Chinese New Year in Hong Kong: A Day in Macau, Part II
|The Macau Tower, from whence Son#2 jumped. No, I did not watch.|
We got to the Tower via the City Bus system (which, by the way, is clean, safe, well-marked in English, and easy to use) and paid our fee to ride up to the 61st floor (or whatever it was) where the outdoor observation deck and Extreme Sport people were located. It is probably worth noting that there is also an 'Extreme Sport' desk on the ground floor, but when we tried to register for the jump down there, they recommended we take the elevator up to the top before paying, since - and I found this to be a hopeful sign - quite a few people get up there and change their minds. Anyway, the elevator ride was too fast to see anything, so it wasn't until we got up to the top that we really got any kind of a view, which would have been more inspiring if: A) there hadn't been mist and heavy cloud cover; and B) I hadn't been aware that my son was planning on jumping off the tower. All the clouds and mist meant that there weren't many people up there except a few intrepid bungee jumpers and sky walkers, who we all watched in a mixture of horror and admiration. I started to feel a faint glimmer of hope that just possibly Son#2 might just pass on the whole experience.
Son#2 wavered a few times and finally decided to go with the 'Sky Jump' instead of the Bungee Jump, which - as far as I could see - was just as terrifying but didn't involve bouncing (note: MrL had decided not to jump, due more to a reluctance to part with another $350 US than anything, an attitude I encouraged. One family member hurling himself off a 233-meter tower is enough.)
|Son#2 is strapped into his supposedly super-safe equipment. This did not make me feel much better.|
Once we'd finished up with the jump(and finally free of the cloud of dread that had been hanging over my head for the last few days,) we headed back downtown (more city bus) to the A-Ma temple, which is: a)really old (1488); b)Taoist; and c)built into the side of a hill. The temple was originally dedicated to the goddess Matsu, who protected seafarers and fishermen.
|Entrance to the A-ma temple. Deceptively small.|
|Ship image carved into the rock.|
Because it was Chinese New Year, it was quite busy with people burning incense sticks and praying, as well as fabulously decorated, and we were fortunate enough to be there when the gong was being struck and specific prayers were being offered (we didn't understand them, but it was really interesting.) The temple entrance looks very small, but it actually extends back and up into the stones behind it, winding up the mountainside with a series of stone steps,
and on each level, you find a number of buildings with shrines to different deities in them, some free-standing, some built into the mountainside.
|One of the many different 'rooms' in the A-Ma temple, seen through the round entrance door.|
Several pavilions housed groups of what I initially took to be coils of bamboo but turned out to actually be 'incense spirals' - hanging spiral-shaped incense sticks. We saw these in temples all over Macau and Hong Kong, and you could often tell when you were approaching a temple well before you could see it because you could smell the incense wafting through the air.
Because the temple was built into the mountainside, the builders had used the stones and boulders as part of the temple itself, and you often saw Chinese characters etched into the stone. Our favorite spot was almost to the top, under these enormous characters.
|MrL at A-Ma temple|
By the time we finished at A-ma, we were all getting hungry, and decided to indulge in some Portuguese cuisine at the much-touted A Lorcha, a restaurant near the temple and recommended by virtually every travel guide and person that had ever been to Macau. Because we had already had our tickets for an 8pm sailing, we needed to eat an early dinner before heading back to the ferry terminal. It was then that we learned just how authentically Mediterranean Macau really is: not only did A Lorcha close in the afternoon (presumably for a bit of a siesta) and not re-open until 7pm, but virtually every Portuguese restaurant we saw did the same thing. After walking all day long, we agreed that what was needed was a place to sit down and enjoy a meal and a drink or two - easier said than done at 6pm in Macau if you want Portuguese food. One we glumly accepted that Portuguese food just wasn't going to happen in time for us to catch our ferry, we decided to give one of the enormous nearby hotels a try and schlepped into the first one we came to, the The Sofitel at Ponte 16, an enormous luxury hotel/small casino right on the waterfront and close to A-Ma temple and Sendano Square. We followed the signs to the 'family' entrance (presumably this is to keep people like us with underage children out of the casinos) and headed into the main lobby.
Like many luxury hotels in Asia, the Sofitel lobby was heavily invested in mirrors, crystal chandeliers and lots of shiny marble surfaces. When the four of us traipsed in wearing our light hikers, jeans, and sensible Gore-tex jackets to ask where the restaurant was, I'm sure the concierge was debating whether or not to ring security. After what I'm sure was an intense inner struggle, he graciously informed us that the restaurants were on the 6th floor and gestured feebly in the direction of the elevator.
|Chinese New Year Decorations in the opulent lobby of the Sofitel Hotel.|
As I have already mentioned in my previous post, the crossing back to Hong Kong was hardly relaxing, what with the high winds and rough seas, despite the fact that we were traveling, once again, in 'Super' class.
|I found this amusing, particularly since the 'ordinary' class was pretty much just like 'Super,' except downstairs.|
A quick cab ride back to the hotel and a good night's sleep were next on our agendas, since we had plans to get up early the next morning.
We all agreed that we'd enjoyed Macau and would like to go back and spend more time there, since we'd not been able to see everything that we would have liked to, including several other historic buildings and the Macau Maritime Museum as well as the Fishing village at Taipa. If we were to do it again, we would have considered spending at least one night in Macau to give us more time to see everything.
Oh well. I guess we'll just have to go back.