Macau


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Macau is a place of contrasts. Macau, or Macao as it was better known when it was a Portuguese colony, is officially the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. Like its many names, the SAR is filled with more people, culture, and history than its small size suggests. Sitting on just 29.5 square kilometers (11.39 sq. miles) of land, some of it reclaimed from the Pearl River Delta, Macau has a population of more than 600,000 with a density of more than 18,500 people per square kilometer (48,000 per square mile). Although crowded, its denseness does not seem so much from its small footprint as from its rich and colorful history. The former colony still retains much of its Portuguese and indigenous Cantonese character but has grown more Chinese since its return to China in 1999. As the country’s only destination for legalized gambling, a Portuguese legacy dating back to the 1850s, Macau has become a tourist draw with its growing array of gambling and Las Vegas-style entertainment and conference venues. Nestled amid the grand casinos are neighborhoods steeped in colonial and traditional Chinese heritage. Like its sister across the delta in Hong Kong, Macau is worth highlighting as a semi-autonomous region because of its unique character and heritage.

More About Macau

Ruin of St. Paul’s Cathedral

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Senado Square

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A Skyline View of Macau

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Taipu Village at Night

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Top Ten Things to Savor in Macau


Here is a top ten list of things to enjoy in Macau, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and former Portuguese colony. This list is based on my visit to Macau in April 2012. The activities and destinations listed should give you a taste of what one of Asia’s most fascinating places has to offer.

1. Ruins of St. Paul Cathedral in the Historic Centre of Macao (the Portuguese spelling of Macau), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Historic Centre of Macao on Macau Peninsula with its mix of Portuguese and Chinese influences was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. The Centre stretches over several square kilometers in two zones: one between Barra Hill to the west and Mount Hill in the center, and the other to the east encompassing the Guia Fortress, Guia Chapel, and Guia Lighthouse. The first zone boasts 20 monuments of special significance to the blending of eastern and western influences that harken back to Macau’s days as a Portuguese colony. Click here for more information about the Centre.

The Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral and College is arguably the city’s most famous landmark and a must-see attraction. Completed in 1602 by the Jesuits, it was one of the largest Catholic complexes in Asia but fell into decline after Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Jesuits’ Order, the Society of Jesus, in 1773, and the Jesuits departed. It was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835. The cathedral’s façade crowning a long flight of stone steps is the only visible remnant of the church. Its baroque features are reminiscent of the Jesuit Reductions in South America that were built at about the same time. Behind the façade of St. Paul’s is the Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt with relics and artifacts from the former Jesuit complex.

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Next to the Ruins of St. Paul’s is the nondescript Na Tcha Temple, a Buddhist and Taoist temple built in 1888 to honor the Taoist deity of protection, Na Tcha. Perhaps just as significant is the red-brown wall behind the temple that is reportedly one of the last standing sections of the Old Wall of Macau destroyed by the Chinese in 1622.

Na Tcha Temple

2. Senado Square and Leal Senado:

As short walk from the Ruins of St. Paul’s through the colorful shopping district of the Historic Centre of Macao is Senado Square, or Senate Square. This is the heart of historic Macau. The square is paved with a colorful mosaic of cobblestones surrounding a contemporary fountain bedecked with a metallic globe. St. Dominic’s Church, Leal Senado, General Post Office, Santa Casa de Misercordia (Holy House of Mercy), a Portuguese charity, and other colonial buildings border the square.

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The shopping district in the Historic Centre of Macao:

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St. Dominic’s Church:

3. Mount Fortress and the Macau Museum

Also located in the Historic Centre of Macao, the Mount Fortress (Fortaleza do Monte in Portuguese) is a hilltop fortress built in 1626 by the Jesuits to defend themselves from attack. The colonial government seized it after the Jesuits left Macau in the 1770s. It served for many years as the residence of the governors of Macau and a military fort.

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The Museum of Macau sits on top of the mount.

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Mount Fortress is a short escalator ride from the Ruins of St. Paul’s and has a nice vista overlooking the city worth the trip. You can almost hear echoes of the city’s colonial past near the cannons on the ramparts. The beautiful garden offers panoramic views of the old city. Click here for more views of the city’s skyline.

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If you enjoy old military forts and have the time, visit Guia Fortress a few kilometers to the east.

4. A-Ma Temple

The A-Ma Temple, a Taoist temple built in 1488, is the oldest and most famous in Macau. It’s located at the base of Barra Hill at the western end of the Historic Centre of Macao. Time and weather did not permit us to visit it on our trip, but several sources have indicated that it is one of Macau’s main attractions and worth a visit.

5. Visit the casinos, gamble and shop

As the only place in the People’s Republic of China where gambling is permitted, Macao is a popular destination for Chinese who enjoy gambling. As of 2012, gambling revenue in Macau was five times that of Las Vegas, although you wouldn’t know at first glance. Unlike the crowded Las Vegas Strip, Macau’s casinos are scattered across the city. The newer casinos are located on the Cotai Strip in Cotai, a district between Taipa and Coloane islands built on reclaimed land. The Galaxy, City of Dreams, and Venetian are on the Cotai Strip. Others, including the Grand Lisboa and the Sands, are located near the Historic Centre of Macao. These casinos and hotels are filled with restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues that appeal to gamblers and tourists alike. We stayed at the Galaxy and were impressed by the amenities and beautiful peacock motif.

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6. Dine on Macanese and Portuguese cuisine

Macau offers a delicious fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cooking. The two have blended into a local style known as Macanese cuisine with an emphasis on baked goods and grilled and roasted meats. Some popular Macanese dishes are Portuguese or African chicken, codfish (bacalhau), gray chicken or rabbit (pato de cabidela), spicy chili shrimps, minced beef or pork (minchi), stir-fried curry crab, steamed pork buns, and egg tarts. Macau has many fine Macanese, Portuguese, and Chinese restaurants. Dine at one recommended by a local or the concierge at your hotel. We dined at Antonio (259 rua dos Negociantes Taipa), a Michelin 3-star Portuguese restaurant owned by renowned chef Antonio Coelho widely known as one of the best purveyors of Portuguese cuisine in Macau. The meal was delicious, and the ambiance was wonderful.

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Other recommended restaurants in Macau are Fernando’s on Coloane island (9 Praiade Hac), seafood restaurant O Manel (10 rua de Femao Mendes Pinto), and Macanese restaurant O Porto Interior (259 rua do Almirante Sergio).

7. Macau Tower:

The 338 meter (1,109 foot) tall Macau Tower offers some of the best views of Macau. Thrill seekers can walk on Skywalk X, the outer rim of the tower with only a tether and no handrail. Or bungee jump off the tower, the second highest in the world after the Vegas’ Stratosphere skyjump. We didn’t visit the tower because of bad weather, but I took a photo of it.

8. Taipa Village:

Taipa Village is an old settlement on Taipa Island near the Cotai Strip. It’s worth a visit if you’re staying on Taipa or Coloane islands. Get away for a meal at one of the Portuguese or Macanese restaurants. Walk along Rua do Cunha or one of the cobblestone side streets to buy pastries or souvenirs and visit the Taipa House Museum and Church of Our Lady of Carmel. With all the modern casinos rising up around it, this colonial-era town feels like a place frozen in time.

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Here are a couple of odd sights we encountered in Taipa Village – alley cats feasting on a meal outside a restaurant (we didn’t eat there) and dried caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis) for Chinese herbal tea.

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9. Macau Science Center, Cultural Center of Macau, and Macau Museum of Art:

The Macau Science Centre is a contemporary waterfront structure designed by famous architect IM Pei that opened in 2009. The Cultural Center of Macau and Museum of Art are co-located in the same building across the street from the science center. The three offer a variety of exhibits and performances that make for a nice alternative to the casinos and historic parts of town. They are also visually attractive and offer a nice photo op.

10. The House of Dancing Water Show:

The House of Dancing Water, a Vegas-style stage production at the City of Dreams, is a wonderfully choreographed experience in an intimate aqua theater-in-the-round. The uniquely Asian take on the aquatic theater concept combines theater, dance, gymnastic artistry, high-performance diving, and state-of-the-art displays of water imagery. Click here to read my previous post about the show or click here to buy tickets.

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We simply enjoyed walking around the streets of Macau to see the city. Here are some photos from the city center:

There are many more things to savor in Macau. It’s impossible to see it all without visiting at least a few days. From the Macau Grand Prix held each November to taking the one hour Hong Kong-Macau Ferry, a visit to Macau is filled with eclectic diversions that make it a fun destination in Asia.

Here’s to hoping your trip will be filled with sunshine.

More About Macau

Visit these links for other blog posts about Macau:

Click here for more information about the Historic Centre of Macau.

Click here for more information about the House of Dancing Water.

Click here for a video clip of the city’s skyline.

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buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Key Events Influencing the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election


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With the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election today, I thought it was time to get a little political. Election Day in the United States, November 6, is less than six months away and the campaigns are in full swing, so now’s a good time to weigh in on the U.S. presidential race.

In spite of the incumbent status of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, the U.S. presidential race is more competitive this year than it has been since the 2000 Election. The presumptive Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, is virtually tied with the president in public opinion polls. RealClearPolitics’ Poll Average on June 5 showed President Obama leading Romney by an average 2%, a decrease from 4% on April 25. This is within the 2-3% margin of error and puts the two candidates in a statistical dead heat. Based on poll trends, we’re in for a close finish.

Here’s my objective analysis of how key events likely to occur between now and Election Day could give an advantage to Obama or Romney. Where there’s no clear favorite, I called it a “Toss Up.” I am not predicting who will win the presidency. Watch how Obama and Romney fare in the aftermath of these milestones, and you’ll have a better idea of who will win. As the 2008 Election demonstrated, announcements such as the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the naming of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s vice presidential candidate influenced the election. This year’s contest will be no different, and the race is close enough that a single event, such as a seismic jobs report or an international incident, could shift the balance in favor of one candidate.

June 4, 2012: North Korea threatens to attack South Korean media outlets in Seoul

Advantage: Obama. North Korea (DPRK) warned that its troops have aimed artillery at South Korean media groups and threatened a "merciless sacred war" after the outlets criticized children’s celebrations in Pyongyang. While North Korea often makes vague statements threatening South Korea and the United States with utter destruction, this warning specifically mentioned the longitude and latitude of the locations of seven media outfits in Seoul. While the chance that the DPRK will take military action against the South before November 6 is slim, North Korea has been known to take advantage of a political situation to make a statement as it did in November 2010 when it shelled Yeonpyeong Island. The lower the tensions between the two Koreas, the better for Obama. A pre-election attack on the Korean Peninsula would put him in a difficult political situation at a bad time.

June 6, 2012: Wisconsin recall election between Governor Scott Walker (R) and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D)

Advantage: Romney. Polls and most political commentators believe that incumbent Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will win by a sizeable margin and may provide a bump for Romney in Wisconsin, a key swing state. Obama defeated McCain by a wide margin in 2008. Many commentators have indicated that the state may be in play with a larger Republican turnout in November energized by the recall election, and early exit polls show the race tightening to +6 for Obama, a 2-point decrease from the national poll average. Given that Obama won the state in 2008 by 12 points, his support in Wisconsin — and perhaps in other states he carried in 2008 — has waned.

June 8, 2012: International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) talks with Iran over its Nuclear Program

Advantage: Obama. Talks with Iran over its nuclear program are ongoing, and Iran’s admission that the Flame virus caused a massive data loss on its computer networks should be a setback for its nuclear program. Iran will continue to be a foreign policy priority for the United States but is likely to have little or no impact on the U.S. Election. The perception that the United States was involved in Flame’s creation — whether true or not — may help or hurt Obama’s image.

June 17, 2012: Greek Legislative Election

Advantage: Romney. After a political stalemate in May when the Greeks were unable to form a new government, new elections were called in Greece for June 17. The chance that this round will go better is low, and the results may send new shockwaves through the financial markets, especially if minor parties such as Syriza make substantial gains. Ongoing issues over Greek debt will continue to weigh down the Eurozone. While the likelihood that Greece exits the euro and destabilizes the Eurozone before the U.S. Election is small, the country will continue to make news through the campaign period, and much of it won’t help Obama’s efforts to stimulate the U.S. economy.

June 20-24, 2012: The Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Advantage: Toss Up. If the Supreme Court declares the PPACA unconstitutional or strikes down the individual insurance mandate, it will generally be viewed as a setback for the president because the law is considered one of his major legislative achievements. Views on whether this will happen vary. According to the Wall Street Journal, just 35% of legal experts who have argued cases believed the Court would strike down the mandate. As of June 5, the sentiment at Intrade put the odds that the mandate will be rejected at 65.3%. If it’s upheld, it will benefit Obama; if overturned, it will be a blow to his reelection campaign.

July 6, 2012: June Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Romney. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will release its monthly jobs report for June. The May report released on June 1 showed signs of decreased job growth, higher unemployment, and a downward revision of the March and April job reports. Given this trend, it’s likely that the June report won’t be much better and will be bad news for Obama.

July 20, 2012: UN action (or inaction) on Syria

Advantage: Romney. With the violence and unrest in Syria continuing, calls for UN action have increased. The mandate of the UN observer mission ends on July 20, and pressure is mounting for the UN Security Council to take action to “restore international peace and security” per Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Either scenario — failure to respond to continued violence against civilians in Syria or direct intervention in Syria as happened in Libya — puts the president in a difficult political position at a bad time.

July 27, 2012: Second Quarter 2012 Advance GDP Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will release its advance report on gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the second quarter (Q2) of 2012. It may affect the race if it differs substantially from the 2.2% GDP forecasted for the United States in Q2.

August 3, 2012: July Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. BLS will release its monthly jobs report for July. The previous report will give some clues as to whether this helps Obama or Romney. It’s too early to tell whether it will follow the March-May downward trend.

Mid-August, 2012: Romney announces running mate/vice presidential candidate

Advantage: Romney. Several prominent names have been mentioned as Romney’s running mate; most are from swing states. The announcement will provide a quick bounce for Romney. If the candidate is strong and/or hails from a swing state, they will bolster the ticket. If they become a liability, this will be reflected in polls in September and/or October.

August 27-30, 2012: Republican National Convention begins in Tampa, Florida

Advantage: Romney. The Republican Party will host the convention in a state Obama won in 2008 and is a key battleground state in 2012. A presidential candidate usually has a bounce of several percentage points in the polls following a party convention.

August 29, 2012: Second Quarter 2012 Preliminary GDP Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. The BEA will release its preliminary report on GDP growth in 2Q 2012. It may affect the race if it differs substantially from the 2.2% GDP forecasted for the United States in Q2.

September 3-6, 2012: Democratic National Convention begins in Charlotte, North Carolina

Advantage: Obama. The Democratic Party will host the convention in a state Obama won in 2008 and is important to his reelection in 2012. The candidate usually has a bounce of several percentage points in the polls following a party convention.

September 7, 2012: August Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. BLS will release its monthly jobs report for August. The previous report will give some clues as to whether this helps Obama or Romney. It’s too early to tell whether it will follow the March-May downward trend.

October 2012 – March 2013: 12th National People’s Congress convenes

Advantage: Romney. The People’s Republic of China will choose a new National People’s Congress (NPC) and elect a new president. Xi Jinping will likely succeed President Hu Jintao in March 2013. However, the political situation in China is usually tense in the lead up to this transition. The situation is particularly contentious this year with the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai and recent events involving dissident Chen Guangcheng. Recent events such as the handling of Chen’s case by the Obama administration and crackdown of foreigners in China indicate that U.S.-Chinese relations may be rocky until the transition period has ended. While Obama could score some points by engaging China on issues such as military cooperation, much could go wrong for him in the year ahead.

October 5, 2012: September Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. BLS will release its monthly jobs report for September. The previous report will give some clues as to whether this helps Obama or Romney. It’s too early to tell whether it will follow the March-May downward trend.

October 7, 2012: Venezuelan Presidential Election

Advantage: Obama. The outcome of the race between incumbent President Hugo Chávez and Henrique Capriles of the opposition First Justice Party depends on whether Chávez, who has cancer, is healthy enough to stand for re-election. Various scenarios have been debated, but most point to political change in Venezuela after October that may benefit Obama. A Capriles victory, a Chávez successor, or a more moderate Chávez should lead to an improved U.S.-Venezuelan relationship.

October 26, 2012: Third Quarter 2012 Advance GDP Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. The BEA will release its advance report on GDP growth in 3Q 2012. It may be help either candidate if it differs substantially from the 2.6% GDP forecasted for the United States in Q3.

November 2, 2012: October Employment Situation Report released

Advantage: Toss Up. BLS will release its monthly jobs report for October. The previous report will give some clues as to whether this helps Obama or Romney. It’s too early to tell whether it will follow the March-May downward trend.

November 6, 2012: U.S. Election Day

Advantage: Toss Up. As of this writing, President Obama has the advantage of incumbency and is leading in more battleground states than Romney. However, with his RCP Average approval rating at 47.8 and a tightened race, it’s far from certain that Obama will win reelection. Romney has emerged from a heated battle for the Republican nomination in a strong position and can look forward to a number of key events that could work to his advantage. Any of the ones mentioned above – or an unforeseen crisis – has the potential to tip the balance in either candidate’s favor come November. Count on it.

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buythumbM.G. Edwards is a former U.S. diplomat who served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia. He served as the democracy, elections, and governance officer to the U.S. Mission to Zambia from 2009 to 2011.

A writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres, he also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.