Rua de la Felicidade

We ended up spending two nights in Guangzhou (formerly Canton), shopping (and pollution) capital of the world, where we spent the most on a hotel room than anywhere else on our trip. After an unsuccessful trip across the huge city to get to a youth hostel, we ended up following a tout to a seedy hotel around the train station, where we had a lovely balcony crawling with rats (we love rats in our stew). But the private room here, was the same price as two beds in a dormitory in a posher area of the city. We spent Saturday and Sunday in Guangzhou, to avoid the weekend casino rush in Macau, when room prices skyrocket. Lazily, we mainly hung around the train station, where we killed time between our eagerly awaited peanut butter dumpling meals. On Monday morning, we left China, passing through customs in Zhuhai from where we entered Macau on foot. The first obvious change from the mainland was the Portuguese signage, often replacing what might have been an English translation. We never figured out if anyone in Macau, other than maybe Portuguese tourists, could actually speak Portuguese. It still shares official language status with Cantonese. Our highly advanced Mandarin skills were rendered officially useless, our first meal in the city was an excessively expensive wonton meal, which we had understood to be just an expensive wonton meal. Over the past decade or so, Macau's casino scene has exploded (seeing as it is the only place in the PRC where casinos exist legally). Mainlanders and the Hong-Kong-ese descend onto the city for the usual excess, with full turbo-jet ferries leaving Hong Kong every fifteen minutes. We found the place to be bursting at the seams, even on the supposedly quiet Monday and Tuesday. The city's old quarter houses most of the UNESCO protected heritage buildings, vestiges of centuries of Portuguese rule. Something is lost though, by the expensive boutique stores that now surround them. Every other building is a jewelry store or a bank (the most infamous being the Banco Delta Asia, keeping North Korea's assets safe). The symbol of Macau is what remains of St Paul's church, crawling with tourists but beautiful nonetheless. Our atmospheric little hotel, the San Va Hospedaria, was right in the heart of the old quarter, on the rua de la Felicidade (former? red light district aptly named the Street of Happiness). So atmospheric was the hostel, that a movie was filmed there with the interesting synopsis: "Is she a one-nighter, or his daughter?". We passed on the by-the-hour rooms and checked in to the last available 'double room' the size of a small office cubicle, with similar flimsy walls separating us from our neighbours (and stopping well short of the ceiling). One neighbour's fluorescent light kept us up for most of the night, he turned it off at 6a.m. The other neighbour compulsively ran water and splashed it noisily around in his sink, taking breaks to moan for his mama. Down the narrow Street of Happiness, shops make and sell almond cookies (on which we overdosed within half an hour of our arrival), or delicious bacon-like meat. The air around our hotel smelled strongly of almond extract and meat under the heat lamps. Yann discovered Portuguese egg tarts (pastries filled with an egg custard), which we devoured for breakfasts, or afternoon snacks. With more energy and patience, there was much more to Macau for us to discover, but we had neither of those left after two quasi-sleepless nights at the hostel. We got our first look at modern Macau on our walk to the ferry terminal. The jewel in the crown of hideousness, had to be the Fisherman's Wharf, home to replicas of the Roman Coliseum, The Forbidden City, a volcano and best of all the Potala Palace, Tibetan Buddhism's most holy site, immortalized on the Macau casino strip.

1 comment:

paradiso(angry) said...

A little late (8 months) but this is awesome. happy i didn't use my precious time for here, tho one day i hope to go.