Saturday, December 03, 2011

Not All That Glitters Is Gold

I am always skeptical about a country that is all glitter and glow. I know that it is meant to mesmerize you with its glitz and glamour, lure you until it sucked you dry. Just the same, when we got out of the airport and I saw the splendor of the hotels along the Macau International Airport, I cannot help but be in awe and remain breathless for several minutes. I was watching my companions composed of my wife, our two daughters and their cousins, my wife’s sister and her balikbayan friend and could not help admire my children’s nonchalant of the sparkling landscape considering that we were all first timers. This made me think I am old and ancient - like I did not belong to this generation.

With maps we got from the counter in our hands, we got busy trying to figure out our bearings as if in a competition who would find it first. We had no luck trying to find the location of our hotel until it was one of our nieces who figured out that we were looking at the wrong map. One page was for Taipa where we were at the time and another big one for Macau where the hotel actually was. Having seen where to go, we hailed a cab, with the help of a Filipina working at the airport and headed for Hotel Royal.

We arrived at the hotel around 10:30 pm and had dinner of freshly cooked rice (we brought a rice cooker... shhhh) and a bevy of the never-miss, reliable adobo and tapa. Afterwhich, we went out of the hotel and took a 10-minute stroll of Macau. Our feet took us to the elegant Grand Lisboa Hotel. Once inside the hotel, I couldn't help but notice two tall ladies with plunging necklines with their boobs almost jutting out and heard my sister-in-law muttering "Russians". I thought that couldn't be as I have seen the likes before. They were more like Asians trying to look the mestiza type. I found several more and when I heard one of them talk. confirmed my hunch. They were Filipino transvestites plying their trade (whatever it is) in the hotel's casino. Since I was already there, I tried my luck at the machines and lost about HK$10. I collected the money and gave the remainder to my eldest daughter while I transferred to another machine. This time, I was lucky. I won HK$200. Noticing that my sister in law's friend was not playing, I told them to go back to the hotel and hit the sack.

The following day, we went to tour the place. We walked a narrow lane that was almost European in its appearance. Our first stop was the ruins of St. Paul It's one of the main tourist attractions of the place as one can trace the Portuguese influence. We took pictures and headed down the steps to walk the long stretch of food stalls where each stall gave out free samples of their goodies like the pork fillets and biscuits. My sister-in-law took us to a food stall that sold a variety of balls and innards that were cooked a la shabu shabu style, soaked in a thick sauce of curry and other hot stuff. That was sufficient for our lunch. Too bad that we did not bring along rice. From there, we took a bus ride going to Taipa where the grand hotels were like the famous Venetian, a replica of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas and the new Galaxy Hotel are among others. Our first stop was the City of Dreams, a podium like structure with four towers comprising Hard Rock, Crown and the Grand Hyatt Hotels. It had a huge casino but I managed to keep my small winnings in tow as I have strained myself from playing the machines. Instead, we lined up to watch the "Bubble Show", a spectacular light and sound production on a 360 degree dome screen about four powerful dragons enjoying tremendous power while holding the Jade Emperor's ball. It also had at its center a huge opening that emitted a nicely patterned water sculpture raining down on the floor and four minor openings that showed giant jellyfish-like structures of light. The show is reputed to be a billion dollar production.

We next went to the Venetian and took a stroll on what seemed like Venice with its canals and gondolas which, by the way, were being operated rather efficiently by Filipino gondoliers singing a variety of songs while managing the canal with their oars. The ride was too expensive for us that we just watched the gondoliers and listened to them belt out a song. Tired, we headed back to the hotel and slept.

My wife woke me up at around 4:00 am only to ask me if I wanted to try the small casino at the ground floor of the hotel. Without any hesitation, I obliged. Unfortunately, I lost my winnings. Lucky for her as she won HK$500. After breakfast, we headed for the ferry that was to take us to Hong Kong. When we landed in HK, I was relieved to find out that the our hotel, The Royal Pacific Hotel and Towers was just a few steps above the dock as it sits along the banks of the Victoria Harbor. I have been to Hong Kong before and knowing that it was all shopping and walking endlessly amid a throng of people, I planned to just stay inside the hotel. However, my eldest daughter insisted that I went with them on a tour of the sitting giant buddha perched on top of a mountain after a 30 minute cable car ride. I could not resist my daughter so I went only to be frightened by the cable car as I have fear of heights. Nevertheless, the buddha was wonderful alright but was not coaxed to climb the long plight of stairs to reach it.

The following day, everybody was geared up to go shopping. This time, I told everyone that I only intended to stay at the hotel, go to sleep and head for the airport at around 3 pm. And that was what I did exactly. At around 2:30, I took a bath and headed for Nathan Road and took the A21 bus for the airport. I suspect my early return was by design so that I can pick them up the following day but my wife swears that that was not the case. Oh well...

What was funny was that upon landing at the airport, I received a text message from my brother-in-law that he was at the Resort World and was waiting for me. Without any hesitation as I was already hungry (it was 9:30 pm and I have not had anything to eat except for a lame sandwich on the plane) I took the shuttle bus that ply along NAIA 3 and Resort World and Marriott Hotel. There, we had dinner and again, since I was already there, took another shot at the machines. NO LUCK!!!

In all, I enjoyed this trip not because of the fantastic lights and the man-made spectacle Macau had to offer. My joy was not only because the free bus rides we took to take us to different places were all very convenient and luxurious but most especially because it was a welcome respite from work and I had the time of my life spending it with my loved ones. How I wish my two boys were there too and I would have enjoyed my visit of Macau, in all its plastic, superficial splendor. Nevertheless, I thank the mighty provider to have endowed me with a fantastic experience and pray that I shall be blessed with more.