sexta-feira, 25 de outubro de 2019

It's Countdown Time for Macao: 2ª parte

Nota: continuação do post de ontem.
Artigo da edição de 16 de Setembro de 1990 do New York Times intitulado "It's Countdown Time for Macao" da autoria de Robert Elegant.
The prospect of Macao has altered radically. The central district is now palisaded with high-rise apartment and office buildings. A little lower than Hong Kong's spires, they are even more fancifully decorated. A Latin taste for lush adornment has drawn fanciful circles and scrolls over the lintels of the doors and windows of the new high-rises, which are obligatory for any state in East Asia seeking to demonstrate its go-ahead character.

The colors of the buildings - electric greens and blues splashed beside great blocks of pastel pinks and beiges - make the tiny territory look from a distance rather like a vast abstract painting. The effect is curiously enhanced by the abrupt appearance, as in a collage, among the high-rises of churches, forts and villas in the styles of centuries past.
A more modern neighborhood is, nonetheless, also a fly in amber. Officially the street - broad for cramped Macao - is called Conselheiro Ferrerira de Almeida. But the Macanese are proud of its other name: Restoration Row. Along that street stand old buildings snatched from the wreckers' hand and restored to their original dignity. Old in this case means the 1920's, that confident era when great private mansions were built with proud arches, carved pediments framing flat roofs, and high windows as well as interior courtyards. Those buildings now house the national archives, a library and the Education Department, but they are redolent of the spacious existence lived not so very long ago by the wealthy of Macao. Although the bronze statue of Joao Ferreira do Amaral, the governor who made Macao independent by driving out Chinese officials, still dominates the esplanade in front of the Lisboa Hotel, the returning Chinese rulers have, not remarkably, given notice that the monument will come down when they take over.
Behind that doomed hidalgo rears the lemon yellow hotel, crowned by a great globe studded with luminous spikes. The Lisboa, built in the 1960's, was the first of the modern hotels. It presents Macao's most extravagant cabaret, modeled on the strip shows of the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris. The showgirls are all Australian, American and European Caucasians with not an Asian among them, which says something about the extracurricular taste of the overwhelmingly Asian and male audiences.
The center of the Lisboa is the two-story casino, one of the six authorized in Macao. In addition to the eight ways to lose money in casinos, including one-armed bandits, here called ''hungry tigers,'' there is jai alai, greyhound racing, horse racing and, once a year, the Macao Grand Prix, which attracts drivers and bettors from all over Asia.
The gamblers, who today contribute a third of Macao's gross domestic product of about $3 billion, will still be the chief source of revenue in 1999. If, of course, the puritanical Chinese authorities allow gambling, which they officially abhor as a debilitating national vice.
For tourists and gamblers a half-dozen hotels are rising to supplement the 3,000-odd rooms now available. The most optimistic project, ''a luxury five-star hotel,'' costing almost $60 million, is scheduled to open at Black Sands Bay on the island of Coloane in April 1992.
The Society for Tourism and Diversion, which controls not only gambling, but also all access to Macao, is building the resort hotel in association with a Japanese firm. Yet six large villas still stand unsold and vacant on the bluff overlooking neighboring Bamboo Bay. The asking price is Macao patacas 500,000 (about $63,000), almost a giveaway. Memories of the massacre in Beijing's Tiananmen Square a year and a half ago are still very strong.
Despite development of beach villas and hotels, all blessedly on a small scale, Coloane still has a bucolic air. The island is only 2.8 square miles in all, but, somehow, feels spacious as well as rural and serene. It also presents a curious religious melange. In the small Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, the bones of his right arm are on display. The nearby Tam Kung Temple exhibits a four-foot-long whalebone carved into a dragon boat like those that race once a year to commemorate the suicide of Chu Yuan, a revered prime minister who lived before Christ.
About 50 acres of Coloane are devoted to aviaries and botanical gardens. Like the old gentlemen strolling along the Esplanade to give their pet birds in their bamboo cages an airing, those gardens smack of an earlier and less frenetic day. In the walk-in aviaries one sees the great variety of birds who still survive the pressure of humanity in booming Asia, including the Palawan peacock and the crested white pheasant.
Coloane is like that, one of the few places where one can easily get away from the unabating tumult and raw ambition that accompany Asia's emergence as a major economic power. One past excellence is, however, preserved everywhere Chinese live, except, sadly, in mainland China itself: good food. By comparison with its bigger neighbor, Hong Kong, Macao is not particularly distinguished for its cuisine. But considered alone and unshadowed by Hong Kong, its restaurants are very good.
The Fat Siu Lau, Portuguese despite its Chinese name, serves excellent roast squab, as well as powerful peasant stews of beans and meats. At a half-dozen restaurants the seafood, all locally caught, is excellent, and the prices are superb: clawless lobster (langoustine) for $8 to $10; great bowls of shrimp for $6 to $8; and, say, $8 for an American sirloin steak. Robust Portuguese wines are also extremely reasonable.
The best all-around eating I found was at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel - Chinese and Continental restaurants are complemented by the ingenious cuisine of the Cafe Girasol (Sunflower). Half a dozen Asian cuisines, and half a dozen European, are combined by the chef, whose splendid Sunday brunch buffet is $13 a head.
One dinner at The Dynasty began with an extraordinary dish that displayed the almost infinite adaptability of Chinese cuisine: sharks fins in a sauce of cream and vodka with caviar. Another was a classic called ''fried milk'': egg white and cream with crab meat and crab coral that is soft as velvet on the tongue.
The subtle Cantonese cuisine, of course, dominates the local restaurants. But there are also restaurants specializing in Japanese, Korean, Italian, Shanghai and Vietnamese food. Also, inevitably, McDonald's.
The big arch of the Barrier Gage, which separates Macao from China, was once guarded by splendidly erect black soldiers from Angola. Today there are no guards on the Portuguese side. Travelers come and go subject only to normal immigration and customs checks.
The chief peril is now the constant procession of yellow Nissan dump trucks roaring across the border loaded with construction material for China, where labor-short Macao is building factories. The snarl of their exhausts may be a paean of hope that Macao will endure after 1999, altered but still, somehow, the same with the lotus-eaters in its resorts besieging its casinos by night.
Where to stay, eat or gamble
Rates at these first-class hotels include taxes. 
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Avenida da Amizade; telephone 567-888. A pleasant modern hotel, tastefully furnished, with a view of the bridge to Taipa; 438 rooms, with doubles from $147.
Pousada de Sao Tiago, Avenida da Republica, Fortaleza de Sao Tiago da Barra; 78111. A centuries-old renovated fortress full of atmosphere; 23 rooms, doubles from $192.
Hotel Lisboa, Avenida da Amizade; 577666. 750 rooms. A big, modern hotel; doubles from $95.
Macao Casino, in the Lisboa Hotel, Avenida da Amizade. The largest casino in Macao, open 24 hours.
Floating Casino, Rua das Lorchas. On a boat on the inner harbor.
Jai Alai Casino, Palacio de Pelota Basca, Porto Exterior. On the outer harbor near the ferry terminal. Open 24 hours.
These are some of Macao's better restaurants. Prices include 10 percent government and 5 percent service taxes.
Fat Siu Lau, 64 Rua da Felicidade; 573585. Portuguese dishes from $7. Dynasty, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Avenida da Amizade; 567888. Mandarin Chinese dishes, with dim sum from $3.50, main courses from $13. The Grill, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. International cuisine, with soups from $4, main courses from $23. At the Cafe Girasol in the same hotel, the menu is an eclectic mix; all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch is $15. Grill Fortaleza, Pousada de Sao Tiago, Avenida da Republica, Fortaleza de Sao Tiago da Barra; 78111. Portuguese dishes from $15.
Macao Government Tourist Office, 1 Travessa do Paiva

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