Sipping port in Macau
A reluctant visitor on a work trip to Macau, nicknamed the “Las Vegas of the East”, I had imagined an expanse of hotels, casinos and bright lights. And I did find that. My most striking memory is of the sweet voice of a Filipino singer, rowing a gondola in a fake canal, in a fake Venice, under a fake sky inside a hotel. There was a certain charm to the excess—it boggled the mind.
But I was surprised to discover another side to the city. On a morning stroll through Lou Lim Ieoc Garden, laid out like the famous Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou, China, I found groups of people practising Tai chi and the fan dance. At the Procession of Our Lord of Passos in Macau’s old town, I got a glimpse of the city’s Portuguese influences. And these two sides, Chinese and Portuguese, came together in the meals I had. The mixed ancestry reflecting as much in simple fried rice with peppers and olives as in a dish called African chicken, which is marinated for 24 hours.
My guide introduced me to another local tradition—sipping on a small glass of Portuguese port wine after a meal. I’d had port wine once or twice before, in Goa, and found it unpleasantly sweet. Trying it in Macau, I found it to be sweet, but also smooth and subtle. More than that, it was an indicator of the many ways in which modern Macau retains its twin histories. I brought back a bottle with me.
About 10 months after the visit, having made it last as long as I could, I finished it recently. Each sip, a reminder of the surprises travel holds.
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