March 1-2, 2014: When I learned that my Ozzie friend Jen lived in Macau, we began talking about a visit, after all we practically lived in the same neighbourhood. This weekend, it finally happened.
Jen and I worked together years ago (I won’t say how many) in Vancouver. On weekends, we’d go skiing in the winter and surfing in the summer. We also spent three weeks hostelling and camping around Alaska one September. It was an epic adventure that included hiking the ominous Chilkoot Trail from the Alaskan panhandle into the northwestern tip of British Columbia.
This was the same route popularized by prospectors trying to reach the Klondike Gold Rush in the midst of winter in the late 1800s. We’d heard the Northwest Mounted Police required prospectors at the time to carry one ton of supplies over the pass, enough to last them a year, so we were pretty grateful we had space-age food and only needed enough gear to last us for the duration of the 53-kilometre hike. It was a tough slog, much of it in the rain, to reach the climb up the rocky slope known as the Golden Staircase. It felt like a huge accomplishment once we reached the summit. After that it was a cake walk through incredible valleys and along pristine lakes. Once we started reminiscing about that entire Alaskan trip, so many memories kept cropping up. But I digress…
Fast forward to today, and even though our lives have moved on in different directions, it wasn’t long before it felt like it had only been months, rather than years, since we’d last spent time together. It was great catching up, meeting Jen’s family and getting a glimpse into expat life in Macau.
Jen, Jason and I went out for an adults only dinner in the old Portuguese part of Taipa one evening, where I enjoyed my first good steak in months. The next day, we took the girls, Emily and Hannah, for a walk along the beach on the south coast of Coloane and stopped for lunch. There was a blitz around town to see some of the highlights of Macau, including Senado Square, the Ruins of St. Paul’s, several examples of the area’s Portuguese colonial past and a drive by all of the towering casinos that outshine the Las Vegas strip.
Today, Macau is the world’s largest gambling centre and also holds the honour of being the most densely populated region in the world. There are 20,497 persons per square kilometre, as of last year, but it really doesn’t feel like it. You can still find pockets of green space, especially around Taipa and Coloane islands.
One of the most unusual stops of the weekend was at the City of Dreams. Jen bought tickets for us and the girls to watch the matinee performance of The House of Dancing Water. It’s billed as a unique, awe-inspiring and iconic entertainment centrepiece, combining theater, dance, gymnastic artistry, acrobatics, high diving and even, rather bizarrely, motocross. Kind of like Cirque du Soleil, X Games, Olympic diving, classical ballet, modern dance and Chinese theatre all jumbled together. Somehow it works.
The stage transforms from pool to ground and back again numerous times throughout the show. It is definitely a spectacle, the performers are amazing and you shouldn’t miss it, although I’m still trying to figure out how The Riders fit into the story. My guess is primarily to appeal to the young boys in the audience. And a word of caution…if you sit in any of the first four or five rows of seats, prepare to get wet. They do provide towels but you might want to bring a rain slicker.
There’s still so much left to see and do in Macau that I’m sure another trip will be needed in the not-too-distant future. Hopefully Chris can come with so Jason isn’t totally outnumbered by all us girls.