Macau: Majesty, Music and Money
Posted on 22nd July 2019
Our ship docked late morning in Macau, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Macau, a tiny province, connects by a land bridge to the Chinese mainland and was formerly a Spanish colony. Interestingly, the CCP transferred a portion of the mainland to Macau. The CCP designated this land for the University of Macau, where we were staying and would later perform. With only one day in town, and an afternoon blocked out for performances, the glee club raced off sightsee.
The biggest tourist attraction in Macau is the Ruins of St. Paul’s, a large catholic cathedral destroyed in a fire. All that remains is a glorious stone facade.
The path up to the ruins was just a short hike but, in hot weather we were all sweating by the top!
Next was the quest to find lunch. Macanese cuisines (like many of those we encountered on tour) fit poorly to my dietary needs. I opened up the “happy cow” app on my phone and found an interesting looking vegan restaurant not too far away. Hope Brindle, one of the resident vegans on tour accompanied me on a short adventure away from the tourist center to find the place.
After about 30 minutes of walking, and getting lost a few times, we found the restaurant. Being a local place, there were no English menus and no staff who were able to translate. Luckily tables were shared, and we soon found a community to help us!
The meal began with a bucket of hot water placed in front of our table settings. After sitting confused for a few moment, Hope and I were assisted by our entire table. One lady mimed that water was not for drinking, but for washing our utensils. After more confusions, she showed us how it worked.
Ordering was fun too! Hope and I initially picked items off the menu by picture, but the others at our table looked convinced we had ordered the wrong things. They took over the process, arguing with the waitress over what we should eat. We didn’t understand a word, and were unsure what food would be coming by the end.
Fortunately, the meal was delicious and Hope and I left satisfied and delighted with the experience.
Hope and I returned to the touristy area, walking our way through residential areas and finding little seen sights.
We climbed to the top of the mountain, higher than the ruins, and into the Spanish fortress that overlooks the province. There we met Ben Banker, a good friend and member of the Penn Pipers.
Unfortunately, this was all the sightseeing we had time for. We raced down the mountain to the bus waiting to take us to the University of Macau. On our bus, Sandy, our local contact, enthusiastically explained a little about Macau and its history. She explained how the majority of Macau’s GDP is derived from the gambling industry, frequented by wealthy Chinese. As gambling is illegal in the mainland, and Macau is just a short trip away it serves as an easy hub for Chinese punters to get their fix.
The Glee Club loved the enthusiasm of Sandy’s explanations, and her occasional expletive infused exclamations. She received an uproarious toast in thanks.
That evening we performed for Macanese dignitaries and the families and friends of the University of Macau Glee Club. While the performance hall itself did not have the best acoustics of the venues on our trip, it was an interesting chance to interact with local students. One peculiar number performed by their choir was “A Little Jazz Mass”, a very odd reimagining of a traditional Latin Mass by Bob Chilcott.
Following the performance, much of the Glee Club (including myself) dressed up to visit the casinos and experience what most come to Macau to see.
A Glee Club alum who had made it big in the Macanese gaming industry directed us to his casino: The Parisian. The casino was built to mimic Viennese architecture and included gondola-bearing canals.
While many in Glee Club were (fortunately) too young to gamble, we did hit up a casino bar. I had a great time chatting to Tomoki and Hannah who I would learn to appreciate greatly over the course of tour.
While I paid the tab for the fifteen-odd glee clubbers drinking, hoping to be paid back, some mysterious accounting left me $300 short. Thankfully as always the Glee Club came through and made up the majority of the shortfall. How such a small crowd purportedly consumed 14 Long Island Ice teas, on top of twenty other drinks, I will never understand.
Next, a few of the older folks went down to see the gaming floor. The Glee Club pooled a small sum to place on roulette. All for one bet: Red. Unfortunately the game came up black and we all lost our money. A lesson well learned.
In the wee hours of the morning, it was back to the university for a few hours sleep before our next destination: Taiwan!