Friday, December 18, 2009

Margaret's Cafe e Nata

Hello happy readers! We were lucky enough to have some visitors with us over the last few days so had an excuse to fill up on Portugese egg tarts (Nata) and charcoal roasted meats. Thanks Kieran and Mel! And what better place than Margaret's Cafe e Nata in Macau to satiate cravings for buttery, flaky crust and caramelised egg. Margaret's (like most cool places in Macau...) is hidden away in an alley right near the Grand Lisboa and Sintra Hotel and is difficult to find - just ask for directions! If you get stuck it's at the Gum Loi Building Tel: 2871 0032.

Portugese tarts have a more caramelised top than their Cantonese cousins and a flakier crust. The 'Margaret' here is the ex-wife of the owner of the most famous egg tart store in Macau, Lord Stow's. When they separated she opened her own store on the peninsula. The tarts we had were piping hot out of the oven and lucky we bought 2 boxes as the first box was gone in no time, as were our taste buds from being burnt off our tongues. Ouch! But such is the sacrifice for good tarts...

From there it was necessary to walk off our caloric adventure past the gaudy Grand Lisboa, rising like a peacock plume out of the Macau alleyways. And then on a bus across the bridge back home to rest our sleepy heads and full tummies.

In other adventures over the last few days; rum and coke by the electronic devil, encountering giant jackfruits in the Three Lamps district and having to appease the Gods for all the above.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ou Mun - ''Gateway of the Bay''

This morning we went across the bridge to Macau to have a bite to eat and stroll around. A friend of ours frequents the Ou Mun Cafe ('Macau Cafe') so we decided to check it out for ourselves to see what the fuss is about. Ou Mun Cafe is near Senado Square off a side alleyway adjacent to the McDonalds called Travessa de Sao Domingos.

It's a Portugese-style Cafe serving drinks, sandwiches, pastries and other light eats. The exterior is quite nice, has a cafe-deco feel and is well signed. Inside it is quiet so it works well as a place to get away from the crowds that can sometimes be around Senado.

Nat wasn't overly impressed with the menu so she just grabbed a fresh OJ while I had an espresso and a toasted croissant. The cakes and pastries looked pretty tasty in the displays and they have various newspaper clippings of the history of Macau and the cafe framed on the walls.

Ou Mun Cafe is ok but not fantastic. If you want a quick coffee or bite to eat while around Senado there are worse places. Our OJ, espresso and croissant came to $70MOP (around $10AUD) so pretty mid-range - maybe a bit cheaper than what we'd pay back in Perth but not by much. From there we went across to the next side-alley further North-east off Senado, via another small pedestrian alleyway (Travessa da Se). Exploring the pedestrian alleyways in and around Senado Square is a lot of fun. There are a wide range of small stores selling everything from clothes, electronics and the various local delicacies. Nat was still hungry after only having her OJ (which, I admit, I drank half!) so we went to a little snackery we had been to before.

This type of eatery is very popular in Hong Kong and Macau. It's a semi-DIY routine where you pick various skewered meats, seafood, fresh vegetables, tofu, etc from the selection out front and place it all in a gigantic stainless-steel bowl. The lady at the stall then places your selection into a boiling vat of stock where it is freshly cooked and optionally covered in a mildly spicy curry sauce in a styrofoam bowl. Drumroll please...

So, yes, I did eat again. The croissant was really small I swear! Nat had a mix of mushrooms, tofu and gourd while I had some fish balls (as in 'balls' of fish, not what you were thinking....), meat balls, tripe, broccoli and tofu. Cost - $68MOP (almost $10AUD). And I was pretty full after that!

On the same small street there is a gelato store, a pastry store and also the famed Lou Kau Mansion which is a traditional Cantonese-style mansion which was built back in 1889. It is very well preserved and gives us an idea how the Chinese lived back in that era.

Talia was a real hit with the lady doing Traditional craftwork in the mansion. Something about babies that turn grown men and women into bumbling messes and it somehow seems more prevalent here in Macau. Interestingly, the mansion doesn't have a kitchen. Supposedly this was because the owner believed his concubines were there to give him pleasure but not in the gastronomic sense.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ZAiA turns 500!

Above: Me and Cirque founder Guy Laliberte

ZAiA, the Cirque du Soleil show I work with, celebrated our 500th show on Sunday. By coincidence, the founder of Cirque - Guy Laliberte - visited last Thursday (our 497th show) so we got to celebrate 3 days early. I had the chance to do two things last Thursday I had never done before:
  1. Shake hands with a billionaire (Guy's fortune is estimated by Forbes at $2.5bil), and
  2. Shake hands with someone who has been in outer space (Guy recently spent 11 days in space as Space Adventures' seventh private spaceflight client - at only $35mil!).
For a guy who has that amount of money and has had the privilege of going to space, Guy seemed like a very down to earth guy (sorry, I couldn't help myself). He even cut the 'birthday' cake and handed it out to us all.

I heard Guy was out of Macau the next morning at 9am. On and off to another one of his show's around the globe I am sure. For someone that started out his working life as a street performer it's a pretty amazing story.

As you've probably noticed (if anyone out there is actually following this blog...cue tumbleweed... do remember how to go online right?).... I am back to posting pics. It was just a momentary lapse of stupidity on my part.

Here are some random pics from the last month or so.....

Angie's first day of school!!

She'll kill you - with a smile!

Our little Beach star!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Demon-Dog of American Literature

James Ellroy

Something a bit different. My brother Gav asked if I would write a book review for him to post on his new website which he is currently developing for his weekly e-comics ( We're both big James Ellroy fans and Ellroy's newest novel was recently released in the last few months. Having spent the last couple of days writing and editing it, why not post it here for your enjoyment!

Blood’s A Rover
By James Ellroy
A book review

Clay lies still, but blood's a rover;
Breath's a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad; when the journey's over
There'll be time enough for sleep.

A.E. Housman

And so begins the conclusion to James Ellroy’s Underworld USA trilogy. Ellroy, the self-proclaimed ‘Demon-Dog’ of American crime fiction, is probably best known for his crime novel turned critically acclaimed film L.A. Confidential (99% on Rotten Tomatoes!). Blood’s a Rover follows a lot of baaaad shit that went down in the USA between 1968 and 1972 – Nixon’s 1968 Presidential campaign, the shadowy machinations of the FBI controlled by J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes’s Vegas power-play – thrown in amongst Red-sympathisers, rogue FBI agents and Haitian voodoo-men. Blood’s rounds out a turbulent time in American history, concluding what his sublime American Tabloid (following 1958-63 USA) and its follow-up, The Cold Six Thousand (1963-68) begun. Ellroy writes like Dillinger with his Tommy Gun – a staccato-beat unlike any other. Blood’s may not be as sparse as his brilliant White Jazz (1992), but his sentences here are still nigh Jazz riffs served up like a jab to the kidneys.

Par exemple…

“The noise was big. Wayne dodged sign-wavers. Nixon signs bobbed upside his face. He lugged two big steamer trunks. Nixon was at the Fontainebleu. He had to walk. He couldn’t drive. The elephant stampede shut traffic down”

Above: Hoover, Hughes, Monty, Nixon and Castro.

The story goes with White Jazz back in 92, Ellroy handed his editor a 900-page draft. His editor only wanted 350-pages so Ellroy eliminated all the verbs, adjectives and did away with normal sentence-structure - thus Ellroy’s staccato-beat was born.

Two main characters return for the grand finale; Wayne Tedrow Jr - ex-cop and right-hand man to the Mob and Dwight Holly – J. Edgar’s FBI henchman and racist hate spreader. A new character is introduced - Donald Crutchfield – a pimpled peeping-tom and bug-man (as in ‘wire-tap’) on the way to losing his soul. Ellroy mixes these fictional characters with real-life heavyweights – FBI Director ‘Old Girl’ Edgar Hoover, Howard ‘Drac’ Hughes, ex-champ Sonny Liston – and ties them to real-life events. He does this with such aplomb that we’re willing to accept his history as status quo.

Blood’s picks up from where The Cold Six Thousand left off – Wayne Tedrow Jr left to fill Ward Littell’s job as bagman to the Mob in their quest to build casinos in the Dominican Republic. Dwight Holly, the ultra-right FBI agent and J. Edgar Hoover’s favourite G-Man, in the middle of Hoover’s fear of the Black power movement and his left-wing radical girlfriend. And probably the most interesting character, Don Crutchfield, supposedly based on a real-life Private eye but on the page clearly a young Ellroy (who has written in his memoir, My Dark Places, of his youth as a voyeur and petty thief).

Noir doesn’t get any blacker than this. Chandler this ain’t. Ellroy is Chandler on a 3-day crack binge chased with Red Bull and a double espresso. Blood’s will satiate Ellroy fans thirst; if you are an Ellroy virgin, maybe try the first of his L.A. Quartet – The Black Dahlia or the ‘10 times better than the movie’ L.A. Confidential. The language is not as staccato’ed and Ellroy used sentences back then. And from there…well, I envy you.

If you like hard-boiled crime fiction ala Dashiell Hammett or Ross McDonald you'd probably like Ellroy. If Twilight is more your thing, you probably wouldn't. Although, Howard Hughes (in Ellroy's world) did get pretty weird and vampire-like in later life so you never know. Remember the Simpsons episode where Mr Burns walked around in Kleenex boxes as shoes? Well that was based on Hughes as he descended into madness. See ,Mum, all that Simpsons WAS educational!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Here's the story, of a man named....

Is this a line up from Macau's Most Wanted? No, it's our happy family! These were our recent (read - 3 weeks ago) passport photos for our Macau 'Blue card' which is the equivalent of a working visa back in Australia. The process is long (like most things in Asia...damn bureaucracy!) and we have been lucky enough to visit the tranquil immigration centre four times now. But we've finally been approved and the girls all have a nice green stamp in their passports which allows them to stay in Macau under a 'Family stay permit'...or 'relatives of a Blue-card holder' (read - me!). So no more visits to Hong Kong to get an extra 10 days on our visas, as much as we like Hong Kong. This also means we can avoid situations like this at immigration from HK or Zhuhai (China)....

Well, it's usually not that bad on most days. I believe public holidays are often like that. Speaking of Zhuhai, I managed to head North over the border to our seaside neighbour just yesterday. Zhuhai is the closest stop over the border in China for us here in Macau and it's where we go for cheap shopping ('unreal' Armani, Gucci, DVDs, etc), cheap massage (40RMB for an hour - $6 AUD!) and cheap(er) food. It's quite a difference crossing the border because there is a distinct, tangible difference in the air, the people, the streets. The best way I can describe it is that Macau definitely feels more like Wan Chai or Mong Kok in HK than distinctly mainland Chinese.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to Zhuhai to meet with Tai Chi master, Li Zheng. Master Li teaches Fu Nei Pai Tai Chi (lit. 'Within the mansion') which is a rare form of Yang style Tai Chi.

The story goes that Yang Luchan, the creator of Yang Style Tai Chi, originally taught 10 sets of Tai Chi within the Imperial Mansion of Prince Duan and these 10 sets are what is known as Fu Nei Pai. The Yang Style in prominence today was developed later by Yang Luchan's grandson, Yang Chengfu. Master Li lives in a pleasant sea-side suburb about 15min by car north of Zhuhai city. We had a nice afternoon together chatting about Tai Chi and he corrected some of my (1200) techniques : ) I hope to visit with him again soon.

In other news, Angie is settling in nicely at her new school. She attends Mon-Fri 8.30-11.30am and sometimes Saturday. She looks so cute in her uniform! And they even have a separate sports uniform(!!) All at 3 years of age. I can't upload pics at the moment but will be shortly due to PC issues.

Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are playing in an exhibition match this Saturday at the Venetian Arena. Cirque will be putting on a little show between matches so I will probably be courtside to mop up their sweat, bottle it and set up a stall in Zhuhai. It may even cover my massage costs for next time...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tie fune!

Above: Tie fune...oops I mean Mifune....

So just another day in the gusty wind-blown islands located within the South China Sea, on Monday evening a Level 8 typhoon named Koppu came to within 150km of Macau. We happened to be in Hong Kong overnight, but that's another matter altogether. According to Chinese-English news source, Xinhua, no less than 145 minor accidents were caused by Koppu as it swept past Macau towards the mainland province of Guangdong. A Level 8 typhoon according to the Hong Kong Observatory and the Direcção dos Serviços Meteorológicos e Geofisicos de Macau (the blokes measuring the wind, i assume) may contain winds of up to 180km/h (113mp/h) and Level 10 is a full blown hurricane with winds of up to 220km/h(138mp/h). Now that's pretty quick, even for a Monaro (i'm sorry for all you non-Australians out there....).
But you'll all be glad to know that we arrived back to Macau yesterday in one piece...albeit I was a greenish hue from the boat ride over... Trust my parents, they came over (to Australia this is...) in a plane - i'm sure if they came over in a boat I wouldn't suffer from sea sickness. Speaking of my parents, they are here in Macau with us as I write this. I can hear them snoring from the spare room.
And just like me...the first meal we had today was....Burmese food! A Burmese family comes to Macau and what do they want to eat? Not Macanese, not Chinese...but Burmese. It was probably my fault as I took them to the Three Lamps district.

Above: the hard nuts on HBO's The Wire - best TV series ever?

Something lately that I'm loving - The Wire. I must thank my brother, Gav, for getting me onto this HBO crime series. It really is that good. I guess I shouldn't have doubted his judgement - we have pretty similar tastes. And what's even better is I've only just finished Series 2 - another full 3 seasons of crime-filled goodness! All the more reason to visit Zhuhai, the mainland city north of the border where the pirate DVD trade is full blossom. Sorry HBO, but I did buy the first 2 seasons legit - give me some slack if I just skip over the border and buy the last 3 seasons in one huge, Chinese style-almanac version with a label for a 1992 Van Damme film glued to the front! And you just have to love a series with a character that's named Stringer Bell. If you haven't seen it it now...your life will be more complete!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Loansharks, Ice Festivals and Dried Lizards

I'm happy to announce that the gals and I are fitting into Macau life quite well as a happy family. Well, I knew they would. Nat ,after all, did teach English for 12 months in 2005 in Harbin - a city in far North-eastern China further north than Vladivostok and for three months of the year is about as hospitable as the planet Hoth.

Above, Harbin's famous Ice Festival.
Left, St Sofia's Church, Harbin.

Angie is already a seasoned jetsetter, having done a long haul flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco (14 hours!) when she was just 20 months. And Talia - well, she is just a little warrior . On the flight over from Perth to Hong Kong she was a perfect Angel, happily being passed around to the air hostesses while being snug as a bug. So, so far so good! We have settled into a nice routine. With me starting work most days either 2pm or 3pm we have a nice morning together - usually breakfast out at a Chinese restaurant/teahouse or at home then back to the apartment for a swim. The downfall is that I usually finish at 9.30pm or 10.30pm so the girls are fast asleep when I get back but it isn't all bad. This means that I can spend most nights at one of Macau's many Casinos and arrive home in the wee hours of the morning without anyone knowing.... except of course, Guangyang, my loanshark.....
So, as you see, life is perfect!
We're still awaiting our furniture from Perth arriving in another week so have been camping out in style - mattresses make pretty effective couches and dining tables too! We last saw our belongings all boxed away being loaded into a 20-foot container bound for sea. We now are wondering what to do with 90 boxes once they arrive - time to get some hired help me thinks.

Above, goodbye sweet Printer St!!

The other day I was walking with Angie to our local Burmese takeaway which has become a bit of a fave and came across a curious sight.....have a look below...

The store is a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) store and they're dried lizards, seemingly with wings. Angie was fascinated (and so was I). A quick search on Google reveals that flying lizards are good for high blood pressure. I guess 'Dried flying lizard' has a better ring to it than 'angiotensin II receptor blocker'. It's something you don't see in suburban Perth!
Here are some random pics from the last few weeks.... obrigado!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Further Macau musings

To your left 9 levels from the bottom you will see our new home, our casa de macau, womende xinjia, call it what you will!!! We had the option of the 36th floor but Nat was worried being that high up incase Angie felt like exploring out an open window.... my feeling is the 9th floor probably won't be muuuuch different...
But, mother, you will be happy to know the windows are relatively high on a ledge out of the way of 3 year old hands. Nova City or as it has been called by colleagues, Cirque City (due to the large number of Cirque employees that live there) is one of many Western-style apartment blocks here in Macau catering mainly to the expat population replete with swimming pool, sauna, gymnasium, tennis courts, creche and playground.

At present there are a large number of apartments available for rent as Macau has undergone (like many other places in the world) a housing bubble in the last few years with a huge number of similar apartment towers being built with a concurrent decline in the number of people to fill them. Good for us as we were able to get a decent price on our rent - cheaper than an apartment in Perth and most other places in the world. Bad for any property developer as they've seen a huge reduction in the value of their apartment and on their rate of return on their investment. I've been told since about two to three years ago rents have practically halved.

Macau is a very interesting blend of cultures - on one hand you have an ever industrialising Eastern city featuring world-class casinos and resorts to rival any city in the world. On the other you have colonial Macau, especially in Taipa where old-world European architechture is set in cobblestoned laneways spiked with gnarled hundred year-old trees straight out of Pan's Labyrinth. An excellent fusion can be seen in Macanese food, a hybrid cuisine mixing the best of asian and european flavours. But for now, you'll have to just contend with pics of my last few meals, mainly some Southern Chinese specialties - like the restaurant down the road from my hotel where they cook individual claypots of rice and other goodies, placed into a large steamer - mine had lap cheong - dried Chinese sausage and salted pork with gai lan - Chinese greens.

To the left we have Bibimbap- Korean claypot rice - and a Kim Chee pancake from a nice Korean restaurant in the other direction from my hotel.

And to the right a nice melage of Porky goodness with a black vinegar sauce...prizes for who can guess what bits are in it!!
And on that note....i'm hungry! Now where to for dinner??? And only a week till I head back to Perth and see my gals! Look forward to seeing you all again soon.