Enter the Dragon

24 May

Walk round Kong Kong Park (1)

I’m still finding my digs very depressing (this isn’t them, this is the Bank of China building) – and very disorientating. My body clock is an hour behind Chinese time (there’s only one time zone in China, although the country spans five different geographic time zones). Since my room has no natural light, and is a way away from the street (in fact, I think it exists in a special dimension of space and time – which would explain why the elevator takes so long getting there). (Side note on the elevators. They are incredibly slow. And incredibly sensitive to excess weight, leading to some very entertaining acrobatics from the locals trying to get one more person in without tripping the overweight alarm). That said, the great thing about Chungking Mansions is that the ground floor is a rabbit warren of phone shops, laundries, clothes shops – and Indian messes (cafes). Which means you can get a really good Indian meal for about $8. Bet you can guess where I have been eating… although in an effort to escape my cell room I have been spending too much time in Starbucks.

Chungking Mansions (5)Chungking Mansions (2)

I no longer get hailed by tuk tuk drivers (simple reason – there are no tuk tuks) but people are waiting to pounce and offer ‘cheap guest house sir’, or ‘copy watches’ and of course ‘custom tailor’. Initially I got cross with how persistent they were, until I realised that it was just inertia that got them half way through their spiel before they could stop.

I’ve done a couple more mornings of Tai Chi – I am considering taking this up when I get back, or something similar… we were treated to a demonstration of Tai Chi as a true martial art on one morning – watching the instructor and his wife fight was a true joy, although I am not sure what life at home must be like. And very polite too – unlike Japanese martial arts, which is a case of ‘bow – then fight’ there is a whole preparatory set of movements before the fight commences – and another set of movements after it is over. You can see elements that got incorporated into Kung Fu and components of other martial arts, too. I’m loving his Chinglish, too – having gone through it three times with unexpected breaks half way through sentences when we would wait for a comma to pause – and loving his exhortations to maintain a ‘peacey mind’.

Tai Chi (7)Tai Chi (3)

While we’re on the subject of martial arts, the Avenue of Stars pays homage to the Hong Kong film industry, including its leading lights Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan (who seems to be found grinning from billboards all over the place.

Bruce Lee (2)

and a collection of pictures from Phillippe Raiment – all carefully created without digital effects to produce some spectacular – if odd – pictures.

Philippe Raimette (2)

The Avenue is also a great place to watch the Hong Kong light show – using the Hong Kong skyscrapers as a setting for lasers, spotlights and creative lighting of the buildings themselves. I watched this a couple of times – the second time with a new found friend from Canada, who was trying to find the Star Ferry terminal at the same time I was.

HK Skyline (11)HK Skyline (2)

And in an attempt to boost my ‘number of countries visited’ I spent an afternoon (!) in Macau, around an hour’s high speed ferry journey from Hong Kong. Now, purists might well argue that Hong Kong and Macau are both part of China. But since I have to pass immigration to get into both countries from China, then I’m calling them separate countries. The same goes for Tibet (although I feel I am on even firmer ground there). And especially since leaving China for Hong Kong cost me $80 to get another visa to get back in – you BET I am counting these as separate countries.

So. Four hours in Macau. What can you do in that time? Well, as it happens, you can catch some ancient Chinese history, go gambling, go shopping in some luxury stores, watch a couple of free shows, enjoy some Portuguese history, and get some exercise.

So let’s see how that all works out…

Macau (12)

Macau is Asia’s gambling Mecca. Although it’s not as structured as Vegas, it’s certainly larger in terms of ‘take’. The new Cotai strip on Cotai Island will allow it to rival Vegas as a single location, but for the moment the hotels are spread around the islands a bit. I took a wander in to Wynn’s, a slab of golden glass and steel on the main island. The lobby has a couple of cool automated shows, with the Tree of Prosperity and the Dragon of Fortune both materialising from the same dome in the floor. I took a while to wander the casino floor, which seems calmer and more tranquil than its Vegas equivalent. Outside are luxury brands – Versace, Dunhill, Fendi, Ferrari – and I found it very healing to wander round and renew my relationship with financial prosperity, something which I have needed to do to allow more wealth to flow into my life (it’s been a huge subject for lots of the reading and listening that I have been doing – and again, another component of some of the workshops and products I have planned).

Wynn Macau (9)Wynn Macau (4)Wynn Macau (2)Wynn Macau (1)

Then off to the Grand Lisbon – this glittering lotus flower shaped temple to excess and decadence yielded one of the coolest photos of the trip when I realised I could capture my own reflection in the mirrors.  Just  below the two red ones… is a man in black. With a camera. And what appears to be shorts with one leg longer than the other. Hmm.

Grand Lisbon (10)Grand Lisbon (7)

Grand Lisbon (1)

And we’re off. You can actually walk (or drive, or cycle) the Macau Grand Prix racetrack which runs round the island.. and it felt like a rapid pace. Not for THIS guy, perhaps

Macau Racetrack (3)

I discovered the A Ma temple, one of the earliest temples dedicated to A Ma, goddess of the sea.

A Ma temple (3)Macau (5)Macau (6)

I found the old Teatro and the original Jesuit college. The Portuguese legacy means half the signs are in Portuguese, which is kind of funky out here.

I wanted to visit the old red light district, where Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filmed – but I ran out of time. Increasingly concerned about getting back to the boat, I decided to take a short cut over the top of the hill. Unfortunately, although there is a path straight up – the one the other side is blocked by building works, as I found after vaulting the locked gate and then finding a padlocked door at the bottom. So I climbed back up the hill, went back to the other side, down the same way I had come up, and ran like the wind to the boat – making it with 15 minutes to spare.

So, there we are. Hong Kong and Macau in 6 days. I have now secured both a new shiny Chinese visa, a train ticket (hard sleeper) to Shanghai… so I’m off to the mainland again!

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