Despite being just over two hours away by plane, Steve and I had never been to Macau, a former Portuguese colony which is also a hop and skip away from Hong Kong. We decided on a whim to visit this week, and it was a fabulous decision. Macau is a strange little contradiction – a Chinese city with a strong Portuguese presence and heritage, an overseas European settlement now turned Special Administrative Region (SAR) but also a part of China at the same time. We spent two days walking through very twisty streets and ate a lot of sticky sweets and delicious food, and enjoyed seeing some awesome sights.
We flew into Macau on Tuesday in the middle of the day, and it was a bit rough of a start. First, we had no Internet access initially, because the 2G internet afforded by our T-Mobile cards overseas in almost every other country we’ve been to didn’t seem to be working. The driver of the 26 bus that Google had told us to take into the city gruffly informed us we should take the MT4 instead, and I was trying frantically to figure out if we had enough coins in HKD to get on the bus. After purchasing a SIM card out of a vending machine and identifying the MT4, we finally were on our way.
Macau is best known for its gambling, huge lavish and opulent buildings like the Venetian, Sands, and the Wynn. The golden flower shape of the Grand Lisboa skyscraper loomed over the city peninsula and was visible everywhere we went. Since neither of us were much interested in exploring the gambling aspect, though, we decided to make our focus the food and European legacy of Macau. After dropping things off at our hotel the Ole Tai Sam Un, we set off by foot for St. Paul’s Ruins. It’s the second best known thing in Macau, a former church that had been rebuilt and burnt down several times, with the 1843 conflagration leaving just its front façade intact. It sits above a wide flight of stairs and a small square, and today figures into the selfies of pretty much every tourist who visits Macau. The façade is beautiful, and about two feet thick, retaining weathered green bronze statues of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier. We roamed around, and then walked up the hill beside it to the Fortaleza Monte, a small fort which had some beautiful views of the city and was also home to the Museum of Macau. We walked through the small museum, learning about different architectural styles and the history of the numerous forts that had been there before. Continue reading Two days in Macau.→
When we came up to Taipei, I asked my dad for a little bit of advice on what he thought was worth seeing. After all, my parents did visit Taiwan this March after the Lunar New Year, in part to see what in the world I had been raving about! When asked for the one touristy spot we should see if we had time, he confirmed that we should visit the National Palace Museum. To explain what the National Palace Museum is necessitates a detour into Chinese and Taiwanese history…
Behind Tiananmen Gate in Beijing is the entrance to the Forbidden City, where the Palace Museum of China is to be found. Housed in the old palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Palace Museum holds all sorts of precious artifacts, textiles, porcelains, and works of art and history from China’s thousands of years of history. Except that is, some of the best examples. In 1948, when the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek were about to lose to the Communists and Mao Zedong, they retreated to Taiwan and took the best selection of artifacts from the Palace Museum with them. Most of those artifacts remain in Taiwan today, housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Some say this was a good thing, because during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), many of China’s artifacts were destroyed by Chinese people themselves. The Palace Museum in Beijing barely escaped the same sort of destruction, thanks to guards specifically deployed to protect it.
Like many travelers, we have discovered the truth of packing light; there’s something about travel or when the rubber hits the road (no pun intended whatsoever) that makes you prioritize about your luggage. No matter how little you pack, you end up making it work and what’s more, there will always be something you don’t end up using. When Steve and I were contemplating our choice of travel luggage, Erin, our BFF and dogmother to Stella, was the first to advise us not to purchase a large backpack, because we would simply fill it. So I got a 46 liter Osprey Porter, and Steve got the 22″ Osprey Meridian, which have both been great!
A few days, while we were getting ready to go to Shanghai, I was worried over the issue of how to fit my birthday presents (a beautiful green windbreaker/ raincoat and two new dresses) into my bag. Steve was also packing, albeit carefully rolling his pants and shirts into small cylinders. I knew he had a theory about this sort of thing, but wasn’t too clear on it, and as I watched him pile his clothing this way on compile all of his clothing this way, I couldn’t resist asking: why does rolling your clothing save more space?
Have we only been gone for such a short amount of time? Steve and I find it incredible to believe that we only left Chicago on September 7, which was barely three weeks ago. It however, feels like months and months ago that we were last around English-speakers and other flip-flop wearers. (One of the many signs that we are such foreigners.)
If you’re reading this post, congratulations, because you went here to look for an update on our situation rather than Facebook or Twitter. At approximately 4:30 pm this afternoon, we touched down in Beijing, China, and virtually disappeared behind the Great Firewall of China. Goodbye, social media, for at least a few weeks, or until Steve figures out his VPN. I for one will not miss it that much; a forced exile from whatever new list of 26 GIFs of Ryan Gosling’s face or ’90s pop culture that BuzzFeed has to offer would be welcome. What I really mean is that If you’re trying to get in touch with us via Facebook or Twitter, just email or comment on this post instead!
Steve is already fast asleep, after an epic bout of traveling that began nearly 24 hours ago. Last night, we boarded an overnight bus from Kyoto to Tokyo (7 hours square), took an airport express train (a little over an hour), and at Tokyo Narita, boarded two planes to Shanghai and then Beijing (three and two hour flights, respectively). In retrospect, not our finest decision making process, to squeeze all this travel together, but I cheered Steve up by telling him that train travel in India was almost certain to be worse. Right?