A 3-bedroom apartment in Pearl on the Lough is the home of horseracing experts Jayne and Joe Lau. With a colour palate of blues, yellows and creams, a relaxed comfortable vibe has been created.
In the mid-80’s Jane Gordon was in England working as a ‘stable lass’ for a horse trainer in her home town of Malton in North Yorkshire. A keen traveler and explorer – she’d just spent 6 months working odd jobs in Greece – she was saving up to go on a working holiday to Australia. At the time, her boss at the stables had applied and been successful in getting a job in Macau as a trainer for the new Macau Jockey Club. He asked Jane, “do you want to come to Macau and work at the Jockey Club as a ‘work rider’, help us keep the horses exercised and fit for the racing?” “YES”, she answered immediately, “but where’s Macau?!”
She arrived as a young twenty-something in the heat of the summer in 1989. “July the first, I remember it well”, she says. “And my first day at work was a real shock to the system; there was no track! There were just many bulldozers working away at converting what was the track for the Macau Trotting Club to the flat race track we know today
The Macao Archives tell of an interesting history of racing in Macau: though difficult to state the precise date of the first racehorses in Macau, the city was definitely the first place in China to host this sport. In his diary, British trader and traveler Peter Mundy (1597–1667) wrote about witnessing a horse race in front of the Church of São Domingos, which was located somewhere close to Senado Square.
An 1829 edition of the English newspaper Canton Register writes about a horse race taking place in Macau and bringing “so much rational amusement”. Other records talk about the establishment of Macau Race Club in 1838, which created roots for the later creation of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The first official racecourse – known by the local community as Hipódromo – was inaugurated in 1927 in Hac Sa Wan (Areia Preta) area. However, it closed down in 1941, just right before the Pacific War. The field was then used to shelter refugees (from Hong Kong and China) where they built small wooden houses right on top of grass. The Macau Trotting Club was set up in Taipa in 1977. When the sport didn’t prove popular, in the summer of 1989 it was converted to flat racing. “The first race,” Jayne recalls, “I believe it was on 14 September 1989.”
“At the start Macau had 600 horses. Trainers were employed from all over the world – Ireland, France, USA, Australia, England, Sweden plus there were locals. The horse boxes only had fans; air conditioning was introduced later. There were little paddocks to exercise the horses in – a challenge getting them fit for racing with so little exercise space for them to trot and canter. Today the horses have much more room to exercise and they even have the option to go for a swim!”
“In those early days all the trainers brought with them their work riders and together with a few dog racing trainers it became one big family. There were hardly any other expats in Macau,” Jayne explains. “What I miss the most is the alfresco casual dining, I crave that. It was great fun, groups of 20 of us sitting outside and at night passing round the microphone for some karaoke – I miss those days.”
Jayne and Joe met that first year – coming from Malaysia he was a work rider for the Malaysian trainer. Over the years he worked himself up to Assistant Trainer and then got his trainers license – he continues to train today.
“We dated for 6 months, then decided to get married in Mauritius where neither had ever been but there’s a race course there and our best friends from England worked as horse trainers at the course. My friend offered to plan the wedding which we happily agreed to and we arrived and got married. We didn’t tell our parents as we knew that it would be too expensive for them to fly out, so we got married with just a wedding party of 8, wonderful, and then flew directly to England to celebrate with the family.”
The Lau’s first home in Macau was in O bin San Kan by the floating restaurant, and the Jockey Club coach would shuttle them to and from work. With the arrival of daughter Kimberley, now 30, working in Hong Kong in marketing and branding, and son Aaron, 27, in horse racing in Sydney Australia, Jayne stopped riding to concentrate on raising the family.
“Our second home was the Jockey Club accommodation at Pak Lok in Taipa,” the shabby, unpainted buildings a few minutes’ walk away from the race track. “We then moved to the brand-new Nova Taipa Garden; in those days rent was only $2,400 a month, but very soon this doubled to $5,000 and then doubled again to $10,000.”
The Lau’s then bought in Hillsville – “a duplex penthouse with massive terrace.” After 14 years there they sold, bought some property in England, and moved to Pearl on the Lough where they’ve been for the past 9 years. “We started in one of the 4-bedroom duplexes as we had the kids with us. Now they’ve moved away we’ve downsized to a 3-bedroom. We love it here. But everybody’s left. I go downstairs and no one is there these days. It’s sad; I’ve been in Macau for so long that I do feel this is my country but I no longer know anybody here.”
When asked how she would describe her interior décor style, Jayne answers with ease. “Bo Ho, Asian fusion. I’m inspired by Asian artistic influences that seep into my own art, my acrylic paintings and the decoupage work on the dim sum steam baskets.”
Pudding and Dumpling, the Lau’s 2 exotic shorthair cats, lounge on the caramel-leather sofas. Low stools, side table, rugs, ceiling light shades and baskets all in rattan, together with the large roughhewn wood coffee table (from an antique market in Zhuhai) and a window seat filled with deliciously textured throw cushions give a beachy bohemian vibe.
This is fused with an Asian flair in furniture and accessories. The dining table and high-backed Chinese-style dining chairs, a fret-work fronted Chinese cabinet, a pale wood altar table and side board and a Vietnamese-style standing light and shade are teamed with a standing Buddha and the serene face of a beautiful Buddha head on the dining room shelves, 2 Chinese-style horses next to the TV, 2 small Buddha heads on the coffee table.
The living room colour palate of blues, yellows, pale green, white and cream and slivers of red are introduced through artwork and artefacts; the large painting of a Buddha head in yellows and slivers of blue comes from Thailand. The blue and yellow birds, the green glass bottle in the dining room, a pair of yellow canisters on the blue hall table. A treasure everywhere one looks! On the walls are several paintings and a set of black and white framed photos from Vietnam. In the hall are 2 Macau-inspired paintings by Jayne – with of course yellow matting and black frames. A huge bowl of white orchids and a pot of ‘mother-in-law tongue’ give the finishing touch.
Off the living room is a good-sized balcony with hanging baskets overhead and a large BBQ grill. Ocean views look towards Hong Kong in the distance and these days has a bird’s eye view of the Pac On land reclamation and beyond, the new ‘fourth bridge’.
Moving to the master bedroom, an oasis of elegance and chic in its minimalistic black and white furniture and bedding. And what a stunning view – through the curved windows one looks on to the outer harbour and the skyline of Macau. The guest bedroom is similar in its minimalism, this time in whites and blues with a splash of tropical pink. This room doubles up as Jayne’s art studio, where she paints and makes charmingly decorative dim sum baskets.
What does Jayne do in her spare time? “I love walking and a favourite hangout of mine is the little milk-tea, sandwich and noodle shop near the Lai Chi Vun ship yards just outside Coloane Village. I often go there on my own. We find the village to be quiet and relaxing.” And these days, two of the ship yards have been restored as new cultural and heritage areas and are now open to the public.