Sunday, September 14, 2003

Macao blog.

(Back to posting items from the past on weekends.)

Sept. 7, 1990.

I spent a dusty, sweaty, absorbing day in Macao. The hydrofoil trip across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong wasn’t especially interesting, mainly because streaks of water obscured the view most of the way. But once I got there, customs was a mere formality, and I found myself in the last wisp of the far-flung Portuguese maritime empire. A short walk — Macao isn’t really very large — and after various misdirections, climbed to the top of the Fortalenza da Monte, a hilltop fort of old, now a shady little park and weather station.

Down from there are the ruins of Sao Paulo cathedral, which this day were enshrined in scaffolding. Then a long, hot walk to the sea and along Rua da Praia Grande, the ocean-side of Macao. Passersby here are almost entirely Chinese, without the very small but (at least in the Central district) visible Caucasian minority of Hong Kong. Most of the place names, including street names, are Portuguese, but I understand that the actual Portuguese population these days could fit into one room.

A restaurant called Bela Vista had been recommended to me, but when I got there, it was weedy and graffiti’d and quite closed, though it still had the bela vista of the ocean. So I ate nearby at Henri’s Gallery: escargot and roasted pigeon. As I pried my bird apart, I thought of various friends back in the States who might not entertain pigeon as a luncheon option. Once is enough for pigeon, however. Too much effort to clear too little meat from too many bones.

After lunch I grabbed a cab — a steal at M$5.50 — to the Hotel Lisboa. I wanted to see the gambling. The casino was a roundish building, not as bright or gaudy as something you’d find in Nevada, but popular all the same, with crowds of Chinese encircling just about all the tables. I watched a little black jack, and some other games peculiar to East Asia. At those tables, I had no idea what the gamers were doing, other than losing money. Before I left, I played the slots, which took Hong Kong coins. After initial success, I ended up blowing all of HK$8.


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