowers and the store (being the smart money-making business that they are) were making sure that exposure would be recognized. That’s right, Korean drama fans, I’ve stood around where they stood. Envy me and the thousand other civilians and tourists who have been to that spot.
媽閣廟 A-Ma Temple
I’ve finally reached the point that I really wanted to get through. Yes, I was excited about the Venetian and the Boys Over Flowers locations but they didn’t feel “real.” For sure, the hotels and casinos in Macau make up part of Macau’s identity. But the people in Macau, where were they? We visited A-Ma Temple, a famous Taoist temple, and even though the place was filled with visitors as well, it felt a little more authentic. The temple was part of the hillside and forest behind it. There were people on their knees, praying and meditating.
I ended up buying one of these ornaments that are meant for the wishing tree. You are supposed to write a wish on it and hang it at the temple. I’m not entirely sure of the implications of bringing one home… which I did… but I like it because I see it in my room every day. It’s a reminder to me of wishes I have yet to make and what I’m already grateful for in my life.
大三巴牌坊 Ruins of St. Paul’s
One of our last Macau locations and another of my favourites. Because it stands at the top of another flight of steps (I love that you have to make an effort to visit some of these sights) and it’s a representation of just how diverse Macau is. In one city alone, we experienced Venetian, Taoist, and Christian influences already. If we had more time, and perhaps a happier group, I would have loved to spend a little more time here.
In a way, Macau reminds me of Hong Kong. Yes, it is another SAR (Special Administrative Region) of China but that’s not quite what I mean. It’s a place in which history is deeply embedded into its landscape. You get both influences from the east and the west. It’s also a place where you can see the wealth of the city centrally located in one area, and fifteen minutes away, you see the more residential and local lifestyle of the people. That contrast is haunting and bittersweet. Once again, a place I need to return with my camera and journal.