The Asian Adventure

I recently had the wonderful privilege of traveling around 3 Asian countries with one of my best friends, Enslin. Now I have been in the same country going around with friends before, but actually getting on a plane traveling to more then one place and discovering new places in a space of time longer then a weekend uhhhh – a FIRST for me!

I must admit I was a tad nervous, we all know our friends and love them but traveling allows you to see more sides to a person and their behaviour within different situations which can sometimes be quite a shocker and unexpected from someone you thought you knew – So, of course I was naturally nervous to travel with a bestie, plus I mean I’m a bit of a control freak always traveling alone(believe me it was shown).

Thankfully I can now in the end say how well we worked together and how great this adventure was! That is by the way exactly what it was, an adventure, not a holiday, an adventure. BIG difference!

We planned this trip over 2 months, literally what we spoke about every day over Whatsapp and me to my friends and colleagues who probably got tired of all my constant talking about planning (thank you for not strangling me btw). Initially it was just meant to be around Hong Kong and Macau (where I live), until one fateful Asia internet browsing day of Enslin’s that had him stumble about water towns in Shanghai!

So then began a whole change to the trip with a new country added in! We agreed that seeing as it was his idea, he would plan Shanghai and I would then plan Hong Kong and Macau. Let me tell you guys, that if I thought I could plan an itinerary, this man takes the award! A completely organised Excel spreadsheet was then sent with each day accounted for, including a map of Shanghai with routes to each place, times of the sunset and sunrise to catch it, plus a detailed explanation of places we planned to see. I was completely impressed and after seeing it, my travel soul was quite grateful to know how well this was gonna go.

 

To make sure each country has its appropriate limelight, there will be different posts on each part of the adventure.

Fast track it to the 15 July 2017 and it was time! To avoid confusion later of all the trips up and down let me explain that I was working on weekends so we had to be in Macau, and weekdays was traveling time for Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Macau is a one hour ferry ride to and from Hong Kong –  within 16 days we took the ferry 6 times!  (8 times for me, going to and from airport upon arrival and departure of E.)

I felt especially sorry for Enslin on the day of his arrival, long flight , subway, and a boat all in one day!

Macau is split up in to 3 parts, Coloane, Taipa(Cotai) and Downtown/Peninsula Macau. I live in the latter part. Macau is known as the Las Vegas of Asia, with more money coming in and out then the actual Las Vegas. The main new strip of fancy hotels aand casino’s are in Taipa, and the old but still fancy hotels are in Downtown Macau. I live in what I would say the suburb area with no casinos in sight, however a 20minute walk gets me there. Taipa however is a 25 minute drive.

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On our first weekend we took a walk to see some sights within Downtown Macau, there are no subways here so walking, taxi and buses are how one gets around (this country has the land area of about 30km). After a quick stop to pick up my Macau ID and being impressed with quick Government procedures we made our way to the Ruins of St Pauls Cathedral and the Macau Museum which are right next to one another. The Macau Museum is a collection of artifacts and information about the history of Macau and the relationship with Portugal as well as the many routes of trade with the world.

It is the rooftop however, that I enjoyed the most, an open garden with a view of Macau to relax in on any day is quite a nice place to have so near to home. The museum and the ruins are a 15 minute walk from my home that I very much love to look at. My students say this cathedral survived 3 fires! From my research the story goes that in the Mid 16th Century a Group of priests came to spread the word of Catholicism and once they were in Macau built not only a church, but a library, school and so on.

St Paul’s was the largest church in Asia at the time also being known as Mater Dei. Its presence expressed the victory of the Roman Catholic Church, now however it is a reminder of Macau’s roots and resembles a fusion of East and West which represents what Macau is itself. It was destroyed in a fire in 1835, with reasons unknown as to what started it.

Living here I can tell you this site is extremely popular to tourists and on Friday there is an abundance of tourists that can be seen on all the steps taking a hundred selfies and trying to capture the correct angle of face and church.

 

This leads you down to Senado Square and the shopping district of Macau after which a wide range of Casinos.

 

Macau used to be a colony of Portugal which explains the rich Portuguese influence and heritage that can be seen in the buildings and felt in the culture and food. It was lent to Portugal as a trading post until it was handed over back to China in 1999.

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Photographer : Enslin Balwanth

So now that you understand that, let’s get to Senado Square. One of the 4 largest squares in Macau this area is filled with shops, restaurants and cultural events. In 2005 it became a UNESCO world heritage site as it forms part of the history of Macau. It was in this area during the Portuguese era actually where the local authorities used to review the troops on their inaugurations. It is surrounded by historic building’s such as Macaus Cathedral, the Macau Museum, St Domingo’s Church and Casino Lisboa.

It is filled with western influence and again its fusion with the East. This area is quite lovely to sit in and just take in the uniqueness of Macau. Beautiful in the day and once evening hits, the lights add in the ambience of Portugal.

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We had to at least make one stop in a Casino, so we looked at the old and the new of the Lisboa casinos. Right opposite one another, Casino Lisboa also known as the Monte Carlo of the East is one of the landmarks of Macau which from a distance looks like a large boat. One of the oldest casinos in Macau as well, which leads to it’s newer sibling built in 2007 right opposite it – the Grand Lisboa, which is shaped like a lotus, the emblem of Macau, and is one of the tallest buildings here.

 

Photographer : Enslin Balwanth

Next on the list was Fishermans Wharf, to eat food and drink good craft beer. Was even better as they had 2 hour all you can drink craft beer special which was a challenge we accepted with no hesitation. Fishermans wharf is labeled as a theme park but in reality it is a mixture of shops, restaurants, and bars set within themed areas. It even has its own Colosseum. It was quite shocking to us to see how quiet this massive place was, it was our waiter who told us that it is a place that is busy in seasons and also that many see it as too far away so they don’t visit. Granted we took a 10 minute bus from Lisboa to get there but that’s it, 10 minutes! Clearly the gambling takes importance but I must say the Western restaurants are a treat when you want to have a break from Asian food, as well as feeling like you are in different places with all the unique themes.

A 30 to 40 minute walk home to experience the evening lights was delightful, we had to go through the area of Senado this time taking another route so we could stop by this very relaxed spot which even had 2 Portuguese residents playing music while we gazed around us.

It was also on this walk however that we had a wonderful shower of heavy rains that even our umbrellas couldn’t protect us from! Soaked wet and home to a hot shower, it was an eventful day and easy foot in to the upcoming 2 weeks of wanderlust.

 

 

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