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travelogue
 PAST ISSUES

INT. TRAVEL ARCHIVE:
677: The Little Island
Escape the late-winter blues with a tropical blast from the past
675: Scenic Spirituality
Commune with religion and nature in an ancient land
673: Aoni Onsen
Return to a forgotten time at one of Honshu’s most remote getaways
671: The Golden Rock
One of Burma’s many splendid attractions hangs by a hair
669: Hida Takayama
For personal trips gentle to the soul, seek out the old-time charm of Hida Takayama
665: Okayama
A serene stroll through history awaits at this seaside retreat
663: Cruising the Bay
Ha Long Bay offers a breath of calm away from Vietnam’s urban rush
661: Agamachi
Fox fires and bar codes help a rural Niigata town reinvent itself
535: Hotel California
Mark Parren Taylor kicks up the desert dust in Palm Springs, the perennial Hollywood star retreat.
531: Race through time
The Xterra Saipan triathlon journeys through tropical jungle, up steep mountain paths and across the sands of history. Tama M. Lung joins the chase.
527: Bohemian rhapsody
No visit to Paris would be complete without taking in the Montmartre district. Bon vivant Simon Rowe dusts off his French to go exploring.
523: Slow Motion
Mark Parren Taylor touches down in the timeless former seaport of Lukang, Taiwan.
519: Rock of ages
From ancient times to the present, Gibraltar has always been an island of legends. Stephen Mansfield sifts through its history.
515: Go west, young man
Simon Rowe takes in the big skies and dust trails of Western Australia's East Kimberley region.
511: All mixed up
Mark Parren Taylor makes land on Macau and finds an enigmatic blend of cultures, cuisine and heated competition.
505: Earth, wind and fire
A historically imperiled town in Papua New Guinea holds the keys to a magical getaway. Carlo Niederberger splashes ashore.
501: Off the rails
Braving the 2,010 kilometers of Vietnam's Reunification Express from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi is quite the adventure. Simon Rowe goes along for the ride.
493: Rites of passage
From firecrackers and cheek piercing to divinations and buffalo races, Thailand's most colorful customs come alive at two annual festivals. Mark Parren Taylor joins the crowds.
489: Paradise found
Beaches, battlefields and a colossal casino provide tropical pleasures on the Pacific isle of Tinian. Carlo Niederberger touches down.
485: Through the grapevine
Stephen Mansfield drinks up the delights of the Château Monbazillac in southwest France.
481: Pleasure island
Saipan awaits the young and young at heart with its pristine beaches, pointy peaks, and perfect amount of entertainment. Carlo Niederberger checks in.
477: Reservoir of dogs
Simon Rowe visits the Kingdom of Tonga, where storms burst without warning and wild canines rule the night.
473: Into the bat cave
Sarawak’s Niah Caves are home to hairless bats, birds on the brink of extinction, and lots of bugs, according to Simon Rowe.
469: A fork in the river
Laos’ ethnic minorities battle the forces of time. Stephen Mansfield goes upriver in search of them.
465: Action scene
Sick of the short, humid Japanese summer? Tired of the winter? In NZ it’s summertime and the living is easy, the food and drink inexpensive, and the evenings long and lazy. Mark Devlin heads south to explore and party.
457/458: In living color
Simon Rowe soaks in the glow of Samoa's kaleidoscopic streets.
454: From Jamaica with love
Michael McDonagh soaks up the atmosphere in James Bond's balmy birthplace
449: See worthy
Dan Grunebaum drops oar in the stunning caves of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay
445: Great heights
Simon Rowe packs his hiking boots and sets out for Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu
441: Split personality
There are few cities with such an exacting dividing line between past and present as Lijiang in China's southwestern province of Yunnan
438: Fierce creatures
Simon Rowe introduces us to the untamed charms of Australia's Kangaroo Island
434: Leap of Faith
Simon Rowe dives into a tropical island paradise of waterfalls, reefs and bush rugby on the Fijian archipelago
430: A week in Provence
Stephen Mansfield explores the historic festival city of Avignon, a medieval diamond in the south of France
426: Outer space
Surreal sites, lunar landscapes and UFO sightings go with the territory in Chile
422: The Big Easy
The Moorish streets of Granada, Spain are alive with a new Bohemian rhapsody
418: Small awakening
Japan's microbrewers
414: Fowl play
The animal kingdom comes alive in the Galapagos
410: The river of spirits
Wading through soulful waters in Varanasi, India
406: Heading north
Marching to the beat of a modern drum in North Korea
403: Santa's lap
Santa's lap - enjoy saunas, Santa and sightseeing in Finland’s Lapland
399: Shanghaied
Seeking the past in China's megacity
395: Rising from the ashes
Mary King explores the rich history, culture and art of Croatia’s phoenix city, Dubrovnik.
391: The betels and the stones
Simon Rowe rolls with the tropical exotica on the obscure island of Yap
387: Prague
World heritage site
383: South Africa
Land of hope
381: Hawaii
Pearl Harbor
377: Salt of the earth
Tour the Uyuni Salt Pan
374: China
Suzhou and Hangzhou
370: The Nile
The river mild
367: Tibet
Top of the world
363: Laos
Memo from the Lower Mekong
360: Cuzco, Peru
Lost cities
357: Namibia
Call of the wild
354: Southern India
Mad about Madurai

ISSUES 349-   
ISSUES 299-

All mixed up

Mark Parren Taylor makes land on Macau and finds an enigmatic blend of cultures, cuisine and heated competition.

At times, Macau seems stranded in another era. Alleys and lanes are overwrought with balustrades, lamps and balconies. Tinny TV chatter escapes though open windows only to evaporate against the muffled hum of karaoke lounges. Temples, churches and casinos punctuate the architectural dialogue between boxy Chinese tenements and Portuguese mansions. The hills and narrow, haphazard streets play with the light as much as they play with one's sense of direction.

But sunshine drives along the straighter streets, rests on gardens and parks, and drapes in the corners of dim courtyards. Air is thick with fatty steam from hawker stalls, the musk of smoldering joss sticks and blue exhaust fumes. The sugar of Portuguese pastries dusts the doorframes of pastelarias and salty winds pick up around drying fish that hang from awnings and railings.

Hong Kong is just an hour away by jetfoil, but it's a mixed blessing. This wealthier, gambling-happy neighbor ploughs a pretty penny into Macau's coffers, but it wins many more tourists who (like their guidebooks) view Macau as an annex. But some do make the short journey across the Pearl River Delta, even if just for the day, and to their surprise and pleasure, they find that alongside the new-century resolve of the Macau Tower, there are anachronisms peculiar to this little island.

 

Local flavor
Macau may lack Hong Kong's sophistication, but its café society has long enjoyed coffee, cakes and cosmopolitan chow. Its cuisine comes from Canton and Portugal, and the local style, Macanese, is a lively blend of both, with an added sprinkling of Indian and Malay flavors. A Vencedora, at 264 Rua da Campo, offers a selection of fine Macanese dishes, including minchi (minced beef fried with potato and onion), galinha Africana (sometimes fiery-hot, grilled "African chicken") and other dishes using kidney, tuna and beans, crab or oxtail. Similar, yet lacking the culinary finesse-and a wall, so that the wind whistles in off the Outer Harbour-is Restaurante Peter Pan at 173 Alameda Dr Carlos D'Assumpção.

Macau's classic architecture overlooks bustling shops

Fine Portuguese pastries are available from pastelaria and bakeries throughout the city. Without doubt, Bolo de Arroz on Rua do S‹o Domingos bakes the best egg-custard tarts in town. This is a dicey claim, however, when the Chinese variety (perfectly flaky and light pastry) is available at countless dim sum restaurants and shops. Other bakeries include Pastelaria Iun Loi on Rua Um Bairro Iao Hon and Choi Heong Yuen Bakery at 209 Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro and 1 Travessa do Matadouro.

The mercado vermelho, or red market on Avenida de Horta e Costa, is an indoor wet market that-as a result of the scares sparked by SARS and avian flu-may see its days numbered and as such is worth a visit. The street markets nearby, particularly Travessa da Corsa and the surrounding lanes in the Three Lamps District, bustle with shoppers fussing around vegetable stalls and nibbling on sticks of fish balls. Red-shaded bulbs draw business to butchers and fishmongers, and spotlight catties of fish and grumbling hens caged by the wayside.

A 15-minute walk south, between the port and the central square, Rua da Felicidade (aptly named "Happiness Street") was once a red-light meat market of a different order. After a period of decay, it has been restored as a fin de siecle row of whitewashed dwellings, shops and restaurants with scarlet-lacquered awnings and shutters.

Based in folklore much older than its days as a red-light district, the neighborhood becomes affably rowdy on Buddha's Feast (usually late May) when teams of fishermen celebrate the Drunken Dragon Festival. Brandishing wooden dragon heads, and having paid due respect at the tiny Kuan Tai Temple close to Rua dos Mercadores, they carouse (and later stagger) from cafe to market to open house in an orgy of rice-wine supping. The festival aims to ensure a year of safety and success on the high seas, commencing, no doubt, on the tender day following the revelry.

A small shrine offers a breather from bustling streets

 

Building blocks
The Macau Tower, on the southern tip of the island, is one of the tallest structures in Asia. A visit at dusk affords breathtaking panoramas of Macau's three islands, Zhuhai Special Economic Zone and (visibility permitting) the Pearl River Delta. It also offers the chance to walk on a narrow beam, which circles the observatory like a halo, with no more than a rope harness and some frantically flapping butterflies in your stomach to save you from falling.

Each November the Grand Prix comes to town and the southeastern corner of Macau is cut off temporarily from the rest of the island to make way for a grueling city racetrack. Safety and commercial concerns mean that the route is hidden from view as hoardings are erected and windows and footbridges boarded over. A seat in the stands can be pricey and then only offers a head-spinning glimpse of the action.

The Museu de Macau boasts a dramatic exterior

If you have a taste for speed, horse and dog racing may provide a cheaper diversion. Taipa Racecourse, run by the Macau Jockey Club, opens for two meetings a week, with free buses running from the ferry terminal and Hotel Lisboa. Here, racehorse owners stride around the paddock in Sammy Davis suits and pencil-thin ties; dockets and receipts are hand-written in a department store on Rua de Pequim; young men with medallions and permed hair strut into nightclubs, as girlfriends twist their ankles in tottery stilettos.

Over at the Canidrome, Asia's only dog track, there's a flurry of tongue-dangling action three or four nights a week. Despite the cheap entry tickets, don't expect full stands-the majority of punters, particularly those in Hong Kong, enjoy the telephone betting system. After all, Macau is truly another place in another time: a time where busy people can take it easy, where crowded streets are strangely empty.

 

Getting there
Most people reach Macau from Hong Kong. Jetfoils, ferries and catamarans operate around the clock and depart from the Shun Tak Centre, Connaught Road. Prices start at HKD130 for a crossing. It is advisable to book in advance for travel on weekends or public holidays. There are no direct flights between Japan and Macau SAR. The best option is to fly JAL or JAA to Shanghai, Taipei or Xiamen and connect with an Air Macau flight.

Where to stay
Discount hotel websites such as www.asiahotels.com and www.asiatravel.com/macau/macau.html are excellent resources. The Holiday Inn and the Grandeur, both on Rua de Pequim close to the Hotel Lisboa, are good value, while the Hyatt Regency, just over the water on Taipa Island, has excellent facilities and provides a free shuttle to central Macau. The Pousada do S‹o Tiago is a delightful retreat, but its size means rooms should be booked well in advance (www.saotiago.com.mo). Hotel prices are higher at weekends and can skyrocket during the Grand Prix.

More information
November to January are the coolest months; in fact, evenings may be decidedly chilly on the waterfront. Throughout the year, Macau enjoys temperatures a couple of degrees below those of Hong Kong. The dates for the 2004 Grand Prix have yet to be finalized. The Drunken Dragon Festival will hit the streets on May 26. Other festivals of interest this year include the A-Ma Festival on May 11, and the International Fireworks Contest in September or October. For more information-and an updated calendar of events-visit Macau Government Tourist Office at www.macautourism.gov.mo. The local representative can also be contacted at 3F Sanden Bldg, 3-5-5, Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-5275-2537. See www.tabicom.com/macau

Photo credit: Mark Parren Taylor

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