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Archive for March, 2008

Macau

Macau Museum

Andrew and I went to Macau on Saturday. The ferry from Hong Kong was pretty much booked out, so we had to wait 1 1/2 hours for the 12:30 ferry. We should’ve gone a bit earlier or pre-booked.

We eventually got the ferry over along with 400 other people. Customs took a full half hour to clear at least and would’ve been more but for the extra lines that opened up while we were there.

The Venetian

In Macau the first thing we did was take a free bus to see The Venetian, the biggest casino in the world. It was very speccy even though we only saw one wing of it. There was opulence in abundance. It actually wasn’t jaw-droppingly impressive after lots of other things we’ve seen.

Venetian singer

What was pretty though, was the third floor, above the gambling. There were a few canals and replicas of famous places there, including St Mark’s Square. Also there was a 20-something soprano singing famous arias. She sang the one that was in the “Mr Bean’s Holiday” movie (O mio babbino caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi). Some white statue-people were most amusing when they moved quickly during their break. There were more random entertainers, encouraging happiness.

Venetian food court Performers Venetian canals

The entertainment was about creating an atmosphere where people would spend lots of money. It’s not very nice to be made to feel happy against your will. Vexing, actually. And annoying that you are, in fact, feeling happy, yet you know it’s being done to you. Hmph.

Venetian renaissance ceiling painting

There was a Great Hall, which had a painting of a Renaissance scene on its ceiling. We took some photos. There was also plenty of advertising for a Celine Dion concert that night. Talk about cultures clashing.

After the Venetian we went to get some (much cheaper!) accommodation, which was found right near the central square. It was HK $270/2/night.

At night we had a look to see what was about, and took in the sight of the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral that had been lit-up. Only the façade remained after the rest of it collapsed. It was a remnant of the Portuguese influence. We also found some genuine egg tarts 3/Y10. They were smaller than the Shenzhen varieties, and the pastry was thinner. (This was perhaps a good thing because I had a look at the recipe when we got home.) It was good to taste them on their home soil ) .

Illuminated church

In a city church we saw the end of a Mass. The person on door duty had a really, really big nose. A definite contender in the All-World Big-Honker Competition. Then we wandered the streets a bit more and found St Anthony’s church and the city gardens but didn’t locate the graveyard.

Macau neon 1

We walked down near one of the biggest hotels, the Grand Lisboa and were… illuminated… by it’s neon livery. Nearby was a man washing his socks in a water fountain!

Macau museum flowers

The next day we arose and walked the suggested tourist walk, after a breakfast of grapes. It wasn’t super interesting but we did see old architecture and the remnants of the city fort. We went back to the remains of St Paul’s Cathedral to see them in daylight. We saw the Macau museum which was most interesting. The free tour guide at the old city pawn shop made it an insight into the city’s past.

Macau St Paul’s Cathedral

Apparently only 2% of Meccanese are Portuguese, 95% Chinese and the rest mixed race. That made it disappointing because I was hoping for more Portuguese stuff. It was in the architecture and the lovely blue, hand-painted tiles but the food and people were more an extension of Hong Kong. So I found the whole place quite disappointing, really. I was expecting a much greater difference.

After lunch we went to book our tickets on the ferry so we didn’t get caught like Saturday morning. Then we went for a walk down to the maritime museum, and had a look through its 3 floors. It was interesting, if you didn’t expect too much. There were models of boats and replicas of ferries. The navigation instruments were very speccy and I enjoyed them.

After the maritime museum I purchased 2 stamps, because they are apparently uncommon however, they are nowhere near as detailed as Australian stamps.

Incense spirals

We climbed the mountain of the Buddhist temple where there was incense aplenty. It was hard to breathe because there were also incinerators that burned all the rubbish and packaging involved with the incense-sticks. The stone steps leading up to it were scored with diamond patterns to prevent them being slippery, but this didn’t stop Andrew’s persistence.

Macau cityscape

Andrew and I brought back some almond-biscuits. They’re ok. A bit gritty and nothing special.

We arrived at the ferry and both felt better for having walked everywhere. The ferry on the way home showed a Harry Potter film. Well, the first hour of it anyway. I wonder if the poor staff every get to see the second hour. Ever. Who knows? )

Human statue Old Fort bell Macau Grand Lisboa at night

It was an interesting and enjoyable experience, but I’m happy to not go back. There doesn’t appear to be much more than some Portuguese ruins and gambling. It didn’t have the strong Portugese culture that I was expecting.

Break out the chalk

Today chalks up 2 years for Gail & I in China. On one hand the time has flown by. On the other hand, if the time is to be measured in experiences, departing Australia seems to be something we did a lot of life ago (sic).

This marks a real line in the sand for us. Attention is now starting to focus on our return and repatriation back to Australia and all the associated activities that entails. An exact date hasn’t been set yet but the month is chosen. Our time in China is moving into it’s final phase.

Here’s a list of things that we’ve pondered as the 2 year milestone has rolled around:

  • What have been the best moments here in China?
  • What do we have regrets about?
  • What things will we take/leave?
  • What do we still want to see and do before we return?
  • Which friends will we miss the most?
  • Will we ever come back to China?
  • What will the reverse culture shock be like?
  • What will we miss or reminisce about?
  • Would we live overseas again, either in China or another country?
  • How has Australia changed whilst we’ve been away?
  • What to do for things like house and car?
  • How will our old friends and colleagues respond?

In any case, all of these things will ultimately find their answers, or the answers will find us.

The challenge for us from here on in will be to remain focussed on our remaining days, not get too distracted by the delightful prospect of returning home and to finish our time here well. We look forward to being reunited with you all soon.

A blockage

It’s interesting to note that with the recent turmoil in that “peacefully liberated” province in China’s West the authorities have now blocked access to YouTube in China. It will be interesting to see how long this ban stays in place. It would be also interesting to know if they’ve approached YouTube asking them to remove the content that shows the activities taking place.

An Indian in the bathroom

Vindaloo Toilet Paper

There’s a little Indian in our bathroom now. We have loo paper called Vinda. Sounds like the perfect follow-up to a good curry ) .

Plover Cove

View across the wall

With winter’s tail firmly between it’s legs, Gail & I ventured out today to enjoy the sunshine. We decided to go to Plover Cove, a reservoir in Hong Kong’s north western corner near a village called Tai Mei Tuk. To get there we had to cross the border to Hong Kong, take the KCR train 4 stops to Tai Po Market and then take a 75K bus for 30 minutes to Tai Mei Tuk, the end of the line.

First stop was lunch at a local eatery, where we enjoyed a mix of seafood and chicken, cooked in Thai style. Very nice, but a little sweet.

Plover Cove boats

Plover Cove was the first ever reservoir that was built using the sea as part of the reservoir. Engineers dammed up the inlet, pumped out the sea water and then filled it with fresh water. It was built during the 60’s, back when China and Hong Kong weren’t such good neighbours. Hong Kong needed more water and the reservoir now holds 230 million cubic metres of water, the second largest reservoir in Hong Kong.

Dog Latrine

This area is obviously a popular outing for the locals. We saw people walking, jogging, cycling or just out taking the dog for a walk. To ensure the latter of those didn’t interfere with the former, a special place for ‘Fifi’ to do her ‘number 2’s’ was set up just prior to setting off across the 2Km long dam wall.

Wall maintenance work

Out on the wall we took in the serenity of a wonderfully quiet and pleasant afternoon, seemingly oblivious to the noise and chaos of Hong Kong central or the squealing brakes of buses in Shenzhen. This was briefly interrupted by the smashing of rocks as repair crews worked on the wall loading in an extra layer of rocks against the fresh water side of the wall. Ahhh, I love seeing machinery at work.

There’s a pretty picture.

The far side of the dam wall was the start of a 6 hour trek right around the reservoir. Not feeling that keen we took the short way back - across the wall. The wide open spaces and the gentle breeze drifting across the water ensured we had a most enjoyable day. A few deep lungfuls of cleaner air had put a little more spring in our steps.

Stolen Childhood

One of my Hong Kong colleagues came to work in casual clothes yesterday. He was taking 1 1/2 days leave so that he could help prepare his daughter for her school examinations. Another colleague from Hong Kong was doing the same. These examinations last for a full week and cover English, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Maths, Science and a few other things.

When I asked what year she was in at school I got the shock of my life when he said that she was in grade 2! What on earth is a 7 year old going through a solid week of examinations for? Isn’t she supposed to be running around playing with dolls, making necklaces out of daisies and reading stories about princesses in castles?

I wonder how many of these children will grow up wondering what happened to their childhood.

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