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Cotai, Macao
Hello old friend, we meet again. I carry a lot of fond memories with you.

The last time I stepped foot in your land, I was a clueless seventeen-year-old girl who was so ecstatic of the idea of going out of the country without my parents. The first time I saw you, you were still in the process of blooming towards being contemporized, tower cranes and patches of reclamation was still in the works. The first time I walked in your paved stones, all I had in mind was to shop and make the most out of my time with my friends and the temporary semi-independence we all enjoyed.

Little did I know, there was so much about you that I failed to see. Somehow, I felt thankful to not have seen it because truthfully, I would not have appreciated your full essence at that age and stage of my life. Going back twelve years after, you've changed so much and the once bare patches of land have sprung massive and interesting structures that add definition to your being.

When we were planning our trip to Hong Kong we had two options of side trips: Hike the Dragon's Back or take the ferry to Macau and explore the famous neighbor of Hong Kong. Upon weighing our options and the limited time that we had, we decided to maximize the trip and see another country instead and hopefully opt for the hike on the next trip.
We took the ferry to Macau first thing in the morning via Cotai Jet. The terminal can be found in Sheung Wan and the great thing about Cotai Jet would be the generous amount of trips to Macau. We paid HKD 171 per person or about PHP 1,100++ for a one-way trip. For non-Macau residents, you would have to bring your Passport and or visa upon entry to the Macau port. If you are coming from Hong Kong, you might have to take note of the difference in the currency as well. Macau uses the Macanese Pataca which is almost the same amount if you convert it from HKD however, do note that majority if not all establishment in Macau accepts HKD as it is.
View outside the Macau Port Terminal
One of the great improvements from my last trip would be the numerous options for transportation. They do not have train lines yet so if you got used to traveling on a budget and have gotten used to the access of the train, Macau would be quite an adjustment for you. Needless to say, commuting on a budget should not be an issue since you are stepping foot at the Casino capital of Asia which means, lots of free shuttle buses from the Port to any point of the entertainment city. 
So why Macau? Most of you would probably wonder why a girl like me would go out of her way to cross this small country famous for Casinos, the ruins of St. Paul, and Egg tarts. The answer is quite simple, there is so much more about this place that the majority of its visitors have not seen yet.
Macau was once colonized by Portugal and the majority of its culture revolve around this trace. From architecture, color, planning, language, aesthetics, and the laid back life. More than the hovering heights and lights of the famous casino strip and the overly populated Senado square, Macau boasts a whole lot more - The Taipa Fishing Village and Coloane are just a few of the many options to look forward to visiting. Since I was traveling with two people visiting the place for the first time, I decided to balance the trip by introducing them to the famous spots in Macau and the more laid back side of the town. 
Illustration of Macau map from Mapsland
One thing Dennis and I have learned from our DIY trips, studying the map of the country or city ahead would be beneficial in plotting your daily activities. It's always great to know the different districts of the place and plot your desired places to visit according to zones.

Macau can be dissected into four main districts. The Macau Peninsula is where you would most likely be landing if you are crossing from Hong Kong via boat. Majority of the tourist attractions can be found in the Peninsula - The Ruins of St. Paul, Church of St. Joseph, Macau Museum of Art, Senado Square to name a few. Hotels like The MGM, Wynn, and Sands Macao are also found in the area. Taipa is known for its fishing culture, rich culinary offerings, and heritage houses and architecture. Cotai holds the Cotai Casino strip and major hotel chains like Ritz Carlton and Galaxy Macau. If you have more time to spare and would like to getaway from the bustle of the main areas, then Coloane is the district for you. Coloane is known to be the resort and coastal side of Macau.

For the benefit of those who wish to travel to Macau, I wish to share to you our day-trip itinerary. Since we practically covered a lot, I will be breaking down the blog entries into three parts, this being the first. I wish to talk about the developments from the last time I saw this place, particularly Cotai.

From the port located in the Macau Peninsula, we took the free shuttle bus to The Venetian in Cotai. The free shuttle buses are located at the parking area right outside the terminal. Our strategy was to start with the more contemporary and commercial side of Macau and go deeper into the smaller vignettes of the city afterward.
 The last time I was in Macau, the majority of the famous Casinos and hotels now were not built yet so the trip to this side of the city was also a new experience for me. We were welcomed by the grand embellishments found in the interior and exterior of the Venetian. As a designer, I admire the work put behind producing a place that would give a closer sense of Europe to those who wish to experience it even for just a tiny bit.
The fresco-like images at the ceiling designs of the Venetian are something to look up to and admire. The colors play a balance of pastel and warm colors to give enough emphasis and depth to each element of the space.
Architecturally, the Venetian is a good example of a Postmodern building. Somehow while observing the building, I got a strong impression of the Piazza D Italia in New Orleans by Charles Moore. The symmetry, the color, the Italian motif. But true to the elements of a Postmodern building, to name a specific style in the Architecture and Interior of this place is quite impossible. Traces of Gothic patterns, Renaissance themes, and the playfulness of Rococo is very evident in this building.

Image of Piazza D Italia from Flickr
Going around The Venetian gave me a serious look back at my Design History classes. I found it funny how the seemingly decoupaged motifs can be found in every corner of this place. I highly suggest those who are reviewing for the board exams to visit this place for a serious take on visual aids! Kidding aside, I had fun naming all the arches and different elements that I saw.
The clover-like pattern on found the tracery of the building is called a Quatrefoil; a common element of a Gothic building. Originally, traceries are mostly characterized as a framing for stained glass or glass work.
The Gothic lancet arch on top of a Corinthian column with rococo motifs - Three styles found in one spatial element. If I were to speak strictly in a more idealistic and purest form, this would definitely spark a lot of critique from design enthusiasts and academics. But if we look at it at the lens of a craftsman, a production designer, an artist, this is a good example of juxtaposition, balance, and a great play of imagination. Whichever way the viewer would look at it, the idea and the sense of query is one common phenomena that we will all share in experiencing this building.
We enjoyed the cold yet sunny breeze outdoors and even had a chance to take a bunch of group touristy photos. Thank you, tripod with Bluetooth remote for making these photos possible!
Right across the backside of the Venetian, this beautiful glass building is evidently but not greatly dwarfed by the tall superstructures around it. Designed by one of my revered architects Foster + Partners, the Apple Center Cotai greatly boasts of its great influence on Modernist design fundamentals where the translucent composite glass and stone fa├žade and bamboo landscape cohabit-ate and create a certain sense of authority and peace.
Natural light seeps through the glass curtain walls and serves as an envelope to the interior space. The whole store is very interactive and open-planned. The existentialist in me appreciated the rejection of ornaments and design redundancy. Almost like a gallery where the tangible elements play as art pieces, one would greatly appreciate the place not only for the products that are being sold inside but also the experience that the space creates for its users. 
My favorite part of the building would be the seamless approach on the staircase. It is a perfect balance utilizing hard finishes but giving it a soft and warm visual treatment.
Right beside the Apple Store building would be the City of Dreams compound. I had a specific goal in mind for this trip, set foot on another Zaha building.
Even when riding the bus, your eyes would definitely travel and pause at the sight of this building with a seeming punched diagrid envelope. Yes, pushing another border, Zaha Hadid Architects takes one for the game by giving another sublime theatrical and architectural experience through the design of The Morpheus found in the City of Dreams complex in Cotai.
We were welcomed by this surreal floating installation by French artist Charles Petillon. The permanent installation serves as a playful, almost dream like tunnel in the atrium of the mall that would eventually lead to the main lobby of the Morpheus.
Hovering and transitioning between multiple floors, the installation creates an interactive experience for the pedestrians as they are visually cued and led to go beyond the hall and discover what could be seen on the other side of the place.
The transition from the light, open space atrium to the dark and mysterious hallway was a strategic way to create a division from one area to the next. Performing as a tunnel, this hall was designed with a kinetic metal sculpture in the ceiling, reflecting and creating a play of light and shadow in the ceiling.
The Morpheous is the perfect example and throwback for everyone who went to Architecture and Interior Design school. Remember when they told you about not putting too much? Remember when they scolded you for your impractical design proposal and ended up trashing your plate after? I do. And everytime I step into a Zaha building, I always remember those times and scold myself for succumbing. I should have explored more, I should have done more studies to convey how we can make both ends meet in spatial and environmental design.
Majestic Future. This is what I thought of when I stepped foot on the main lobby of the Morpheus. I was transported to a set of a sci-fi movie, that's how it felt. Architecture and Interior Design has indeed taken a huge leap of faith in developing methods and technology for conceptualizing, developing methods of construction, and creating the blueprint to reality.
The concept was inculcated from the Ancient methods of sculpting and carving Jade. ZHA describes the Morpheous as the world's free form exoskeleton. Balancing the fundamentals of engineering and architecture, the building is the perfect example of the cohabitation of structural integrity and sculptural form.
 Awestruck as I was, I was glad to bring Dennis and Arbi in this building and give them a small taste of how Parametric Design, Coding, and Environmental Design can be combined and applied to create a structure that not only provide a new kind of experience but also challenge the bounds of Architecture and Design process.
After going around this lavish side of the country, we and our tummies felt that we already saw enough and was ready to take the road less traveled.

How much did we spend? Zero. How much did we experience? We enjoyed the contrast of architectural styles and textures of this side of Cotai.
On my next entry, I shall show you a more quaint side of Macau!

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