Macau

During our trip to Hong Kong, we made a day trip across the Pearl River delta to Macau. Like Hong Kong, Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, requiring yet another trip through immigration and another stamp on our passports. Macau’s economy is based largely on tourism, with much of it geared toward gambling. Though we walked through the opulent lobby of one of the casinos, it was the history and architecture of this former Portuguese colony that drew us to Macau.

After the one hour trip from Hong Kong via hydrofoil, we negotiated a two hour tour by car with our own driver. This isn’t the way we usually choose to see a city but it allowed us to see much more in one day than we’d have been able to by public transit or on foot. The tour took us past Macau Tower to a hilltop cathedral and then on to A-Ma Temple, a complex of small pavilions dedicated to various deities, which was built into a hillside. The temple predates the arrival of the Portuguese and the building of the city itself. We also visited the Fortress, once the city’s principal military defense structure. We climbed to its top where cannons still overlook the city below. Next we walked around the Ruins of St. Paul’s. All that remains of the original church structure is the facade which has become a symbol of Macau. The tour also took us to Guia Fortress with its lighthouse which was the first modern lighthouse on the coast of China. When the tour ended, we were dropped at Senado Square, for centuries the urban centre of Macau.

A-Ma Temple

A-Ma Temple

The Fortress

The Fortress

Ruins of St. Paul's

Ruins of St. Paul's

Guia Fortress

Guia Fortress

The area surrounding Senado Square was marvelous – like a bit of Mediterranean Europe dropped into Asia! After a Portuguese meal in a small cafe down one of the narrow side streets, we spent the next few hours strolling around the area enjoying the architecture and the fascinating mix of cultures.

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A visit to Macau wouldn’t be complete without snacking on its famed egg tarts. Delicious! In fact, I’ve been searching the net for recipes as I’d like to try making these myself.

This brings to an end an absolutely amazing year – truly the adventure of a lifetime! The blog will continue, however. We haven’t decided for sure what the next adventure will be but in the meantime, come along with me as I readjust to life in rural Alberta and discover what retirement is all about.

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Hong Kong

Now that we’re home and the internet has been connected, it’s time to do some catching up. On Feb. 25, we moved out of our little apartment and flew to Hong Kong for one last Asian experience before returning to Canada.

Promoting itself as Asia’s world city, Hong Kong is clearly one of the world’s most international cities with a population of over 6.9 million people. It is made up of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon on the mainland side of Victoria Harbour, the New Territories to the north of Kowloon and many, many outlying islands.

Once a British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China on July 1, 1997 and is now a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China operating under the “one country, two systems” principle.

In spite of it’s large population, Hong Kong is a compact city with an excellent and inexpensive transit system. We stayed with friends in Pokfulam on Hong Kong Island. Their apartment block was located next to a major hospital which is at the end of the line for the minibus routes that run down into Central Hong Kong and to the piers. This made it very easy for us to get wherever we wanted to go.

My pedometer died several months ago so I have no idea how far we walked but I’ve definitely come to the conclusion that this is the best way to see a city. We spent our first day wandering the Central and Western Districts. What a fascinating mix of old and new, traditional and ultra modern! We walked tiny streets lined with shops selling dried seafood and Chinese herbs and just a few short blocks away we strolled past exclusive high end shops like Gucci and Georges Armani. We saw old colonial structures such as the former French Mission building that now houses the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal and St. John’s Cathedral, the oldest Anglican Church in the Far East, as well as many modern skyscrapers.

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img_4008Crossing Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry is a must for tourists visiting Hong Kong. Though the upper deck is slightly more expensive, I much preferred the lower deck where we rode with the locals and felt the ocean spray on our faces. On the Kowloon side, we strolled the seaside promenade and the Avenue of the Stars where plaques, handprints and statues celebrate Asian screen celebrities. We walked up busyimg_3823 Nathan Road and wandered through Kowloon Park. We also took the MTR (Hong Kong’s light rail transit) further into Kowloon to visit the Yuen Po Bird Garden and the nearby flower market. The fascinating bird garden with its stalls selling caged birds, bird cages and every accessory imaginable, is also a gathering place for elderly men who come each day with their prized birds to enjoy the fresh air and the sound of the birds. The flower market, a colourful area with a stunning array of fresh blooms and potted plants, is the centre of the wholesale and retail flower business in Hong Kong.

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Sunday was an interesting day. After attending Union Church with Tess and the children, we walked to nearby Hong Kong Park where the kids enjoyed the excellent playground and Richard got plenty of exercise pushing them on the swings. Another walk through Central proved very interesting as it seems that the entire Filipino population of the city floods into the area on Sundays. Most are domestic workers and Sunday is their day off. Some of the streets are closed to vehicles so that they can spread out blankets on the pavement and congregate together to eat and visit. We rode the top deck of one of the double decker trams, another tourist must, from Central to Kennedy Town then “raced” home. Tess and the boys went by taxi while the girls went by minibus with Richard and I. The minibus team won by about two minutes!

img_3986Yet another must while in Hong Kong is a visit to the Peak overlooking the city. Though the weather was unusually warm while we were there, it was also very cloudy. We waited hopefully for a clear day to visit the Peak. When it was still misty and overcast on our second last day and the next day’s forecast looked even worse, we decided that time was running out and we’d better go even though conditions were far from ideal. (It was a good decision as our final day was rainy and we spent most of it indoors touring the excellent Museum of History.) First came a seven minute ride on the Peak Tram, Asia’s oldest funicular. At times, the incline was so steep that the city’s buildings looked like they were tilting! At the top, we enjoyed the views from the Peak Tower (though they would have been much more spectacular on a clear day), checked out a few of the shops, and enjoyed a delicious, though somewhat pricey, lunch in one of the restaurants. We did a bit of hiking around the Peak itself before beginning our descent via the Pukfulam Country Park trail, a steep path leading to the Pokfulam reservoir. Continuing alongside the reservoir, it eventually led us out onto Pokfulam Road not far from where we were staying.

Were we looking for another interesting place to settle for awhile, I could certainly see us choosing Hong Kong. It’s a dynamic city with a unique blend of Eastern and Western culture where one can manage very easily with only English. For the time being, however, we’re content to settle back into the quieter life of rural Alberta. Now, if I can just get this house back in shape!

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Superheroes

Today we went hiking with Superman, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Bible Man!  Unlike our other Asian trips, this one isn’t only about seeing new places and experiencing new cultures.  We’re also here in Hong Kong to visit friends.  Unfortunately, Charles is away on business.  As luck would  have it, he left for Japan the day we arrived and won’t be back until later the day that we leave!  We are, however, enjoying our time with Tess and the children.

We spent the past two days, while the children were in school, on our own exploring Hong Kong and Kowloon.  More about that later.  Now that the weekend is here, we’re enjoying more time with the kids.  All four of them, seven year old Sebastian and five year old triplets, Jasper, Sela and Carys, love wearing costumes so off we went today with all of them in full disguise!  Such fun and also a wonderful way to keep track of four active children in busy public places.

Late this morning, we boarded a small ferry for Lamma Island, one of Hong Kong’s outer islands.  Arriving at the small community of Yung Shue Wan, we traipsed through it’s narrow streets and began our hike across the island.  Along the way, we enjoyed beautiful ocean views and stopped at the highest point for a rest and surprises from Mommy’s bag.  Reaching another tiny community, Sok Kwu Wan, we enjoyed a fantastic Chinese meal in an outdoor restaurant.  It was pleasantly warm and we had to remind ourselves that it’s still Feb.  The restaurant where we ate provides free passage back to the city on an even smaller ferry.  We sat on the upper deck and enjoyed watching the city come into view as we bounced our way over the waves. 

Now the children have had their baths and are listening to a story.  Everyone is in pyjamas and the girls are wearing angel wings!