HK Disneyland

So after a long time of nagging, our little family unit finally reached Disneyland. Knowing that I am not much for walking and with Joey in tow, I got us two-day tickets.

Lookie! Mickey express! HK Disneyland has its own station which kinda reminded us of Platform 9 3/4
And the photo vomit begins. Apologies, I couldn’t make up my mind which photos to use. 😀
The requisite family photo
Taken on our second day – it was raining very hard on our first day.

Sleeping Beauty’s castle
I don’t really like rides in theme parks (I have a fear of heights) but I knew I couldn’t leave without having my photo taken with the characters I grew up with so we spent quite a couple of hours lining up for photos with Mickey and the gang.
Pooh left before we could reach him and Tigger took his place, and well, I’m not a Tigger fan so this will have to do

Minney Mouse!
Mickey Mouse!

Joey wasn’t too keen on queuing up for photos and he was barely tolerant after Mickey but one thing we didn’t expect was how his face lit up when he saw Donald Duck! He started shouting, “Mom, it’s Donald Duck! It’s Donald Duck!” Ipe and I ended up laughing at the starstruck kiddo who readily agreed to line up for Donald Duck!
Well, seems Joey likes Donald more than all the others combined.
There are a lot of restaurants in the park and if you prefer not having to wait and stand in line, you can have seats reserved for you at the guest relations office at the park gates. But of course, we just took the cheaper route and had our meals food court-style.
We particularly liked the Star Liner diner which was air-conditioned and not too crowded. An amazing feat actually – that the queues here didn’t take us so long even though it was a long weekend and there were lots of visitors.
Star Liner diner in Tomorrowland
They also have a kiddie meal! Yey!
Joey enjoying his corn
Most of the rides and shows here are kid-friendly. In adult-speak: BORING. But while I may be an adult in terms of years, I’m still a kid at heart and I enjoyed everything as much as Joey did.

Dumbo, a spaceship ride, Autopia (where we got to drive an electric car and the Mad Hatter’s teacups
A few months before our trip, I downloaded the Disney app on my iPhone so Joey had a pretty good idea of the park’s layout. So he was very adamant that I take him to the shooting game, which, of course, I had no idea what it was. A good thing Joey knew where it was (smart kid) – the Astro Blaster game with Buzz Lightyear.
Joey loved this ride so much we rode it three times
Shoot them daddy!

Toy Story Land and Adventure land were our last stops (we went to Tomorrow Land and Fantasy Land on our first day). Adventure land was a bit of a snooze though, but I did like the boat ride and Joey couldn’t get over the boat filled with skulls (fake, of course) and a fiery volcano that literally had us sweating.


Yes, we rode that!
This one’s too scary for me.
At the end of the day, around 4-5PM, all the mascots gathered round for the Mickey Parade along Main Street. One nifty trick of this parade is that the mascots will drench you with water (distilled!) so I didn’t get very good shots for fear my camera will become a casualty.

We got Joey some Buzz shades and watch. 🙂

The Disney princesses! I didn’t get a picture of Snow White, though, as she tried to spray me with water and I had to duck. Hahaha!

Good thing Aurora was too far for me to get wet. 😛
Make no mistake – that vial is filled with water.
We went to grab some snacks at the Bakery along Main Street. Look how cute this tart was!

Unfortunately, my camera died a few minutes before the fireworks display and I had to rely on my trusty iphone. Too bad.
Simply magical, with lots of fireworks dancing to the tune of beloved Disney melodies.

Most travel forums I’ve visited said that one day is more than enough to enjoy HK Disneyland and a lot of them complained that it was rather small. Well, I beg to differ. Got us two-day tickets and it was still not enough. There were just too many rides, shows, and whatchamacolit to see – and mind you, queues weren’t even long. So we are definitely coming back for more! See you again, Mickey!

Hongkong Disneyland Hotel

I’m a kid at heart and Joey loves everything Disney (he doesn’t watch any other kiddie channel, although he knows about them) so it was really a no-brainer that this would be our hotel of choice. Plus, it was so convenient – all we had to do was take the train from the airport, and two stations later we transferred to what was unmistakably the Disney Express:
Look at those ears!

Guests staying at either the Hollywood Hotel or the Disneyland Hotel don’t even have to walk; they can take the shuttle to and from the park to their hotel. Waiting time was practically non-existent as the longest wait we had was probably less than five minutes.

And what cute little buses! I felt like a kid all over again.  

The hotel shuttle
This is a very kid-friendly hotel and the lobby was no exception – upon entering the hotel, smiling statues of Mickey and Minnie immediately greet you and kids can sit at the waiting area while their parents check-in; of course, to keep the kids busy, Disney Junior is playing 24/7 on the screen. Kiddo’s obviously not complaining.

Every peso (or dollar, in this case) was well-spent. And as a bonus, we got upgraded from the sea view room to the sea view with balcony with sweeping views of the pool, garden and the sea! A very nice early birthday treat for me. 
Victorian-inspired hotel, complete with turrets, amidst a lush garden and facing the sea
Look at the maze!

Me and the Boybie pretending to be lost in the middle of the maze

Joey enjoying running down a small mound in the garden

View from our balcony
The room wasn’t particularly big but and it came with a luxurious bath room complete with a tub so it was big by HK standards. What we loved about this hotel was it wasn’t pretentious. I know, it looks like a Victorian castle and all but then, this is Disneyland and we were given a Snow White-themed room. And the materials used didn’t look cheap and forced (I’m looking at you, Venetian Hotel, with all your plywood walls and fake cornices).

Yes, I squealed with delight upon seeing these!

Toiletries in potion bottles. Yep, no mistaking I’m in a fairytale.

A note of warning though: food is quite expensive here. Breakfast is not included in the room rates and the buffet can set you back upwards of HKD300. Ala carte was a bit friendlier, with each dish costing around HKD150. 
We were quite famished when we got there – me especially as I was coming straight from work with only two hours of sleep before I hopped on the plane and had not had a decent meal – so we decided to eat at Walt’s Cafe (buffets are served at the Enchanted Garden Restaurant). 
Again, I had to repress my squeal of delight as it was too cute.

The restaurant has a kid’s menu which I think offred value for money as the little kiddo got macaroni and cheese, fresh fruits, and hot chocolate.
The burger was really good.

And of course, what hotel would be complete without a gift shop? And of course, this being the Disneyland Hotel, the shop was filled to the rafters with Disney stuff. I had to stop myself from buying that crystal encrusted Minnie Mouse watch and sequined top (on hindsight, I should have bought it – hubby didn’t take the hint). Hahaha. 

We only stayed one night but judging from the boybie’s peaceful sleep that night, we will definitely come back for more. 😀

* All photos by the hubby except for the food, train and Joey shots.

Vietnam On My Mind

My feet are itching to go travelling, the destination doesn’t really matter so long as I go somewhere. Too bad I still don’t have leave credits and had to say no when my friends and former office mates invited me to join them on their business trip/vacation in Vietnam. So, the next best thing is to reminisce about my last travel there. 🙂
The first and only time I went to Vietnam was also a business trip, which looking back, was probably the most stressful I had – I was juggling meetings during the day, testings over breaks, and day-to-day operations when I get back to our hotel room so I didn’t really get to do much sight-seeing. But I enjoyed my stay there for the simple reason that the food was just marvelous and the company was great – I went there with our then new hire, Wena, and I was worried at first that we wouldn’t get along, until I realized she was game to try on all the food there is and she was willing to walk for miles every day to explore the city. 
Vietnam used to be a French colony so the architecture and the layout of Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon, if you prefer) is sort of a cross between our own Intramuros and Binondo’s Chinatown. In fact, the side streets through which our taxi would take us on our way from the hotel to the office looks, feels, and smells like Binondo. Except that there are rickshaws on the streets. We didn’t ride on any though, as I kinda think it’s inhumane to do so. 
Given that we only had a week (we arrived on a Sunday afternoon and left on a Saturday morning) which was jampacked with meetings, we didn’t really have time to go around much. But we were able to visit the Ben Tanh market, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon River and the famous Trung Nguyen coffee chain. 
Notre Dame Basilica was constructed in the late 1800’s after the French successfully colonized Saigon, in the former location of a pagoda. All materials for this church was sourced from France and a huge statue of the Virgin Mary stands in front of the main entrance of the cathedral. A little bit of trivia: in 2005, the status was reported to have shed tears down its right cheek. This was denied by the Catholic Church in Vietnam although of course, the crowds still flocked to see this “miracle.”

View from our office roof top
Ben Thanh Market, on the other hand, resembles our own Divisoria, albeit smaller and confined to one huge building. It’s actually the largest in Saigon with its origins traceable back to the 17th century. Obviously, this is a tourist hub as you can buy all sorts of textiles, accessories, souvenirs, and handicrafts. It’s funny though coz Vietnamese, Filipinos and Thai look very much alike and a number of the vendors thought I was Thai! There were so many beautiful, not to mention cheap, stuff there but I had a baggage limit to watch so I limited myself to a couple of bags and kikay kits for my in laws. On a side note, I also spied a lacquered wood and capiz lamp back at the hotel selling for around Php5,000 which I would have bought if only it wasn’t so big. Too bad.
We also spent many mornings eating breakfast at the Trung Nguyen Coffeeshop near the office – it’s the largest coffee maker/distributor/chain in Vietnam and is also expanding globally. I didn’t get to sample their other offerings other than the basic black coffee and their instant coffee mixed so I can’t really judge if it’s good but I must say, I love the pastries and breakfast sets in their shop and I really like the taste of their Irish Creme coffee mix. So on our last day, I hoarded boxes and boxes of coffee – I think my entire luggage was full of coffee boxes. 😛
Post office:
The HSBC building – can you believe this is the tallest building in Saigon?
One vivid memory I have of Vietnam (aside from the mouth-watering cuisine) is the tons of motorcycles cruising the streets – in fact, I would always hesitate to cross the street not because I might get run over by a car, but because there are motorcycles coming from all directions. In fact, from our hotel room, we could watch a big boat ferrying motorcycles across the river.  

I am scared for the woman walking ahead of the motorcycles – what if the lights suddenly turn green and she gets crushed?
The best part about my trip to Vietnam? The food! Really, of all the countries I’ve been to (not that many – I think about seven), Vietnam takes the cake for best cuisine – and I am a bit of a picky eater (although my innate politeness forbids me from saying out loud when I don’t like something).
Normally, I skip room service because the price makes me want to rather starve but here, our entire meal for the week was just a day’s meal in Korea (and only at local eateries in Seoul at that):

Hotel food: pizza, eggs benedict, cereals and cheescake!

Since it was a business trip, we would usually have our lunch at the nearby restos (well, more of carinderia type) but the food is better than all the Vietnamese restos here in the Philippines.

Carinderia Favorite – the best. Our table was usually overflowing with so much food because it was so cheap!

And finally upgraded to a bit of fine dining.  Well, not quite, but the two restos our colleague took us to were among the best and most popular in the city:

Resto # 1 – took a lot of careful street crossing and maneuvering to NOT get hit by motorcycles

Resto # 2 – thankfully, this was a bit far and we had to take a cab to get there; but the food was just pure heaven! That pink jelly thing in the mid photo – it’s not edible. It’s actually the “gasoline” that will be used to heat up our food.
Most of the restos we went to are by reservation only – and it was only after I learned that bit of info that I realized why our office mate kept asking for our agenda – so she can book our dinner dates!  I can’t remember anymore the restos we went to, but if I do, I’d let you know here. I did scribble it in my notes but you know me, I misplaced it as soon as I put it down.
Well, I may not have made it back to Vietnam this year but this country is definitely on my MUST VISIT again. 🙂

* Most of the photos here are grabbed from my friend, since I was too lousy to take shots of my own (was harassed at the time) – except for all the food shots.

Hong Kong for a day

Since four whole days is too long to devote to sightseeing in Macau, we decided to take a day trip in Hong Kong. It’s actually very easy since the two are just an hour away by ferry –  the fare is only HKD146 – HKD168 (depending on the day/time) and there are departures every 15 minutes. Credit cards are likewise accepted and the waiting area is much, much better than our airport lounge. We took the Turbojet going to HK and the Cotai Jet back to Macau.

For breakfast, we again made the choice to go with something familiar and this time, our very hungry stomachs led us to KFC, where I had a hard time getting the guy at the counter to understand my English. I was almost close to crying tears of frustration and hunger until we both realized the point and pay system is the best solution to language barriers. 😛

Picture taking at the first park we saw after leaving the ferry port:
that’s the Bank of China in the upper right
A few more steps and we reached this virtual oasis, a verdant jungle set amidst the skyscrapers of the city: the Hong Kong Park. It amazed me how well-maintained this park was – no trash, every bush and tree glistening green, and the pond had fish and ducks and I even spotted some turtles! All these in the city. But that’s not all: the park also had an aviary, fountains, playgrounds, restos, and, would you believe, a marriage registry???
Traveling in HK (or anywhere for that matter) translates to lots of walking so I would suggest you bring a very comfortable pair of shoes, lots of water, shades, and slather on some powerful sunblock – we must have walked miles (over an hour?) from the train station (I can’t remember the name, but it vaguely reminds me of queens) to reach the Peak Tram terminal.

From there, we had to endure another hour (?) waiting for our turn – the queue was hundreds of tourists long! The annoying thing was when we got there, we found out our queue was for those taking just the tram ride; there was a shorter queue for those taking the tram AND going to Madame Tussauds. Fare is only HKD65 (Php 400-450)for the Sky Pass (Peak tram and Sky Terrace) while the wax museum fee is HKD 160 (roughly Php1,000). Credit cards are accepted.

The peak tram is actually just a very short ride covering around 1.5 km but what makes it extraordinary is that this is the steepest funicular in the world. Not that I have much experience riding funiculars; my sole experience prior to this was riding the funicular at Tagaytay Highlands and that wasn’t so steep at all. But the peak tram kept me sliding backwards on our way up and sliding forward on our way down.

We had our lunch at the Peak Galleria’s Spaghetti 360. Not wanting to waste the view, we opted for al fresco dining (though it got a bit hot), feasting on squid ink rice with crayfish in stone pot, chicken covered in melted cheese and sinful chocolate cake served with ice cream and fresh strawberries. Food doesn’t come cheap though; we each shelled out over HKD 150 (Php 1,000).

our view while eating
our yummy lunch
After that, we headed to the viewing deck to have a glimpse of HK’s famous harbour and skyline. I even braved my fear of heights and posed next to the railing, all the while managing to smile for the camera though my insides were quaking. A good thing I didn’t throw up my good lunch.
Would have loved to have some Haagen daz at the Peak but it was so damn expensive! Like 3x the cost of a scoop here and that is just insane!

There were too many wax figures at Madame Tussaud’s but here are my favorites:

clockwise from top left: Prince Philip and Princess Anne; William Shakespeare; Johnny Depp; a Rembrandt painting
Of course, while my favorites veer towards royalty (real or the Hollywood variety), hubby would never be caught dead posing with them. But he was very willing and eager to pose with historical and political figures:
clockwise from top left: Hitler; Donald Tsang; Lee Kwan Yew; Obama
I wanted to take shots of the funicular ride going down but this is the best I could come up with – there were too many passengers (luckily, we all managed to get seats).
Now, the highlight of our little expedition was the Symphony of Lights – a 10-minute laser light and sounds show at the harbor, participated in by the buildings dotting the harbor. It starts at exactly 8PM. According to Guinness, this is the world’s largest and permanent light show (quite expensive too, as it cost HKD44M).
Some photo op before the show started and before the crowd got too thick to take a decent photo. Oh, and I got my daily ice cream fix while waiting for the show to start – even though it was freezing weather! Hahaha! Nothing can keep me away from my ice cream. 😛
We didn’t have much time left to explore for dinner so we just went to the nearest food court we could find where I feasted on sushi and hubby on a bento box:

I would have loved to shop in HK but I had reserve that for another visit. Besides, we were too tired we could barely drag ourselves back to the ferry port. And we were so zonked out I think all of us were snoring during the hour-long cruise. A good thing there were very few passengers at close to midnight!

You might notice that we didn’t go to Disneyland or Ocean Park – well, that was intentional, on my part at least. I promised the kid back home that I will go there with him so I couldn’t really visit the happiest place on earth without my little man. And I intend to keep that promise. And of course, the hubby has no choice but to agree with me. 🙂

Macau: Last day

Since our flight was late in the evening, we decided to leave our luggages at the hotel and do some last minute exploring on foot and shopping. Ipe was adamant that we go visit the Dominican Priory high up in the Guia Hills (which is the highest point in Macau, by the way). We decided to check out the Guia Fort but too bad the cable car was being repaired. But we saw these cute “teddy bears” greeting visitors at the entrance and a small aviary.
The hike up the lighthouse was quite a long way and with the cable car down, we figured it wasn’t worth the effort. So we just stayed in one of the huts to stock up on pictures. 😛
As for the priory, well, we didn’t really know any priests staying there. (But then, I don’t know many priests at all and the ones I know are only through the hubby so they don’t count. But I did have my favorites with the nuns back in high school.) So hubby had to make do with staring at the priory from across the street. It isn’t much to look at as the Dominicans are hardly a rich order; but the building kind of sticks out because of the neighborhood – indeed, it’s located along a long row of dilapidated bliss-type buildings.
We made a quick stop over a Rua do Cunha, a narrow street lined with souvenir shops and food stalls. It also has a small bazaar but there wasn’t much shop-worthy trinkets there. We stocked up on almond cakes and egg tarts. 😀
Shortly after lunch, the four of us trooped back to the Tampa area to check out the other hotels and malls in the area before our flight.
Counterclockwise from top left: hubby enjoying a cup of hot coffee; Macau’s famous egg tarts; kuya making another favorite pasalubong – the almond cookies
 Hotels along the Cotai strip, near the Venetian:
Four Seasons
Hard Rock, which is connected to the City of Dreams, a high-end mall
Inside the City of Dreams, watching the mermaid show onscreen
There’s a free show at the City of Dreams’ Bubble theater called “The Dragon’s Treasure.” It’s a story about four dragon kings who each show off their dazzling powers in their own lands to their guests, through the use of the pearl of wisdom of the Jade Emperor. A carp who swims through each of the dragon king’s lands, is revealed to be no less than the Jade Emperor who then proceeds to reveal himself and his immense power.
The show is spectacular, shown in 360 degree 3D format on the screen with lighting both on screen and in the audience area as well, making you think, at least for a while, that you were indeed under the sea with all these dragons.
The City of Dreams also has the show “The House of Dancing Water” which looked and sounded more interesting than the Cirque du Soleil over at the Venetian. Too bad we only learned about it on our last day. 😦
Macau Food
Now, I didn’t really enjoy the food we’ve been having in Macau whenever we experiment with their local dishes so on the next days, we subconsciously agreed to stick to cuisine that are familiar to us. 
On our first two nights in Macau we stayed at the Best Western Hotel in Tampa – a budget  boutique hotel but still has all the comforts we’ve all come to expect. Across the street is a long avenue lined with quaint restos. Since we arrived late at night on our first day, we found just a handful of them still open and ended up in a Japanese restaurant which became a fast favorite – nice staff, decent food, clean place and ambiance.
On our last night in the area, we decided to have dinner early so we can try out the Thai place just twenty meters or so from the hotel doors. I can’t give the name of the place since it’s more like a carinderia-type but the food was divine! And I had sticky rice and mangoes with coconut milk – you really can’t go wrong with mangoes but this is the best dessert I’ve tasted.
Clockwise from top left: tonkatsu, noodles and clams at a Japanese resto; mangoes with sticky rice and coconut, rice meal and various chili sauce at a Thai carinderia; Mcdonald’s for breakfast; lots of cakes and desserts
You might notice a McDonald’s plate up in the pictures – e all agreed to have daily breakfast at McDonalds. This way, we ensure we have at least one decent, full meal in case the restos we pick later on turn out to serve awful food (trust, we did get hungry many times!)
We only returned to our culinary adventures on our last lunch in Macau. Off the Rua do Cunha is a Portuguese restaurant which has a very cozy, rustic interior. The lady who runs the resto does not understand English and we were having a hard time wondering what to order but fortunately, she deduced correctly that we were Pinoys and called on her cook – a PInoy! Everything we ordered here tasted good, and no wonder, Pinoys are notoriously good cooks.

Where to Stay
There are many hotels to choose from in Macau from both ends of the budget spectrum – from the super cheap to the uber expensive. Since this is unfamiliar territory and I kind of have a fear of Chinese government, we chose to stay in the middle ground and stay in a fairly decent hotel from a known chain – the Best Western in Tampa. Location’s good – it’s just five minutes from the airport (yes, for real!), five minutes to the Cotai Strip, and there are lots of carinderia in the area. Prices are okay too – costs us around Php 17,000 for a three-night stay. Not bad, huh?
Macau isn’t really a shopping haven, not even if you’re after a particular designer brand that’s not available in the Philippines, since the prices are much higher than in other Asian countries like Singapore. As comparison, I asked for the price of my LV wallet and found it higher by at least 12% compared to current Manila prices (HK price is around 8% higher). 
But of course, I can’t really head back home without at least some souvenirs, right? And being sort of a beauty junkie (well, I often hoard but don’t get to use them), I bought SKII (kinda mahalia so I just bought a jar – it comes with two freebies: facial lotion and essence), Crabtree hand treatments which I got at a whopping 30% off (apparently, they have beauty sales on Sundays over at Senado Square), and lots of tarts and almond cakes! 
PS: Lord Stow’s Bakery(they have a branch in Market Market) sells authentic egg tarts. I only found out it actually originated from Macau when I got back here in the country and looked it up. So this means I still get my egg tart fix whenever I want.

Macau: Venetian Macao Resort Hotel

On our last day, we checked in at one of the newest hotels to open in Macau – the Venetian Hotel. 
Everything about this hotel screams opulence – from the ornate designs of the cornices, the high, domed-ceiling, the lobbies, the shops, and of course, the rooms. The hotel has many wings and each wing has its own bank of elevators – these are adorned with paintings and intricate chandeliers and tiled floors.
Clockwise from top left: Sphere greeting guests at the reception; hotel’s hallways; sitting area in the elevator lobby; the elevator lobby
We checked into the Bella Suite, which comes with two double beds, a living room/study, and a walk-in closet:
Now, I’m very particular with bathrooms but this one is the most beautiful I have ever been in. It has a tub, a shower, a spacious power area with vanity table for all your post-shower beauty rituals and touch-ups, and a small, unobtrusive door opens to reveal the comfort room.
View from our room during the day:
The mini-golf course and the pools at the left side
view of the canal outside the hotel where guests can ride the gondola (there is another canal inside the hotel itself
Right after checking in, our grumbling stomachs led us to the hotel’s foodcourt. While the Venetian does have a fine-dining cafe and nice restos, there was an event that night so we just settled for the food court, which was cheaper anyway than eating at the cafe. Plus, the ambiance was just so nice, with the dining area made to look like the sidewalks of a European city, and the ceiling a perpetual mix of twilight colors. Yes, my dears, that “sky” is not real, but a well-painted and well-lit ceiling. It does lend for a very romantic setting, don’t you think?
The atrium connecting the casino to the mall. The shops in this particular area consists of high-end designer names, notably jewelry stores – after all, what better way to spend your winnings than splurging in some bling? Tiffany’s occupies a very nice spot, fronting the top of the escalators from the casinos.

But that’s not all. While there are a lot of shops both at the Venetian and at the Four Seasons Hotel next door (the shopping complexes are connected by an unnoticeable walkway; we only noticed it because of the vague change in decor), the hotel still has a lot to offer:
Gondolas. Cars. Mime (promise, he looked like a real marble sculpture).
hubby took the photo by the way
One of the gondoliers was a good looking young man and everyone was having their pictures taken, so of course, I gotta have mine taken too (another weird quirk of mine – I don’t like approaching famous people to have photos with them, but I wouldn’t think twice about posing next to a total stranger. ha!).
There is a Cirque du Soleil show at the Venetian but we decided not to watch it, but I would recommend it if you do get to stay there. And we found out the Asian Music Awards was being held that same night, hence the pandemonium caused by screaming teenagers rooting for their favorite Korean stars. Indeed, we were almost caught unaware that we were standing right outside the concert hall’s massive doors until the audience started streaming out. Luckily, a Pinoy bellboy was kind enough to explain to us and tell us who the Asian stars present were – and if you remember Sandara Park, yeah, she was there. 
Walking for hours certainly made Ipe and myself ravenous, so we treated ourselves to our favorite dessert: banana split, at Haagen Dazs. Freezing weather be damned!
While we didn’t make it to the pool since it closes, I think, at around 9PM and we woke up too late the next morning (in fact, the pool was closed since there was a shoot going on), we did manage to have pictures as soon as we got dressed.
I like our group pic – reminds me of the Charmed TV series framed pic in the opening credits
Venetian Macau, outside, at night:
and during daytime:
Food at the Venetian Macau food court is very tasty and they have different cuisine: Thai, Vietnamese, American, Japanese, Italian (but, of course!). The prices though, are not your regular food court range – each meal set us back around an equivalent of Php 500 each. And that wasn’t even splurging. But I would recommend the burgers at the gourmet place (my bad, I forgot the name) right at the entrance to the food court – so good!
Of course, Ipe and I had to have our souvenir shot:
I suggest that you block an entire day, or two, just to explore the Venetian. We already used up an entire day and we didn’t get to use the pool, or watch the shows, or try the casino (ok fine, we tried the slot machines and won 40 cents out of the $20 we gambled off). It’s reputedly the biggest building in the whole of Asia, and, according to one website, it surpasses, together with the Wynn and Sands casinos, the Vegas strip as the world’s most lucrative gambling spots. How’s that! And they say Asians are poor.
* Next stop: conquering the rest of Macau

Macau: Day 1 Church and Casino Hopping

Confession: Macau was and never has been part of my must-see places before I die so I didn’t really prepare for this trip. Armed with no itinerary at all other than what I’ve managed to browse haphazardly on the internet a few minutes before our flight or retained from long conversations with friends who’ve been there, Ipe and I along with two of my close friends from my previous company, boarded the flight.

Ruins and Churches and Casinos

Clockwise from top left: Ruins of St. Paul, bone of the martyrs, back view of St. Pauls, view from St. Paul’s steps, sculpture near the ruins
Our first stop was naturally the ruins of St. Paul – arguably the most recognizable symbol of Macau. It was the only remaining part of a church built by the Jesuits when they first settled in Macau in 1565 (though I believe the church itself was built only in 1602), after a fire gutted down the entire complex in 1835. 
It presents a great backdrop for photos as it has a great vantage point from the top of a small hill, and can be reached via a steep flight of stairs (if you’re coming from the market/Senado square) and I’ve seen many magazine pictorials done here (in fact, there was a photoshoot that day for a wedding). But I found equally interesting the museum at the back, especially the crypt which contains the bones of the martyrs sent to Japan and Vietnam.
Of to the left of the ruins is the Fortaleza do Monte (Mount Fortress). You can either climb using the steps hewn onto the side of the mountain (a twenty minute trek) or you can head to the museum and take the escalators going all the way up to the Fortress itself. We didn’t discover the museum until we had climbed to the top so we just used it to go down. But perhaps as reward for our little exertion is we discovered a little convenience store where a David Cook-lookalike works as a cashier. I ended up buying mineral water. TWICE. 😛
Anyway, not much to see there except several canons used during the wars.

From there, it takes just a five-minute or so walk to get to Senado square, famed for its swirl-patterned pavement and shops. There’s also a Dominican church in the center of the square. Nothing fancy aside from the pavement; the shops are common – Bossini, Giordano, Hang-ten. But we did get to see a free-standing SK-II shop. For those of you who don’t know, this is a premium beauty product of P&G, manufactured in Japan and patronized by beauty junkies the world over. Except that it’s not sold in the Philippines – prices are a bit steep (though it’s cheaper than La Mer which is sold at Rustan’s).

Bottom left: Dominican Church; churches within the vicinity of the Senado Square

From top left: Inside the museum at the mountain fortress. Bottom right: Senado Square

Macau at night:

You can pretty much walk your way around Macau – your first stop should be the ruins, square, fortress. Then, when the sun starts to set, take a cab to the casinos – Sands, Grand Lisboa, Wynn. The lights are sure to amaze you – especially the five-minute long pyro musical at the Wynn’s fountain area at night. There are no entrance fees and the taxi fare is quite cheap (unlike here). 

Cameras are not allowed inside the casinos though, and I didn’t dare break the rules when I am not in my home country. 😛
Up next: Macau: Day 2 Venetian Hotel