Published: November 26th 2011November 26th 2011
Bemvindo a Macau
Looks like a construction site to us...
As the perceptive amongst you might remember, we left our last blog with promises that we were off to Macau today. Well, we can deliver on that promise. We struggled out of bed comparatively early to the soupiest day we've seen yet and made our way down towards the Ferry terminal. Turned out to be the wrong ferry terminal, but that's okay. Tickets for the return trip to Macau cost about $30AUD, so pretty cheap. Due to Macau being another Special Administrative Region of China we had to go through Immigration there and back (score, more stamps for the passport!). The ferries are fairly large Catamarans - a bit like the Sydney Rivercats on steroids and 2 months hard workout - and they do the trip in about one hour. Right on the dot we disembarked and made our way through the arrivals hall, though 'arrivals shed' might be a better description. We had actually landed on Taipa, one of Macau's two main islands, although it's all connected to the main Macau peninsula by road. Funneled through, we emerged to where a mass of courtesy buses run by the many casinos wait to drag you (and more importantly your money) into
Classic colonial facade, and a wrecked car yard behind it...
Macau proper. Bemvindo a Macao indeed.
The public bus system on Macau is apparently a bit pov due to a massive shortage of drivers. You don't know when a bus will show up and when it finally does it's probably packed to the gills. So we followed the residents' lead and snuck onto one of the casino courtesy buses, as it's a cheap (read: free) way of getting into the city. Of course, it dropped us off right in the bowels of the Grand Lisboa casino to maximise the odds of us parting ways with our moolah. In something like Dante's Inferno, it truely felt like we'd dropped several layers into some kind of gaudy, slot machine-filled hell, inhabited by mostly bored looking Cantonese slouched protectively over slot machines.
Escaping upwards we emerged into a grey daylight that was hardly more inspiring. For the 'Asian Las Vegas' the streets are hardly paved with gold - seemed more like a combination of old tiles, grimed in dirt and crushed dreams. The Portugese influence is clearly there and stands out, but is well and truly overriden here and there by garish neon Cantonese advertising. But if Hong Kong feels like
City of God
Whatever it used to be it feels like a Favela now...
a vast gap between rich and poor, then in Macau a universe separates the two. Its like a fragmentation bomb blew half of Las Vegas into the middle of a Rio Favela. Everything that isn't a casino seems to be falling apart. The classic Portugese colours of beige toned yellow and aquamarine on cracked building facades are mixed in with grey grimy concrete across thousands of tin roofed, shabby apartment blocks. We climbed up towards the old Hill Fort and the ruins of St Paul's cathedral and this impression only sunk in further. The Casinos and a few newer buildings tower like vast shiny parasites sucking the life from a cityscape that seems drenched in poverty and fifty years of neglect.
We would have given a lot to see this place 50 years ago. Now Macau seems like a shadow of whatever it once was. Even that shadow is still having its lifeblood drained by the massive Casinos, which have essentially destroyed every other facet of the economy. We won't argue with the fact that there's an insane amount of money being made by the casinos, but it just doesn't look like ANY of it stays there.
Down the old streets
All the Portugese influence is still there...
facade of the old St Paul's was a quite impresive edifice. Standing before it, it looks quite imposing until you realise that the only section of the building still standing is that front face. The street up to it was so jammed with people it was like treading water uphill through a flood of humanity. Once you get there, the steps leading up are crammed with people taking photos and posing. Looming over this to the north is the hill where the fort and now the Museum of Macau is located. The Hill Fort was impressive, dominating the peninsular for kilometres in every direction, old 32 pounder cannons (built 1860) still trained every which way, as if to ward off an enemy which never materialises.
Having procured some Portuguese egg tarts (and avoidingthe shop that EVERY tourist seemed to have bought big boxes of goods from, as the shop's bag informed is they were 'Speacializing in Peanut Candy') we decided to call it a short day and head back for the ferry. We joined a very long line at our favourite casino, the Grand Lisboa, to wait for a taxi. The wait was long and in the main uneventful,
Definitely the name of the game in Macau
until an English family 3 ahead of us got into their cab. As the little girl was getting in it sounded like she's dropped something - the father had a look but couldn't see anything so let it go. We couldn't see anything either. As the taxi started to roll forward and drive off there was a loud bang; and before anyone could work out what was happening, Tess and the Japanese family behind her were suddenly covered in water! She'd dropped a drink bottle.
The taxi ride was SUPER cheap (as opposed to Osaka, ouch) and the ferry ride home fast but like an amusement park ride, the way we were pitching up and down in the big waves! After going through HK immigrtion again, we emerged on to the street for a few confused minutes until we realised that although the ferry had left from the Kowloon side inthe morning, it had dropped us on the Hong Kong Island side that evening and we were in fact on the wrong side of the harbour. As we walked to the piers, Aisha marvelled at the fact that after going to Macau he was actually relieved to be back
in Hong Kong! It's a strange thing.
By the time we got home, we were exhausted and starving, so we hit Hing Fat restuarant again for the best salt and pepper squid either of us have ever had, and some spicy Szechuan prawns and chicken. After a coconut-mango-sago-drink-dessert for Aisha (SO FREAKING GOOD), we had our earliest night yet in Hong Kong. We needed it!
Love Tess & Aisha
There are more photos below