Friends at the Fast Track

AS I LOOK back to this date three years ago, I am reminded of the companionship I enjoyed while in Macau for the 56th Macau Grand Prix in 2009 to watch fast cars speed down the race tracks.

Together with a group of colleagues in Hong Kong, we took the ferry from Shun Tak to Macau Ferry Terminal. We checked into MGM Grand Macau where we stayed that weekend.

MGM Grand Macau - the lobby, reception area and its interior.

MGM Grand Macau – the lobby, reception area and its interior.

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Luis CamõesAfter lunch that Saturday afternoon, we proceeded to a city tour.  Our first stop was Camões Garden and Grotto – the oldest and largest park in Macau, a former Portuguese colony – named after Portugal’s national poet Luis Camões.

The garden was the home of a Portuguese merchant who loved raising pigeons.  After his death, his residence was donated to the government. A bust of Camões sits in the centre of the park.

Today, the garden is a tourist attraction while locals continue to flock there to exercise, for a stroll or simply to relax.

(Top) View from atop the grotto which serves as a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city; (Bottom, L-R) Many also find relaxation in a game of Chinese chequers in Camões Garden; Others are attracted to the “Sonnet to Macao” inscribed onto solid slabs on display at the park.

(Top) View from atop the grotto which serves as a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city; (Bottom, L-R) Many also find relaxation in a game of Chinese chequers in Camões Garden; Others are attracted to the “Sonnet to Macao” inscribed onto solid slabs on display at the park.

No Macau tour is complete without going to the historic Ruins of St Paul’s (iconic to Macau, just as St Basil’s Cathedral is to Moscow, or the Washington Monument is to Washington DC). And so we went again. Despite the numerous times we had been there, I still went “trigger-happy” clicking away on my camera.

There is a little Buddhist temple just behind the Ruins which often gets overlooked compared to the Ruins’ grand staircase and façade. The Na Tcha Temple, said to be built in 1888, became “one of the designated sites of the Historic Centre of Macau enlisted on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005 (Wikipedia). 

A reflection of Macau’s multicultural identity… the Catholics’ Ruins of St Paul’s and the Buddhist Na Tcha Temple built in the same vicinity.

A reflection of Macau’s multicultural identity… the Catholics’ Ruins of St Paul’s and the Buddhist Na Tcha Temple built in the same vicinity.

From there we headed to Macau Tower in the city. At 338 m tall – the 8th tallest free-standing building in Asia – it is visible from many corners of Macau. Similarly once you are up there on its observation deck at 223m above ground, its panoramic city view spreads before your eyes. For the extreme sports enthusiasts (which I am not), Macau Tower also offers the highest bungee jumping point in the world and Skywalk X, a thrilling walking tour around the outer rim.

The Grand Lisboa as seen from Macau Tower.

The Grand Lisboa as seen from Macau Tower.

That evening, we joined members of the Consular Corps to a dinner held in honour of the Chief Executive of Macau at the MGM Grand Hotel.

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The highlight of the 56th Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix was the finals on Sunday afternoon beginning 2:45pm. (The practice and qualifying races were held days prior to the weekend). That Sunday morning golfers had a chance to play at the Macao Golf & Country Club, while non-players were free – to sleep in, sight-see or shop, or head out to the tracks ahead of the finals.

Four Musketeers decided to head to Senado Square and did our fair bit of shopping, before returning to join the rest for lunch at Wynn Macao.

    The MGM Grand Macau’s golden panda points me the way to my fortune… FRIENDS!; The four Musketeers back from their swashbuckling... eerrr shopping spree for lunch.

The MGM Grand Macau’s golden panda points me the way to my fortune… FRIENDS!; The four Musketeers back from their swashbuckling… eerrr shopping spree for lunch.

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Around Wynn Macao.

There were obviously a lot of excitement and noise going to the racing circuit, said to be “one of the most demanding circuits in the world”. This is where motor sports enthusiasts gather to see national F3 champions and drivers from around the world; while for the F3 drivers, this is a stepping stone to advance to GP2 and F1 races, or so I read.

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For the uninitiated like yours truly, I went for the experience and company. I went, I heard, and I saw – the flag-off, Petronas, and Macau’s Chief Executive in attendance. I was just happy my hearing was still intact when all the lapses were completed.

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While the roar of the engines have fizzled into a distant memory, the friendship bonds among friends continue to flourish till this day.

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