Photo heavy because of the bungy jump. 🙂 Be sure to watch the video of my jump!
My plane to Guangzhou was delayed by an hour, which was a nuisance because I had plans to meet up with a family friend, Michelle. Every delay that I experienced meant that I was keeping her waiting longer and longer. Once landed, I took a bus to Zhuhai, the city where she lives. I was told that the bus ride would take two hours; it took three. I cringed with every minute that passed, knowing that I had been expected far earlier. Finally I arrived in Zhuhai, which is the city that borders Macau, the Special Administrative Region of China that was formerly a Portuguese colony. Michelle and her mother picked me up at the station and drove me to check in at my hostel… or to attempt to. The thing was… we couldn’t find it. We had the address, but it seemed not to exist. In fact, we were told that there was nothing of the sort at that address. We wasted an hour trying to look for it in vain. China seems a never-ending source of miscommunication and frustrations. This however, was obviously not just me being helpless and foreign. Michelle and her mother are Chinese, and were able to fluently converse with people; no one knew anything about the Viva Guest Home. They kindly offered that I could stay with them, and I appreciatively accepted their gracious offer. That decided, Michelle’s mother drove us to the border and we headed immediately into Macau.
First we headed for the Historic Center of Macau, which is where I saw the heaviest Portuguese influence. We saw the facade of St Paul’s, a cathedral that was destroyed by a fire in 1835. The facade was all that remained in tact; it is quite magnificent to see a single wall of a building that is the sole remainder of what once was. The area was lit with lanterns, in preparation for the upcoming Mid Autumn Festival, and looking dazzling. We left and headed for one of the casinos so that we could meet up with Michelle’s friend Effy, who lives and goes to school in Macau. When we wanted a taxi, there were none to be found, but we ended up on one of the free shuttles that runs from one casino to another. Due to our transportation troubles, we were late to meet Effy, but eventually we found her, and headed out for dinner. We ate at a restaurant called Dumbo’s, which is known for its traditional Portuguese-Chinese fusion cuisine. Dinner was fabulous. For dessert we had “portuguese egg tarts,” which in Portugal are called “pasteis de nata.” I had these when I was in Lisbon, and upon taking my first bite, I was transported; the Lisbon night was dark, but we stood outside the pastry shop, bathed in yellow light. The memory is perfect, and it was an incredible sensation. Smell is the most transportive of the senses, but I’d guess that taste comes second as the two are so directly linked. The dessert was perfect. After our meal we went to wander the Macau streets, and had it not been for the Chinese street signs, I would have sworn to you that I was back in Portugal. After meandering, we headed for the Venetian, where we window-shopped the stores lining the faux-Venetian canals. It was charming. Before we knew it, it was 11PM, which meant that Michelle and I needed to make our way back to the border, so that we could make it back into mainland China before midnight, which is of course when the carriage turns back into a pumpkin… or the border closes and you get stuck in Macau. One of the two. We made it with time to spare, taxied it back to Michelle’s and it was time for bed.
On Friday I had special plans about which I was both nervous and excited. I was going to go bungy jumping! We went and had dim-sum for lunch at a restaurant by Michelle’s house. We had congee, which is a type of savory rice porridge, often containing meat or fish, as well as sticky rice dumplings, chicken feet, and pork ribs. Though not keen on the chicken feet, lunch was fantastic. We headed promptly for the border, and I kept eying my watch, convinced that I would miss my 1PM bungy appointment. It was about noon at this point. Between the border, and getting the correct bus (which seemed to take ages), we were late, but by this point I was resigned to the fact and figured it probably wouldn’t matter too much. We arrived at the Macau Tower, and went to the lower observation level; this one was indoors. There were glass floors at various points on the deck, and standing on them, my heart started to race as I got a good look at exactly how far I was going to fall. After admiring the view of Macau, I figured it was time to head upstairs. My heart beat faster and faster as the elevator climbed the next three floors. I signed in, signed on the solid black line, yes, yes, might die, yes, you’re not responsible… I get it. I was handed a name tag and a t-shirt and directed onto the next employee. She told me to change into my totally sweet bungy t-shirt and then to come back to put harnesses and such on. They started to strap on the various restraints responsible for my safety, and then I entered the bungy area. Michelle came with me and watched from the side. They strapped my feet up, and showed me how to disengage a strap so that after my first bounce, I would be in a sitting position, instead of dangling from my feet the whole time. And then… it was time. I felt exhilarated and excited and nervous. They walked me to the edge of the platform, and that is when some serious fear set in, although it was still coupled with enthusiasm. I was about to jump 233 meters… 764 feet. I put my arms out like wings, they counted down from five… and leant forward… and down I went. I screamed at first, then shouted and whooped. The first moment was one of terror, which was quickly replaced with a euphoric adrenaline rush. After the first bounce, I unclipped my legs, so that I was in a sitting position. I bounced a few more times and then was slowly let down to the ground. I stood on solid ground, but my heart still could have beat right out of my chest. My smile was enormous. I returned to the top of the tower to meet Michelle and collect my things, and after a few minutes, we descended the very tall tower. As we ascended the elevators at the bottom of the tower, a group of Japanese tourists gave me a round of applause and told me that I was excellent. It was adorable. Michelle and I then got coffee and I made use of the internet to make a few calls.
Liz: “Hi mum!”
Liz: “I just did something.”
Mum: “…What did you do?”
Liz: “I just went bungy jumping, and I didn’t die!!”
Mum: “Is that why you were grinning this morning? The whole time we were talking to you on Skype, you were grinning like you had a big secret.”
Liz: “Yep. That’s why.”
Mum: “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Why do you do these things?”
Then I called Michael, and spoke to him for a while. Michelle and I left the coffee shop and headed to a very beautiful, and remarkably in tact Chinese temple. Then it was back into the Portuguese area of Macau. We ended up exploring a five story market, which was full of fascinating food. All sorts of fish, soft-shell turtles, and frogs, all still alive and waiting to be be bought. Fish cut wide open, chicken hanging on hooks, chicken claws, buckets of chicken heads. I’ll spare you the photos because I don’t want to offend anyone. We got some street food. I tried artificial-shark-fin and chicken soup, and later some boiled fish balls and sea urchin balls. It was all delicious. After a while, it was time to meet Effy, as she was done with school for the day. We wandered the streets of the more traditional Chinese area, and ate a variety of snack foods. We then went and found a purikura shop (Japanese style photobooth) where we took funny photobooth pictures and edited them to make them even sillier than they already were. Afterwards, we headed to the Venetian and had drinks. We left a bit late, but Michelle and I headed for the border and made it with minutes left to spare!
On Saturday, I woke up and Michelle took me to the ferry station, and off I headed to Hong Kong!
Michelle (my amazing friend/remarkable guide to Macau) in the Portuguese district
The ruins of St Paul’s.
A busy Macau street
Lanterns in the Portuguese district, ready for the Mid-Autumn Festival
Dim-sum. The dish to the right is chicken feet!
The view from the Macau Tower
Getting ready to jump!
Arms out and ready to go!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Also, let’s play a game called figure out what the hell Liz’s accent is?)
These little ornaments were in the temple we visited. They are attached to a tree called “The 100 Years Husband and Wife Tree.” The red ribbons contain wishes for long, healthy marriages and love-lives. Super cute. 🙂
These are giant coils of incense burning in the temple
Me, in front of a huge lantern in the Portuguese district
Artificial-shark-fin and chicken soup
More street food. The darker ones are the fish balls, and the white and yellow ones are uni balls. I’m not sure what exactly the outside is (probably a rice mixture of some sort), but they contained mashed up sea urchin. They were superb!
A restaurant! People set up small carts on the street at night, and you sit on tiny plastic chairs.
The purikura shop
Effy and I in the Portuguese district. It looked beautiful with all of the lanterns lit!
Anddddd Hong Kong’s up next. I’ve been keeping busy, so I haven’t been too diligent about staying on top of my writing. Hopefully I will have entries for you sooner rather than later.