Years ago, I made a trip to Hong Kong and had planned a day-trip to Macau. But, I got a little confused, showed up at 6:30 p.m. for a 6:30 a.m. flight from LAX. The airline was nice enough to let me pay a crazy change fee and go the next day. And since I had been dropped at the airport, it meant an expensive night at a hotel. Well, the short version is a lost the window to visit Macau. I didn't mind too much because I had always heard Macau was a rather dirty and uneventful place.
Nevertheless, I convinced my family it was worth a visit this time. Lisa had already left for China and Karl's family was on their way home. So, Mom and Dad, Kim and the girls, and I took the train to the ferry terminal.
The plan was an early departure...but, at 7 a.m., I just couldn't bring myself to rouse everyone. I could have channeled my father from my high school years and started yelling, "Reveille, reveille, hit the deck! Rise and shine!" But, I don't like too much noise in the morning now any more than I did when I was in high school. Good thing for my dad. He probably deserves that kind of treatment. Karma and all.
When we got to the appropriate metro stop, this worker found us and asked where we were going. Maybe she suspected we were trying to find the ferry terminal. In any case, when I told her, she said, "Not that way. His scooter won't go. Follow me." And she whisked us on a race through the metro station. We got to the elevator. She explained to me how to get to the ferries from there. But when I started repeating, "So, we take the elevator to floor 3..." She looked worried and just got in the elevator with us. She led us down a corridor and around a bend to another elevator. Once again, she explained to me how to get to the ferries from here. I guess I must have looked a little confused, because she jumped on the elevator and said, "I will show you." The elevator came out on the street. She pointed up the street, around the corner, up a ramp, around a bend...Ok, I was still confused. I actually laughed out loud when she frowned and said, "Follow me." She led us a couple of blocks. Pointed out the ferry terminal, explained there was no way for the scooter to get up if we went straight, so she pointed to an elevated walkway and led my eye around to the right where she told me I would find another elevator. I thanked her profusely, but she seemed relieved just to finally be finished with us.
There was a little french bakery at the bottom of elevators, so our search for ferries suddenly turned into breakfast. I kept trying to speak french to the girls who worked there, which seemed terribly funny to me--french bakery and all--but my humor was completely lost on them. Oh well. Or perhaps it was just how embarrassingly bad my command of 10 words of french is. The owner brought over some cookies he wanted to sample. It was all tasty, but our time in Macau was slipping away.
We found the terminal, bought our ferry tickets, and ended up in an immigration line. OK, when Macau belonged to Portugal, I could see the point in immigration. And because of the unique status of Hong Kong and Macau, I could see why immigration is an issue into China. But I was sort of confused as to why I needed to immigrate to Macau. Glad I brought my passport or this would have been a short trip. The immigration officers whisked Mom and Dad away and the rest of us had no idea where they were. When we still hadn't seen them when we started boarding, we started wondering if they were even on the same ship as we were. However, when we boarded, there were Mom and Dad, settled into the front seats and talking about the last time they were in Macau.
The boat was not exactly a pleasure cruise. It was comfortable enough, but not really any way to take a picture or watch the city fall away. Kim and I chatted a little as we bounced along. The girls were excited to find wifi on the boat and transported themselves out of the horrors of family world back to the comfortable surroundings of live chats with friends.
After immigration, we were trying to figure out which way to go. This Filipina showed up, presented herself as a guide and started negotiating with us to show us Macau. Actually, she presented herself as a tour guide/chef/stand up comedian/entrepreneur. Kim started just calling her "the crazy lady." We eventually hired her for the day for about half of what she wanted. While I wasn't particularly excited about her, we didn't really have any idea how to navigate Macau. We could take taxis, but the big hotels here offer free shuttles going just about everywhere. The crazy lady worked a little too hard keeping us entertained, telling us stories and anecdotes that she found hilarious and we found at best uncomfortable.
Macau seems to have developed into two contrasting cities. There is the Old Macau that still has a lot of the Portuguese influence, at least in its architecture and food. Then, there is the new Macau that rivals Las Vegas in its opulence and exceeds it in sheer cash flowing through the casinos. The crazy lady took us to the New Macau first where everything is air conditioned and there is a Starbucks in every building. We stared up the Eiffel Tour, walked beside the canals of Venice, looked up into grand cupolas, and rode a sky gondola around the hotel. Getting from place to place was a bit of a challenge, but only because lifts were not located in the simplest places. Escalators connected one building to the next.
As the afternoon heat began to fade, we followed the crazy lady to Old Macau. Now, I was impressed with New Macau, but I honestly enjoyed Old Macau, with its mix of Asian warmth and European flavor a lot more. We caught a bus to the square where a couple of teenagers asked Kaitlin and Haley to complete a survey. They seemed to enjoy the interaction, so we just let them go. I kept busy snapping pictures of the fountain and the square. Kim needed to go into the pharmacy for something and another pair of teenagers approached me about their survey. The crazy lady tried to shew them away, but I decided I liked them. I agreed and quickly responded to their survey while I chatted with them, asked them what they were doing, teased them a little--they were teenagers, after all. When I handed them back the survey, they started to walk away. WAIT A MINUTE! I told them I wanted a picture with them. I wrapped an arm around each of them and got someone to take our picture. The guy looked at me a little surprised. "You are so nice," he said. He asked the girl to take a picture of he and I with his phone.
We had dinner in a little Portuguese restaurant. Good. Then, we started looking for Portuguese egg tarts. Truth be told, that is the main reason I wanted to come to Macau. Everyone was out! Kim and I followed the crazy lady up and down the street looking for them. When we finally found a lady on a back street with some left, we bought her out!
We headed back on a night ferry. We were all tired, but enjoyed the day. Kim said it was maybe her favorite day of the entire adventure. Nice.