May 19th, 2007
So, I think I’ve reached the conclusion that real-time blogging from Southeast Asia is pretty much impossible, at least if you want to do any travel or see the places you’re visiting.. Oh well.
We had an email from our friend Tiffany telling us that her favorite part of her visit to Hong Kong was her trip to Macau. After hearing that, there was nothing for it but to hop a ferry over to the former Portuguese territory!
But first, more dumplings and fried bits and noodles and tea. Dim sum, that is.
We got spring rolls and potstickers (not as good as those at the ripoff Shanghai chicken place the night before, but quite good) and glutinous rice rolls and more steamed barbequed pork buns and some stirfried noodles. All for 60 Hong Kong dollars, which is about 8 USD. We LOVED dim sum.
We then took the very shiny high-tech fast wonderful subway to the ferry terminus for Macau, only to find out that they were all sold out until 1 PM. So we bought Starbucks coffee (our first ones in… well, over a year, at least), which were seriously disgusting, and waited out the time until our ferry left.
Arrival in Macau at 2 was WET. Even the rickshaw drivers had sought cover, which is pretty impressive since they’re always angling for customers, at least in Vietnam and Thailand.
Since it was pouring, we hedged our bets and smiled our way on to one of the buses channeling gamblers back and forth to the Grand Hotel Lisboa, one of the nicest of Macau’s many casinos. It was midafternoon and time for a snack, and the casino had a little place they were advertising called the “Noodle and Congee Corner.” I was expecting a diner-like old Vegas style place, but we arrived to an extremely well-designed little restaurant tucked away a floor above the gambling.
The place had a huge open kitchen where seriously talented people were making like six different kinds of noodles. There were pulled noodles and noodles cut off a board into boiling water and these guys, which were thrown theatrically from several feet back into a wok. Totally amazing.
Their menu was huge, but we eventually settled on an order of lah mien (the pulled noodles) with chicken and sea cucumber, along with Shanghai soup dumplings, a fried pancake with pork and cilantro, and a steamed pancake filled with fried bean curd sheets, pork, and cucumber.
These were all impressive (especially the soup dumplings, which burst with gingery brothy goodness – how they get soup into these dumplings, I can’t imagine) but the tea service was the most insane I’ve ever seen. We were given teacups filled with our oolong and osmanthus tea, and right behind was this guy with a teapot that had what must have been a three foot spout. He flipped the pot of boiling water over his back and poured with quick robotic movements, somehow managing not to spill a drop. We were too flabbergasted to take a picture, but we got one when he went to another table.
Their regular dumplings were too good not to try any dessert dumplings (plus, we didn’t want to go out in the rain), so we ordered a glutinous rice pancake with red bean paste and rice dumplings stuffed with magma. I mean black sesame paste. They were really hot.
After this decadent dumpling and noodle extravaganza (maybe they need a better name than the “noodle and congee corner”?) we decided to chance the weather. One two-dollar umbrella richer, we made our way into the drizzle.
Macau feels a lot older than Hong Kong. They haven’t torn down all of their old buildings, and many of the streets are paved with striking mosaics.
On our way to visit the ruins of the church of St. Paul, we walked down a narrow little lane lined on both sides by candied meat sellers. They were giving out samples, and we tried a little of the candied pork – which was very strange. Sweet and a little meaty, with a texture a lot like jerky and a flavor a little like breakfast cereal. But meaty. Hard to describe.
We grabbed one of Macau’s famous egg custard tarts, which probably would have been better if we hadn’t just eaten 73 dumplings. I think some nice tea would have helped it out, too, as it was also really sweet.
The ruins of the church of St. Paul are one of the major tourist sights in Macau. It’s the façade of a Jesuit church finished in the early 17th century, and it makes for an incongruous sight in this overall very Chinese town.
(Husbear snapped this picture and told me to “do something interesting.” I’m a terrible improviser.)
We followed the Lonely Planet walk down towards the waterfront, making a stop to shop for some gold. Golden Mao, anyone?
No? Well, how about a golden pig necklace suckling little golden piglets? I’ve become obsessed with the awesome pig statues and jewelry that we’ve seen everywhere, but I can’t actually justify buying it – so instead I’ve started a collection of pictures of pigs. What do you think?
The walk down to the water was interesting, with lots of food to look at (and not buy) and neat little shops for window-shopping. And bamboo scaffolding everywhere – now we know why Jackie Chan does tricks on bamboo scaffolding in all of his movies.
The walk ended at the A-Ma temple, which we couldn’t actually enter. Geckoes and gnats were everywhere, and incense made the hot night air heavy.
Our walk back to the Grand Hotel Lisboa (and their free port shuttle) took us to very modern, neon-lit new casino-stuffed Macau. So different from the back lanes.
So, that’s it for Macau and its odd and wonderful blend of Chinese and Portuguese.
Late night, back in Hong Kong, we treated ourselves to a meal of simple, plain food and went back to our hotel.
The next day we’d be flying to Bangkok, and my nerves were wound tight. What kind of guidebook says to spend the night in the airport if you arrive after dark? Ah, yes – First-Time Asia. Those crazy bastards, scaring people for no reason.
HCMC, June 4, 2007