MacauTripping Chapter 9 - Heroes
If returning to Macau after 9 years away is a banana split, meeting the great Linolens is the whip cream, the hot fudge, the nuts and the cherry.
I became aware of Lino's amazing photography via an email tip from Hunter. I spent hours pouring over images on his website - agog at the insanity that is Cotai and marveling at the true artistry with which Linolens captured it.
By now, we've all seen tons of footage shot by UAV/drones wherein they zip up around and over buildings, giving us ground dwellers access to new angles of view. Most of these videographers are gadget hobbyists. Linolens, on the other hand, is an artist. His UAV photography demonstrates a true understanding of light, speed, shapes, time and most importantly - the drama and sensuality inherent in a high flying architectural striptease. Lino is the Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Iwan Baan and Larry Flynt of casino porn.
I'm a fan. A big fan. A panty-dampening, weak-kneed, blushing teenager of a fan.
We made plans to meet Lino at The Roadhouse Macau, an American-style blues, brews and booze bar located at The Broadway, steps away from Galaxy.
Lino promises that we're going to have a fun evening... enjoying some beers, seeing the lights of Macau and sharing a meal. I pack up my stuff and depart from my room at Galaxy and head towards The Broadway.
The Broadway is a newly renovated hotel/casino/entertainment promenade that used to be called Galaxy Grand Waldo. Unlike Galaxy, which buzzes in every corner with excitement, The Broadway is quiet and devoid of activity. The interiors look underdesigned and uninhabited, at least until I found this:
Wow. Ain't that something.
The down escalator spills out right next to The Roadhouse Macau.
I recognize those guys!
I wander in to find Hunter, John and Lino sinking beers and chatting. Lino offers a handshake, I give him a hug. I'm a hugger. Almost everybody loves hugs.
We hang out at the bar for a few rounds, with Lino sharing details about his history in Macau, architecture, UAV photography and quick deep dives into the machinations of the Macau casino industry. The conversation is effortless, bubbly and thought-provoking... four casino nerds, nerding out - Macau style.
After catching a suitable buzz, we hop in Lino's gorgeous electric blue Lexus SUV and embark on a truly epic drive all over Macau. From Cotai to Coloane to Cotai to Taipa to Downtown Macau to north Macau to Taipa to Cotai to Coloane and back. I've attempted to retrace the route of The Linolens Grand Prix Macau 2016. This is a rough approximation, we doubled and tripled back to get better angles of stuff multiple times.
We departed Broadway and headed south towards Coloane, passing the Gary Loveman Memorial Golf Course that Caesars Entertainment bought in Macau. Caesars hoped that they'd be able to parlay the land purchase into a casino concession or a joint venture with an existing concession holder. It didn't work. We circled back west to take a closer look at the Louis XIII casino project - described by builders to be the most expensive and luxurious casino resort hotel in the world.
We buzzed north from there, back towards Broadway then turned west down Avenida Cotai, peeping the rear entrances of Parisian and Studio City as Lino played oddsmaker, handicapping future casino openings in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
We headed north on The Cotai Strip™ and took a right on Avenida de Prosperidade - the driveway to Wynn Palace Cotai. From there, things got really interesting.
We circled the front of Wynn Palace, then headed south, passing MGM Cotai before heading east.
We stopped at the south eastern corner of the Wynn Palace parcel. This is where the future phase II of Wynn Palace (code named Wynn Diamond) will be built. You can see tons of construction work still being done here on the exterior of the casino podium.
We continued circling Wynn Palace, encountering a gaggle of construction workers who just finished their shifts.
I asked Lino if there have been a lot of injuries to construction workers during the Cotai construction boom. He let out a combination grunt/laugh and said... "Yes." According to the Macau Business Daily, the number of construction injuries and deaths has risen steadily since the construction boom began.
Then Lino makes a hard left turn and drives us onto the Wynn Palace work site.
We drive through a portion of the site, dodging swarms of workers, then turn around and head back... parking by what will eventually become the rear porte cochere.
Detail of design components yet to be installed... a bird? A big red Wynn crest?
Eventually a security guy gets off his chair and starts to walk towards the car... Lino shouts "relax man, we're on the street, this is public property." We pull away and continue circling Wynn Palace.
This is the north side of the porte cochere and parking garage.
We head west across the Cotai, and are given a quick peek at the back of the Zaha Hadid designed hotel tower that is currently under construction at City of Dreams.
Lino calls the design "beautiful" and I wholeheartedly agree. This tower is a breathtakingly gorgeous piece of architecture, made even more poignant since the architect died suddenly early this year. Check out the renderings and fly through video on Ms. Hadid's portfolio website.... amazing. There is no word yet what this hotel tower will be named or branded, I have a hunch it might just be called "City of Dreams."
We make a right at the Galaxy and pass the Macau Jockey Club and the Roosevelt Hotel project before hopping on the Nam Van Bridge towards the peninsula. All along the way Lino points out the outrageous skyscrapers that have been sprouting up in Nanping, China over the last 5 years - banks, office buildings, hotels and apartment buildings.
View of downtown over Nam Van Lake from beneath the Macau-Taipa Bridge.
After quickly traversing the peninsula, we head north and pass between Sands Macao (left) and the oddly designed Harborview Hotel (right) inside of Fishermans Wharf.
We head north towards the Zhuhai border gate then swoop back towards Taipa via the Friendship Bridge and eventually back onto Cotai. We pass Wynn Palace again, then end up outside of SJM's Grand Lisboa Palace which is scheduled to open in 2017 with a hotel designed by Karl Lagerfeld.
We're making our way towards Lino's favorite Portuguese restaurant Miramar, which is located on the beach in Coloane. While heading that way we come across a giant facade design test for Grand Lisboa Palace.
Before engaging in massive construction projects, builders often construct scale versions of components to the resort and place them outdoors to see how different colors and shapes look in real world lighting. I happened across a glass curtain wall test for what I believe was Encore Las Vegas in the Silverton's parking lot once. I love this stuff.
On the way towards Miramar, Lino takes a detour and drives up to the top of Alto de Coloane park where the statue of A-Ma is located. He hops out of the car and starts hiking up the hill saying that there is a great photo spot at the top of the hill. Lino, a student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is in great shape and is as acclimated to Macau's heat and humidity as one can be. Me, well... I am none of those things. Hunter and John head off to sample the park's restroom facilities as I struggle to keep up with Lino as he darts up the mountain, eventually making it up to the top - huffing and puffing.
This is a statue built to honor the goddess A-Ma, from whom Macau got its name. A-Ma is the Taoist goddess who protects seafarers.
This is the Bay of A-Ma, which translated to Chinese is 'A-ma gao'. The Portuguese used their own phonetic transliteration of the Chinese name when referring to the area they settled - Macao. This is how Macau got its name.
And boy, was Lino right about that view or what?
Scroll right to explore the crude (but effective) panoramic photo I cropped together.
I wander over to talk to John and he's standing in front of the statue doing a video call, sharing this amazing spot with his Mom who is on the other side of the planet. I popped my head into the frame and said hi. She likes my big grey beard. I think I made a Game of Thrones joke.
We head back down to the car and drive through the winding forest roads of Coloane and pull into the gravel parking lot of Miramar. Immediately, I feel as if I've been transported to a funky, tropical, beachside resort. The trees that line the perimeter of the restaurant are wrapped in LED color-changing rope lights, lazy Brazilian samba music provides subtle counterpoint to a din of klinking dinnerware and hearty conversation. The bustling staff hustles to take orders and deliver food and drinks to the packed dining room and open air patio. This is the kind of place you come to when you want to get lost.
On the way into the restaurant, Hunter leans in to John and I and says "there's no way we're going to let him pay for dinner. We gotta stand together on this." Hunter is obviously referring to the incredible generosity Lino has showed us by driving us all over Macau, sharing his insight, his detailed knowledge and being a truly super guy. We agree that the least we can do is pay for dinner.
We sit down at a reserved table on the patio, close enough to spy a dessert case that is chock full of cakes, cookies, pastries and pies that look delicious and authentic.
This is the real stuff.
Lino commandeers a passing waitress and organizes drinks. He also makes suggestions about what is good on the menu. Me, John and Hunter surrender without question and let him order for the table. I challenge Lino to a "dessert off" - whatever that means. We talk about life, fun, food, Macau and of course, architecture and the casino business... at least until the food arrives.
The first dish is "Chef Style Clams" in a garlic veloute sauce. We proceed to slurp, dip and guzzle as much of the delectable food and sauce as possible. We make jokes about drinking glasses of gravy. The next dish arrives, a codfish fried rice. Its deliciousness was made even more delicious by pouring the clam gravy on it. A final dish arrives - a white bean stew that was also exploding with flavor - and then a round of dessert and coffee.
We ate, we talked, we laughed, we shared stories like a bunch of old friends.
Hunter went to the "restroom" but instead went inside and paid the bill. By the time he returned, Lino figured out our bill paying plan. He got up, went inside and demanded that the owner (whom he knows) void our charge and allow him to pay the bill. Threats (good natured) may have been made. Lino repeatedly said "you are my guests here, mi casa es su casa." Lino's incredible generosity blows the three of us away. Epic.
We hop back in Lino's hot rod and see a few more sights - the original Lord Stowe's bakery in Coloane, the black sand beach, a woman who doesn't know how to park, a prison, a police roadblock, packs of wild dogs, the biggest hotel in China, a panda exhibit and the building where he lives. Eventually, we say goodbye and Lino drops me and John off at Galaxy and drives Hunter to Grand Hyatt.
Another amazing day in Macau, spent with an amazing guy. Thank you Lino. Hi Brutus.