Sweet sawdust, luxury living and other Macau delights(Letter from Macau)

May 9th, 2008 - 9:34 am ICT by admin  

By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
Macau, May 9 (IANS) If you have a sweet tooth, then Macau has Chinese, Portuguese and Macanese delicacies to offer. But the tastiest perhaps is ’sawdust’. It is a combination of whipped cream with a thin powder of biscuits on top. It just melts in the mouth, barely letting you say “yummy”!

A walk down the Rua Do Cunha market on Taipa island - one of the three main landmasses that make up this specially administered territory of China - reveals why it has been nicknamed the food street.

The shops here sell all kinds of food products. Dry wild boar meat, beef and pork - spicy or sweet - as well as sweetmeats and cookies.

In Coloane, one of the other landmasses in Macau, it is egg tarts that tourists love to buy. Incidentally, Coloane is the green lung of the island and free of construction activity even as the other two landmasses - Taipa and Macau Peninsula - are seeing many new casinos and luxury apartments come up.


This former Portuguese colony, which has a population of 531,400, is seeing a boom not just in Las Vegas-style casinos but also in the real estate market. It is fast overtaking its rival Hong Kong as the fastest growing area for residential hotels and retail property prices.

Some of its high-rise luxury apartments have found 60 percent buyers within an hour of being thrown open to customers! Most fight to get a view of the picturesque coastline.

But it isn’t always a good idea to pay more for a better view as the possibility of a new hotel or apartment coming in the way always looms.

Housing prices on this small island, a 50-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong, have touched the roof. This has been spurred by the huge inflow of cash from gambling revenue, which now rivals Nevada, and hotel room rents.

Most five-star hotels are busy adding new wings or partnering new ones to open more hotels and casinos. One example is the Macau Wynn, owned by American billionaire and casino developer Stephen A. Wynn, who is now planning an additional wing exclusively for those who want to have their own entry and reception areas.

While there are 17,313 hotel rooms at the moment, it has been estimated that a total of 41,682 rooms will be made available for tourists in 10 years.


The economic boom has meant that married couples take time to have kids. Those who get married plan first to get an increase in their salary so that they can own an apartment. Only after they start living in the house do they plan children.

But ironically, for most parents, meeting and living with their children is a luxury. Due to inflation and price rise, both parents have to work and the children end up staying with their grandparents. Only during weekends do the father and mother get to meet their children.


The tiny island city, which was half its size 25 years ago and depends on landfills to meet its demand for land, relies mostly on imports for food products.

While drinking water and fresh fruit come from mainland China, butter comes from New Zealand, frozen food from Holland, France and Brazil, beef from the US, Brazil and Argentina, milk from Australia and wine, olive oil and sausages from Portugal.

As the island faces scarcity of land - it is approximately 30 square km in area - some of the main roads have underground parking bays. In fact, the authorities here are very strict about parking rules. If a vehicle is not found properly parked, its tyres are locked.


Another unique feature of this bustling city is that the most influential and powerful people live in homes that are pink in colour.

Edmund Ho, the chief executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region, and Stanley Ho, ranked 84 among the world’s richest people in 2006 by Forbes and owner of Lisboa, the world’s highest grossing casino, are among the most influential people who live in this residential colony first constructed by the Portuguese when they settled here.

From the top of the Penha Hill where the church of Our Lady of Penha is situated and from where the inner harbour, the magnificent Macau-Taipa bridge, and nearby towns in China can be seen, some of these pink houses are also visible.

They have beautiful landscaped gardens and swimming pools. But other than guards not a soul can be seen from a distance.


“Please wash your hands before you leave” - is the message in the washroom of a restaurant. It is a tip for good health. Such messages can be seen in public lavatories too. Apparently they cropped up after the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) scare worldwide.

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