Macau: Majesty, Music and Money

July 22, 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.

More Sightseeing

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.

(Note, this is not the University of Macau Choir)

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.

The Parisian

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!

The Cities That (Never?) Sleep: Shanghai

July 14, 2019

The University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Tour 2019: “The Cities That Never Sleep”

Destinations (according to the PRC overlords):

  • China, China, China

Destinations (otherwise):

  • Shanghai, China (The People’s Republic of China)
  • Hong Kong (SAR)
  • Macau (SAR)
  • Taipei, Taiwan (The Republic of China)
  • Tokyo, Japan

First leg: Air Canada Economy PHL–>YYZ–>PVG. Lovely break at the Maple Leaf Lounge in YYZ, but otherwise nothing notable.

I landed in Shanghai at around 6PM, hours earlier than the rest of the Glee Club. I therefore took the opportunity to get acquainted with my surroundings, walking in the vicinity of People’s Square.

I loved the mixed of small stalls, and skyscrapers that permeated my path. I bought a few bananas from a street vendor and wandered over to where a large crowd was gathering for paired dancing:

A few steps onward was line dancing:

and a little further, karaoke:

Our hostel was located along a river, with lovely views in the evening and was a great starting out point for adventures.

Two days of adventures in Shanghai included visiting some of the famous markets, gardens, and of course performances.

Our major performance in the city was a collaborative concert with the women of the Shanghai Conservatorium of Music. (Photos Courtesy of the Penn Glee Club Tour Blog

Our China leg also included a day trip to Suzhou, known by many as the “Venice of the East”. It’s a beautiful ‘small town’ of ten million people and many canals.

The biggest tourist attraction in Suzhou is the heavily trafficked Humble Administrator’s Garden. Where once it may have been a peaceful spot to relax, not so much anymore.

I also spent half a day in Shanghai sightseeing with Christian, a freshman Bass in the Glee Club. While known for his misadventures, he’s a charming and incredibly personable individual who could make conversation with a stone wall.

One notable feature of all the cities we visited was the incredible number of luxury goods shops. I saw enough Louis Vuitton and Rolex to last a lifetime.

One such encounter was an evening dinner treat when the Glee Club was taken to a fancy Peking Duck restaurant by the family of one of our members. While I couldn’t partake of the meal, it took place inside one of many vaulted malls, filled top-full of high end and expensive fashion.

Soon our time in Shanghai was over, and it was off to Hong Kong.

© 2012-2024 Shaanan Cohney