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Published: June 26th 2017
It was going to be a hot one. The weather forecast advised an average of 21ºC today. Chris and Roisin had decided to travel to Macau just to experience what all the fuss is about.
Macau is, along with Hong Kong, one of China's two special administrative regions. It lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering Guangdong province to the north and facing the South China Sea to the east and south. It takes about an hour on the ferry. First Chris and Roisin had to fathom out how to get from the hotel on Lantau Island to the Macau ferry terminal on Kowloon. It couldn't have been easier. The Novotel City Gate hotel backs on to a shopping outlet centre that is adjoined to the train station. Roisin had read about an octopus card.This acts in the same way as an oyster card for the transport. It is a pre paid card that you use for moving around on the public transport system. Moreover, it is also possible to buy stuff at shops that show the octopus card sign.
In Hong Kong, all signs are in Cantonese and English so getting to the station
was a piece of cake. 80%!o(MISSING)f residents in Hong Kong speak English. Both the signs and the english speaking bit are throwbacks from the English Governance that ended in 1997. As the Chinese knew they were on to a good thing, they left well alone. On first comparison from Chris's last visit in 1996, there is no evidence that Hong Kong is now ultimately governed by China. In fact, if anything, Hong Kong appears to have become more prosperous. After all, it's a well known fact that Hong Kong has more Rolls Royces per person than anywhere else in the world!!
With Octopus cards in hand Chris and Roisin set about heading for Tsing Sha Tsui station, the nearest stop to the Macau Ferry terminal. The train they needed was going to Hung Hom
and had come from Long Ping.
I'm telling you, the jokes just keep writing themselves!!!
The Octopus card came with a 5 page booklet on how to use it (In English of couse). What caught Roisin's eye was the instruction on how to use the card that stated '…to wait for a dood sound.'
Just remind me what a dood sound, sounds
like! A ding, a dong and even a ping, I can cope with…but a dood?? On first holding the card against the electronic pad, Chris said aloud, ‘Oh, that's what a dood sounds like!!'
On arrival at Tsing Sha Tsui, Roisin spotted a luggage shop on the concourse. As they entered, the angelic music started again and a bright light focused on this one piece of luggage. It was 28 inches tall, had four wheels and was within the price Chris and Roisin were prepared to pay. Before Chris could say, I'll take it'. The shop assistant said, ‘I can give you another 20%!d(MISSING)iscount!!' Result!! Even better news was that they could leave the case there and pick it up on the way back to the hotel. Shops are open very late in Hong Kong. Until 10pm in most cases. Chris and Roisin were beginning to like this place already.
To get to the Macau Ferry terminal, Chris and Roisin had to ‘run the gauntlet' passing the Star Ferry Terminal and the street hawkers trying to sell designer watches at ridiculous prices and also ‘made to measure' suits at a ‘snip'!!
The Macau ferry is actually
a catamaran and the interior is designed similar to an aircraft with everyone being allocated a specific seat. Economy class seats about 300 on the lower deck. Shortly before sailing, the cabin crew passed through the cabin handing out landing cards, just like on an aircraft!
On arriving in Macau, having passed through immigration, Chris and Roisin were accosted by a man who started telling them of all the sights to see in Macau. Then came the ‘hook'. He was willing to take them around in a taxi for 2 ½ hours for the princely sum of £100. Without even haggling, the price came down to £65 in a matter of minutes. Roisin and Chris didn't have any major plans for Macau. A lightening and comprehensive tour of the city was not on their agenda. It would be nice just to have a bite to eat and a wander for a few hours. This man was persistent, Chris started walking away and took an escalator to the upper level. The man shouted, ‘Not that way!'
Chris took the escalator back down again and then started heading out another exit. ‘Not that way!'
repeated the man. They finally exited out
the right door to their relief.
‘Did you get his map?'
Chris asked Roisin.
she replied. And they both laughed!!
On exiting (the ‘right' door) they were greeted by row upon row of mini coaches that offered free shuttle services to their casino. All the major players were present - the Sands Casino, the Venetian, Wynn Casino and Hotel complex and the Casino Lisboa. The last one is not a major player but as Macau used to be a Portuguese colony there has to be some connection to their historic past! Macau was not turning out to be the fishing village Chris had, for some reason, pictured in his mind!!
Having been told by the persistent tour guide where all the casinos were, they picked one of the shuttle buses that would take them to the Casino Lisboa. The journey was only 5 minutes or so but en route they passed a grand stand being erected in the middle of the road. It turns out that Macau is on the Grand Prix circuit and is the only street circuit in the world that is host to both bikes and cars. And the next race
is the week after we go home.
The shuttle pulled in to the forecourt of the Casino Lisboa and everyone piled out and straight in the front entrance of the casino. Not knowing what to do next, Chris and Roisin followed the crowd. They all walked down a corridor for about 50 yards. It soon became clear where everyone was going. There was a side entrance. In through the main entrance and out through the side entrance. Not one person from the shuttle actually went in to the casino. They had obviuosly done this before!
After a bite to eat, Chris and Roisin spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the waterfront. At the Wynn Hotel, childhood memories were relived when they both witnessed ‘dancing fountains'. Chris hadn't seen this since one of the Department Stores in Liverpool used dancing waters as one of their Christmas time grotto attractions!
On the return journey back to Hong Kong, Chris and Roisin decided to spash out on executive class. This cost an extra £5!! They were shown to the upstairs cabin with room for about 80 persons. Complimentary food and drink was served to the 5 travellers sailing
in executive class (including Chris and Roisin)!!
It was just gone 6pm when they arrived back in Hong Kong. By the time they had passed through immigration (again!!) it was 6:50.
On the way back to pick up the new suitcase, they decided to miss out the Star Ferry terminal and cut through Nathan Road. This is Hong Kong's main shopping area. There are many side streets feeding off Nathan Road where it is possible to pick up anything and everything. On exiting the Ferry Terminal, it felt like the whole of the population of Hong Kong were out walking. The sudden bust of crowds couldn't even be blamed on late night shopping because, in Hong Kong, every night is late night shopping!!
Chris and Roisin fought their way through the melee to the nearest underground entrance. It was like a different world. It was so organised. Not the hustle and bustle of street life. Everyone keeps to the left when walking and there are signposts at every corner of the underground network. It wasn't long before Chris and Roisin had traced their steps back to the luggage shop to claim their earlier purchase.
way back to the hotel, Chris and Roisin had invented a new game. They started to play mah jong using the chinese characters from billboards and posters. They had to match up the same characters from different posters, advertisements and signs. There were extra points if one could itentify the word associated with the chinese character. Next time you are in a Chinese restaurant, I urge you to play along using the menu. I can assure you, it will make the waiting time for your meal pass more quickly and you will have hours of fun (dependent on the quality of restautrant service!!)
It had been a successful 1st day in Hong Kong which is ironic since they had spent most of it in Macau!!!
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