On December 23rd, Kailah and I went to Macao. There were many reasons to go… for one thing, I could enter Macao without a special visa. I had really wanted to go to the Mainland on my visit to Hong Kong; in fact, it had been my dream since I was a young’un (back when I still believed in the Dazhai Commune) to go to China. However, it costs a lot for a visa to the PRC, and as I wouldn’t be there for long it wouldn’t be so cost effective. Another reason was that Kailah’s Chanukah present was a performance of Cirque du Soleil, and their current performance venue is the Venetian in Macao. Finally, I had heard about the beautiful architecture and culture of the former Portuguese colony that, like Hong Kong, has recently reverted to Chinese rule. Kailah had a Lonely Planet guide to Macao that someone had left in her apartment… it sounded cool…so off we went!
Kailah and I took a ferry (a hydrofoil, actually) from Hong Kong harbor to Taipa Island in Macao. It was called the Cotai Jet, and it made the trip in just about an hour. Look at the plush interior – I have never been in a ferry like this! When we got to the ferry terminal, we were greeted in three languages: Chinese, Portuguese and English.
We knew there would be public transportation in Macao, so when we got into the terminal we picked up some maps to supplement our guidebook, and tried to figure out how to navigate. What we really wanted to do was find our hotel, change and relax, then somehow make our way to the Venetian for our evening performance. Of course, we had known the Venetian would be super expensive, so before we went we booked a hotel room online. Looking around the transportation choices from the ferry terminal, we saw taxis and enormous buses from the major casinos. We knew there were public buses somewhere, but we hadn’t yet figured out how to take them. Buses from the Venetian outnumbered all the other buses, and it occurred to us that perhaps we should take the free ride to the place where we knew we needed to get to eventually, and then work our way back from there. So we got on the bus! As we drove across Taipa Island, we scanned our new maps. We couldn’t find the location of our hotel, the Victoria, anywhere. Slowly it dawned on us that Macao consists of a peninsula on the mainland plus two islands, not unlike Hong Kong. And the Venetian was on Taipa … and our hotel was on the peninsula. Looking more closely at the guidebook, we further realized that the page for Macao peninsula had been torn out, so we hadn’t even noticed we didn’t know where we were going, because we didn’t know it was there. So much for prepared! Well, at least we were on our way to the Venetian. I had never been to Las Vegas, but the "Cotai Strip," where the massive new casinos are located, is supposed to be a lot like it. I thought it was more like Dubai, in that many enormous projects were in the process of being built, and construction sites were everywhere. This is not to say that our first view of the Venetian was anything short of spectactular. On the outside, it looks like some Italian mansion, and on the inside it is even more opulent, from floor….
and everywhere in between.
Like a country cousin, my first thought was, "Wow, I think there must be more marble in this place than in the Wisconsin State Capitol!" In fact, there probably is. Once we landed, we looked at the time and revised our plans. We certainly did not have time to find our hotel. Instead, we changed out of our traveling clothes and into our evening dress, picked up our Cirque du Soleil tickets, checked our bags with the concierge, and set out to explore our surroundings. Like everything we had seen so far, the opulence of the Venetian was overwhelming. I have never been to the actual Venice, so I just had to take their word for it with the canals and gondolas we found here…. and cathedrals… and buildings… and plazas… and street performers… and Armani stores… and Chinese, Japanese and Indian tourists…
After awhile, we decided to look for a place to eat dinner. We had already tried to go outdoors and found we were too far away from anything real, so we stayed within the enormous environs of the Venetian. It turns out they have a food court. Venetian-style, of course! We looked at the many food options, but they pretty much fell into two categories: Asian stuff with lots of meat, and rich desserts with lots of butter and sugar. One of the exceptions was Fatburger…. which had a vegan burger! Kailah, so long away from our American shores, had a hankering for said burger, so we each got one, and after our long day it tasted pretty darn good. I think that, like food at the airport or ballgame, it was one of the most expensive meals we ate during the entire time I was in Hong Kong.
After that, it was time for Cirque du Soleil’s Zaia. They have a special theater built to accommodate their equipment, and the performance was…. magical. Go and see it for yourself! All too soon it was time to go back to reality, and the task of finding our hotel in the dark, when we were tired, disoriented, and at a disadvantage with the language. We had called the Victoria and gotten directions, and it turned out they were located near the "border gate," which means almost as far north as you can go on the peninsula before hitting the border with Mainland China. Once again, the Venetian saved us. Not only do they provide shuttle buses from the ferry terminal to the casino (oh, and from my photos you wouldn’t think they even have a casino, but they do… we just didn’t gamble in it), but also from the border gate to the casino. I guess it’s worth it to them to schlep as many tourists as possible to and from their establishment as they can, and it worked for us. So off we went to the border gate bus terminal, which was loaded with buses from everywhere as well as every casino imaginable. In retrospect, had we known, we could have taken a bus to a casino closer to our destination… well, there’s always next time! From the bus terminal, we walked about fifteen minutes through an increasingly sketchy inner city, losing our way a few times, following directions we had gotten from a group of bus drivers who spoke no English, and just enough Mandarin for Kailah to ask. Eventually we found our hotel…. but that’s another story!
Wisconsin update: For some reason, the weather has taken the weekend off. It has been about 32 degrees F (yes, 0 Celsius to lots of you!) and I took full advantage of it. The temps are supposed to drop again for the school week.
Send some love to sister blogger Jeni Treehugger, who had her purse and camera stolen. What a nasty turn of events for her!