Wednesday, June 16, 2010

HONGKONG & MACAU: ROUND TWO

Day 3

Macau was the destination for the third day. Joyriding was the main event. Language barrier was the bottleneck. New friendship was built.


We rose early from bed to take another breakfast at the same KFC store. We planned to check in the Ferry Terminal early to arrive in Macau early. I remember last year that we walked a circuitous way to look for the Hong Kong Ferry Terminal where the fast crafts or vessels going to Macau were berthed. I pitied Dupong then so soaked with sweat from a long walk from the Mirador Mansion down to the Victoria harbor where we wrongly thought was where the Macau ferries stationed. Then we were told that Hong Kong Ferry was on the other side, just a walking distance from that point. So we walked and walked almost the whole stretch of the Canton Road. We did find it but we were already exhausted by the wandering. That was when I noticed that the said ferry terminal was located near a park, which I believe was the Kowloon Park. So this time, I led Erick the walk along Cameron Street, the street along the Kowloon Park. I estimated that if last year we walked a circuitous way to reach the ferry terminal, then there must be shortcuts from Nathan Road to Canton Road. And that would be Cameron as one of those. Thankfully, my travel instinct worked correctly. We reached the Canton Road within a five-minute walk and the Hong Kong Ferry Terminal was in clear sight at a few more steps.


We bought a roundtrip ticket for two with definite 9pm return trip. Nine hours would be enough for a day tour in Macau. We booked the 10 o’clock departure. Pages and announcements were in two different tongues, Cantonese and Mandarin, and an English translation. When 10 o’clock arrived, an announcement was made in a dialect (I can not really distinguish which is Mandarin or Cantonese) that caused commotion to the Chinese-looking people. They crowded the elevators and the escalators.  We waited for the English translation of the (I supposed) same announcement, but nothing came. So we panicked thinking that it might be a call for us all to board. As we checked around, only Chinese-looking people were busy; all foreigners especially the white peoples stood as confused as we are. One of the white couple, the guy in red shirt, sitting beside us looked at me confused, “Do you understand what they’re saying?” he asked. No! I replied. “We don’t understand what happened. Are we really boarding?” the lady partner in black dress wondered. I mean, she asked to no one in particular. We all approached the lady at the departure attendant’s post; all English-speaking tourists crowded too. It was only then that we were ushered to go down and board the orange-colored First Ferry boat. There were of course other ferries docking on the other gates, one in red color that was also boarding. 


After passing the Macau Immigration, we hurried directly to the lobby to locate the Tourist Assistance booth to grab city maps and other tour brochures. Having now the clue to the city, Erick and I proceeded to the bus loading area. We have checked on the bulletin boards and directories around the station that bus number 10A will take us to the
Senado Square
, our first stop. I remembered that most of attractions in this state that has touched of Portuguese colony can be all found in the said square. A group of youngsters approached us and proposed to join us in the City Tour. Building new friendship in a foreign land is amusing and amazing. So much so that lover, Marian and Dominic, and Jec, Dominic’s elder brother, are Cebuanos and I can speak their dialect. Well, Erick can’t but can somehow understand the context. So the game is on when we climbed the bus. We took pictures of threes, twos, fours, or fives upon reaching the
Senado Square
.  
I led the way to the famous St. Dominic’s Church when a TV reporter, a lady in blue blouse and black pants wearing the sweetest smile, approached me for an interview. I don’t know the station’s name but I can recognize the logo. Anyway, she talked about the celebration of the International Non-Smoking Day that day. I was speechless at first considering that I am a nurse by profession but I was not aware that May 31 is the non-smoking day celebrated internationally. Well, I did not really practice my second profession since I passed the licensure exam, so I think I am excused. Then I found my ground and I replied sarcastically, “Isn’t that Macau a free smoking country?” Indeed, people here smoked freely anywhere, even in airconditioned areas. With that note, she started throwing me questions and the cameraman now busied finding angles of me and the reporter. He even pointed the lens almost at my face. (The following series of questions were not verbatim)


Do you smoke? And I said no. 


Why? What can you say about smoking? I said, as a nurse I have studied that smoking has no healthy benefits; it caused lung diseases and can lead to many complications.  


We do know the ill effects of smoking to our health. What countries can do to eradicate smoking? Institutionalize. Legalize. Put into law the ban for smoking, even in just some highly public areas. (I forget to mention to impose higher taxes on cigars and cigarettes)  


What can you do as a citizen of you country to eradicate smoking? Educate each other. I believe that awareness of the danger of smoking to our health should start from children and should be taught in schools. And the best way personally is to avoid smoking. For smokers, quit smoking. (I actually sound Chinese speaking in English) 


Do you think that celebrating a non-smoking day can help? Yes. One day of smoke-free earth is a big break from carbon emission. I believe heavy smokers can sacrifice a day for this reason. One day can save lots of lives, the smokers themselves and the second-hand smokers. Second-hand smoke is as dangerous as smoking, you know. (I sounded like Manny Pacquiao this time, gosh!)


Then she concluded the interview with last two questions, which country I came from and what will she call me. “You can call me Cris, from the Philippines,” I replied proudly. We then bade goodbyes and walked on separate directions.

My stage fright found me seconds after the interview. My whole body was shaking and I can not believe that I was interviewed in front of real TV camera. I felt reluctant though that it might just be some 5-minute joke interview. Was the interview for real? Will it be shown in TVs around Macau or even Hong Kong? Nonetheless, the ambush interview conducted in the middle of the Senado Square was over and we five believed that it will be soon shown in one of the Macau local stations. Sadly, if that was the case, we can not in any way watch it.

We took pictures of St. Dominic’s Church and the Macau Cathedral and lunched at the nearest Japanese cafeteria. After devouring the teriyakis and sipping the miso soup, we continued our tour and headed back to the bus stop we earlier dropped off. We checked again the directories and the maps only to find out that there was no bus that is bound to reach the St. Paul’s Church Ruins. That our next destination is just a walk away from the St. Dominic’s Church. So we retreated and went back to where we have been. At one street corner, we crossed our paths again with the white couple we sat beside in the HK Ferry Terminal pre-departure area. We said our “his” and “hellos” and agreed to go on tour together since they were also heading to the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church. And to my wonderment, the seven of us made the whole Macau tour together since then. I found out later that Lee, the guy in red shirt and cargo shorts, is British English and Kara, in gray dress and black tight pedal pants, is German; that they were not real “couple”; and that they met around Hong Kong few days ago and decided to go on tour together. We climbed the St. Paul’s, the Macau Fortress and Macau Museum, which we found to be closed every Monday; that very day. What a luck!

Almost all the tourist attractions in Macau with Portuguese influence are within walking distances from one another, though some require long walks. Walking was not a problem for us, it was the language barrier. People we encountered and approached to ask for directions do not understand our English and do not know how to speak English; we tried our best to use sign language but still to no avail. They can not even speak Portuguese. At least Portuguese tongue has a bit resemblance of our Filipino tongue, in that way I can somehow decipher the message. Since we all were saving from the expensive guided tours, language barrier was our biggest challenge. Guided tours in Macau may at least cost us HKD150; Lee and Kara told us that they were asked HKD600 each, which of course they declined. So tours for white peoples are pricier than for Asians. We utilized Macau’s bus transport guided only by the map that we spread fully every time we check. We followed the directions in red dots that indicate the bus line, bus numbers, the routes and the stops. I am convinced that all bus lines will cross all indicated tourist destinations, only that you will take note of the bus’ alphanumeric numbers. I did not expect though that buses there have to pass through bus terminals before turning back to its course.

After our last walk to St. Anthony of Padua Church, we took the bus 18A that we hope will carry us to the Macau tower. Well, that was exactly the bus number indicated in the directory that will pass through the said tower. We settled inside the bus enjoying the ride that snaked around downtown, then for a while we have not noticed any clue leading us to the tower until we reached and parked in the bus terminal. I instructed my company to stay inside the bus thinking that the driver who took off will just take a pee. But then he shouted from outside the window (with words we surely did not understand) arms stretched then swung, signaling us to vacate. OMG, we were lost! We took the wrong bus, so I thought. I felt down and disconcerted. Fortunately, somebody was so kind to assist us. He can not speak English but at least he can pronounce “18A” informing us that we should ride bus of the said number to take us to Macau tower. Then the bus we just disembarked queued at the loading area. We ended up riding the same bus. I entered through and through without dropping my fare thinking that the HKD3.20 I paid earlier is still due. However, the driver signaled again to have me pay again. It is therefore understood that the city buses will in fact turn around their designated lines and that you have to pay twice in any case that they pass through a terminal or transfer to another bus of the same line or number.

I felt irritated and guilty. Irritated to the fact, plus the fear, of being lost. That there is no English speaking people that can help us around the terminal in the middle of unknown Macau. Guilty to have dragged along with us five more people whose touring time has been wasted in the long bus ride that ended up at nowhere. Guilty that they might have other plans of getting to somewhere but were stuck with us. I was so ashamed to bring these people in my personal trip and lost them in this point of Macau. “I would rather be lost somewhere alone!” I snapped to Erick, whom I partly blamed, for he principally befriended them. It was shameful for me who has been to Macau before, they must have trusted me to head this tour, but ended up lost. Shame and guilt snowed over me during this once again snaking turnaround, until finally the view of the tower grew visible. I felt relieved when we dropped off at the tower’s fa├žade.

Same hold up happened to us when we headed back to the Macau Ferry Terminal. We all decided to close our tour by visiting the Venetian Hotel and Resort. The free bus ride usually originates at the ferry terminal. Of course, we will take the free ride than to pay an expensive taxi fare considering that the hotel is situated in another island. We rode bus 32 this time and as expected we did pass through another bus terminal. Before reaching the terminal, I noticed that we passed the Lotus Garden. This garden is just a minute walk to the ferry terminal. Had it been known to me that the bus will snake back to the downtown, I could have led the flock to alight at the garden’s spot. We could have saved time and another HKD3.20. Funny, very irritatingly funny! My irritation, shame and guilt came back for me. It only faded away when we finally boarded the Venetian Hotel bus.

On the upside of it all, taking the city bus that kept snaking around the whole Macau downtown was a chance to take a joyride that passed through all city streets in and around the country’s known Hotels and Casinos, Churches and Temples for a total cost of HKD16. It was a cheap tour, right? Just disregard the element of time.
 
We enjoyed the Venice-feeling inside the Hotel – the gondola ride with matching serenade and the Italian architectural designs over and under you; the feeling inside the busyness of the casino area – slot machines, poker tables, and other tables and gadgets unknown to me. Goodbyes came early that night. I asked Erick to initiate the farewell party. I can no longer carry the burden of shame and guilt to curtail their leisure time for my own pleasure. Maybe this is the time I can release them. Marian, Dominic and Jec planned to visit the souvenir shop; Kara and Lee opted to roam more around. Our reason to split up from them was because we were bound to take the 9 o’clock ferry back to Hong Kong while theirs were indefinite time. And it was about dinnertime, so Erick and I decided to find a corner at McDo (again!) to dine and relax from the very emotionally tiresome day tour (for me I believe). I was thankful though for the friendship we built within few hours in the foreign land. We were informed that Lee will be heading to New Zealand and Kara to Indo-China region after Hong Kong.

When we boarded the 8:30pm First Ferry trip, we have not spotted any one of them yet. But we are confident to find them again though Facebook. We exchanged facebook accounts before separating at the Venetian Hotel’s Mark Square, overlooking the wonderful veranda that entranced to the casino.

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