Macau

Trip Start Oct 15, 2007
1
9
58
Trip End May 01, 2008


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Friday, October 19, 2007

After a full day in Fanling, we took the last ferry to Macau. Before we could get on the ferry, we had to go through customs and passport control. There was a huge line up and I was sure we weren't going to make the ferry. Luckily, everyone in the line up wasn't going to make the ferry so the departure time was flexible. We ran to the pier, which of course was the last one, and got on the boat. We weren't the last ones on so we had time to relax and get settled.

The ferry took about an hour and we could see the neon of the casinos lighting up the harbour and the night sky. Once again we had to go through passport control. I got a three month visa and Frits got just one month. Poor South Africans.

We went to Information and got maps and relevant bus routes to get us to the guest houses. We also asked about budget accommodation. It was well out of our budget and we decided to go to the place that I had called the night before and made a "reservation".

The bus through town took us past all of the casinos. It's a mini Las Vegas with all of the lights dancing at night. We got off at the square. A large cobble stoned area where people watching is the thing to do.

With our heavy packs we found the small street where the inexpensive guest houses were.

We walked right past the place where we had a "reservation" as it was dark and the sign tiny. We asked at the other hotels in the area and they were all full. Macau on a Friday night is busy. Finally we found the small guest house and walked up the treacherously steep stair case. The water pipe was the banister and there was a big chance of falling backwards down the stairs. The large pack on my back may have caused the topple but also would have cushioned the landing. But, there were no mishaps.

At the top of the stairs, an old man told us they were full. He  was the same person I spoke to on the phone. He spoke no English. I tried to explain that I had called the day before and made a reservation. He just said no and told us to come at 10 am the next day and look. That was the same thing he told me on the phone. I tried again and grandpa got testy. He told me that we had no reservation because we didn't pay him any money. We didn't get his website and there was no money. No money, no room. I wish he would have told me that the day before. I asked him where we could go and he pointed us around the corner.

Frits went around the corner to check the room and I waited in frustration. Grandpa was playing games on the computer and not noticing anything. Several other people came up the stairs and were told the same thing. Full. Frits came back and told me we had a room but not to get too excited.

We walked around the corner and towards the end of the small road. There were women of the night offering services of special massage or just a special hour. We went past them and up another scary staircase. A surly woman greeted us and her man showed us to our room.

It was the scariest room I had ever been in. I was afraid to touch anything for fear of unknown cooties. The bed was covered with a bamboo mat and we weren't sure if that was to keep off the dust or to be slept on. I had to sleep in my clothes and cover the pillows in sarongs. We were never sure if someone was going to come into the room.

First thing in the morning we were up and ready to get out of there. No showers were to be had in the disgusting shared bathroom.

It was still too early to check at the other place so we went in search of breakfast. Only a couple of street vendors were open and we tried one that wasn't selling unknown bits of meat. Our breakfast was delicious. Steamed rice paper rolls topped with dumplings and drizzled with vinegar, soy and sesame sauces.

We went back to the guest house slightly early to be first in line, but no one had checked out so they were still full. The hotel next door did have rooms available so we took the first room. Alicia was coming to meet us that night and we were happy to have a place with a bathroom and that was relatively disease free.

In the early afternoon, we went on a walk about town. Macau is well signed and it is easy to walk around and admire the architecture. The buildings left over from the colonial era were well maintained and brightly coloured. Many of the old churches are still in use.








We went for Portuguese food and I tried duck for the first time. Not as bad as I thought.

We walked towards the harbour but could only see the industrial area. Across the water was Shen Zhen, China. We also came across a new hotel that was under construction. It's a huge monstrosity that takes up most of the waterfront in the area.

Even with all of the signs and our tourist map, we still managed to find ourselves lost. As we were standing on a corner deciding which way to go, a guy came up to us and gave us directions.

In the evening, we went to pick up Alicia at the ferry terminal. I didn't realize that she was flying directly into Macau so I told her to take the ferry from the Hong Kong airport. Good thing we didn't make plans to meet at the airport. I would have gone to HK and she would have been in Macau. Another disaster averted, though she did get some strange looks when she asked about getting the ferry to Macau from the Macau airport. Fortunately, we found each other and made it back to the square without to much ado.

We had the same rice paper dumpling breakfast and just had to take Alicia to the coffee shop we found. : It was a small stand at one corner of the square. The owner was very friendly and had coffee flair. It was nice sitting in the sunshine and watching people and traffic go by.




We went to see some of the town's sights again and just enjoyed the slow pace as compared with HK. Our first stop was the China gate.
We took the bus to the end of the line and came up right at the China gate. From there, according to our map, Sun Yat Sen park was within walking distance. We thought we should go and see the park dedicated to one of the founding fathers of Taiwan. We found a park but it didn't seem like it was the right one. There was no statue of the good doctor and no name plaque at the entrance to the park. We kept walking, but found ourselves in the middle of industria with no park in sight. We continued to follow a main road and were back in civilization (there was a 7 eleven). We got lunch at a lunch box place and as we sat down, a guard came up and said hi to us. He was the guard at the dog track and he told us that we were welcome to go inside and have a look after we finished our lunch. We looked up at the sign and sure enough we were right at the dog track. It was on the map so we were not lost any more.

After lunch and the dog track, we went to find the Mong Ha fort. There was a long steep road that led to the culinary institute but we couldn't see the fort.  There was an eager and hyper kid that was playing on the playground. He came up to us and ran up the hill to the fort. We followed him wondering where he got all of his energy. There was a great view of the city from the fort.

Back at the square enjoying coffee, we asked for directions to the international movie festival. All the movies sounded really interesting and we were glad that we could see one. The directions seemed easy enough and after dinner we set off to try and find Portuguese consulate where the films were being shown. We walked around for over an hour trying every road, asking for directions, and having no idea of where we were. We finally gave up when we realized that we were more than 45 minutes late and would have missed most of the film even if we had found the venue. It was a disappointing night.

The next  day Alicia was to leave, she only came for the weekend, we went to see the A ma temple dedicated to the goddess of the water. It was packed with people and thick billows of incense clogged the air. The A ma temple is a large open air temple built on various levels. There were carvings and a traditional altar. Next to the temple was a maritime museum but we stuck to the outside.


Next on our list of attractions was the cybernetics fountain and Pen Ha Church. We walked up a very steep hill and came to a cross roads. We had a decision to make. Fountain or Church. Frits went to ask for directions from a guard monitoring a gated community. The guard was Nepalese. He had served in the British army and stayed on after they left. He told Frits that South Africa had won the rugby and that we could go to the cybernetics fountain from the church. What a wealth of information.

The church is a great place for wedding photos and we saw two couples dressed up and being moulded into position for their photos. The church was closed but the outside and the grounds were still impressive. We walked from the church down to the main road and past more colonial houses brightly coloured with yellows, blues, and creams. Once on the main road, we could see the Macau tower and the fountain. The fountain is probably more impressive at night when it is actually on there may or may not be a light show. We kept walking and got back to the square in no time. The area seems a lot larger than it is.

We took Alicia to the bus stop where the airport bus supposedly stops and waited for what seemed like ages. At the airport, we had to sort out our tickets to get to Hanoi and there were no problems with getting a flight. We were surprised to find that the fees and charges from Bangkok were actually more than the price of the ticket, so it turned out to be an expensive flight.

It was sad to see Alicia go.


Our last day in Macau we climbed up to the other fort. It was an adventure as the maps aren't too clear about where to go. We ended up walking through the hospital grounds and past the infectious disease unit. Hopefully they have everything contained. The fort is set on a hill and around the base of the hill is a huge exercise park. There were many people out for their morning constitutionals.

After the fort, we got our things and got ready to go to the airport. We waited for the bus. And waited. And waited. One of the bus stop signs had small print that said the bus to the airport was and experimental service and only runs from 4 pm. We needed to catch a cab and fast. It's not as easy as it looks to find a cab in Macau. Finally we flagged an empty cab down but had to wait for the walk light to cross the road. By the time the light turned a group of Chinese tourists were already climbing into the cab. The driver, however, told them to get out because he already had a fare. We were on our way.

We watched the meter climb and checked how much money we had left. Then we saw the note about the surcharge for going to the airport. The moments were tense and meter kept climbing. The cab pulled up to the gate and we had the exact change left. It was a moment of great relief, we had enough money. Days later, when looking through my stuff, I found plenty of Hong Kong dollars left over. Oops.
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