Wednesday, April 30th, 1997 - Kowloon, Hong Kong

Another day of fun and excitement did not go exactly as planned. We started early again, picking up a few things at the local bakery before catching the MTR to Hong Kong Island, at the end of the line in order to catch the ferry to Macau. Unfortunately, just before we left the station at the other end I was quite upset to realize I had forgotten my passport so I had to turn around and return to the apartment to pick it up. I made it there and back to meet Mike within about 45 minutes which is really good when you consider the distance was a good 3 or 4 miles. Needless to say, this did not make the start of the day very good at all.

We purchased tickets to take the jetfoil to Macau, which is the quickest, about one hour, Macau is about 30 miles from Hong Kong. The other method of getting there, besides a normal ferry, is by TurboCat, a turbo catamaran. We cleared customs and boarded the ferry travelling in economy (which was water level) and it was just like boarding a plane, complete with the same style seats, seatbelts and safety instructions (minus the oxygen mask demonstration). The trip was very pleasant as there was little, if any, motion from the water. The boat was very stable and very fast, travelling quite a distance above the water using a hydrofoil.

We passed by the outlying islands of Hong Kong fairly quickly and were basically out in the open sea before finally seeing Macau. The first thing we saw were the two bridges linking Taipa with the main island of Macau. I was not aware that there are actually three islands that make up Macau, all connected via bridges, Macau, Taipa and Coloane. We pulled into the ferry, passing through there customs also.

I really had no idea what to see in Macau, I knew we were to visit the ruins of a fort and the Maritime museum as well as a few restaurants in mind to visit but beyond that I only knew that the China border was very close and that it was a territory much like Hong Kong except a territory of Portugal (with China taking over in 1999).

As we were leaving the ferry terminal, we were descended on by various individuals asking whether we wanted to take their taxi, their tour, etc. Eventually one guy just outside the terminal talked to us for a few minutes, explained what he would show us, how much it cost and we relented. He turned out to be a very good guide, he spoke English very well (self-taught), he drove very well (a driving instructor) considering the hideously narrow and steep roads, and he had also lived in Macau for most of his life, so he knew the area very well. He took us to many different areas, describing the various areas and sights as we passed them, or stopped to take a look.

The first thing we visited was a Catholic church on the top of a large hill in the middle of “the Beverly Hills of Macau”, with very steep roads leading up and away from it. From this point we could see most of Macau.

We visited the local Tin Hau temple on the tour which was quite interesting as we had never actually been in a Tin Hau temple before. Of course, Macau was initially a fishing village, with the Tin Hau temple playing an important role as the place to worship the god of the sea. Quickly, after it's importance in position on the Pearl River delta was recognised, the Portuguese landed some boats and claimed the area for Portugal.

The Tin Hau temple is right on the Pearl River and on the other side of the river is China. Our guide told us that southern China is getting very wealthy due to it's trade situation with areas such as Macau and Hong Kong and their connections to the trade routes of the world.

We were taken to an old fort at the top of another hill which also had a good view of the city and China. It is quite astonishing to see all of the buildings that have sprung up due to successful trading with Macau.

We also visited the China border check point which was very strange being that close to communist China. Mike got a picture of the border with the flag of Macau and the flag of China behind it. We were shown into a shop that sells various antiques from China which was very expensive. Evidently the Chinese sell the goods in Macau simply to make money which is very valuable in China (that is, non-Chinese money I would assume).

We visited a Buddhist Monastery which is even older than the Tin Hau temple and was were a recent non-aggression treaty was signed with China. At this point it was raining but the Monastery was very interesting. It was very well appointed, containing three separate shrines containing three separate Buddhas for the three separate levels of Buddhism. We were shown the Lover's Tree which is a cork tree that, from legend, grew after two lovers killed themselves (in a Romeo and Juliet affair I would assume) after which two trees grew from the very spot and into each other. Due to pollution, the trees are all but dead now. It was very tranquil in a country much like most of Hong Kong, crowded and busy.

Eventually, we were dropped off at the ruins of another church, St. Paul's of which only the façade remains, much like in Winnipeg with the St. Boniface cathedral. There were many people attempting to see things there which we politely refused.

Macau from the Church at the top of the hill

From there, we walked down some of the side streets. One of the streets on our tour was cobblestones, the only one left in Macau, left for purely historical reasons, certainly not for the comfort of those travelling on it. When our guide first started driving, most streets in Macau were cobblestones which made, we were told, it tough to get around.

Walking along the coast of Macau

Eventually we stopped and had a bit to eat at a sushi house (of all things) in the basement of some building. What made it very appealing was that the sushi was moving around the room on a moving belt with seats around it (bar- style), you just picked off what you wanted to eat. I had heard of this before but had never experienced it. It was certainly very good to see what you were going to eat before you actually bought it. We had a few dishes and ended up not paying very much at all. It was a very good meal.

From there we walked to the area of the Tin Hau temple again as there was the Maritime Museum there. But, before we got there we walked in a not-so-good area of Macau, as we walked down one particular area both Mike and myself were propositioned by some ladies standing on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, this was also in a location that was selling beef jerky which Raymond had requested we bring some back for him. So, we ignored what was going on around us and picked up some. It was very good, very spicy, just as requested.

When we returned to the temple, there was a Chinese opera being staged (an offering, we learned, to Tin Hau due to the festival of the day before), however, we simply went in to the museum. The museum was very interesting and we learned a lot about the history of Macau, including various fishing methods, including an ingenious method of sliding a board, much like a skate- board, across the mud flats of low tide and picking up “mud-skippers” in baskets. It was rather unusual.

After this, we proceeded around the southern tip of Macau (again, all walking) and up the eastern coast to get to a local restaurant that our guide had recommended. We made it there, however, the food was not all that good and we were disappointed. It was billed as being true “Mackanese” food but was overpriced and not very special. We were hoping it would be a bit more authentic.

After the restaurant we continued our way up the east coast and visited the oldest casino in Macau. Of course, Macau is well known for it's gambling as it is visited by many people from Hong Kong where it is illegal. There are many casinos in Macau and it is said, arguably, that if it was not for gambling there would be no Macau. Well, there were certainly many casinos but not nearly the concentration of Las Vegas. This was more like a smaller and not quite as nice very of Las Vegas. The people at the casino here were very serious while those in Las Vegas seem a bit more relaxed.

Before we could enter the casino we had to pass through a metal detector, which I found rather odd, they also reminded us, by sticking a sticker on our cameras that photographs were not allowed. It seemed that there were a lot of security guards and general security around many places in Macau, which may be as a result of the recent killings there and the high level of triad (Chinese gang) activity in the area. We were actually advised against going to Macau for these reasons, by many people in Hong Kong.

Mike played a bit of money in a slot machine and made $2 (HK) profit. He kept that and moved on. We attempted to figure out some of the games but were very confused. The neat thing about gambling is the myriad of rules and codes of conduct that are followed. I find it very interesting to watch.

After the casino, we continued our trek up the eastern coast and eventually returned to the ferry terminal to return to Hong Kong. It turned out that we had, in total, walked about half way around the island, about 4 kilometres. Mike was not happy about this, nor was I, we were very tired. It was worth it, we saw the best and worst of Macau all in one walk. Very interesting.

The ride back to Hong Kong was uneventful and as smooth as the ride in to Macau.

Tomorrow, we hope to visit Raymond at lunch at a local place he enjoys Thailand food in Aberdeen. I also hope to make it to the beach at Repulse Bay, it has been VERY hot here. Today, despite the occasional rain in Macau, it was about 28 Celsius with 86 % humidity. Very hot. I am sitting right now typing this in Raymond's apartment with the air conditioning going which is very good as it, in addition to cooling, also dries out the air a bit, I sleep very well with it going.

⇒ Continue to Thursday, May 1st, 1997 - Kowloon, Hong Kong