Macau

Jill had a few days off so we decided to get over to Macau. It’s about an hour long ferry ride from Shenzhen. Macau is split in two. There is the peninsula bordering China and an island next to it connected by a couple bridges. Macau is the most densely populated place in the world because it is so small. It is also one of the most wealthy places in the world because it is the only place in all of China where gambling is legal. There are what seem like dozens of casinos. Not everybody is rich though, there are plenty of shabby apartment buildings and some tin shacks. Jill and I did not venture to the island, Taipa, while we were there. My impression was that the island is filled with casinos, luxury resorts, and malls. We chose instead the more sedate UNESCO world heritage Macau. We had a delightful time. As a former Portuguese colony the place had a definite familiarity to it. We’ve traveled through countless former Spanish colonial towns. They all share similar narrow streets, tiny sidewalks, and some architecture. One of my favorites is cobblestone streets. I think that was one reason I felt comfortable there. It also felt like we were back on the road. Worry melts away with each new meal and cup of coffee.

We partook in delicious food and coffee while we visited sights and museums. It felt like we walked every inch of the place. We must have visited all the museums although we didn’t go in the maritime museum. Maybe next time. Our first meal was supposed to be at the Macau Vegetable Farm but we couldn’t find it. We rolled the dice and picked the Alves Cafe where the food was satisfying and energy laden although a little bland. From there we wandered to our hotel via the Guia Hill and fort. Guia Hill is the highest point in Macau so the Macanese put a fort and a lighthouse on it. They also used it to signal incoming typhoons with hanging black triangles or crosses. The people just had to look at the hill to see the forecast. Our hotel was described by my library guidebook as worn around the edges. I think the guidebook was off a bit because it was probably the swankiest place I’ve ever been. Everything was marble and valets, thank you hotels.com last minute discounts. We spent the evening in the center of town where there seem to be endless promenades. People, shops, restaurants abound. We went to look at the St. Pauls church ruin, emblematic and unique to Macau, it is the facade of a cathedral. The rest of the church burnt down long ago. For supper we found some particularly Macanese cuisine at the OU Mun Cafe. Jill had Bacalao. Bacalao is cod fish that was preserved with salt. I have listened to my father describe bacalao for many years always in contrast to the Norwegian dish lutefisk which is preserved cod fish as well. Jill’s fish was roasted with Olive oil, potatoes and onions. She started salting her potatoes which earned a reprimand from the server who said the fish is already salty! The fish and potato in the same bite were delicious. I don’t even remember what I ate there.

The next day we found breakfast in a steamed bun shop we ate something like steamed caramel rolls but that does’t do them justice. We were so hungry after hunting for an hour they tasted like literal angel food. We found another Fort called Monte in which is the Museum of Macau. Wandering around the museum was different from the Hong Kong Museum because Macau doesn’t mention much of the handover or modern daily life. That was a little disappointing but there is a lot of information about Macau’s origins. For lunch we wandered to the unexpectedly excellent Veggie Macau. This place is a dream come true I ate this pile of rice topped with a fried egg and Japanese curry. [I didn’t know the Japanese had curry] Jill ate something that was good i’m sure. I didn’t notice as I wolfed down my food and a delicious Long Black. As we basked in our satisfaction we made plans to return for one of our next meals. If you ever go to Veggie Macau there are doorbells under each table to call the waiter. We walked to the maritime museum via a few more churches and old buildings. On our way we found a candy shop and bought some ginger things so Jill could survive the ferry ride back. Macau seems littered with candy shops and I don’t know why they have some particular styles of candy, I guess. We were only in it for the ginger. We arrived at the Maritime Museum as it was closing so we sat down outside and ate a ginger snap.

We walked along the water to a giant sculpture on a pier. When we walked out to it we notice how abandoned it looked. It is huge and magnificent and overgrown on pilings that are shifting. I have no idea what the plan is there, it doesn’t seem long before it will tip over. We walked all the way back to the main square and searched for a restaurant. Nothing jumped at us until we took second look at a build-your-own noodle bowl joint. The proprietors all got together to show us they were the best in Macau. So we picked up some veggies, noodles, and tofu kebabs and handed them over to the cook. We sat behind the cooler and enjoyed our spicy bowls with a couple beers. Again it was the most delicious meal ever. In the morning we happened upon Bloom Cafe on our way to get some more steamed buns. This place is a coffee lovers dream because they have all the gear for sale. Any bean or brewing method is there. I wanted to stay and take classes. We had salmon avo toast, it had avocado no need to say more. The coffee was super. Jill went out and got some soy milk for her standard cup. We visited Sun Yat-Sen’s memorial hall. Yat-Sen is the founder of democracy in China. The communists stamped democracy out but it lives on in Taiwan and maybe someday the mainland. Yat-Sen seems like a good guy and I wonder what would’ve happened to China without the Communist Revolution.

Jill led me to another fort which we realized is next to the tourism school in Macau. The tourism school runs a hotel and a restaurant to train students. The restaurant has a michelin star and is affordable two things not often in the same sentence. We walked in and looked at the menu. The meals were heavy on the dairy so Jill vetoed it. The price was a bit steep and we felt entirely underdressed. With eyes gleaming we decided to return to Veggie Macau for lunch. Rain was falling on us all morning and my feet were soaked. So a long relaxing lunch was in order. Jill had a bread bowl of the fabulous Japanese curry and I found veg. meat and cheese quesadillas with beet soup. The beet soup looked like tomato soup but purple and provided a perfect dip for my quesadilla.

Off we went again to the art museum and through a very Shenzhen like bunch of high rises and shops. The art museum was neat, it had an entire floor dedicated to a French painter and sketcher who came to Macau for a time while on a round-the-world art tour in the 18th century or so. He depicted street life, buildings, and landscapes of Macau, Hong Kong, and China. On other floors were carved stamps, statues, and abstract paintings. Pictures weren’t allowed though.

We picked up our bags from the hotel and headed for the ferry. On our way we ran through the Macau Grand Prix museum and a Wine Museum. Then we got another delicious meal in  a casino restaurant and hopped on the ferry. The ride back was dark but smoother than the ride over and our subway journey was uneventful. I would definitely return to Macau someday.

 

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