Rock-ing in Macau

Normally speaking we are not the best planners when it comes to holidays and most of our holidays have been planned at the very last minute. This time however going by our disappointment during the Christmas holiday period, we planned our trip to Macau more than a month in advance. But honestly travelling from HK to Macau requires no great planning. All we had to do was decide on what we wanted to see/do in Macau and then we booked the hotel and activity package accordingly. We had a simple 2-point agenda.
Initially the boys were not very sure whether a holiday to Macau was a good idea specially since that meant giving up their I-pad and PS3 that weekend, but by the time we were all packed and ready to leave they were all excited! They had packed their own little bag with their Ben10 aliens, buses, cars and UNO cards and were looking forward to their holiday. Soon we were on our way to the Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan. Getting tickets for the ferry to go to Macau from Hong Kong is quite easy as there is one leaving every 10 minutes or less with travel agents offering last minute discounts on the fare. The whole immigration process is fairly simple and fast and hardly within 15 minutes of us reaching the terminal, we were in the ferry ready for our journey ahead. We had taken window seats wanting to experience the thrill of the entire journey in the TurboJET ferry. But the novices that we were we did not realise that the journey by the window seat at the far end of the boat would do no good for our weak tummies. The first two waves were fun as we roller coasted our way ahead but then sea sickness took over and my husband tried to manage one sick person after another, tearing the seals off the vomit bags just in case. We then changed our seats to the middle section leaving the windows for others to experience. The rest of the journey was spent trying to doze off and thankfully within an hour we were in Macau.
In the ferry
After going through the Immigration process once again, this time standing in long queues, we made our way towards the exit looking for our hotel coach. We had booked a great hotel and show package with the Hard Rock Hotel which is located on the Cotai coast. The ride to the hotel in the luxury coach was quite smooth and the boys keeping themselves busy, allowed my mind to firm up our plans for the day.

As I stepped down from the bus, I was awed by the display and grandeur that becomes an essential part of any gambling mecca. Hard Rock Hotel is a part of the City of Dreams group along with other brands like the Grand Hyatt, Macau and Crown Towers. After I came to terms with the lavish display outside which included a sparkling red limousine, we stepped inside the main lobby which was even grander with its impressive chandeliers, architecture and this massive wall video display of the images of mermaids and other aquatic creatures behind a curtain of waterfalls. It was beautiful and mesmerising and there were so many tourists like me who couldn't stop gaping or taking pictures. The check-in process was smooth and the staff very friendly after which we proceeded to our room. The boys were super excited at having to spend a night in a hotel and started checking out everything in the room. They looked so awestruck one would wonder if they had ever stepped out from their village homes all their lives! "This is so cool!" "This is my bed!" Suddenly my 8-year old who was fiddling with the T.V. remote exclaimed, "Oh my God Mummy look they know your name," as the personalized Welcome to Hard Rock Hotel Mrs. Turel came up on screen. I hadn't finished laughing at his innocent comment when up came the next one "Mummy look ...a microwave!" I looked doubtful and went to see what he was pointing to. It turned out to be the safe! To top it my elder son immediately started fiddling with it and opened it trying to show how smart he was to his sibling. The first important thing that he locked up inside was his room key that we had entrusted him with!
Trying to open the 'microwave'

After relaxing just a bit we headed down for our meal. One look at the Hard Rock cafe and our choice was made. Crayons and a kids menu, unlimited balloons to play with, what more could we ask for? We had a snack-y lunch with pizzas, sandwiches and spring rolls but before we could even finish our last bite, the kids ran out to the large indoor play area called Kids Land. It has an entrance fee attached but as hotel guests we got a good discount. The play area is quite big and had 3 long slides, a video games section and a separate play area for the little toddlers, enough to keep kids busy for an hour or two. There was this one red almost vertical slide that we encouraged my elder son to try out and though he would go all the way on the top, he would get the jitters and back out. Finally when it was almost time to leave he tried it out and then repeat after repeat followed till we had to physically drag him out!

The House of Dancing Water show was due to start at 5:00 pm and while we were standing at the entrance the boys suddenly decided that they did not want to keep their balloons anymore and tried to push them down the rubbish bins. Tough luck! That's when they decided to burst them. So in the middle of this huge crowd that had gathered, there were two very loud, very audible pops with shocked people staring at us! Thankfully the doors opened soon and we quickly walked in. The show started on time, I got out the snacks and then relaxed on my comfortable seat. I was a bit tired by then and had a hard time staying awake despite the brilliant performances. There were acrobats, gymnasts, bike riders and a story weaved through them all. The most daring performance I think was when the gymnasts jumped down from a great height maybe almost as high as a 5-storied building! My 4-year old was most entranced by the show and wanted to follow the story so kept asking me questions. "Are they bad people?" "Has the girl died?" "Where did the water go?" He liked the part when the 'witch' was finally trapped. In fact the evil witch was the highlight of the whole show for him and I thank her for keeping him entertained. For me the show was o.k. compared to all the rare reviews that I had heard. Sometimes when you are really looking forward to something and expect a lot you are bound to be disappointed so while the show was good that's what happened here.

Post the show we went hunting for food. On the way we stopped at a D.C. Comics store where my husband did his best to impress the kids with the Superman and Batman mannequins, but no prizes for guessing who was the most excited of them all? After taking some photographs we left the store and continued our search for a nice, friendly restaurant. We walked all the way to Crown Towers and back finding nothing that suited the kids, back to Hard Rock where we finally settled ourselves in a causal lounge near their reception. It was a quiet place at that time of the day and the boys got what they wanted - spaghetti bolognaise and chips! My husband and I had planned to do dinner out separately and we had booked a baby sitter to come in that night. This was the very first time that we were having a sitter in a hotel during a holiday so I was a bit hesitant but the kids seemed quite relaxed so I gave in to the temptation! Post their dinner we quickly ushered them back to the room and without a fuss they were all changed, brushed and in bed. My elder one with the Kindle and the younger one watching a cartoon movie on TV. I took a quick shower before changing into my 'evening attire' i.e. the same jeans with a different top! Hubby didn't even bother to do that as he walked out wearing the same clothes. 11 years of marriage, what can you expect! Baby sitter arrived on time, instructions given, numbers exchanged. She was a sweet girl from the Housekeeping staff and made me feel very comfortable and at ease. We said quick good byes to the boys who barely looked up as we stepped out.

We were quite tired and did not want to venture out of the hotel. Surprisingly it was a cold night and I felt quite smug indoors. So we explored all three hotels once again starting from Crown Towers to the Hyatt and back to Hard Rock. Though Macau is synonym to casinos both of us take no pleasure in gambling. We might have thought about it just to use the 100$ voucher that was offered complimentary as part of the hotel package, but since we left it in our room, we couldn't be bothered to go back for it. Instead we came upon the same Hard Rock cafe where we had had lunch. With the live band playing and rock music from the 80s our decision was made. We got an excellent table right up front near the stage. The staff was very friendly, specially our waitress who made us feel very comfortable. I still can't forget the look on her face when my husband ordered a full portion of spare ribs for himself. "Our portions are very big Sir," she stated showing us the rough size of the platter using her hands. "I don't think you could finish it. Maybe half a portion is better." My husband who was indecisive so far took up the challenge and ordered a full one right away! The food was delicious, the cocktails heady and soon we were swooning to the music. About the spare ribs, they were slowly and systematically eaten from one end to the other, save a very small portion, maybe a rib or two. "I can easily finish that but I don't want to overeat," I heard!

At Hard Rock cafe

By 11 pm when the band took a break we were done with our food and ready to leave. When we came back to our room both the boys were fast asleep and our very kind baby sitter had tidied up the room and made the beds for added bonus! I slept like a log that night and had my son not woken me up the next morning would have slept in for another hour or so. Next morning I was awakened by the hotel radio alarm who seemed to be quite determined in getting us all out of bed. I put it on snooze but half in my sleep did not know how to turn it off. I finally gave up after the third ring. It wasn't too early in any case and we needed to be ready for the buffet breakfast which ended at 10:30 am. There was a lot of excitement again to use the bath tub and both the boys had a nice splashing session before we could all finally be ready to check-out. To our luck, the breakfast place turned out to be the same Hard Rock cafe where we had lunched and dined yesterday! Breakfast was quite ok, some of the things like cereal and muffins did not look too fresh, I guess I had an overdoze of that place! Post breakfast we checked out, left our bags at the reception and went to the Venetian to see the second reason for our visit - The Titanic exhibition.

'Inside' the Titanic
The Venetian was right opposite the road and we were there in about 5 minutes, it is the walk inside the hotel to the exhibition that was quite long. After about 20-25 minutes we finally reached the exhibitions. Thankfully both were just next to each other. We bought a combo ticket for both. My elder son was most excited about The Titanic one and started exploring it himself. It was quite impressive with several parts of the exhibition area being converted into parts of the actual ship. So one could actually be a part of boarding the ship, sailing it and then watch it sink. You could also walk through  the first and second class hallway and rooms and get a feel. Although the second and third class rooms looked pretty basic and cramped they were much better than their counterparts on other ships. One could also walk through the verandah and see the starry sky, or stand on the grand staircase and get a family photograph clicked! There were artifacts on display, letters and post cards written by some passengers and profiles, stories and fates of some of the first class passengers. I specially enjoyed reading one such story of a lady who sitting in one of the life boats was quite determined to save the others who were drowning and amid many protests made sure that they turned around. But most boats with less than half filled capacities did not return and left their co-passengers to their fate. It was very interesting, almost like someone is narrating a tale and my husband and I started talking about it, explaining the Titanic and the disaster that she met to my younger son, who to my surprise got very interested specially when we came to the iceberg part. Here a big block of ice in the shape of an iceberg was kept on display at 2 deg Celsius and the visitors were encouraged to touch it to get a feel of how icy cold the water was that night. After that there was no looking back as my son moved from one display to the other asking questions and giving his own cute reasons and version of what happened to the gigantic ship. He was specially intrigued by the Captain of the ship who was sailing the ship at full speed, trying to create a record and who post the accident refused to believe that there was real trouble wasting crucial time that could have saved a thousand lives! Towards the end there was some interesting information given on how Titanic's wreck was discovered some 20 years post the accident and it's state today. The entire exhibition can easily take up an hour or more depending on interest and fatigue. We did need a break after that and thankfully there was a small stall selling water and snacks that we sat down for before going for the next one. Meanwhile my younger son kept trying to remember the new word he had learnt iceberg and kept asking us to repeat it every five minutes. "Titanic crashed against the ...."what was that word again Mummy?" 

The Human Body show was a great educational experience too. Divided into the skeletal  muscular, respiratory, nerves, digestive, circulatory and reproductive system sections, it takes one through the human body journey which comes real through the various dissections used. Besides the displays look quite real and scary but the kids happily posed with them for me. Later on I read that the organs used for dissection and display were real and the exhibition was in some kind of a controversy over that. All said and done it was fascinating to see what happens inside our bodies and I was specially impressed with the smokers' lungs display showing the kind of damage that cigarette smoking could cause to our lungs. I just wish that we could have had a longer break in between these two very informative exhibitions as it got very tiring towards the end and I had to skip the last two sections since my younger son wanted to leave.

We had a long walk ahead of us and took a lunch break at the food plaza of Venetian. Not a good idea though as a very greasy and almost stale pizza was what we chose. Back at our hotel we headed for the very last thing to-do on our list, something which wasn't there on our original list but got added since it was a part of our package - The Dragon's Treasure show. This all-standing, multimedia show was quite nice with all the special effects and sound effects provided. My view is that it could have been shorter as standing for a full 20 minutes with your head raised and rolling can be quite tiring or they should make seating arrangements. That done, we headed straight for our bags and then back to the ferry terminal in the shuttle bus. All I wanted to do now is rest my back and put my feet up! At the terminal while we were trying to locate the ticket booth to buy our tickets when we were approached by a local Chinese man who was trying to sell off the 4 tickets that he had. He seemed to be in a massive hurry and using some gestures and broken English he tried to make us understand that we need to hurry. He seemed very eager to sell his tickets which would get wasted otherwise I think and gave us a good deal. Before we knew we were sitting in the ferry, this time right in the middle of the boat like experienced sea-men! We hardly felt the boat rocking this time so there was no need to keep the vomit bags ready, though I had spotted them from the corner of my eye.....just in case!
Just outside our hotel

By 7:00 pm we were back in HK and by now I was craving for some home made food and the boys craving for their 'toys.' So we went straight home where I headed into the kitchen and the boys attacked their PS3 and I pad. Though I am not very fond of their 'toys', it is so easy to keep them occupied while you want to get something done. Wonder why I resisted these gizmos during their toddler years when in a similar situation I would be pulling my hair out trying to keep them from wailing and getting my work done! 30 minutes later I had piping hot and delicious dhandar (yellow dal and rice) ready that we devoured with some home-made  carrot achaar (pickle). That done we finished our night ritual of washing up, changing and brushing and I took the boys straight to bed. After our good-night cuddles just before he closed his eyes, my younger son sat up in bed and with a very serious look asked me "Titanic crashed against what Mummy?"

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