Les Trois Escargots

A growing family of snails.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hong Kong and Macau

The week-long Chinese holidays, which had caused us such problems in leaving Nepal, meant that the Hong Kong hotel prices were almost double what we had paid the last time. We stayed on Hong Kong island in a district that felt more authentic than the commercial, touristy madness of Kowloon. We showered and wandered up Hollywood road through shops selling 'antiques', fresh fruit and bowls of steaming noodle soup. We stopped at a temple and a young girl showed us around. Statues of the gods were worshipped and donations of food left on the altars along with bundles of smoking incense sticks.

The richer worshippers lit huge coils of incense, hanging them from the ceiling. The immense coils would take up to three months to burn out and, with tens of them above our heads, the interior of the temple was filled with an eye-stinging cloud of scented smoke. Ten minutes walk from the temple, we reached the longest covered conveyor belt in the world carrying people from the waterfront up the hillside. We struggled against the flow to the sea and took the famous Star Ferry across the Victoria Straits to wander the Flower market, the Goldfish market selling plastic bags of fish, and the Temple Street night market where the usual tourist stuff was touted at steep prices.

After ten hours on our feet, we made it back to the hotel late and showered off the grime and pollution of the city. The next day, we took the high speed ferry to Macau, the Portuguese equivalent of the British Hong Kong, and tried to find a person who could speak Portuguese. Flooded by Chinese since its handover in 1999 in accordance with the Chinese principle of diluting the British/Tibetan/Portuguese (delete as appropriate) locals, we failed to find a single person. Only the bilingual signposts and custard tarts gave us any clue as to where we were.

As the self-termed Las Vegas of the East, Macau had a string of unattractive casinos catering to the Chinese. We saw a plastic mock up of the Potala Palace in Llasa, the Great Wall and a Chinese pagoda outside a larger gambling house. We left feeling that Macau had lost its soul.

On our last morning, we shopped to ensure we met our 40 kilo baggage weight limit and checked in with Cathay Pacific, managing to get seats by the emergency exit - a great result since the extra leg room was a godsend for me on the 13 hour flight. A day later and we landed in the wet greyness of Paris airport. The 'backpacker' leg of the trip is over.


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