Macau (China)

September, 2002

(This travelogue also appears on the Hong Kong page, along with sections describing the sights and experiences there.)

Senate Square, Macau, China

What was to be my final day of sightseeing during my stay in Hong Kong, and perhaps the island's most popular "day trip," was a hydrofoil ride to the former Portuguese colony of Macau. It is popular with the locals because of the casinos and gambling. With tourists, it is a spicy blend of the Mediterranean and the Orient, with Portuguese style buildings and Chinese temples. Since I've been to Las Vegas numerous times, and I'd read the casinos of Macau are bland in comparison, I planned to see the history and scenery.A-Ma Temple, Macau

The weather had other plans for me, as it turned out. I shared a cab from the ferry port to Senate Square with a German traveler, then set off to wander the streets (which is what my guidebook recommended). Since the overcast skies and occaisonal sprinkles foretold rain, I wound down towards the southern tip of the island, where the highly-rated Maritime Museum was located. Bigger raindrops began to fall as I entered the museum, which was excellent, by the way. When I finished exploring the museum, I walked across the square to A-Ma Temple. The sprinkles turned to a drizzle, which was a nuissance for taking photos.

From the colorful A-Ma Temple, I walked back north to Penha Hill, which was supposed to have the best views in Macau. Gray curtains of mist partially hid the view from me, but I could see the outlines of what should have been an excellent panorama of sea and shore, city and hill. The drizzle became rain as I trudged back into the center of town, looking for a bar or restaurant to wait it out. All I could find was a Juice Bar, of sorts, so I plopped down, ordered a fruit cocktail for lunch, and wrote some postcards. Outside, the rain began to rage and turned into a full fledged storm.View of Macau shoreline from Penha hill

Eventually, I realized, it wasn't stopping. If I wasn't going to spend the rest of the dayin Macau in a juice bar, I was going to have to venture out. I zipped up my rain jacket, pulled my soaked cap down tighter on my head, and hunched out into the rain. Macau should have been a colorful, scenic island, with plenty of forts, hilltop views and intriguing colonial buildings to explore. Instead, the foul weather ruined it. Even ducking into another museum was little relief. The Chinese insist on setting their air conditioning in public places at the Arctic level, which only makes it more miserable to someone who is already soaked to the skin.

Leal Senado building in Senate SqaureSo, basically, the rest of the day sucked, and I eventually packed it in and took a ferry back to Hong Kong an hour earlier than I'd planned. The ferry terminal and boat ride were freezing, of course, like the museums. On the way over, I have to admit, I'd looked down my nose at those coming over just to gamble. I was there to see the cultural sights and natural beauty, I puffed. On the way back, as they sat dry in their seats, and I dripped, I knew who was looking down their nose at who, now.

But then again, it merely followed the theme of the trip. China seemed to have a way of deflating the pompous, and teaching us lessons.