A theme of the trip thus far: 人山人海
I taught the phrase to Ashley this morning. Its literal translation is Man, Mountain, Man, Sea. Typically used more so to describe displeasure in Mainland areas (esp during holidays and events), but Hong Kong has been coming pretty close. I can’t speak too much for Ashley regarding her cultural adjustment (and shock), but she’s definitely noticed the chaos and extraordinarily large amounts of people and long lines to accomplish anything at all. Not that this isn’t to be expected when we hit New York, but it’s pretty much unavoidable in any Asian metropolis.
We had an opportunity to eat at the City University cafeteria for breakfast this morning. Being Christmas day, it was void of people in a relieving way. Oh how I love that Universities empty themselves during holiday. Ashley and I ordered an assortment of dim sum varieties. To my shock, I found out that Chartwells runs this cafeteria as well. I was torn with feelings. Part of me was disgusted that the evil of the Chartwells empire, which plagues Stateside universities, had spread its cold touch to even Asia. But there was one major difference that I couldn’t put my finger on. The food wasn’t outrageously expensive. It was, in fact, affordable on student budgets. — As affordable and cheap as eating in Taiwan night markets, street stands, and dives. How could this possibly be? The best explanation that I came up with, and my aunt also alluded to this: is that education is such an extremely important focus of Asian life and culture, that government, universities, etc just won’t allow students to be taken advantage of. That (higher education) students need to be cared for is an idea that impresses me greatly, as someone who has spent most of his life living and working in Stateside campuses. I digress from the trip though…
We made our way to 港澳碼頭, the Hong Kong – Macau Ferry Terminal. Just like an international airport with immigration, terminals, and gates… but no security to move through. On a side note, Asian airports don’t care about shoes, liquids, etc. We boarded our Turbojet to Macau, and 60 minutes of minor sea sickness later, arrived and did the whole 30-60 minute line for disembarking & immigration dance.
Macau, more commonly known & referred to as Las Vegas of Asia than the ex-Portuguese colony that it was, quickly revealed the reasoning for this nickname as we stepped off of the boat. The first thing I took a photo of ended up being a casino. Many more casinos were in our way before arriving at Senado Square in the city centre. It was a nice change from all the casinos on the way in. The square was filled with European architecture, beautiful cobblestones, and of course a massive Christmas tree in the center.
I started working us towards St. Dominic’s Church for sight seeing, but hunger hit my Aunt. She immediately went on a massive hunt for food, leading us up and down various streets. I finally convinced her to look at a tourist map that she had, and told her to pick a mentioned restaurant from it. A particular Cafe de Tomato, a Portugese restaurant, caught her attention. Excited to try local fare Ashley and I agreed. The food was quite interesting. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw dishes saying horse. We even asked to waitress to confirm that it truly was. We ended up splitting Grilled Pork Neck in Portuguese Style Sauce, a Portugese Simmered Seafood Rice, and I wimped out with a Hong Kong style fried noodle with black peppered beef. The noodles ended up being the only tolerable dish; we struggled to finish the others.
After lunch, our highlight stops ended up being the Ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral, and also Fortaleza do Monte high above it. At the Cathedral, were many missionaries trying to spread the word about Jesus. They were passing out gift bags while saying in Chinese “This gift is is for all of you, the gift of Christ is free for everybody.” I was rather impressed by what was going on.
From atop the fort, one thing also quickly became evident of Macau — it had one of the most evident rich/poor splits I’ve ever seen. Being yet another one of the world’s most densely populated areas, but surviving on tourism & casinos as a primary economy, the toll on its people and buildings could be easily seen. One side of the fort was dominated by towering casinos, and on the other side belonged the slums and accommodations of the poor.
When we had finished exploring the city, we returned to Hong Kong via the wildest ride ever. Ashley and I both fell heavily seasick by the motions of our turbojet skipping up and down 10+ feet with every wave we cut across. Following our 1-hour roller coaster ride, was another disorganized 30-60 minute line through immigration. We headed toward a Shanghai-style restaurant called Crystal Jade that specializes in noodles and mini meat buns. We put our names down, and spent the next 90 minutes roaming the nearby shops and sitting at Starbucks until a table was ready. Being our last day in HK, on Christmas, we ate a large variety of traditional foods, and celebrated each other’s company.
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