Friday, March 10, 2017

Thursday March 9: Macau (Liz)

Today was our day trip to the former Portuguese colony of Macau. It is also the gambling capital of the world, with more money gambled there than even in Vegas. On our way to the ferry terminal we stopped at the most delectable bakery we had previously seen on our street. The pastries were still warm. Mark and Dale had pineapple buns (called melon pan in Japan) and I had a custard bun. Oh my foodness! It had real custard inside, nothing like the pudding-like substance that goes in most US custard doughnuts. We took the first ferry of the day from Kowloon to Macau, about an hour’s journey.

The casinos offer free shuttles from the ferry terminal to their casinos so we took advantage of that and then walked to the historic center of the island, which is the only UNESCO World Heritage site that we will encounter on this trip. Upon arriving at Senado Square, it seriously felt like we had been transported back to Europe. I especially liked the patterned black and white cobblestone pathways. Dale had looked up a walking tour for us to follow, so that we did. We saw several churches including St. Dominic’s and the most popular tourist attraction of Macau, the Ruins of Saint Paul. This church was originally built in the early 1600s but then destroyed by fire in 1835. Only the fa├žade remains. It was very crowded and difficult to walk around the outside without photobombing others’ selfies, but it was quite fascinating to see. Right next to the ruins was a small shrine dedicated to gambling which I found amusing.

Senado Square #1



Senado Square #2

Saint Dominic's

Ruins of St. Paul

Gambling shrine
Close to the Ruins of Saint Paul was the old fortress of Macau, which now houses its Museum of history. It was a pretty cheap admission so we decided to go inside. The museum showed the convergence of Chinese and Portuguese culture in Macau, including a description of the history and production of firecrackers. What stood out to us the most was a traditional Chinese bridal sedan, very ornately decorated. Once we exited the museum we were able to walk around the top of the fortress which afforded great (but hazy) views of Macau.

Chinese bridal sedan. Seriously crazy.





I love these trees. And they're everywhere!
For lunch we wanted to make sure we had Portuguese food. We walked back to the tourist office to see if they could give us some suggestions. It was the most bizarre tourist office I have ever been in. We were the only tourists inside and it was dead silent, with 4-5 workers behind the desk either staring at their computer screens or mobile devices. No one looked up to even acknowledge us when we walked in, and we stood around for a good 2-3 minutes before anyone looked at us or spoke to us. In the end we did end up with some restaurant suggestions and went on our way. We found a Portuguese restaurant with a special lunch menu and it was oh so delicious! We all started with a pureed vegetable soup, and then Dale and I had the mussels served with cheesy potatoes and Mark had some pork smothered with onions and other delicousness with French fries. We were quite pleased with our lunch choice.




After lunch we hit up a couple more touristy spots, including an old Chinese mansion that has recently been partially restored. Then we found a street that sold one of Macau’s specialties, jerky. Interestingly enough the jerky was being sold in pastelerias, or pastry shops, along with other sweets. There were samples galore! The jerky was being sold in many varieties and it’s presented in big sheets rather than more bite-sized pieces that we are accustomed too. The jerky is also kept warm which was a bit unusual. We didn’t appreciate the flavor of many of the jerkies – many just tasted like dried pork chops – but we did find a garlic pork jerky tasty enough to buy. We also bought some Portuguese egg tarts to try. They were oh so flaky and buttery and oh so delicious!

Part of the Chinese mansion
Stock photo of jerky. Apparently I only thought I hit the button to take a photo on my phone.





When we had exhausted the historic centre of Macau we decided to check out some of the casinos we had seen on our way there. The grandest of them all and also the one with the most interesting building shape, the Grand Lisboa, did not disappoint on the inside. There were fancy sculptures and lots of decorative crystal beading. Two of the featured sculptures were carved from mammoth tusks, and others featured plated gold or jade. We watched the fountain display outside of the Wynn hotel and then checked out the fish tank inside the MGM Grand. Lucky for us, they started fish feeding time shortly after we arrived. The fish tank was pretty impressive featuring thousands of fish and over 100 different species including a sting ray. There was a cute girl about Claire’s age that came up to us and waved and said “hello!” while her mom filmed the whole thing.

Another stock photo


Love the dangly crystals!

Mammoth tusk carving



By this point we were very exhausted and decided to head back to the ferry terminal a little early and just hang out until it was time for our early evening ferry. Once we arrived back on Kowloon, we immediately stopped to get some dinner at a mediocre Chinese place. It’s not really worth mentioning any more about the food there so I won’t. We went back to our Airbnb for some recovery afterwards, then went on a little stroll so we could force ourselves to stay awake until a decent bedtime. This was the second day in a row that we had a total step count of over 30,000!


I found this McDonalds kiosk on our walk home through Kowloon Park. They only sell drinks and desserts. I'd never seen anything like it before!
OBSERVATIONS:

  • I expected the Hong Kongese to be similar to the Japanese in terms of chivalry. Boy was I wrong! Trying to get on a bus or up an escalator or even across a street at a crosswalk, you must be aggressive. And "priority seating" for the elderly and mothers with small children is almost never observed on the trains. On two separate buses in Lantau no one offered to give up their seats to mothers carrying babies who got on board. I made Mark do it to set a good example and show some American manners.
  • Toothpick obsession. At several restaurants we've been to, toothpicks are automatically provided to us at the end of our meals. And in our Airbnb kitchen, there's no salt or pepper or napkins but there are definitely toothpicks!
  • I've noticed many restaurants and even a food truck featuring toast, whether it be just plain buttered toast or something more extravagant. I'm guessing that stems from the English influence of the city?

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