Tag Archive | Macau

Melbourne easy access to casino

When in Melbourne, how could I not go take a gander at the Crown Casino, the casino and entertainment precinct on the south bank of the Yarra River, said be to attracting on average 16 million visitors a year (!!!!!)

This is specially when it was just a short tram ride from Prahran where I was staying.

And so it was, the day after LW left for Nagambie to be with her Oz friends, TK and I decided to head for South Bank and Crown, tho with a long break first at the Blue Train which serves an extensive and ecclectic menu abt which TK sang her praise; adding that the founder was originally a vegetarian.

I had a tuna steak which came with an obligatory salad and thick potato wedges while TK opted for her fish n chips, something that I can’t face at any time, least of all while on holiday.

We managed to finish a bottle of wine between us, because as TK said, it made sense to order a bottle @ AUD28 when a glass cost AUD7 and each of us was bound to drink more than one glass.

Then we took our slow leisurely stroll to the casino and truthfully, there wasn’t a jostling crowd to beat us there.

So I don’t know where they got the 16 million figure from, considering it’s  almost double the tourist numbers pouring into Singapore annually.

The entrance to the casino wasn’t glam. In fact at that time of night — around 9.30pm, there was only a small door that let us in.

I’m not a casino connoiseur and my knowledge abt the facility is gleaned mainly by my nodding acquaintance with what’s available at Genting (many years since I’ve been) and the occasional 4-day cruise on the Superstar Virgo plus a hurried foray to Macau earlier this year to sample the Venetian and Sands.

I found Crown to be no great shakes and Genting, from past memory, comes off only slightly a shade worse while the Virgo’s grand reception hall in my opinion holds its own very well, thank you.

Sands in Macau would run neck and neck while the Venetian is much larger and grander. At both Sands and Crown, the slot machines in the public area could be found quickly beyond the entrance while at the Venetian, we quickly got lost and distracted by the restuarants and shops and were side-tracked for a long while over a meal.

Yet the end result of these land-based casinos was that I lost money quickly at their slot machines, the only type of gambling I do, other than the occasional shot at roulette when I can squeeze a space at the table.

Also at Crown, with TK dashing in and out to “have a quick smoke”, I just couldn’t concentrate and despite wandering from a 5-cent slot to a 2-cent slot, I lost AUD30 in less than an hour! It took double that time to lose HK$100 at Macau.

One final surprise: TK took a picture of me at the slots, something that wasn’t allowed at Genting or the Virgo, the security was so tight and menacing. I can’t remember whether photo-taking was allowed in Macau but LW didn’t snap me, for sure.

So, here is the AUD30 souvenir, ta-ta-ta-ta!

New Naraya coin purselets in hand

Oh! aren’t they cute? and the things I’ve got to do to nudge, more like push, Her Majesty aka SM to buy them for me… when she was in Bangkok with her fam-fam, three princesses n His Majesty last week!

Naraya catch

Naraya catch

I’m not buying these for myself but as handy little presents for friends so that they won’t feel overwhelmed or obligated. Also, they make great hongbao skins…

The good thing abt the latest cache is that SM did accept reimbursement for the purchase, unlike C who earlier bought another lot for me (which has since been exhausted, as has the lot I bought myself in Macau in February).

C has this habit of declining reimbursements for anything which means she is super generous or she’s just saying “please don’t ask me to do it again”.

I wonder what visitors would make of this?

Eats: HK, Luowu & Macau

Although my recent trip to Hongkong, Shenzhen and Macau didn’t turn out to be the eating binge I had expected it to be, for reasons too varied and complicated to go into.. we did eat well and plenty.

Let me start with the last meal we had in HK be4 we flew home. Our flight was 4pm and we had checked in and cleared immigration and custom by 2pm. We were truly hungry by then as we had a fairly skimpy breakfast of bread and pastry bought overnight from the City Super food court at Gateway next to the hotel plus our trusty 3-in1 Kilin coffee brought all the way from Singapore and my self-concocted rolled oat n oat bran muesli. 

L was in a “I’m in charge mood” and declared she must have the ying-yang rice (a Hongkong speciality of Chinese meat and liver sausages plus choi sum) be4 we left, as she’s never been to HK without eating that dish and she wasn’t about to start.

We wandered from stall to the stall in the vast departure lounge food court at Chek Lap Kok airport till she found what she was looking for, when she sat me down to jaga our hand luggage and went off to get the food.

She returned with a veritable feast, including goose which I don’t eat. The yin-yang turned out to be just a generous portion of pork sausage (tasty, if a tad hard) but with the liver sausage (that I had looked 4ward to) replaced by wax fatty pork which I daren’t eat.

Still, hunger spoke louder than hang ups and we were half way thru be4 I remembered to take a pix.. of what remained to be polished off.

Cleaned out yin-yang

Cleaned out yin-yang

Be4 we left for HK, L had waxed lyrical abt the good and cheap sharksfin to be had at Luowu. She said we could each have a bowl at equivalent of S$20 and a bowl of rice to go with it. But as regaled in the earlier post, First, the disappointments, we didn’t get to eat sharksfin — cheap or otherwise.

So in the pix above the little plastic bowl with a plastic spoon and a pair of wooden chopsticks sticking out of it — sitting between the two bowls of half demolised yin-yang rice — is a bowl of sharksfin which L had bought for us to share. “My treat,” she declared. Wah, I replied, true or not?

Now that we’ve got sharksfin to “cleanse our mouths”, where’s the birds’ nest soup to rinse our hands? That’s an exaggeration of mega consumption at its worse and probably taken off some script of some satirical Cantonese film or TV show!

Clearly there was nothing left for birds’ nest, as the tiny plastic bowl cost HK$300 or almost what both of us spent to get around HK as well as across the border to Shenzhen.

The night be4 our departure should have seen us having a feast, as would be usual on holidays, but again for some reason we ended up eating at City Super’s food court! The pix of our meal I took somehow disappeared from my Nokia 6500 camera fone, as did the pix of our dinner at Pierside, the brasserie at Royal Pacific!

Perhaps it was the lighting or perhaps when the food mood isn’t good, the pix won’t show? While travelling with a tour group could lead to soured moods, travelling with one other could occasionally have its moments of tension too.

This is even when one party is most accommodating or precisely because of it. The side always being given in to may feel guilty or embarrassed; while the side always doing the giving in may feel subliminal resentment, even if at the conscious level, a generosity of spirit prevails. The result is a lose-lose situation.

More in a future post about the pros and cons of travelling alone, a deux, with a group of friends and a group of  strangers…

Where eating and sight-seeing was concerned in the HK trip, it might have enhanced things if there were more of us travelling together, as there would have been variety in company and preferences.

Well, back to what L n I ate.

First night on arrival, we hit Kin’s Kitchen at Tsing Fung Street (MTR station Tin Hau). According to L’s research, it was a private kitchen and since we had such a great experience at a Taipeh private kitchen we were taken to in February 08, I didn’t demur.

There was a problem however. We had to go for the 2nd sitting at 9pm, not exactly the best time for pple who had been up since 7am! What took the cake was that when we got there, we found it was a restaurant and nothing really that private about it, since it had a menu at the door, two chairs for waiting and an open glass concept that showed us that it was very popular — packed to the gills.

 We arrived at 8.30pm, hung around for 15 minutes (thank goodness the weather was fine; not even cold) and then I decided to muscle our way in. We were shown upstairs; waited for a vacant table; shown both a la carte and set menus and settled for the menu de jour, costing abt HKD200 per head.

Because I don’t eat goose, we asked for an adjustment and were promptly offered pork patties with salt fish.

I shan’t comment on the food. Let the pix of the main courses do the talking. Fact is, if I wanted home cooking, I would have stayed home. The service though was friendly enough, with the maitre’d chatty, making a marketing pitch about his boss having other “kitchens” such as Yellow Door Kitchen.

smoked chicky
smoked chicky
Nai bai, deep fried garlic cloves n dried scallop
Nai bai, deep fried garlic cloves n dried scallop
Meat patties with black vinegar

Meat patties with black vinegar

There was also a dessert of essentially chng tng with American ginseng (fa kei sum) added to boot. As I don’t take ginseng,  American or Korean, I left the sweet ending largely untouched.

Thank goodness therefore for the tram ride back to Admiralty from Tin Hau where fellow passengers were helpfully friendly, even if the tram driver wasn’t as kindly as the bus driver who took us to Stanley.

Talking of which, the meal at Stanley was scrumptous, even if it was eaten at what was a workmen’s cafe, rough, ready and rude. Crowded to the gills, we had to squeeze ourselves into a row of small tables meant for six, four places occupied by two lovebirds and their bags and jackets, and the remaining by two workmen taking their lunch break.

Needless to say we weren’t popular with the love birds who had to move their stuff but the workmen chomping down their hearty meal gave us enough welcome to make up for the big freeze.

L n I shared a set of rice with steamed fresh wan-yu (a type of fish) tail, with a billion bones that made talking and pix-taking difficult, especially when we were all sitting cheek by jowl. She took the milk tea that came with the set while I settled for a chilled Tsingtao costing an incredible HKD10! We also shared a steaming bowl of wanton noodle soup (below). The total lunch cost around HKD70! 

first of many wanton soups

first of many wanton soups

Looking over most of the food pix I took of this trip, the majority seems to be bowls of noodle soup of one kind of another.

The Sunday morning while waiting for MK to arrive from SIN, L and I split ways, as she wanted to visit Jordon and Mong Kok, to look at the flower and jade markets. Being a strictly utilitarian traveller, who skips sight-seeing of places I’ve been to be4 (unless I’ve intention to shop), I opted to explore City Super which was in the Gateway next to our hotel. Also, I was hoping to pick up some drinkable vino at HK prices (Chilean chardonnay as cheap as HKD35 at Taste supermart in Stanley Plaza).

Found some sauvignon blanc but not as dirt cheap as Stanley. Then took a break and ate this set (below) at City Super’s foodcourt be4 high-tailing back to the hotel to meet with L and MK. L had kindly packed my share of HK roasted meat lunch from her foray to local Hongkong which made for the perfect meal for MK who arrived ravenous from Singapore, having been on the road (or air more precisely) since 4.30am.

sunday lunch

sunday lunch

There wasn’t really any time to eat at Luowu, what with the detour to Dongmen and then my two companions spending over 2 hours for their feet, legs and body massages and then L and me dashing round madly to pick up “cheap” souvenirs and good buys.
So it was left to MK to organise a quick dinner which she did deftly at Fairwoods, a HK-grown fastfood chain serving local specialities and L and I just ate. As with all meals on the trip, the food might not be grand and the prices kind, but I still found myself eating with gusto. Perhaps it had something to do with making do with skimpy breakfasts every morning.
The next day saw me n L in Macau after an uneventful ferry ride and then made up for the previous night’s grab and run Fairwoods dinner by having a more than decent meal at one of the restaurants (more a cafe really) at the Venetians. Below was what we ate:
looks good but really more bones than meat!

looks good but really more bones than meat!

tender sweet sauce ribs

tender sweet sauce ribs

ho-hum fishball noodles

ho-hum fishball noodles

Plenty went right, starting with transport

A bit belated, but my recent Hongkong trip had more pluses than minuses tho you might not think so going by the post be4 this.

First, the Hongkong transport system is world class and continues to be better than Singapore’s, a view I formed and had written about some 14 years when i was last there.

In HK, I don’t drive. At home, I have to, altho I try now and then to go public, always with disastrous results: buses never on time, complicated connections, really expensive taxi rides, cabs never to be seen when needed etc

The latest visit saw us taking a taxi only in Macau when we went from The Venetian to the old town and then to the Sands.

In Hongkong and Kowloon, the weather was a plus. A bit of light drizzle but most of the time bone dry and the temperature was like what it is aircon indoors Singapore. Conducive for using one’s feet.

The best is the sheer connectivity of the MTR’s underground network of trains and walkways and the overground network where all the major buildings are connected seamlessly.

Add that to tip-top frequency of the MTR trains and supplemented by a bus network providing multiple choices and a tram-line that supplemented and complemented both the bus and MTR networks.

Hence getting around in Hongkong and Kowloon is a breeze and cheap. There was simply no need to take a taxi, even for the experience. I spent all of about HKD170 during my stay using my Octopus card and that included going to Luowu to get into Shenzhen!

reaching everywhere easily
reaching everywhere easily

Stanley: Like Victoria Peak, it was a “must see” that I had not “seen” be4, though if I had gone to VP first, I would have been prejudiced enough to give Stanley a miss. Thankfully, we headed for Stanley on the day after we arrived and what a wonderful experience, both the destination as well as the transport that took us to the tip of HK island.

This was notwithstanding that the journey had begun a bit disastrously as we attempted an alternative bus route instead of using the usual starting point for tourists, at the bus station across the road from Admiralty MTR station.

This was because we found bus 973 for Stanley goes from Tsim Sha Shui East and passes Canton Road where our hotel was, except that the bus stop was at a place called Silvercord Centre, also on Canton Road.

Sadly, we failed to find Silvercord Centre and instead found a small bus-stop diagonally opposite our hotel with a board showing bus 973 among others. It was only abt 20 minutes later that we read the small print saying 973 didn’t stop there at week-ends.

Yet the situation didn’t mar matters. Bus no 6 came along and its driver said no, it didn’t go to Stanley even tho its number was the same as one of those going to the seaside town but it could take us to Tsim Sha Shui MTR which we reached in a jiffy. 

And so it was we reverted to the conventional route; headed for Admiralty, crossed the road to the bus station and voila, were off and away. Not sure if we took bus 6, 6A or 6X since all three were there waiting and we hopped on the first that left, enjoying the double decker experience.

The driver was friendly, even flirty, with L –and me by extension — who trotted out her best Cantonese. When we arrived at Stanley Plaza which almost every passenger mistook for the end of the journey, he told us in most colourful yet respectful language that Stanley market was the next stop, at which many descending passengers piled back on..there was merriment and camraderie, even tho I’m sure not everyone was a holiday maker…

Mr Khaw, be4 nursing home, first make

travel between Singapore and Johor Baru seamless!

I wanted to laugh at Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s “option” to middle income Singaporeans — go put your sick and/or elderly folks in a JB nursing home. What’s spent a month in S’pore can stretch to 2.5 months across the Causeway, he said.

Also, should super duper medical support be needed for the sick and/or elderly, an ambulance can trundle him/her back to the island’s medical hub for facilities that even Johns Hopkins talks about…

And, since many people visit the elderly in homes only on weekends, it makes little difference whether the person is housed here or in nearby Johor.
Poor Mr Khaw. When did he last go to JB as a “lesser mortal” (alamak, I too have picked up this “lesser mortal” jibe!) ? Especially over the week-end.
If  jams were bad be4 Mas Selamat decided he’s had enough of the Whitley Centre and then smartly took a hike, they are far, far worse since then. Ask those who have to commute between Singapore and JB on a regular basis and haven’t the flexibility of travelling when the spirit takes them, which does not co-incide with the rest of the world on the move between the two ends of the Causeway.

So unless Mr Khaw can make traipsing between JB and Singapore seamless, JB is no place for sick and/or old Singaporeans to take refuge and enjoy the cost arbitrage.

If the Govt can miraculously make getting to JB and back as easy as it is to travel to Shenzhen or Macau from Hongkong, the immigration and custom check points on both side notwhithstanding, then Mr Khaw won’tt even need to point to this option. Singaporeans are savvy enough to spot the bargain.

Come to think of it, the dear Minister may want to consider pointing to Batam instead. After all, it’s a lot easier (for which read certainty of timing) to get to that island from Singapore than it is to get to JB — because traffic by road is by nature uncertain.

At the Singapore end, the MRT goes to Harbour Front/Vivocity where it’s a hop, skip and jump to the Singapore Cruise Centre to catch a ferry to Batam. So, it may be more convincing — that is do-able –if Mr Khaw were to talk abt nursing homes for Singaporeans in Batam.

At least relatives won’t be subject to the excitement of surprise parang attacks on their way home after visiting loved ones in nursing homes in JB — as happened recently to one bus driver who drives a Singapore bus: tho I hasten to add, he was on his job, not visiting loved ones, in nursing homes or out! ;)