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Friday, May 27, 2011

Macau: City in the Mist

Jen, her mom and aunt, and myself had to wake up super early to get to the station on time to catch our bus that ended up being 2 hours late. The weather had suddenly gone from a pleasant 70 degrees (21 Celsius) to a biting 38 degrees (3 Celsius)! In the jungle! And it was rainy and windy. After a quick bus trip to Zhuhai, I guess that’s where we were, we had to switch buses in an underground tunnel and go to immigration. After that nightmare we took a shuttle to our casino hotel, The New Century Greek.

Let me tell you about the New Century. It’s probably the crappiest upscale hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Its theme was ancient Greece which I thought was awesome at first until I started noticing that some of the decorations were falling into disrepair. Our room was supposed to be ready at 2pm but we ended up having to wait until 4:30 and when I started getting shitty about it the customer service guy still didn’t have an acceptable explanation. So I played it cool. I walked into the bathroom, took care of my business, broke the toilet (It was an accident!), there was a huge mess. I didn’t tell anyone about it and joined Jen in the sitting area of the lobby. About 5 minutes later a bunch of hotel staff go running to the bathroom and soon come out holding their noses and cursing in Chinese. That’ll teach them to be late with a foreigner’s room! The gambling hall was also kind of lame. It was really small and didn’t have much variety in terms of games. I also noticed that most of the bouncers were Indians who spoke English. One of them even made Jen show her ID. Ha!

We went to a free lunch buffet at the New Century which would have been good if the Chinese chefs hadn’t tried to copy western food. The spaghetti was alright but it didn’t have that Italian taste to it. Coming from a partially Italian family, I know how to do spaghetti right and this wasn’t it. It was a funny sight though. The foreigner was eating all the Chinese food and the Chinese people were eating all the foreign food. After that we went to The Sands which was about 100 times cooler than New Century. We ended up ditching Jen’s mom and aunt, who were only staying for the day, and we went walking around outside. I’m not a huge gambler. Personally, I think it’s a waste of money. We walked into a bunch of the attractions, most were smaller hotels with different themes. One was a Roman town and another was a volcano with an arcade on the bottom floor. I’m a huge Gundam nerd and there was a shooting game for it that I absolutely destroyed. Jen was awestruck by my lightning fast reflexes!
After that we took a taxi to the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral which was spectacular. The cab dropped us off a few blocks away and we walked through the lighted market district. There were hundreds of people milling around, even a few couples taking wedding photos. Jen and I went up the stairs behind the cathedral’s façade and tossed coins in the windows for good luck. We went into the crypts downstairs and saw the holy relics and other artifacts. Really interesting stuff! I highly recommend it. Then we went back into the market and bought some kind of pressed meat. It came in different kinds like beef, pork, PIGLET, chicken, and some weirder stuff. Jen bought piglet. Ugh. It tasted good but I feel weird about eating a baby creature that didn’t even get a chance at life. Maybe I’m too soft-hearted when it comes to animals.

We walked from the cathedral to an old Portuguese fortress museum and then somehow ended up at the Venetian hotel for dinner. We found one of those Japanese restaurants where they cook on the grill in front of you. Jen ordered some chicken while I was adventurous and ordered prawn. It was a horrifying experience. When I think of prawn I think of little shrimp. These prawn were almost as long as my forearm. Practically a lobster. I freaked out when the cooks, who just so happened to be two young, attractive ladies, cut the heads off my prawn and they proceeded to giggle and called me a “cute laowai.” Jen didn’t really dig her food so I took her to the Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop. Oh my God. That was the most amazing ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. It’s like an art form! It was getting a little late so we headed back to the hotel and crashed for the night. Giggity. ;)

We bounced at noon and had to kill time until 7:30 when our bus would be leaving from Zhuhai. We checked out MGM, the Grand Emperor, A-Ma Temple, the Maritime Museum next to it, and the Statue of Guan-Yin. By the time we had to go we were both exhausted. I think I fell asleep on the shuttle to Zhuhai, hustled my way through immigration and then we got to wait in the cold for our bus which got held up because one of the passengers was late. But lucky me! There were 2 other white guys on the bus and everyone assumed that because we were white and each had our own Chinese girl that we were best friends. Bleh. And I’ve never seen so many beggars in one place before. There was an old lady who I guess was blind, or pretending to be, and there was a dude with one leg. I almost gave him some money but then I figured if the others saw me do that they’d swarm me. We got home late that night and slept super late. I even slept through the loud Chinese Chess games that happen outside the window all day.

What did I learn on my trip? Smog and fog combine to make a dreary vacation. The New Century Hotel is a piece of crap. Macau in general is awesome. Prostitutes use business cards there and throw them all over the place. Jen is the coolest girl in the world. That’s about it.

Travel in China,