Monday, September 21, 2009

Macau - Saturday night

Took the ferry to Macau on Saturday, in order to see the firework display down by the Tower, and also to spend a relaxing day out of Hong Kong, avoiding the suffocating heat by swapping Special Administrative Region for 24 hours.
Some things are good about Macau, some things less so. One thing you rapidly become accustomed to in Hong Kong is travelling by taxi. In Macau there seems to be a real dearth of taxis practically everywhere - and that is regardless of whether you're in the backcountry (as much as it can be), at the ferry terminal when a boat has arrived, or in the middle of town. There. Just. Aren't. Any. It's not that there's a big queue for the taxi rank. There's maybe one taxi every twenty minutes rolling down to the Cotai ferry port. Maybe this is because they assume everyone will take hotel shuttle buses to the Strip, but then that wouldn't explain why there's no taxis anywhere else. (Or, for that matter, when you do see a taxi with its meter lit up, around 50% of the time they'll put their out of service card over it as soon as you hail them. Is this because I'm a gweilo? If it is, they may have the wrong idea about who was oppressing them - I've never even been to Portugal. If anyone was going to get annoyed at me for being English, it should naturally be the taxi drivers of Hong Kong...)
Eventually a taxi comes, and we head to our hotel in Taipa. As with all 3-star accomodation in Macau (cf the Holiday Inn), it smells of stale cigarette smoke. At the desk they're incredibly slow to check you in (there seem to be two people who aren't doing anything apart from pointedly ignore you) and then they told us there were no rooms left with double beds, unless we chose to upgrade by paying 50HKD. Tssk. It's not so much the money I object to, as the principle of extorting it from the customer at check-in when they've got no choice. But maybe I shouldn't have booked via Agoda. Who knows?
Bedroom itself is impressive. Impressive because the bed is probably slightly less comfortable than sleeping on my desk at the office. It's so hard that when I lay down, I thought I would bounce off again. Carpet was freshly cleaned ... fifteen years ago and there's a beautiful view - of the underpants of the people living opposite.
Left quickly to get to Macau town centre. Asked at the desk for them to call us a taxi (see above). Nobody thinks to get on the phone (is this a cultural issue?) - the bellboy wanders outside and lines up for a cab. When one does arrive, he starts to allow somebody behind him in the queue to take it, but my secret weapon barrels out to the road, remonstrates with the taxi hijackers, and we're on our way to St Paul's.
San Paul's by night
We play with some of the dogs that are being walked around the ruins of the cathedral, RV with our friends and then walk down to find a restaurant. Half way through this walk I realise that I underestimated the warmth in Macau - a pair of jeans suitable for autumn in New York are no good for Macau. Unless you're keen on losing weight. (I did catch an episode of The Contender the next morning on tv, and there was a Muay Thai boxer training by running in a sweat suit around Singapore - he had my sympathies.) We go the wrong way down a hill, wander around a bit more, then find a taxi to take us to the restaurant (although he can't understand the address we give him, and has no working light inside his car, so occasionally stops to get out and read our map via the light of his headlamps). Again, probably spoilt by taxi drivers in Hong Kong who have enough English to get by at least 50% of the time; the ones in Macau seem fairly impervious to English, Portuguese or Cantonese. Ah well.
Restaurant is full - we go down to Restaurant Littoral, where they serve lots of fish. Here's the codfish that I didn't eat whilst I was dining on spaghetti with tomato paste (hurrah for vegetarianism in Macau):
Codfish, Littoral, Macau
With that down us, we grab another cab and head to the Tower, where the second round of fireworks that evening are just starting. Here's some fireworks going off:
Photos don't really do it justice - lots of lovely lights like gold dust floating down from the sky, along with big eights being sketched up there and some lovely green and blue explosions. Wish we'd seen the Italian entry as well as the Filipino, but never mind - only problem was having to walk for an hour back into town before we finally caught a taxi (by which point my better half was riled enough to be sprinting down the street after one), back to our industrial strength bed.


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