Even though most of our days are occupied by work, our supervisor at the Hong Kong America Center has taken the liberty of planning a handful of Saturday excursions (Macau, Victoria Peak, Lantau Island so far) for all of the interns he’s overseeing. There are 18 of us, and it’s always nice to be able to just mindlessly follow someone around for a day.
^ I am still highly considering going back and doing the same. Let me know if I should make the trip.
We needed to exit Hong Kong as visitors so we could return and officially activate our training visas – hence our trip to Macau SAR was born.
Taking the TurboJet ferry for the hour ride in the morning was really enjoyable, actually. The interior reminded me of an extremely wide plane, but this time I was able to enjoy the vast waters of the Zhujiang River Estuary (a title google maps taught me) and the sprinklings of islands at ground(sea?)-level!
A fun way to inadverently keep track of everywhere I’ve travelled is by these automatic alerts from my phone. Although we had to carry our passports with us, I hadn’t really registered that we actually left all of Hong Kong’s islands. Granted, I thought Macau was mainland China, but it turns out that it’s still a territory (“Special Administrative Region”), like Hong Kong.
We spent almost the entire day in Macau; we left the dorms at 9am, and returned around midnight – what with all of the commutes and such.
I sincerely enjoyed the excursion, simply because it was a change of pace and reminded me that, after all, I am a visitor here. Shaela and I have been discussing that our 5-day work week has become almost too routine; we ought to try our hardest to take advantage of our free time to explore, because there’s way more to Hong Kong than our commute. It’s tough sometimes, though. The three of us rarely have the same full day off, and it’s surprising how tired I feel when I do get the day to myself. But Jarlai, Shaela, and I have learned that exploring doesn’t always have to entail a trying trek somewhere; it can simply be a short visit to the town two MTR stops away from campus, one we often pass but have never stepped into.
The majority of Macau was a bit too flashy and commercial for me. I could eat their Portuguese-style egg tarts for eternity, though.
Which is how long Portugal wishes they could’ve colonized Macau, I’m sure. Alas, Macau only lasted an unimpressive 442 years under Portuguese rule as the longest European settlement in Asia, until it was given up in 1999.
Our day started off with a visit to the historic centre of Macau: Old Portuguese Colonial Town. The buildings were clustered in an impressive array of pastels and whites, and the sidewalks were tan and decorated with brown swirls (kind of like an earthy yellow-brick road) – the design indicates historic districts.
The path from the open square lead into narrow streets, lined with shops, bakeries, delis, etc – all handing out free samples! We could’ve fed ourselves on those free samples alone. Suddenly those cramped, winding streets opened up into a vast clearing showcasing an ancient complex that used to be the site of St. Paul’s Cathedral (pictured below), but is now just the front side. There was a small fortress beside it up which, even in the heat, I dragged Shaela (thanks, Shaela; sorry, Shaela). It was a lovely panoramic view up top, but also extremely jarring. One side showcased the city’s flashy and trashy hotels, and the other side displayed the jampacked slums. Food for thought.
The disparity really couldn’t be avoided, if you delve into the city on foot the way that we did.
This picture to the left displays the views we were met with (one need only look up). It juxtaposes the pristine and perfect skyscraper with the reality of many Macau residents. One is clearly towering over the other. It was a surprise to me, but then again, perhaps it shouldn’t have been.
The rest of the day was spent visiting the Wynn Palace Resort (which had a complementary cable car ride around its man-made pond) and the Venetian…second largest casino in the world? Complete with a mock Venice doubling as a giant mall, it was…big. We were just given a large chunk of time to walk around and shop, if we wanted.
So, it’s pretty safe to say that the level of indulgence required in Macau was not exactly my cup of tea. There’s something about the sheer amount of money which goes into constructing casinos, as well as the money circulating within it (/gambled away), that makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. Not exactly the way I would spend or invest any of my money, but who I am to comment, I guess?
We were all exhausted by the end of the day, and I most definitely slept the full ride back. When I woke up, my phone was wishing me a happy welcome back to Hong Kong SAR. Our visas were stamped and activated, and we were good to go. I gotta say, I am super excited that my visa section of my passport is actually starting to fill. Wish I could get stamps wherever I go, though.
Up next on Edward’s Excursions – 2 & 3: The Peak & Ngo Ping, Tian Tan, and Tai O