Thursday and we've decided to head to Macau, my heart's not really into this one, I first visited it 32 years ago believe it or not, but even then it was said to be a convent by day and a brothel by night. At the very least, it'll be interesting to see the changes.
We got to the Ferry Terminal about 10.30am and booked the next boat out of Dodge, despite both Hong Kong & Macau being classed as Special Administration Regions of China, you still have to go through passport control and this is the usual hassle - so eventually we get on board. As you all know by now, I'm not a fan of sitting in boring rows of seats and not being able to see out - so it's yet another thrilling hour twiddling my thumbs. The ferry terminal in Macau has changed since my last visit in about 2003 - it's now sitting on reclaimed land and it's a long walk to find anything of interest. We were harassed by a Chinese Lady who was touting for us to take a car and be shown the archipelago - in hindsight, we should have taken her offer but instead we opt to go walking. You used to be able to walk around Macau, you cant anymore, it's far too built up now. We try to head for the Sands Casino - and it's a fair old walk, you go over a covered walkway and it smells like well over a billion fags have been smoked in there. No one's allowed to smoke anymore in the casinos or in these walk ways but the smell still lingers. China seems to have had a crack down on things deemed to be "Anti-Social" so the national pastime of smoking and spitting have been seriously curtailed and I certainly noticed it. En Route to The Sands Casino we have to go through some other casinos and they were....to be quite blunt ...awful. You had to go through security to get in and out, surprising as I thought there wasnt any trouble here anymore. Prior to Macau's handover from Portuguese to Chinese Rule the place was turned into mayhem, there were bombings and shootings as a turf war raged between gangsters trying to make as much money as possible before the Handover (19th December 1999). Funnily enough, when China took over, all this carnage suddenly stopped. China wasnt going to put up with that and so the place calmed down. China even got the Las Vegas Casinos involved in a bid to make the place more family friendly and attractive to tourists, part of the reason why we came here today except we'd gone completely in the wrong direction and the nice big Vegas Casinos are over the bridge in Taipa, as usual we were on the wrong side of the tracks. It will come as no surprise that these smelly casinos were about half full with mainland Chinese tourists sitting at the tables all looking miserable whilst they got fleeced, this was around mid day as well. Eventually we got to the Sands Casino, okay this one was a bit more opulent and Grant decided this is where he'd have a bit of a gamble - now Grant is pretty good at gambling but even he got fleeced in here, so me and Jayne hung around whilst Grant gave all his money away. We'd had to go through security here as well and I hadnt really paid any attention to the security staff and Grant said something like they looked like Mongol Warriors, so I started looking at them, they were quite big fellas but I didnt think they were Chinese. As Jayne and I were talking, one of these guys, dressed in slacks, Shirt, Tie, Blazer and Walkie Talkie shuffled up to us.....he said through the side of his mouth "where are you from?" "UK" we said. "Which part?" he said. "Wales" we replied. Then with a massive smile on his face he said "I'm a Ghurka.." and I finished the sentence off for him..."who was based in Brecon..." "I loved it there" he said, still smiling, then suddenly he straightened up told us that there were free drinks and snacks if we liked but he now had to go as "they would be watching him as he shouldnt be talking to anyone....' We smiled and thanked him but he'd returned to his Marble pose by then and just looked upwards. He'd obviously heard our Welshy accents and decided to make contact despite all the rules.....funny. Brecon is a town about 20 minutes from where we live and there is indeed a large Ghurka Barracks there, so we can take it from this strange meeting, that our man must have fond memories of the old place.
After Grant gave up getting rinsed, we headed out to try and get a Taxi, no mean feat these days as Macau is certainly far busier than it used to be. Eventually we get one and head to what's left of the church of St. Paul - Sometimes referred to as St. Paul's Cathedral. Work began here in 1587 - that's before the British had even set up camp in India, so that tells you how ahead of the game the Portuguese were. Only the stone facade is left now after a fire burnt down the rest of the structure which was made of wood in 1835 during a typhoon. It's an interesting facade though with lots of intricate work and apparently carried out by craftsmen from all across Asia including Japanese Artisans. What's more impressive is the amount of mainland visitors.....the place is bursting to the seams - but Chinese New Year is upon us so to be expected. Grant and I climbed the nearby fort as we like stuff like that and it was a pretty decent journey back in time, we'd been to one built around the same time in Goa, India and they tend to be more practical rather than decorative. The same applies here. We then took a walk down through what used to be the old town, which has pretty Portuguese Architecture - Even 32 years ago you could leisurely walk through here and stop off at a lazy Portuguese Cafe and have a glass of Mateus Rose watching the world slowly drift by - Now you cant, that world has long gone - The place is now Disneyland and populated by millions of Chinese visitors. I kid you not, we were caught in the lifeless shuffling horde and I reckoned there must have been 40,000 people moving slowly along in that little street....and there were another 40,000 queing up behind them to see the place.....and I think that that is the scene constantly throughout the day. Eventually we got drained by all this and decided to head back to the ferry terminal even though we had a couple of hours to wait until our boat would take us back to Hong Kong, this was preferable to being caught in the throng. Tomorrow is our last day.