how come I love the messy shops,
the lively raucaus restaurants,
the worn outness of buildings,
narrow winding streets so much ?
- I've just arrived in Macau,
29Aug09 at 22:30
If I was ever going to talk about
having lived in a place in another
lifetime, and I had to pick a
place, this would be one of
them for sure.
I feel at home here straight after
arriving at 10:30pm via Kuala
Lumpur and an 11 hour stopover.
I surprise myself with the
confidence with which I lounge in
the corner of a restaurant, order
stuff, get served by guys without
shirts wearing old shorts, because
its clean-up and close-up time but
the white gringo wanted some of
the last bits of food in the trays
before they got cleaned away.
I speak one word of Chinese and they none of English. The teenage son was hauled out to face me, "Ze foreigner", at first but that wasn't neccessary after a while. The staff kept going, chatting, watching some comedy of manners and talking animated with each other.
The mentality, the approach, the attitude to life is soooo very different to where I normally live in Melbourne. Not bettter or worse, just so different.
Not many speak English here, but unexpectedly some do
"stand in line please" a lady tells me.
I surprise myself again by not minding that at all.
Ï'm trying to figure out if the bus goes to my hotel" I tell her. She very kindly ends up showing me where my bus stop really is.
There seems to be less fear of talking to strangers. Not the "Oh my god a stranger's talking to me" instant apprehension of inner city Melbourne. [Country people are not like that I found.] Or maybe I just look really harmless. Certainly the check in girl must have thought I was some absent minded professor when I couldn't get the electronic room door open. Turns out you have really crunch the handle down like crazy. Almost to point of brute force.
----------- 30Aug09 Sunday ------------
The hotel "Öle London" is nice but they charge for two persons per room and I don't want to afford that invisible companion (AUD $99 total).
A cockcroach falls on me at the first alternative hotel I look at. It started as a funny scratch at the side of the neck which I flicked off and onto the front desk. Turns out to be a roach lands onto the check-in desk. Not a good omen.
But maybe it was there in my shirt from overnight ? Don't know, these things happen.
I have no money to pay the hotel in HongKong Dollars. Banks are closed on Sunday. So money changing turns out to be interesting. There are changing booths in Senado Square I'm told. It's easy to get to, the hotel desk lady tells me. (Beware of that phrase "it's easy to find'.)
I have a choice to risk it and beat a track through tiny alleyes and curving streets to Senado Square or to play it 'safer'.
I decide to take the longer but surer route along main roads I can't miss according to the map (yea sure, ha ha ha ) . I get lost anyway. Out comes the trusty magnetic compass and old jungle and boy scout skills come to the rescue. That and the odd confirmation question from locals.
After asking 7+ people I finally find the exchange booth. Phew.
Then I realize: oh!!! this is literally around the corner from where I set out. With a little more adventurousness I'd have found it in a few minutes...and I'd have found exchange booths with better rates at that...
Oh well I got to know Macau better.
There's a little life lesson in this if I care to look. Hmmm.....
I am proud to say I can now get around most areas and have some idea of where I am. Compared to my time 3 years ago I'm feeling like an old hand. I even remember some of the vague glimpses of those frantic 1.5 days from memory and they fit into the overall picture.
At the HOtel the whole family comes out to eat behind the front desk. Somehow I like this mix of business and private, it feels nicer and more human to me than 5 star robotic friendlyness. However I could get used to both if I had to ... ;-P
I open the door.
"You not check out ? Please pay".
Ok I pay my $280 Macau Patacas (Aud $45) - a bit upmarket for me, but hey the place feels nice.
The real cheap places tend to be overrun with red light activities.
The area I ended up in is the street of "felicidad" i.e. 'happyiness' - it used to be famous for happiness of the carnal kind. Most of that activity has shifted to the casinoes, closer to the punters, but some of it still lingers here I think.
I arranged to meet a group of locals and travellers in Macau on Sunday. I had never met any of them in person before.
In a strange new city I like to meet locals and expats, otherwise I tend to float like a cork, on the surface of life and remain the gringo tourist ready for the milking. I'll probably always be the gringo tourist, but there are ways to dive below the surface and meet locals and other travellers.
One of those ways is to meet likeminded, traveller friendly local & expat people in that strange new city. So 7 of us met at a famous ice cream shop on Sunday at 12.30. Four were local Macau residents, a lady who was studying business and has a wine import business, a final year High School student who wants to study in Europe, a Goverment employee in education who loves to travel and wants to visit 100 countries before he dies and a Japanese Macau resident who runs a business.
The foreigners were a group of exchange Univ students (Germany, Finland, Holland...) and a Japanese visiting her friend, + yours truly. Pictures here: Sunday meeting
We used this site www.couchsurfing.org to meet up.
Everyone met at a small inconspicuous ice cream shop that was famous for its ice cream sandwiches. Then the locals took us to eat at a REAL traditional noodle shop, we shopped for a new camera for the German exchange student. Our High School guide took the rest of us who stayed on for a tour of her favourite spots in Macau: the bisquit making, juice shop, super fresh tofu shop, backpackers place where a famous movie was shot. (thanks VL :-) ) Oh yea, and we found out about the graffiti scene in Macau, nothing like as full on as in Melbourne but some really nice stuff, with interesting ideas.
It seems that multinational marketing is getting really sophisticated: Apparently Coca Cola sponsored graffiti that subtly promotes their Zero Coke brand, but looks like a huge graffiti mural. Photo to follow once I manage to get a cable to connect the camera to the computer. [update: photo below]
that was it so far...
If I won Tattslotto, you can imagine what I'd be doing full time. :-)
Blowing my own trumpet a bit:
After 4 years of pushing, modest result in the newspaper: Heiko and the cypress trees being chopped at the Melb Gen Cemetery- here.
as they say, every dog has his day :-)Travel tips by heiko here
and by lonely planet below:
'dance me to the children who are asking to be born....' - Leonard Cohen