Monday, 3 March 2008

Hong Kong Pictures & Macau/Macao So Far, 17:23, 03/03/2008

A view of Hong Kong Island from Kowloon
Victoria Peak is located on the top of the right hill/mountain/thing
Myself (middle) and two Canadian guys who I was
sharing a dorm room with, 2 pounds for a 700ml beer

New specs!

One of the market stalls in Sham Shui Po,
selling lights - on all day and hurt to look at

The roads from a bridge on Hong Kong Island

Green water..

Lots of tall buildings




A lovely sunset from Victoria Peak

The smallest toilet I've ever attempted to use

On top of Victoria Peak (Hong Kong Island) which overlooks
the island as well as Kowloon (which is across the water)

My time in Hong Kong came to an abrupt end, as my debit and credit cards dutifully and annoyingly failed me the minute I set foot on Asian shores. I had entered my PIN wrongly due to the number pads being upside-down here, which triggered an anti-fraud measure with my bank. So, people, don't get your PIN wrong, and also don't try and take out more than your daily limit, that can be excruciating if you have no other money on you, thankfully, I had the slight foresight to take some US dollars with me which came in handy when needing to buy food (money exchange booths are littered throughout Hong Kong). My last few days in Hong Kong were to collect my visa for China (three months, HK$1200 - £80) and get myself ready for the trip to Macao.

Macao (or Macau, no one seems settled on the correct spelling) is reknowned as the gambling capital of Asia, with much higher profits than Las Vegas, so of course I wanted to go. From Hong Kong, you need to make your way to the third peer after Ocean Terminal (a shopping centre that juts onto the water), where many different boats set sail. From there you can go to lots of places in China, and just up the water to Macao for H$128 (£8 or so) one way. The ferry itself is of a decent size, has plenty of room to move around in, and has the most comfortable seats (cushy leather) of any transport system I've ever been in. It takes roughy an hour to get there from Hong Kong, and upon arrival, it's akin to a very small arrivals section at an airport. With a British passport you can stay here 180 days, just as in Hong Kong, but to do so you'd need to really limit yourself financially and be capable of entertaining yourself, or have bags of money in your bank account to live well.

Macao is known for its Portugese influence, it's sunny, it has paved streets across the few small islands it inhabits, and is home to many beautiful churches. Oh, and just like Hong Kong, there's a 7-Eleven (small stores that sell the basics, drink, food, magazines and whatnot), McDonalds and Starbucks around what seems to be every corner you go past, so that 'homely' feeling of HK is never quite lost. We arrived yesterday and didn't book anything in advance, there really isn't any need – Macao is so close to Hong Kong that they use both Hong Kong Dollars and Macao Patacas interchangeably, especially so because they are worth exactly the same so it isn't worth the hassle of getting Patacas when the currency you have works fine everywhere here. It was easy enough to get a taxi from the ferry terminal, 30 Patacas or HK$ will get you to Rua Da Feliciadade, or at least close enough to it to walk across the street, here we found three or four hotels located almost next to each other. Each has their advantages, either a cheaper price with slightly grotty rooms, or a higher price with very nice rooms, it all depends on budget. We hesistated between two which are located next to each other, one had two double beds, a huge room, nice bathroom and friendly staff, and worked out to be 1000 for three nights, so 500 between two or 333 between three, about £22 each for three nights stay. Next door to them was a place which wasn't as nice, but 600 for three nights and has three separate beds, so 200 each (£13 or so) for three nights. Quite the bargain! This was possible thanks to a Turkish guy called Cihan (chee-han) myself and Dave found whilst all looking for the same hotel (which was full anyway), from there we walked up to this hotel and he negotiated in Chinese (he's been learning and living in Shanghai for a year and a half now) for the price on the room, extremely helpful to have around when a lot of people struggle with English. It's pretty strange that all the streets have Portugese names too, because the taxi drivers don't ever seem to speak English, nor do they understand the Portugese names, so if you come to Macao, make sure you have a Lonely Planet guide with you (or nearest equivalent) – the China version covers Macao – or just pick up a free map at the ferry terminal (you can get them outside at the taxi enquiries booth). Then, you can point the street name out to the taxi driver (as they're spelt in Cantonese next to the Portugese names) rather than act like the typical ignorant foreigner, hoping that speaking loudly and slowly is going to help them understand a language they've no understanding of.

Having been here for around three days now (time doesn't matter when you've no obligations), the place is certainly warming. The food is generally good, the people are friendly despite the language barrier (there are English speakers, they can be a little hard to find though), and just relaxing outside with a book is easy for myself and my room-mates, who now consist of Dave (as previously mentioned) and Cihan. Having only been in Asia for less than ten days, it's strange how easy it is to get along with people you've just met, just as easy in Amsterdam really, perhaps it's the traveller's mindset, I'm not sure. Either way, it's been great so far, being around people with extremely different stories to tell and paths they want to take. Oh, except all the women in the internet cafes that try to sing all the time, I wouldn't mind if they were in tune.


Hemzzz said...

Oh man! The lemurs! They're now my desktop background. =)

The one that is higher up is you and I'm the other one. Wheee! Hopefully that one wasn't actually a boy in reality.

Jimiminar said...

Hey, nice pics, shame I can't enlargen the "monkeys!" one.
It's crazy that number pads out there are upside down, are payphones the same? What will they think of next...
Does that mean with running out of money, you're having to cut your trip short, I'm sure they've probably heard the story of the guy getting tricked by the upside-down numbers so please give me money story many-a-time.

I take it someone helped take a pic of the tiny potty?

Glad things are going well, take it easy man.

Adam Halliwell said...

I managed to sort out money in the end, phew! Heh.. I shall sort out the pictures now, Blogs and stuff aren't allowed in China, the websites are inaccessible sadly, so just made a large update. :D

I used the timer for the potty-toilet!

Jimiminar said...

That's cool, I forgot about their restrictive views towards the internets.
Tired from work, I'll check out your hardcore wall of text later.
Take it easy.