Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Day 29 photos

back in Hong Kong, exploring the rainy mid-levels

and the street market

more Irish pubs and Tri-Nation rugby

the pedestrian passageways around Hong Kong

fastfood noodles at HK airport.

Day 29 : singing in the rain

We woke up to driving rain and strong gusts of wind. After a moment of dissapointment (oh no! we're not going to spend our last day on the beach!), we had a moment of panic (do you see the wind? do you think the seacat is still going? We have to get back to Hong Kong for our flight out!). All things considered, it's better to spend a rainy day in Hong Kong than in Macau and we both thought it'd be more reassuring to get back to Hong Kong just in need to panic about missing flights.

It was a rocky boat ride back, people vomiting left and right. Unfortunately, we were eating a pomelo when the vomit started so pomelos will never be the same again...back on dry land, we took the covered passageways from the ferry terminal to the mall at Central where we found a "city airport checkin". We were happy to be able to unload our bags for the day and explore a little more of Hong Kong.

We had big hamburgers for lunch (not so bad actually) because it was raining so hard we didn't want to leave the mall just then. We wandered the covered walkways towards central, stopping in small stores along the way. As we were heading up the mid-level escalators, we saw a massage shop so decided to take a break.

It was Rebecca's turn to suffer...we were each face down on a massage bed with our faces in the special hole cut out of the bed. Jerome said there should have been cameras to film our faces at we got massaged. At one point, Jerome yelped at which point Rebecca assumed he was suffereing as much as she was. But no, he was ticklish. Rebecca on the other hand was grinding her teeth in pain. It was pressure point massage which meant a lot of elbows digging into highly senstive points on the back, grinding against the bones. The masseueses were talking about us in Chinese but we have no clue what they were saying, except that Jerome was hairy. Despite feeling like we'd been beaten up, we felt relaxed and were once again impressed by the strength in those little hands.

We did some more wandering around in the rain, through some street markets. We bought some last minute gifts and took in a little more of the wonderful Hong Kong atmosphere. We ended up on a market street, wet and tired, we ducked into an Irish pub and caught another tri-nations match (see Shanghai). Rebecca took another wander in the rain and discovered a little store on side street seeling all sorts of good luck charms, incence and offerings.

We dragged our feet to the check-in counter at Central and took the train to the airport. Not wanting a hamburger to be her last meal in Hong Kong, Rebecca ate some won ton soup in the airport. Duty free shopping done, there was nothing else to do but board the plane...the plane was disinfected with a 'non-harmful' insecticide. As we got our last glimpse of Hong Kong before heading into the clouds, we were already planning our next trip. Maybe Tibet, maybe India? But in any case, we're definitely coming back to Hong Kong.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Day 28 photos

in the hotel lobby, waiting for the rain to stop

more hotel lobby

Chinese public exercise machines

Chinese stairmaster

exercise bike or...?

around Macau

dinner at O Porto Interior, the best meal we had!

cod cakes

"basket of Macanese snacks"

Macanese style King Prawns

stuffed squid

cream with portuguese biscuits

Mango pudding

Day 28 : amazing Macau!

It was pouring when we woke up so there was definitely no lazing around by the pool. We sat in the hotel lobby for a while waiting for the rain to stop and when it didn't, we went out anyway. We decided that going to Coloane Island to eat at Fernando's was out of the question since it was raining so hard we couldn't even see the port outside our window.

As the rain lightened a little, we walked towards the center of town in search of internet. On our way, we stepped into the Hotel Lisboa Casino where Rebecca lost 2MOPS (about 20 cents) in a machine. That done, we walked a little further and stumbled upon an internet cafe where we sat out the rain.

By the time we left, the sky was clearing. We walked towards the Guia fortress and through parks, noticing the Portuguese architecture mixed with Chinese culture. Not having had lunch, we got some pastries in the street. Yum.

We wandered through the smaller streets around the city center, in and out of little stores that seemed to sell everything. We were impressed with the bamboo steamers hanging from the ceilings and the many sizes of chopping knives. It felt like all of a sudden we had stepped into a different world. We enjoyed wondering in and out of stores until the rain started again...which is when we made it back to the main square and took refuge at Starbuck's. That's where we had our first encounter with the "real" Macanese - a couple of women were sitting next to us speaking Portuguese but with very Chinese features.

We were hungry by this point so decided to try and find a restaurant we'd seen the previous evening. We wandered through the back streets, in the pouring rain. The architecture in that part of town was a real mix of Chinese and Portuguese - part looked like Hong Kong and parts looked like Lagos, Portgual.

We got to the A-ma Temple and almost went the wrong way. But we found the restaurant - O Porto Interior- and we weren't disapointed. The decor was very simple, with bird cages hanging from the ceiling and dark wood chinese screens on the walls. The service and meal was unforgettable. The menu was a mix of Portugal, China and India. As we ate, it seemed like the wait staff was enjoying watching us eat as much as we were enjoying eating. We got back to the hotel with very wet feet but not feeling much because of the delicious Portuguese wine and excellent food. I'll bet Fernando's wasn't that good anyway...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Day 27 photos

lunch at Os Gatos in Macau

Jerome's portuguese-style Chinese casserole

African Chicken, the most famous Macanese dish

model of our hotel

view from the steps of Sao Paolo

Sao Paolo's ruins

slices of various jerked meats

Feeding the hungry ghosts

black sesame/ginger ice cream

Macau's 338 meters high

180° - bar at the top of Macau Tower

view from the tower

entrance to the hotel, an old Portuguese fortress

Day 27: just a seacat ride away

Rebecca started the morning in the swimming pool, getting a last glimpse of luxury while Jerome caught up on his sleep. We checked out of the Peninsula...and learned that breakfast was included! On the Star Ferry across the harbor, we met an American guy who'd been living in Japan for a while. We talked about travelling and living abroad. He was a strange guy who had a lot to say about Japanese toilets and politeness.

We got to the Macau Ferry Terminal and borded the boat. It was raining a bit, but we got a good look at the islands as we speeded towards Macau. The first glimpse of Macau was a very long bridge and a Amsterdam-style facade - the bridge to Taipa Island and the new "Las Vegas" style casino, respectively.

We got to our hotel which was in an old Portugeuese fortress, with an impressive entrance leading up through the rock. It could use a serious facelift, but it had charm. We checked in, explored the pool and restaurant and decided to eat at their restaurant. The African chicken was delcious! We had planned on spending the day by the pool but the weather wasn't nice. When it began to clear up, we took a walk towards town.

We walked passed the A-ma temple, towards the Place de Senado in the center of town. We of course got lost so ended up at a fortress and then walked down towards the ruins of Sao Paolo. We stopped in a store selling macanese specialties - we tested about 10 different things before settling on some nougat and some almond cookies. As we walked towards the center of town, we walked by lots of small shops and many people light incense and burning offerings in the streets. (we later learned that it was the Feast of the Hungry Ghosts). We weren't hungry since we ate late, but since we stumbled upon an ice cream store, we had to go in. We tested different flavors including green tea and durian (vile!) before settling on lemon, ginger and sesame. We also got a frequent eater card, but didn't think we'd be back 10 days in the next two days.

Walking around, Rebecca felt like a piece of Lisbon had been dropped in the middle of China. Jerome also noticed how different the ex-colony felt to Hong Kong.

As we slowly walked back towards our hotel, we decided we wanted a drink. We saw a tower from about a mile away so walked towards it. After a little hesitation (is it a casino? a bar? a radio tower?), we went inside and were pleasantly surprised to find a chic bar on at the top of the tower. We indulged in cocktails as we looked out over the network of bridges that connects Macau to its islands and to the mainland (quite impressive structures indeed!).

We walked back to the hotel, which turned out to be quite close by and dreamt about Macanese food.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Day 26 photos

breakfast in the Peninsula lobby

Japanese fast food

in the Jade Market

in the Jade market 2

more Jade market

a nice surprise!

free weird pear-type pomegranite-tasting fruit!

the inside of the weird fruit

the street behind the hotel

taking an evening swim at the hotel

on the left, the Sheraton...

...and on the right, the YMCA.

Day 26 : running around Hong Kong

Rebecca started the day on a treadmill running towards Hong Kong Island - normally she hates treadmills but 1) it was raining and 2) the view of Hong Kong from the exercise room in the Peninsula was increadible. So she indulged in air conditioned comfort. She then used the whirlpool and sauna before waking up Jerome.

We went to the hotel lobby for breakfast and had a moment of regret/panic when we saw the prices. We still weren't sure what was included or not so we settled on two continental breakfasts with fresh squeezed fruit. Everything was perfect and Rebecca commented on the little dish specifically placed to catch the tea that drips from the pot when pouring. It made us wonder if rich people are stupid since, seemingly, you never had to think of anything when in the lap of luxury.

It was raining so the idea of going to an island was nixed. But Rebecca really really wanted to go to the Jade Market. So we sat out the rain a little and then walked up Nathan Road, through Kowloon Park. By the time we'd crossed the park, it was pouring again. So we stepped into a pseudo-Japanese noodle shop ( the McDonald's of noodles?) and had lunch. It was still raining by the time we finished but we decided to trudge through the puddles anyway. We were so happy to finally get to the Jade Market and see that it was indoors! It was like walking into Ali Baba's cave. Rebecca's eyes twinkled and Jerome prepared himself for market hell.

Some heavy negotiations took place in the market. Rebecca really wanted a jade bangle but it was tough work. Not only bargaining the price down (much easier since everyone spoke English) but also getting a bracelet on - once she'd found a nice one, the seller took out a tub of hand cream, slathered it on Rebecca's hand and told her to relax. He took her thumb and pushed it into her palm, and forced her hand into the bracelet. A perfect fit! But will it ever come off? He assured her that it would come off and on easily with soap or hand cream.

The rain had finally stopped so we decided to take the non-touristy route towards the Star Ferry. On our way, we got a good look at the dock area on Kowloon and the future site of the Kowloon cutlural center. We made a stop in at Pacific Coffee House to check our internet and that's where the plans went down the drain. We checked our bank statements and since we'd been paid, Jerome decided he wanted to go shopping...with Rebecca's credit card (see adventures in Shanghai). Jerome got clothes at Mugi and Rebecca got a bi-lingual Chinese-English cookbook at a local bookstore.

We then went to the internet cafe where we met Sharon, a British traveller in need of advice. We were happy to provide information that the Hong Kong tourist agencies wouldn't give her (like it's cheaper to fly from mainland China, etc). As we were leaving, Rebecca realized that she'd finally found the perfect match for the extra LP China 2005 edition that she'd been carrying around for almost a month. Due to a mix-up, Rebecca had received two books and had brought the extra copy along hoping to find a worthy traveller. Rebecca happily gave (unloaded!) the book and Sharon was "so happy she could cry".

It was an evening of extremes - we went back to the Peninsula for an evening swim and found a bottle of champagne in our room with a note wishing us a happy honeymoon. We took a swim and had a cocktail looking out on rainy Hong Kong before going back to our room for champagne. Then we went to ChungKing Mansion for dinner...we decided to follow the first person who sollicited us to his restaurant. The elevator was full so we suggested taking the stairs - which would have cut our appetite if we hadn't had that cocktail and champagne in our blood. The restaurant was delicious. And on our way out we crossed paths with a rat-sized cockroach as we approached Nathan Road and the "the Golden Mile". Hong Kong is really a city of extreme contrasts.

Click here to see some Heavy rain in Hong Kong

Day 25 photos

setting up camp in the Peninsula

"Who wants to be a Millionaire?" in the marble bathroom

the pomelo

inside the pomelo

Stark's restaurant "Felix"

view of HK from Felix's

the bar in Felix's