Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Tripping Billies in Macau Part 1
The Turbojet Sea Express (HK $138 round trip/pax) was rocking from the choppy waves that were smashing against the harbor of the Shun Tak Centre in Sheung Wan. Nary a minute inside the ferry and my travel sickness kicked in big time. Normally I am able to hold back from throwing up, but this one was a challenge. It took a bloody long 15 minutes before everybody was on board for the hour-long ride to Macau from Hong Kong. “Ordeal” is the best way to describe it and I had to buy a can of Pepsi Zero (HK $10 on board but $7 outside) to help squelch the queasiness.
You can imagine my relief when we finally docked at the Macau Ferry and Helioport Terminal. Whew. Nothing like having two feet firmly planted on terra firma. From a distance we could already see a couple of casinos and the famous Ponte de Amizade that heads out to the island of Taipa. You should see the bridge at night with the lights and the clouds that are lit up by the moonlight. Ah, ever the hopeless romantic!
We docked around 145pm and we couldn’t wait to get to our hotel posthaste coz we’re starved after skipping lunch. The problem was we couldn’t locate the shuttle to our hotel, the Casa Real.
The shuttle terminal is a mess. Not only do the shuttles (medium and large-sized buses) mix with the cabs but also private cars. So it takes awhile to get out. There are representatives from the different hotels holding up signs for their respective shuttles so you have to look out for them. Unfortunately Casa Real does not have any rep so we had to ask around in locating our bus.
As it is in most Asian countries, English-speaking people are hard to come by. Since we weren’t a part of any tour group, we knew we were in for a heck of a time getting where we wanted.
Casa Real, a four-star hotel just across the Red Dragon Casino and Yao Han Mall, is a five-minute drive from the terminal. Once inside, its luxurious spaciousness and hominess reminded us of one of our favorite hotels back home, the New World Renaissance in Makati. Room 1122 was real nice and a pleasant change from the budget hostel we stayed at in Tsim Sha Tsui. Ah, the comfort of a soft and fluffy bed! Some things you should never take for granted. As I switched on the telly, the local programming was worse than Hong Kong’s! Fortunately we don’t travel to stay cooped up in our room to become couch potatoes. After a quick wash up we’re off to eat then see the city and the sights.
A couple of the hotel doormen and porters are Filipinos. We can’t begin to tell you how grateful we are to be able to talk to someone who can help you out without having to resort to sign language or semaphores. One of the Filipino porters is a chap by the name of Anthony who helps carry our luggage to the room. Another noypi, Edgar later gives us valuable advice when commuting to Leal Senado and other sites.
If you thought that there was nothing to do in Macau, then you’ve got another thought coming… welcome to the Las Vegasification of the former Portuguese colony!
Lost In Translation
Unfortunately for us, one hotel meal costs MOP (Patacas) 69. That’s equivalent to HK $69 so we decided to eat at the nearby Yao Han Mall that resembles Landmark in Makati.
It took us another 30 minutes before we could actually eat a meal since no one understood a word of English. That’s strange considering the signs in the Food Court are all in English. We eventually managed to communicate the viands we wanted to order by writing down their code numbers on a slip of paper. It turned out that every dish of every food stall is numbered and all you have to do is write it down on a slip of paper and give it to the centralized cashier. Another thing was if you want a Coke, you have to say “Coke,” not soda or softdrinks. Coke is as universal a word as you can get.
We had one whole roasted chicken, a plate of sautéed vegetables, and a cup of rice. Not the tastiest of meals but it was enough to satisfy our hunger.
Mai and I laughed at the language barrier and wondered how we’ll get around. We had no idea that the worse was yet to come.
From Yao Han Mall, we took the A3 bus to Largo do Senado. Unfortunately, the bus driver didn’t understand a word we were saying and he angrily dismissed us to just move to the back. Since we were unsure if we were on board the right vehicle and the driver was most unhelpful (and rude), we went down since we didn’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere. The thing is, I already plunked down MOP 5 Patacas (at 2.50 each) and weren’t getting any refund.
Upset at our quandary and the stifling heat, we took a cab instead. The driver hardly spoke English but when we showed him the map that we wanted to go to the Leal Senado only then did he understood us. As soon as we got down, we noticed the A3 bus we initially took pass right by. The cab ride set us back by MOP 24 Patacas (ouch!). What a waste of money!
Largo do Senado
Back during its colonial days, this was the center of all activity. Now while the Largo do Senado is no longer the center of government and power it is still the venue for public events and celebrations. As for buildings that retain the neo-classical Mediterranean architecture design – they’re now shops for international brands like Giordano, Bossini, McDonald’s, and Starbucks among others.
As we moved inwards, we followed the street up to the Ruinas do Sao Paolo. The road to the ruins is lined with shops that sell antiques, shirts, football jerseys, kites, and beef jerky. The beef jerky and cookie shops offer free tastes.
Ruinas do Sao Paolo
Having gone to a Jesuit school, seeing the ruins of the old St. Paul’s Church in Macau was all the more special. Built in 1602, the church had an impressive structure with three naves. As it was in the Philippines and the rest of the world, the Jesuits were expelled after their order fell victim to intrigues and power struggles within the church’s hierarchy. St. Paul’s was turned over to the Portuguese military until a fire destroyed the entire complex in 1835. It was only in the 1990s that massive restoration work turned this landmark into a modern tourist site.
Whenever we travel, we can’t help but find the hand of God in the places we go to. And behind the ruins even at the crypt, or the beautiful sunset from the Fortaleza do Monte, we just marvel at His creations.
Posted by Rick Olivares