Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Macao and A Card Game

Macau is a different thing altogether. I still don't know in which language is Macau and in which is called Macao. My mother asked why do we stay two days, they had a few hours in the city and didn't really like it. When we were children we played all the time a cards game, called Macao. The fact that they have a country named after a cards game, or the other way around made us curious and we always wanted to come here. Half a million people live on a small peninsula and the two adjacent islands of Taipa and Coloane. It was a Portuguese colony until 1999 and now, along with Hong Kong is part of the China's one country-two systems scheme. The historic center of Macau is designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reason is that it is a unique blend of western and eastern culture. The Portuguese arrived in early 1500s and stayed throughout the following centuries, being the forefront of the interaction between the two worlds.

We left Hong Kong in a hurry, passed immigration in one minute and got on a high speed boat. An hour later we were at the immigration line in Macao. Then we were back and forth in the taxi line or the bus line, until Ioan spotted the right bus and we jumped in. An hour on two buses and we saw most of the country. Our hotel, the Pousada de Coloane, was the lower point of the Southernmost island. It was the cheapest that I could find, twice the price of the most expensive hotel we had so far. This was upsetting, but I had no choice. Since 2001, Macao liberalized the gambling industry and it quickly became the gambling capital of the world. So it's flushed with tons of tourists and hordes of Chinese would come over for a quick casino tour. In Las Vegas we stayed in a nice hotel for $20, but here I couldn't find anything affordable. At Best Western, an American hotel chain, the $500 rooms were all booked, they had one for $1680! American dollars! The casinos have thousands of rooms, but I couldn't find out their prices, and I couldn't risk arriving here without some accommodation. Our hotel was by a small, isolated beach, it had a great swimming pool (closed for the winter) and a very expensive restaurant. We took our chance, looked for the village and when we arrived we found what looked like a ghost town. Later we would learn that the village of Coloane is another attraction for it's picturesque old looks, but when we got there at 7.30 at night, there wasn't anything going on. The stores were all closed and the streets were deserted, we could peak through the ajar doors and see locals playing some traditional board game. We did find a Chinese restaurant and had a good dinner.

Everything here is labeled in three languages, Portuguese, Chinese and English. Fewer people speak English compared to Hong Kong, especially the bus drivers don't seem to understand anything at all. But somehow we managed to get back in the main town the next day and we visited a lot of places. It's all very well marked and despite the unrelenting crowds we managed to see the old churches, the Senate building and square, the ruins of St. Paul Cathedral and the Macau museum. We spent a few hours in the museum, it is a very good education about Macanese history, life and culture. Upon our return we walked again through the main commercial avenues and tasted all the traditional Macanese food. We had free bites of cookies and beef and pork jerk, we bought pork sandwiches and egg cakes. It was a really good day, despite the 5 C temperatures. We don't gamble, so we ran after the bus and got straight to the hotel, passing by the casinos, including Venice, a bigger copy of the one in Las Vegas. It has a full size replica of the Plaza San Marco, it is the biggest air-conditioned space in the world, still not enough to arise anybody's interest.
One day it's more than enough for Macau and if someone finds cheaper accommodations it is a very nice place to visit. We liked it more than Hong Kong, and their airport is much cheaper so we saved something there. Anyhow by the end of our time there we were really excited that we were done with China. Go figure.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment form message here