6.27.2009

A Day of SARs - Live from Macau


It's raining heavily here in Macau, the tiny peninsula and two islands that make up the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Macau, formerly a Portuguese outpost along the Chinese coast since the 1500s. That hasn't stopped us at all, though.

We departed the other SAR of Hong Kong this morning and crossed the wide, choppy Pearl River Delta.

Macau has been better than expected, even with the downpour. The Portuguese culture and heritage is definitely engrained, and even as massive Vegas-style casinos go up all around, the warrens of colonial and post-colonial buildings with signage in both Portuguese and Cantonese are fun to wander in.

My friend, Eric L, a fellow adventurous Tulane Law student working in Asia this summer, is down from Beijing to visit for the weekend. We had a great meal of baked duck over rice in a back alley earlier, and we're hoping to let it settle for a few more hours before making the sea voyage back. As Eric put it, as we left the pier aboard the fast tri-maran - "It sounds like we're at the premier of a Hello Kitty movie." There were indeed many sudden ooohs ands uggghs as we hit the first massive swells in the harbor. People all around us were vomiting as we crossed the open water studded with high rocky islands and a fleet of colorful ferries heading back to Hong Kong. One lady even stole our vomit bag.

But we made it across just fine. And after obtaining some picatas, the Macanese currency, we headed off by random rickshaw down the rows of luxurious casino hotels into the old town center, where we climbed through the crowded, sweet-smelling streets full of spiced meats and baked treats to the ruined facade of St. Paul Cathedral - a Jesuit Church from the 1600s that is merely it's front now and nothing more.

After a quick visit to a quaint little fishing village at the far south of the SAR on Coloane Island, wee're at a rather seedy internet cafe now - full of exotic carvings of saints and skeletons and dragons - in some tight old rua. There are some advogado offices around (this is a civil law system).

More Macau later.