February 17, 2007

After saying goodbye to Adeline in Guangzhou I headed to Macau, a former Portuguese colony, by bus and was dropped off at the border. Although Macau is part of Greater Mainland China, it is actually a "Special Administrative Region" meaning that it keeps it's distinct governing system for a number of years before reverting fully to Chinese control. It's similar in structure to HongKong, and the two of them make up the SARs. After a long line on the Chinese Customs side to get my exit stamp, I made it through the Macanese border crossing with no problem (and a square, blue stamp in my passport!).
I noticed the differences between China and Macau right away. There were the obvious things like Portuguese on all the signs, the colourful colonial buildings, people driving on the other side of the road, and higher prices. But some of the things were more 'subtle'; things like no spitting, no littering everywhere, no pushing, cafes with good coffee, and a more laid-back atmosphere.
While wandering around the first evening with some fellow travellers we heard some music, and walked towards it. It turned out that there was an outdoor performance for a local street party, with a bunch of tables set up and people drinking red wine (red wine isn't so common in China, and is usually served with ice cubes). We stayed and listened for a while, and even danced a bit when the only home-grown Macanese band (called "Tuna Macaense") got up and played. Their music was Mexicanish with Portuguese lyrics, with a few older rock songs thrown in. I took a short movie clip of the group, so I'll post it when I get back to Baoding.
Because Macau is so small, it was easy to see most of the tourist sites and on Sunday I managed to see four cathedrals, a religious museum, attend part of a Portuguese mass, and visit a seminary all within 90 minutes. I also visited a Buddhist temple on the southern end of the Macau peninsula which was very different from the Chinese Buddhist temples. Firstly, this temple was free while you must pay to enter all of the Buddhist temples in China that I've visited (and that's a lot of temples). The second major difference is that people treated the temple as an actual religious site, and not just as a tourist destination. It's true that there are real Buddhist pilgrims in China, but most of the people in the Chinese temples walk around shooting photos of the incense burners and the monks, if there are any monks.


Jim said...

You have some great photos. Hope you post some more. Glad to hear that you were able to rest up and meet up with friends. There must still be a lot of gambling in Macau? Is there talk of changing the names of Macau & Hong Kong?

Anonymous said...

How amazing, to find a little bit of Europe in Asia! Enjoy that coffee, it will be back to tea before too long...take some back with you.

Stephen said...

I'm going to try running a series about food when I get back -I've been taking photos of some of the local specialties and I've got a few great shots.
They've just built a few Las Vegas style casinos in Macau, so gambling is still a huge source of revenue (lots of HK people take the ferry over for the weekend). As far as I know they won't change the names. HongKong is actually Cantonese, and Macau sounds a lot like the Cantonese -both cities also have Chinese names already (as does Vancouver -WenGeHua).