Saturday, March 31, 2007

Report from Macao: August 9, 2006

Note: This posting, and particularly the picture below receive a lot of hits. For some reason most of them seem to come from the Netherlands. If you are looking from there, consider leaving a comment. I'm just curious why almost every hit I get from a .nl isp is for this post.

My girlfriend and I went to Macao (Macau) last August, and I took a bunch of photos and kept a little bit of a travel journal. I intended to post all of it when I first got home, but things got busy (I started grad school) and I never got around to it. Since I've been too busy lately to write much of anything, I decided I'd finally post this stuff.

August 9, 2006 – Macao

It is almost ten a.m. We’ve already had breakfast, and I just finished in the bathroom. When I came out, Jessica was asleep, so I’m having a gin and tonic and jotting down some notes.

Macao is really cool. We spent a few hours walking around yesterday, and, from what I’ve seen, it is the cleanest and most interesting city in Asia (not that I’ve been in very many, but it beats the pants off any place in Taiwan).

The most striking thing is how clean it is. There’s no rubbish on the streets, which are also swept and almost appeared to have been polished in some places. I only saw a few cigarette butts. The relative cleanliness may be due in part to the convenient placement of public trash bins/ash trays—something that has yet to be imagined by the Taiwanese, much less implemented.

The next thing I noticed was that, despite the reported population density of 17,699 people per square kilometer (compared to Taiwan’s 636), it is not crowded. There are plenty of people out and about, but there is none of the claustrophobic mob feeling that is the norm in Taiwan. Part of this is because there are dedicated pedestrian places and nice, level, wide sidewalks. No one puts their food stands or other wares on the sidewalks, and no one parks scooters or other vehicles on them, either. The end result is that there is actually room for people to walk on the sidewalks, so they don’t have to walk out in the street.

Of course the best thing about what I’ve seen so far is the architecture and the layout of the city. There are plazas and parks and gardens that look just like Spain. In fact, they look better than Spain in some cases. What I’ve seen has been clean, colorful, and carefully illuminated to give it an almost Disneyesque feel.

There are also a lot of old Catholic churches.

Our Lady of Penha Church.

St. Dominics Church.

In addition to the Catholic churches, there is a famous Buddhist temple.

A Ma Temple, Macau.

A Ma Temple, Macau

Also, the city is extremely vertical in places. Oh, and so far no bad smells.

The people here are mostly Chinese looking, but some who could be Latin American, Polynesian, Mediterranean, or a mixture. Most have dark hair and skin and almond eyes. There are a lot of Western looking tourists, too. Some of these touristy looking women are dressed like total whores with tube tops, short shorts, and stilettos. This seems odd to me. Maybe they are hookers, but they seem to be shopping and sightseeing. Yet still they seem to want to put the goods out on the sidewalk. Maybe they are hoping to defray some of the costs of their trip. I didn’t see many (if any at all) whorish looking Asian women here.

There are very few convenience stores. We’ve seen two very small 7-11 stores. I saw one OK store from the bus. This is also in stark contrast to Taiwan, where there are usually three different convenience stores within walking distance of wherever you are. There are about nine within five minutes of my house in Hsinchu.

Back to Macao: there are lots of jewelry and watch shops. Jessica says they are pawn shops, which makes sense considering there are lots of casinos.

Something else I feel needs to be mentioned about Macao’s appearance, or, rather, one of the other things, is the neon. There are some spectacular lights here.

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