Posted by: 1of10boyz | January 11, 2012

Hong Kong Part 6 – Macau


We have settled into a little routine in our travels now. I get up, shower, and get ready, then go eat breakfast. LaDawna gets up sometime after I leave and showers. When I have finished eating and reading the paper, I fix her breakfast plate and take her breakfast back to the room. She is ready to eat when I arrive and by the time I have the bags packed and ready to depart, she has finished eating and is about ready to go. It works for her and I stay busy enough that I don’t feel too late when we finally leave. I am also less likely to try to rush her.

Today, we go from the hotel to the Macau-Hong Kong Ferry Terminal. I should say up front that LaDawna hates ships and boats. She had a bad experience as a youth on the Catalina Ferry where she became violently ill and experiences motion sickness even in cars. So when we arrive at the Ferry Terminal she is not too impressed and immediately grouchy. There really isn’t another way to economically do this. She got queasy on the helicopter ride around the Big Island in Hawaii and I know that it really isn’t feasible for this trip, a helicopter costs at least 10X what the ferry does. I try to convince her that the Hydrofoil will be a much smoother ride than anything she has experienced, but she is not swayed. I suffer through the evil eye and looks of contempt for not being more considerate.

As we get ready to board we walk out toward the ferry, it is moored in a very narrow berth, the waves from passing ships’ wakes make the sea rough. I see that the ferry is bobbing, rising and falling nearly 2 feet. LaDawna is furious, she knows that she is going to get sick, I keep trying to comfort her and convince her that as soon as the ferry gets underway it will not be as bad as it is here at the pier. We prepare to get underway, a moment of interesting reflection for me, I haven’t been underway since January 1993. I admit, I am a little excited.

LaDawna is not attentive to the safety video or to the passing stewards. We cast off lines and the engine roars to life as we move away from the pier. Even just getting away from the berth and getting a little forward momentum makes a difference, though LaDawna doesn’t seem to notice. Once we have been underway for about 5 minutes I can tell that we have accelerated and are up on the hydrofoils. The ride is now as stable and nearly as smooth as the trains or cabs we have ridden in for the past few days.

We are served a breakfast, while it has only been about an hour since we have eaten, I am not one to pass up food, even if it is just fruit, a muffin, and a sorry excuse for eggs and sausage. I eat mine and look out through the harbor at the small islands and points that we can see as we move south towards Macau. I am somewhat disappointed that I haven’t seen anything that looks like a Chinese Junk. I have always found these ships to be interesting and had hoped to see one while we were here. I am afraid that the shipping trade has become so advanced that these ships have become a thing of the past.

About 30 minutes into the ride, LaDawna is beginning to feel better. She eats her breakfast and we begin to see life through the fog as we are nearing the harbor for Macau. It really looks like any other port city from where we are. It doesn’t really reflect the centuries that it served as a bastion of western civilization in the oriental frontier. We hope that today we will be able to find something that helps us appreciate that this city has been here for over 400 years. It has served as a point for missionaries to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ into China and has been a point of commerce for the Portuguese. We have many historical things to see today.

We disembark from the ferry and make our way to Immigration. We are beginning to feel like pros going back and forth through customs and immigrations. We are able to offer advice to others and recommendation about filling out the appropriate forms. My, what the last week has done to our confidence levels in that process.

The outlet to the ferry terminal is a madhouse. We are pursued by people trying to get us to go to their hotel or casino. The area is a wild scenario of young ladies with fliers for hotels and casinos that are trying to persuade you to come to their employer’s location. We have a reservation at a place called the Golden Dragon. It is, sadly, not one of the locations that has vendors and a bus to take us there. We know because we walked past every bus and vendor in an attempt to find them. We are finally able to find a visitor’s bureau representative that gives us directions. It is actually only about 500 meters from the ferry terminal. We walk to the hotel.

It is just 10am. The hotel allows us to concierge our backpacks and check-in, but we don’t have keys to our room yet, won’t get our keys until later in the day. We hail a cab and begin our process of seeing the World Heritage sites of Macau. The hotel has a good map of these points of interest. We stuff one in our fanny pack and put one in the shopping bag. The first location is a small little temple nestled among the rocks near the ocean on the east of the peninsula. It is said to be the temple of the fishing god. We see there, some very cool incense. Giant swirling sticks that stand at least 4 feet high, hung from the rafters of the areas outside of the temple. We also see some that are at least 5” in diameter, probably a couple of meters tall. There certainly is some money that is made at these locations because of the sale of incense.

We decide that we can walk between the different locations. So we head up the street in the direction of the next location. There are just enough signs here that we can read to keep us pointed in the right direction. The roads are narrow. The houses are close together. The streets are cobblestone. There is most definitely a European influence here. The churches that we see are nothing spectacular, most definitely not fancy. The naves of the churches are ornate and it is obvious that they are ancient. It is interesting to reflect that some of these structures and buildings existed before the United States had even been successfully colonized.

We actually enjoy just wandering around in the narrow streets. The distances between the heritage sites are not excessive. It is a reminder that these buildings were built without consideration for anything more than foot and cart traffic. Now most of the roads are one-way and parking is very limited in the street. We see, for the first time, graffiti on the buildings, a reflection on the probability that we are naïve about being safe on these streets. We have not felt concerned about just wandering around in any of the locations we have been here in China. We have been able to go anywhere we have wanted, we have been lucky, I guess. It might be that by the time the seedier elements make it to the streets, we have already become too tired to be out. I guess that is one of the luxuries of getting old, it is safer during the day.

We find the center of Macau; the market is full of people. There are many tourists and there are many sites. We haven’t eaten and decide that the oranges look very good. We get a couple of nice oranges and sit on the edge of the fountain and eat our oranges. They are juicy. We have juice all over us. We wash our hands in the fountain and then immediately apply copious amounts of liquid sanitizer. We are certain that this is not somewhere where we want to have digestion related problems.

We wander back through the streets . There are so many little places to look. We wander and look. We find many interesting sites and enjoy the historical sites. We are beginning to tire. We see a sign that points towards one of our destinations. As we follow the road, it begins to look more and more like a residential neighborhood, but we continue on.

We notice that there is an old woman walking up the road in front of us. One of the things that LaDawna likes to take pictures of is people. She realizes that this is an old woman that she had taken a picture of down by one of the shops. She is hunched over using a cane and seems to be barely moving. Her stride cannot be more than about 12 inches. She moves ever so slowly. In her defense, the road we are on is steep. We wonder how many times she has made that journey. Her home is just in front of her and it takes her a long time to get there. Yes, we hang back pretending to look at the little buildings and store fronts until we see that she is turning into her home. 

We wander through the narrow streets until we come out at the bottom of the Fort of Macau. We are at the base of the military structure that would have provided protection to Macau for many centuries. The rocks on the walls are covered with lichen and moss. The fortification faces to the sea, there are very few if any defensive measures facing inland. It is obvious where the threats were, the sea, not China. The base of the fort is about 4 meters thick. The walls stand over 6 meters high on the short walls; the tall walls are much, much higher. We climb to the top and walls are still a meter thick. There are cannons placed and point towards the sea. The cannons are old but not ancient. The majority of them are not actually from the fort, they have been added later, even so, they are from the 1850s. We wander through the fort and use its vantage to take pictures of Macau, it is a contracts of modern and ancient, wealth and deprivation. You can see the poverty give way to the wealth of the casinos and hotels. There isn’t much distance between them.

We make our way out of the fort towards the façade of the ruins of an ancient church. The church would have been a rival to any in Europe in its heyday. It was obviously a very fancy place. We wander through its catacombs. It is the first time that I can say I was in the catacombs of a church. It was nothing like what we see in Hollywood movies, but it was just a little eerie though to enter and feel the cool of the protected depths of that location. The area was adjacent to a museum that displayed some of the many artifacts that were found there. There were nooks in the catacombs that had windowed vaults where bones were kept. The most interesting of course were the skulls.

We make our way back out of the area and move back through the shops and streets. We are tired and ready to get something to eat. It has been cloudy all day and on occasion it has sprinkled just a little. It now has decidedly begun to rain. We get to the main thoroughfare and miss the only vacant cab we will see the rest of the day. We have no idea how to get back to the hotel. We have no idea how far it really is. We have our umbrella and it does its job. The streets are no less crowded than they were before, the congestion is magnified because of the umbrellas as we flow through the streets, ever watchful for the empty cab.

We notice across the street that there is a Dairy Queen. Having never been one to pass up an opportunity to eat ice cream, so we make our way over. We eat the latest version of a brownie fudge sundae. It is so wonderful, the problem is that the joint is full and there is no place to sit. We take our chocolate treat out into the courtyard of the building, hoping to find a chair or bench. We settle for a table that is currently not occupied by the security force, we are too tired to care that we might make them mad when they return to see our behinds seated on their work surface.

We finish eating and move back onto the street. There is a garden or park across the street from us. We cross the street and stand on the corner wondering how we are going to get home. I keep hoping to see a cab. I notice as we stand that a bus passes us with MFT on the marquee, we dash for the stop to catch the bus. MFT can only mean one thing in my mind Macau Ferry Terminal. We board and hope that we are going to at least come close to the where we started our day in Macau.

The bus wanders through much of Macau, we begin to see that there are sights that seem familiar and notice that we are indeed heading toward the MFT. I recognize that we are getting close and tell LaDawna to get up so that we can get off at the next stop. Just as we are nearing the Terminal we take a left turn and stop. The bus stop is immediately in front of our hotel. It is the exact spot that we caught the taxi cab some 7 hours ago. How’s that for some luck?

We go to the front desk and get our keys and get our luggage from the concierge. We go to our room and collapse. We then realize that we are indeed at a Chinese hotel, even though it is a 4 star accommodation, the bed is HARD. We are too tired to care. We prepare for bed and sleep. Tomorrow, we travel again, this time we going back to China. We have, though, completed the 3rd of our 40 world heritage sites. We are in our 3rd month in the country and are on track to meet our goal. Tomorrow we will visit our 4th.

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