We decided to add some interesting activities on the Wednesdays, to provide a break from the course, and Wednesday the 23rd saw us going to Macau (or Macao), another Special Administrative Region and a former Portuguese colony bordering on China. I picked up the students at the University train station and we headed down to Sheung Wan on Central for the ferry. It turns out that Hong Kong’s MTR system is busy during rush hour:
We went on the TurboJet to get a good ride across to Macau, sitting upstairs for sight-seeing and for a better ride. The students quickly got into the correct mode.
Landing in Macau itself, which is another country after all, we went through immigration and then outside the ferry terminal. where I had to constantly deflect the attentions of the touts who were all trying to get us onto a bus or a tour or something. One of the reasons to go to Macau was to show the students more of the region, the ecosystem of a casino-driven economy like Macau and the ways that cultures integrate differently, even with a similar group mixing in.
I wanted to start the students off at St Pauls, ruins in the heart of Macau island itself, so this required three cabs … and three languages. The first cab required me to dust off my terrible Mandarin (Qing day wo men qu da san ba pai fang?), the second pretended to understand my Sportuguese (Ruinas de Sao Paulo, por favor?), although it turned out that he tried to take the students for a ‘ride’ so they got out and walked the rest of the way, and the last one listened to my awful linguistics and said “St Paul’s” and away we went.
We (finally) all managed to meet up and, boy , was it hot! While being slightly less humid than Hong Kong, the Macau sun is a killer. I gave the team a potted history of Macau, pointed out some things, exhorted them to eat Macanese egg tarts (one of the finest desserts in the world) and then sent them off to explore, asking them to be back at the Ferry Terminal at 4:30 for a 5pm departure.
The group split up into pairs and fours. Some went off to the Bungee Platform, and had a fantastic time I hear. Others drifted off to look at the glitz and glamour of Macau. All managed to get right into the movement, lane ways, food and egg tarts of a different culture, right on the doorstep of where they’d been living for the past three weeks.
I drifted off to remind myself of some of the more languid Macau experiences, having lunch at a nice Chinese place and taking pictures of the Macanese obsession with Neon. (Hong Kong and Macau take neon to new heights.)
I headed back to the ferry terminal early to get some work done (I am actually working on this trip so have to fit marking, planning and course coordination in amongst all of the intensive teaching and events). Come 4:30 we had most of the group back and I put them on to the ferry, while the last two screamed up in a taxi and we got on the boat just in time for a relaxing trip back to Hong Kong. (Pro tip: catching taxis in Macau is harder than it looks but your group leader will probably be understanding if the delay was caused by egg tarts.)
11 of us left for a fun side trip and all of us got back. I called that a success and left the group to make their own way back to the University while I made a side trip of my own up to the Ozone bar at the top of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in West Kowloon. You can’t go to Hong Kong and not visit the highest bar in the world, now, can you?
Another great day, finished, and only two days left to go in the course!