The perfect way to mark your holiday is by setting it in stone – or porcelain. While wandering in Macau, I discover that you can actually get an item of your choice monogrammed – think tableware with your family crest custom-made in pure porcelain. Not a bad house-warming gift to yourself! You can get this done at one of the many wholesalers/ retailers that pepper Macau, especially around Rua de São Paulo and on Avenida Almeida Ribeiro.
Museums bring about a range of take-aways. For brownie points with those with a racing interest (think better half) I grab some Formula 3 memorabilia at the Grand Prix Museum. I pop into the Maritime Museum for the cool model lorcha (Chinese sailing boat) kits for my nautically-inclined nephew. Not to be gender specific, but for the rest I aim to appear thoughtful with the beautifully crafted souvenirs at the Macau Museum shop. Token gifts out of the way – often the biggest task of any trip, I am free to roam the streets in search of other personal treasures.
Feeling a creative itch, I walk into the Cultural Club on San Ma Lo in the centre of Macau and find myself unable to resist browsing through the famous Jin Yong martial art novels. The author Louis Cha, who uses the Jin Yong pseudonym, is the best-selling Chinese author alive, with many a film made based on his books. Armed with a couple of the most aggressive looking novels, I follow my guidebook to the Cultural Exhibition Hall where there are regular exhibits of paintings, fine arts, and Chinese folk arts. Local art is deeply inspired by the national flower – the orchid (Bauhinia blakeana). While there are other exhibits on at Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau, Casa Garden, the ground floor of the Ritz Building, on Senado Square, I spend my afternoon poking through Chinese arts and crafts stores (Avenida Almeida Ribeiro near the Senado Square and on Rua de Stº António) looking for traditional Chinese paintings with a splash of red orchid blossoms across the canvas. I have an uncontrollable urge to take back those intricate etchings – perfect for that free wall in the hall.
My friend Lily’s voice sounds in my head, ‘Macau is full of Harry Potteresque streets, with quaint shops instead of magic potions.’ She couldn’t have put it better. Streets open up into more streets, each with their own little specialty – jade, sports goods, bags of every size and dimension for every occasion – even for a funeral! For clothes, accessories and electronics, you would look in the Senado Square (newest Municipal market); on Avenida Almeida Ribeiro; at Sun Star City on Rua de Pedro Nolasco; at Sportstar, a two-storey arcade of specialty shops on Rua da Palha; on Avenida Horta e Costa; and at the historic Three Lamps (Rotunda Carlos da Maia). Authentic antiques and fine reproductions can be found all over Macau and in Coloane village; particularly around Rua de São Paulo, Rua das Estalagens, and Rua Stº António. For shiny bright things – the kind that easily distract from noble ventures, I walk to Avenida Almeida Ribeiro and Avenida Horta e Costa. Apparently, Macau is known for its gold, silver, pearls and precious stones (imported duty free).
My Sunday begins with a visit to Taipa Island’s weekly fair, in the heart of the old village between Bombeiros Square and Camões Square. Between 11 a.m. and
8 p.m. this is the one day where you will be privy to traditional crafts and souvenirs, and everything from brand name items to trifles (including food). For sustenance, in between the day’s shopping, I wind my way around Taipa Island’s old village; with little shops tucked away that are renowned through the generations for their traditional cookies. Pastry shops in Macau can be found at the Av. Infante D. Henrique, Av. D. João IV, Travessa de S. Domingos, and along Rua de S. Paulo, near St. Paul’s. I bite my teeth into a juicy, oozy Portuguese specialty called Pastéis de Nata (little egg tarts).
I find myself enveloped in surreal magic, as I venture into some brand shopping at the Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian® Macau-Resort-Hotel feeling like Alice in Wonderland, I am suddenly swept off my feet (literally) into a real Italian gondola, manoeuvred by a singing gondolier! As I float along the man-made Venetian canals, I drift pass the over 330 specialty shops flanked by quaint cafés. I take in the people around me and discover to some astonishment that the Chinese are completely brand-crazy! You are not hard-pressed to find on real-life models a combination of Gucci shades, LV bags and Dior dresses.
To wind up an exhausting and eventful weekend, I sink into one of the little chairs in the Macau Tea Culture House next to Lou Lim Ieoc. Despite having seen a similar ceremony in Beijing, I prepare myself for another treat. Watching the little Chinese lady pour some tea with one of the long-handled kettles, I recall a traditional meal at a local friend’s house, where they traditionally sanitize their dishes with hot tea before eating! Everything in Macau is a culmination of tradition and modernity. After a day of serious shopping though, for a taste of the unusual – think octopus and live snakes – stroll down Felicidade, once a thriving red-light district. It will give you something to write home about!
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