Thursday, July 2, 2009

Making a mess in Macau, China

We are now in Macau, which is a special administrative district of China. Macau is frequently called the Las Vegas of China, and that seems to be a fair edict. It was a colony of the Portuguese for some time and this is evident in some of its cuisine and architecture. I will tell you this though, we saw no Portuguese people today. I think we may actually be the only two white people in Macau. Everyone is Asian. Macau feels a lot more like China then Hong Kong. We stick out like the huge western map-toting slugs that we are. Macau has a sort of East meets train-wreck/insane sort of vibe. At one point in the day, we were standing on a fake man-made volcano, looking out over a roman coliseum with a middle eastern village and a downed black hawk chopper, all with a massive second rate casino in the background. This specific area that I speak of is known as the Fisherman's Wharf area, and it is sort of a minor league Chinese Epcot Center or something, very strange. Our theory on Macau is that there was a huge rush to put up as many casinos and attractions as quickly as possible, and it is sort of a huge ambitious mess in the middle of a rather large Chinese city. The mall was unfinished, and the wharf area felt like a huge elaborate ghost town. We saw very few people. All said, it is a very compelling place, and we throughly enjoyed it until the casinos overwhelmed us into oblivion.
Our day began in Hong Kong, on the 40th floor, jogging on treadmills overlooking Victoria Harbor. I cannot imagine a more beautiful way to jog without actually moving. After an American breakfast in Cafe du Parc at our hotel, we headed off to take the subway to the Sheung Wan stop, which is where the ferry to Macau departs. I would be lying to you all if I said that our commute to the stop was without incident. Kristin got caught in the middle of the turnstiles after her wheeled luggage registered as a person and locked her in. This was some terrific early morning melodrama. We both laughed it off as a "totally Kristin thing to do" and hustled to the ferry terminal to catch the 12:15 boat. The sea was extremely rocky and we both kind of thought that our breakfast may soon be starring in an unnecessary sequel, "Hash Prown - Part 2" (P is intentional, spelling is hilarious over here). We remembered that I bought these nausea bracelets that had been recommended to us by Kristin's mom. Either they worked or we are tougher than we both believed because the ride was bumpy as hell, but we were like a couple of worthy seadogs. We arrived in Macau and were transferred free of charge to our hotel - The Hotel Lisboa. Supposedly, the Lisboa casino is the most famous in Asia. It is definitely the brightest; our room is lit up like day time at 9:00pm. The Lisboa is filled with ALOT of Asian trinkets and antiques in cases. It is definitely a Chinese glam affair. The opulence is so overdone that if it were a steak it would be a pile of dust. Everything shines and glimmers, even our personal restroom seems fit for a shah. Our shower/tub has jets, foot massage bar, radio, numerous shower heads, and even doubles as a steam bath. Overall, we are very pleased with our room.

For lunch, we decided to have some dim sum at a revered restaurant in our hotel. Dim Sum is a wide range of light dishes usually served in the morning to mid-day. It is sort of like Chinese tapas. Kristin played it safe with a wonton soup dish that tasted excellent, while I opted for the Chef's dim sum recommendation. The recommendation included 8 items such as minced octopus and scallop roll, steamed cuttlefish dumpling, and sharktail bun (which for the record, I am not supportive of because the overfishing of sharks is destroying underwater ecosystems). Lunch was amazing, and neither of us even got a stomach ache. Kristin and I finished all of the dim sum except for half of one piece.

After our lunch, we set out for some light exploring. Taxis are very cheap in Macau, so that was are chosen form of transport. We stopped by the A-ma temple first. The A-ma temple has existed since the 15th century, and is considered the most famous in Macau. It did not seem like a tourist place, located sort of off the beaten track. Many people go to the temples to pray, so Kristin and I tread extremely lightly and take very few photographs within the temples. People buy fireworks and set them off in these temples, which we could not seem to figure out but think that maybe it is to ward off evil spirits. Most people light a bundle of incense and chant their prayers, after which they stick the incense sticks in offering bowls. We both wanted to take part, but have no bearing on the proper temple etiquette.

After A-ma temple, we headed to the fisherman's wharf to check it out. It includes a roman amphitheater, a faux-middle-eastern village, a downed black hawk chopper, a huge volcano (that we think operates a shut down rollercoaster), a huge Chinese temple, and more! It is an odd collection that is perhaps a paean to the random. The place was pretty empty, and we think that maybe it is incomplete. We went shopping in the mall under the volcano, and the grocer was half stocked with some serious welding going on just feet away from the check out line, lots of sparks. The whole area felt like a surreal half built ghost town designed by either mundane idiots or eccentric geniuses, depending purely on your perspective at that exact moment.

We headed north for a walled city garden, Lom Lim Ioc Garden. The garden was definitely a local place, with Chinese skinny old shirtless dudes doing t'ai chi and families relaxing next to lotus ponds. The park had ponds, bamboo groves, a huge gnarled banyan type tree, and a bridge with 9 turns in it, said to be used to escape evil spirits. Evil spirits can supposedly only go straight. Our walk through the park was filled with pleasantries, and felt unbelievably authentic. We left the park and since we were so deep in a local area, we could not find a cab. At first this seemed awful, but we had a very interesting mile long walk back to our hotel through a Chinese urban jungle. We got to peak into a number of strange stores, dodge mopeds, and brush elbows with locals. It was a great walk.

We finished our night exploring casinos and looking for a place to have dinner. Some encounters of note are the droves of dolled up Asian prostitutes roaming the bottom floor of the mall under our hotel/casino and the 3 american looking girls dressed like wild beasts dancing to Prodigy on the main stage at the Grand Lisboa casino.

We ended up throwing in the towel early, and shamefully ordering American food for room service. Tomorrow we head back to Hong Kong for two days and are going to explore the outer islands. Here are some pictures from today:

Kristin getting her temperature at our Hong Kong hotel

On the subway to Macau Ferry terminal

It was a pretty full car

Ferry ride to Macau

Our hotel

Kristin in hotel lobby

Our room at Lisboa

View from room

Another picture of room

Opulent restroom

Little tree

Kristin's wonton soup

Dim Sum

Is this face intentional?

Shrimp dim sum dish

Lisboa Sundae

Entry to Hotel Lisboa

Typical Chinese street


A-ma temple entrance

Justin at temple

Praying in temple

Kristin making an offering

Temple dogs with Macau tower in background

Offering bowl at temple

Macau casino skyline

Fisherman's Wharf - empty

Roman Amphitheatre?

Large Temple

Too much going on here...

The Vulcano

Kristin and Justin

Cool statue on water

Lom Lim Ioc Garden

Gnarled tree

Lotus Pond

Curving (9) bridge

Mannequin store

Walk through Macau city

Kristin in front of casino


  1. Great pics! Looks like a lack of civil planning there.

  2. The Dim Sum looks dilectible. How are the waiters and waitresses treating you?

    Thanks for showing us the gun show on the subway as well.

  3. Definitely a lack of correct civil planning in Macau, but that is probably what happens when the Chinese, Portuguese, and foreign capital collide to build a city.

    The servers have treated us very professionally, and the gun show was free of charge.

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