Macanese wedding, Hong Kong shopping and visa problems

Day 93, 26th of September 2017 (7th of August year of the roster according to the Chinese Traditional Calendar, which is lunisolar based. Using the Anno Huángdì, referring to the beginning of the reign of the Yellow Emperor, it is year 4715AH), 34°C, high humidity (tropical climate) and no wind. If you remember, my original plan (see post) was to cross from Kyrgyzstan to China overland, following the Silk Road all the way to Beijing, but as I didn’t manage to get the Chinese Visa in Bishkek (“we just give visas to Kyrgyz citizens” they told me) I had to adapt.

Therefore, and considering that I have a very good friend living in Macau, who was going to get married on the 28th of September, I decided to fly to Hong Kong, take a ferry to Macau, attend the wedding and ask for the visa in there, which is allegedly much easier.

Arrived in Macau around 3 pm and went straight to the Galaxy Casino, where Samuel works. The first shock was the climate, it was much more tropical (hot and humid) than I expected. The second was how big the Casino’s industry is, the entire province (Macau is an autonomous “Special Administrative Region” of China since 1999, when the Portuguese rule ceased after almost 500 years of occupation) lives to or from the gambling millions; when exiting of the port there are several dozens of free buses to take the clients directly to the vice. The third jaw dropping surprise was the size of the Casinos, Galaxy alone comprises approximately 7000 slot machines, 700 gambling tables, 200 shops, 5 hotels, a cinema and a theatre; and it’s only one of the more than 50 Casinos in Macau, which has an area of only 30 Km² (London area is 1500 Km²). By the end of the day I was completely overwhelmed!

Galaxy Casino by night

Day 94, 27th of September 2017, 36°C, high humidity,  clear sky and no wind. Woke up early and went for a run around Taipa, the neighbourhood where my friend Sam lives; it was nice to notice a considerable amount of people of all ages doing sports as well. After having had shower and breakfast went to explore Macau peninsula, where the oldest neighbourhoods are located. Started with a climb to Guia’s Hill to appreciate the views from above. Along the way the remnants of the devastation provoked by the typhoon Hato (that hit Macau on the 23rd of August 2017) were still very obvious and Guia’s lighthouse was closed for repairs. Afterwards, had Squid noodles for lunch and headed to the Lou Lian Garden, one of the oldest and most traditional in Macau, where one may also visit the Tea Museum.

Casino Lisboa (old & new)
Squid noodles
View from Guia’s Hill
Lou Lian Garden

From there went to the Red Market, passing thru the improvised shops along the pedestrian streets of Santo António neighbourhood. Finished the tour visiting the impressive Saint Paul’s Church ruins and Macau’s most famous square, Senado, which makes you feel like you are in Lisbon, Portugal!

Red market
Saint Paul’s Church ruins
Senado square

Day 95, 28th of September 2017, 35°C, high humidity, clear sky and no wind. It was the big day! The day of Sam & Ju’s wedding. In order for you to understand how special it was you should know that I met Samuel when we were nine years old on our first day at the boarding school, where we grew up together for 8 years and eventually became brothers. He had always been the nerdy type, he was the best of the class (also at sports) and he loved video games. Nowadays he is a computer engineer (and professional pilot, although he is not pursuing that career). He was born in Macau, but left when he was 2 months old and only returned in 2012. Julina, who he met in Macau, was the first girl he ever introduced to us. She is very sweet and also a computer engineer. And they look great together. I had always had the feeling that Sam never really felt comfortable… Thus, I was very happy to realise that he is a different man now, much more relaxed and willing to appreciate the little pleasures of life. I would say that he finally found his place in the Universe and Ju is part of it.

Enough of the sentimental talk. The wedding consisted of a legal ceremony that took place at Largo do Carmo followed by the traditional photo session, a lunch with the bride’s family and a banquet with all the guests at Hotel Mandarin Oriental. It is interesting to mention a couple of traditions: while people are waiting for all the guests to arrive everybody is playing Mahjong. When all the guest are present the groom starts by introducing the bride to his family (not that long ago, when the marriages were arranged, that would be the first time that they were meeting the bride), couple by couple every member of the family is offered tea, in return they give presents to the newlyweds (gold or money). The tables have twelve persons each and the banquet menu is composed by thirteen dishes, that they eat really fast without wasting time in conversations and as soon as they finish it they leave.

Wedding ceremony
Mahjong vs. Nintendo
The groom presenting the bride to his parents
Banquet menu

Day 97, 30th of September 2017, 36°C, high humidity, clear sky and no wind. Sam & Ju had to go to Hong Kong to attend a wedding so I went with them and took the opportunity to visit it. The ferry from Macau arrived at Central around 9 am (the journey takes 1h and costs 20€). During the morning Ju showed me the Central area and the shopping fever; there are several dozens of modern huge shopping malls where people from all over China and its neighboring countries go to buy luxury goods.

Shopping fever

Hong Kong, a former English colony (from 1841 until 1997), is nowadays a bustling financial center and a special administrative region of China, enjoying high levels of autonomy. It’s territory comprises more than 200 Islands and has an area of approximately 1100Km².

After lunch Sam & Ju headed for the wedding and I took the old Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui, on the northern peninsula. From there I walked all the way to Mong Kok, passing by the refreshing Kowloon Park, the Temple Street open air market, the beautiful Jade Market and the overcrowded Fruit Market. Once in Mong Kok took the metro back to the south island where I visited the famous Man Mo Temple, the Antiques Street and the ancient Lin Heung Tea House before going to the IFC Mall rooftop to enjoy a cold beer looking at the amazing Hong Kong skyline by night.

View from the Star Ferry
Temple Street
Jade Market
View from the IFC rooftop

I stayed in Macau for one week trying to get a visa to China. During that time Sam took me to many interesting places and to taste a lot of delicious food. We visited Macau’s Fort and Museum, A-Ma Temple, Mandarin’s House, São Lourenço Church, Happiness Street (where there used to be brothels, hence its name) and the old villages of Taipa and Coloane. We went to most famous Casinos: Grande Lisboa, The Venetian, Le Parisien, Studio Eight and Galaxy, of course. We swam at Cheoc Van beach. We hiked the Coloane Hills trail. We watched exhibitions, concerts and even went to the movies. It was a great week, I’ve no words to thank Sam & Ju!

A-Ma Temple detail
Delicious traditional food cooked by Ju’s mom
The Venetian Casino…
Geocaching in Coloane Hill

But in the end I didn’t manage to get the visa. First the China Travel Agency (Macau is part of China, thus they can’t have an Embassy in there) told me I could only apply for a 7-days tourist visa. After Julina explained them (it had to be in Chinese) that I wanted to stay in China for one month volunteering in some Workaway programs, they asked for an invitation letter… I forwarded that request to my Workaway hosts but it took them too long to answer. After one week of waiting I decided it was time to move on and took the first flight to Taiwan, which is also known as Republic of China! It seemed appropriate considering that the People’s Republic of China didn’t want me…

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