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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Yangshuo to Macau

CHINA | Tuesday, 12 August 2008 | Views [2426]

Sat 9th Aug - Continuing on from my last post....

Later in the day after a meal out, sat minding my own business...and a young chinese girl approached me ad asked if I could teach her to dance?...Wot..it's nearly midnight...and what do you hope to learn? This seemed too fun an opportunity to miss! The boss didn't want any loud music disturbing the guests and the crazy but really funny girl soon gathered an audience. We ended up in the main street with an audience trying to teach her the waltz until 1am. It was a hoot and we all had a hilarious time. There was a story behind her reason for wanting to learn at such a stupid time, but it's a long story about a promise she had made and at the same time having just been fired from her job. As I say, a long story.

Today has been a mixture. I messed up earlier... I wanted to go to the light show that is performed on the Li river every evening, but didn't book it in time, so missed out. Won't get another chance as leaving tomorrow. I think the problem is that I am getting tired of having to think ahead to book things, but you have to here as they sell out quick.

In contrast to that, I actually had to do some forward planning to sort out accommodation for Hong Kong and got that sorted plus booked a flight from there to Bangkok on the 18th August, where I will be meeting up with Victoria again. Not seen her since early June, when we both left Vietnam going on different ventures.

Sun 10th Aug - Got most of the day ahead of getting the overnight sleeper bus to Zhuhai tonight. Caught up with a lovely friend in new zealand back from a research trip in the arctic. Great experience and nice to be in touch...thanks Nat.

Early afternoon and it threw it down acompanied by thunder. Seem to come out of nowhere. One minute the sun was shinin when I went into the bank of China to get some Hong Kong dollars, and when I came out the sun had gone in and it was chucking it down. Did think of going back in to see if it was an illusion when I reappeared, but I wasn't. Cue meal... good time to eat some noodles and watch the rain go by...and plenty of soaked people caught out by it. Some slow rock'n'roll on the radio made me think how much I am missing dancing...happens all the time these days. Cut off from one of my greatest passions whilst travelling.

Had a nice afternoon talking to a guy from Chile with a totally different approach to travel and working in places for a while on the way.

The hostel were doing a make-your-own dumplings just as I left. Looked good but no time to stop as got the bus to catch. The sleeper bus to Zuhai doesn't go via the bus station as I had expected. It actually stops slightly out of town at the junction of the road from Guilin and the road south. Had to be taken there by a stressed looking guy. I now know why. A mad freeforall as other people who don't seem to have tickets argue and push each other, whilst the guy who brought me here was arguing and shouting at the guy on the bus. I just stood in the doorway of the bus and wouldn't let anyone else on until it had been sorted and I had a bed to climb into. Caused a bit of a rumpus but tough, I had a ticket! They had to kick one guy out of his bed and move him somewhere else in amongst the luggage. I guess they have late arrivals in Guilin and don't control it that well. Anyway, they have to sort it when someone is blocking access to the bus! At 7:15 it set off....It's going to be a long night. And guess what? Another kungfu movie...every time...they are obsessed by yeehaah..huh...aaaa...wee. Mass anihilation and aerial acrobatics for the next however many hours.

Bus stopped at 9pm for dinner at a really naff place. Disgusting toilets and filthy. What was interesting though was that there seemed to be one person on the bus who spoke a bit of english and I learnt that the bus wasn't going to stop where I thought It was. No surprise there! It stops at a station half over an hour by taxi from the Macao border. Now how can they call it a bus to Macao? Will have to work that out when I get there.

Near to the port area you enter the Zhuhai Special Econimic Zone (SEZ). This is a restricted trading area as a buffer zone between China and Macau. Entering the zone required everyone off the bus whilst armed guards searched and inspected IDs and passports. Took about half an hour to complete before we were allowed back on the bus. The guide books tell you that Zhuhai SEZ allows you to cross at the Lotus Bridge crossing. Not from where the bus stops as it is too far away. Instead you have to head for Gongbei Port. The bus terminus was in  Xianshuo and fortunately the solitary chinese guy who spoke some english decided to take me there. The taxi cost 35 Yuan and took about half an hour. The route went along the edge of the South China Sea, with many islands visible and some fascinating buildings along the way. Also passed the Jiuzhou ferry port, where you can catch a ferry straight to Hong Kong. At is a really attractive stretch of coast with palm trees and a nice colonial feel to it. Afer a short while, Macau island came into view, very close to the China mainland across a short causeway. Not overly exciting but got an interesting water front. We were dropped in a shopping mall that runs underneath the immigration building. A maze of alleys to find the way out, but eventually got out right in front of the immigration entrance. Armed guards once again but straight in. There is a foreigners queue which was tiny compared with the mass waiting at the chinese nationals queues. Got through the China exit in under 10 minutes. Straight out through 'nothing to declare', and then a long walk to the Macau immigration building, where foreigners bear left. Pick up a form, fill I in and join one of the nineteen lanes, which were crammed. At this point you begin to notice that you are in a different country all of a sudden..signs are in Chinese, Portuguese and English. Moved through fairly quickly and given a visa that looks to expire on 7th Feb 2009 - about six months. Now that's a long visa! Why couldn't I have had that for China so easily. Trouble is, Macau is a tiny place with nothing to do after the first few days!

Next jo now that i'm in Macao was to get rid of my remaining Yuan as it isn't accepted here. The banks aren't in the Gombei port terminal building. Walk out and straight ahead past the taxi bays then cross the road and there are about four in a row, including a couple of ATMs that will and out the local currency of Patacas or the more universally accepted Hong Kong dollar (HKD). Bad exchange rate, but not much you can do about it.

I'm staying at the Best Western Hotel in Taipa. Not the cheapest and not much in the way of budget accomodation here as it doesn't attract many travellers. With a combination of writing instructions and a map we got there. Odd that I had the address in portugese....Estrada Governador Nobre Carvalho, plus a tourist map that you can pick up for free at the port, which also had the portugese street names on it...the taxi driver had no idea and wanted th address in chinese...which of course I didn't have. Luckily, when I booked it I had the forethouht to  search for it on a web map and could remember where it was, so pointed to the spot on the map...we got there eventually. Now this is a bit of a treat after so long in backpacker hostels..and a swimming pool on the roof. All for $56 a night, and good job i'm only staying for 2 nights at that price! It also has its own casino, something that Macau specialises in as it is the only place in China where gambling is legal! All the big casino names are here and you pass a few on the way here...Sands, MGM Grand, Wynn, Venician...

With a few hours to kill before check-in I headed off around the old town of Taipa, which is on the doorstep. As if on queue it chucked it down. An umbrella has to be a standard accessory at this time of year. One of the early things I noticed here is that they drive on the left. In mainland China they drive on the right. That surprised me! They also have no perception of pedestrian crossings. They have them, but no drivers pay any attention to them, so walk across anywhere you like as it doesn't matter.

Within a couple of minutes and i'm in Portugal! Swear it...the buildings and street names...no mistake... It is quiet with the rain as it is, so splashing through pools of water most of the time. A brief stop at one of the many temples, with its hanging incense coils and dark interior. The head lady insisted on talking to me in chinese...couldn't understand a word, but she kept on going. Headed to a vantage point up at the 'Our lady of Carmel' church (Nossa Senhora do Carmo), built in 1885. Had to take refuge from the downpour and got talking to a lady from Crewe of all places. Her husband was over here with the track runners who are using Macau as a holding and training base. Whiled away a half hour so and then back out into the rain, which looked as though it wasn't going to let up. It didn't for a long time. Worked my way down to the central restored 'Taipa Houses Museum'. Didn't go in, will do that tomorrow. A group of five restored houses with typical green walls and white shuttering windows and doors this style is normal Macanese/Portugese.

Back out to head for the hotel and decided to stop for lunch. Found a great little café called the Cuppa coffee. A lucky find and got talking to the owner (a lady from Portugal) and others for a while. A really chilled time and lovely people. Tried one of the Macau specialities of Nata. A form of custard pie with cinamon. Tasty with a nice latte. Also got talking about things to do whilst here, and seems I have to do the Circque du Soleil show at the Venetian. Will check that out.

After checking in at the hotel, another thing..Uk 3-pin square sockets...a hangover from the british days. This place is full of surprises. No asian 2-pin sockets at all, so good that I still have my adaptor.

I tell you what...great to be in a good hotel for a change...TV, shower, space and a room with a view. Well worth it. Internet not free though at 30 MOP (Patacas) for an hour.

After getting sorted, off to the Venician resort for a trip on the nostalgia boat. On the way there it is obvious how Macau is emulating its US Las Vegas counterpart. It is currently crane city, with new casino resort hotels sprouting up everywhere. Each bigger and better than its neighbours. These places are where chinese come to play. There seemed to be people from all walks of life.

Many years ago I was lucky to go to Las Vegas on a business trip to the National Association of Broadcaster (NAB) annual convention. Whilst there I went in to the Venician hotel. The hotel here in Macau is identical from what I can remember. From the approach which is in venician style with gondola mooring posts and jetties...not out today as too wet, to the tall posts and building façade at the entrance. The entry hall ceiling is decorated in venician da vinci style, and the subsequent casino brought back memories, although the vegas one I reckon was noisier. As usual, every form of card game and roulette. One thing I don't remember being as abundant in Vegas though, were the video games, that is...the croupier is a video screen character instead of a person. The punters sit at video tablets with touch sensitive screens. Spoken dialogue though. Probably do have them in Vegas now, as it was a while ago.

There is a theatre here where they perform the Cirque du Soleil show. What is a shame is the show only runs on wednesdays thru to sundays. It's only monday and i'm only staying two night so won't be able to see it :-(

On the 3rd level is the Marco Polo square, Grande Central hall with its golden curved escalator and the main feature grand canal, with gondolas gracefully sailing up and down resplendent with red&white T-shirt and black hatted singing gondoliers. Spot on and a great atmosphere, complete with painted blue cloudy sky above. 88 Patacas for a ride (£1 = 15 Patacas = 15 HKD near enough).

Had a great meal in the food court before the ride. Every nationality of food on the planet available almost.

The rain was easing off a little outside so went to see what the waterfront had to offer by night. Took a route around the Largo do Camo lake and through the eating street in the old town Rua do Cunha. Looks a good possilility for tomorrow night, with many nationalities of food. Should have some traditional Portugese. The Taipa side of the strait has some pretty cool illuminations on its buildings at night, but the Macau side excels itself. The lightshow from the glitzy Lisboa Casino dominates the skyline along with the Wynn casino and its fountain light show. The Lisboa looks like a cross between a pineapple and a firework, with an ever-changing display. Mesmerising in some ways and garish in others...just like Las Vegas. There are three bridges that link the upper island of Macao with the lower islands of Tapia & Coloane, all three are different design and lit up at night, to good effect. The Sai Van bridge to the west is a dynamic double-hump design with the dominant Macau Tower adjacent to it. Will go there tomorrow as part of a mammoth loop of Macau. I noticed that all of the big hotel casinos ran private coaches to/from the border-gate, for people who live on th cinese side and just come in for a flutter. A big money making game that keeps so many people employed here. Also a higher class of 'street girl'. You see them walking up and down outside of the casinos waiting for the winners to appear. They emerge, choose the girl, jump in a waiting taxi and they're off. It's so obvious.

I had walked for miles so got a taxi back. Not cheap here at 30 HKD. The meter reads in Patacas, but most people pay in HKD, which the taxi drivers like, because they are getting paid more. I am trying not to gather many Patacas (MOP) as they cannot be spent or exchanged outside of Macau, apart from a few for my currency collection I keep from each country I visit.

Tue 12th Aug - Breakfast was a nice international mix and it was weird using a knife and fork as I've been so used to chopsticks for the past couple of months. They are actually easier once you get used to them.

The sun was shining this morning. Just what I need for a day's sightseeing. There are a few buses that cross the bridge and easy enough to pick one up. Got a number 33 but didn't have the 3.3 Patacas in change and they don't give change. As luck had it a lovely local girl who spoke some english helped me out and paid my fare...wouldn't take anything from me for it. Got off near to the Lisboa casino and made that my first stop, to see if the inside is as dazzling as the outside. It doesn't dissappoint! The design is incredible like I said last night. Inside is a bit swish, with ostentatious design. Went into the casino for a look. They all look the same after a while and offer the same games. Cannot see how anyone could choose between one another?

Spent many hours wandering around the old town, amongst the old and atmospheric streets. Many curches to visit and whichever direction I took, there was always at least one, all with very similar style...ochre yellow walls with white relief and painted pictorial ceilings. Of the many highlights, a few highlights were...

Barra hill area around the maritime museum...with a fascinating buddhist temple with many hanging incense coils on a variety of levels. Rained heavily for a short while, and dried up about 10 minutes after it had stopped. I was soaked though as didn't bring my umbrella.

St Paul's...the highest point and a good place to view the city. It is also co-sited with the Macau Museum, which was nice and cool to go into. The roof fortress and gate area has a good vantage of the surrounds, with many canons from its days as a defence post. Made me chuckle that one of the canons points directly at the Lisboa Casino and hotel...maybe someone doesn't think it sould be there? Another funny sight was a couple of old travellers wearing T-shirts saying 'Official Solar eclipse team'. For anyone who knows what the group ZZ-Top are like...that's what these guys looked like. Sat on St.Paul's steps and people watched for a while. Amusing the theatrical things people get up to when they are having their photo taken in front of a historical monument. Facebook is full of funny pictures like it!

Back through the streets, picking up some free samples of the local almond cookies and also the spiced meat (beef and pork mainly) that is everywhere, and paused for a while in Central square, where they had a big screen televising the olympic games, then aimed towards the 'Kun Lam Statue' and through the peaceful and shaded Dr Carlos d'Assumcao park for a short rest under a banyan tree, as it is roasting and humid today. The statue is a graceful 20m high bronze statue standing on a white lotus. Nice peaceful chanting music inside, where there is a display on how it was built. Sat in a Ying/Yang chair and contemplated for a while...

Further on along the water front, into what is referred to as the 'Outer Harbour Area'' and you are hit by the enormous gold Sands Casino and opposite the Babylon Casino. These places are humongous...I mean biiigg! The money that rolls through their doors must be phenomenal. Just passed and the road reaches the Fisherman's Wharf. More of a themepark really. A stage set colloseum style design, with a big mountain behind it. Game zones of course, and a mock american helicopter where you can have your photo aken in combat mode. A guy dressed like an arab, multi-national restaurants. It is tring to appeal to everyone. I returned to the town centre and must have walked miles today. Feet tired and ready for a break so got the bus back to the hotel for a welcome shower.

Until the next time....


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