Hong Kong With The Parents

Before this trip, I prayed a lot so that I would be in my best behaviour and be kind to my parents. This is because I know that they can be very annoying and I have very little patience and my temper just flares up easily with them. I blame it on the fact that with other people, I have to bottle up what I really feel and be all cool. So when I'm with my core family, my emotion just goes all over the place. Also when I'm tired, I get cranky easily. When one prays for something like good behaviour, one would think that one would watch her own behaviour. Unfortunately I didn't really do that. There were moments where I was just exasperated with my parents and it was from the get go. We were all taking ferries to Hong Kong. I was from Macau and they were from Shenzhen. They should just be arriving like 10 minutes top before me but my dad had the bright idea to wait somewhere else instead of just outside the arrival area. So I had trouble locating them. Luckily I eventually did. I was already weighing my option to just leave them and hopefully they could figure their own way to the hotel when my mother texted me where they were. By the way by them, it's my parents and a cousin.

After we dropped our things in the rooms, we quickly went to uncle and aunt's place which was the whole purpose of us being there. My uncle wasn't as healthy as I saw him last year so that was rather sad. My aunt was kinda the same. We also met my other cousins and their little daughter who unfortunately since I don't speak Chinese, I couldn't communicate with them. We had dinner at my aunt's house and stayed awhile there.

The next day, I had made booking to go to Tsz Shan Monastery. It is free, but you need to book a time slot before visiting. I booked like 3 weeks in advance. You really need to book in advance, like if you want to go tomorrow it's pretty impossible because for all the time I checked the site, it's always fully booked. That being said, I don't think it's very difficult to get a slot, just remember to book at the site as early as you can, 1 month is recommended. There are more places which are harder to get into, Harry Potter Studio, Alcatraz. Booking a slot yourself to see The Last Supper in Milan is pretty impossible (take a tour peeps). Anyways, this is not a touristy place, its purpose is really for religious practice. There's a dress code you must follow and they sent me another reminder email closer to the date about the whole rules. It is really far from where our hotel was but luckily we arrived just before our time slot, 10 AM and we're allowed to go in. I like the place a lot. It's really nice. The view of the surroundings from the monastery is beautiful. It felt really peaceful in this monastery.

There's a hall with golden Buddhas and they're really majestic. You're not supposed to take pictures inside this hall, so I took pictures from outside the door, am I still guilty?

There's also a hall where you can do calligraphy and it really looks interesting, but we didn't do it because it will take like 1 hour. I actually really wanted to do it but we did have other places to go that day. So we just walked around the compound and I really like the whole spacious and clean feel to it.

The Guan Yin statue at the back is really tall and I wonder how they made that. There's actually a water offering that you can do, but we didn't know how to do that, so we didn't do it :( By the way, I'm not sure why there's a black spot at this picture of mine. My camera must be quite dirty :(

I know that there's a smaller van bus coming into the monastery at 11:30 AM. We were early so stupid me decided to wait somewhere else instead of the waiting area because it was hot. We went down at 11:15 and found out that there's not enough space for all 4 of us. It struck me that there's one difficulty of travelling with many people. If I had been alone, I would have made it into the bus. So we made the walk down the main road, but we always could not get into the small van buses that passed by because there's not enough seats for all of us. We ended up taking a taxi again just as we did that morning to the nearest MTR station, Tai Po Market. It seemed to me it's never difficult to get a taxi in Hong Kong, they seem to always be available. So anyways, we then made another long way to Po Lin Monastery to see the big Buddha. When we reached there, we were pretty tired but we made it up the stairs to see the Big Buddha up close. We're quite high up and it's misty in the area.

I've been there before in my first visit to Hong Kong with Dewi, but we didn't explore all the areas. This time I wanted to explore more. I know that there's a Wisdom Path and I wanted to do that. What I didn't know was that it would be quite far. My family was behind me and though I had tried to walk slower than my usual self, for some reason I was always faster. I couldn't really explain what we're walking to see, but I just walked even though I knew maybe it would be too tiring for them. After some time, I just walked on without even bothering to look back if they're still following. I thought if they're tired, they could just stop and wait where they are. Turned out they didn't stop and really walked all the way to where the woods with carvings of what I could only explain to my mom like bible verses for Buddhism are are located.

I was actually pretty proud that they made it. After that we went to the Monastery. Mom was actually not keen because she thought we're running out of time, but I'm glad we did. The monastery is pretty cool. It even had a hall of ten thousand Buddhas where it's all golden inside. In fact all of the Buddhas we've seen on this trip seemed to be golden. Again like in Tsz Shan, the monastery here follows the same layout in their compound. I guess it's because there are rules and it's universal all over the world. For example, usually there are 2 guards on the left and right of the first entrance and I remember seeing this also in Japan. Below is a picture of 2 of the heavenly kings. There are 4 of them, 2 at each side.

After this we continued on to the leg of the trip that I really didn't enjoy and really didn't want to do. We were going to The Peak. I really didn't want to do this, but my mom thought that Madame Tussauds would be interesting for my cousin, so off we went. The reason why I didn't want to go because I still remember of the long queue me and Dewi had to endure the last time. This time around was the same. We managed to cut a bit of the queue waiting for the tram because we bought 2 packages that included Madame Tussauds, but still the queue was very long. We had to wait for like the 3rd tram to come before we could get in. I think the whole operation was very bad actually. They just stuffed people into the boarding area without counting how many people could fill the tram. Then when the doors were opened, people were pushing and jostling to get into the tram :( When we were in the tram, I heard a lady speaking loudly, I think she's unhappy with the other tourists who pushed her mother or someone who's quite old that I think she got hurt. What should be a nice experience for them turned really bad :(

My mom and cousin went to Madame Tussauds and me and dad went to the Sky Terrace. I didn't notice the existence of a lift so we walked round and round, up and up using the escalators. I did find the lift later on when we're done. There's no queue going in, but up there there were so many people that I started to regret going there. It was dark up there and with the so many people, I'm just amazed no one fell or got their things accidentally dropped. The view was nice but the struggle to get through people was not worth it for me.

When we're done, it was a really really long queue to get on the tram back. I was really tired and annoyed but somehow I survived the 1 hour plus queue. Seriously I think The Peak and its tram is overrated. I wonder if there's a timing where it is not crowded and things can be more civilized, but overall I think the effort to visit it doesn't equal the satisfaction. My mom often tells me that I'm somewhat selfish, well she just likes to criticize me on everything, she'll be on everyone else's team before she be on mine. Anyways, I'll be putting this as an example of me doing something that I didn't want to do, but do it anyway for others. If it's left to me I would have just gone to see the mid-autumn lanterns outside the Hong Kong Space Museum. The grand one is actually at Victoria Park, but strangely this is only held for a few days starting the evening we left, so I wouldn't have been able to go. Very strange, things like this in Singapore will be held for 1 month at least for the tourists.

It was a long day that day and I was just glad when we made it back. The next day was our last day in Hong Kong. We had some time in the morning before heading out to the airport. I wanted to go Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. I've only heard of this vaguely when someone told me about this when I was in Hong Kong last year and the more I read about the good things people wrote about it, the more I wanted to go. Nan Lian Garden is pretty new and the design is pretty Japanese. It has this golden pagoda like structure which would remind you of Kinkaku-Ji in Kyoto.

There were not many people there as I have read people writing about this place, which is quite a shame because it's a really nice place and it's free. I guess its location which is not really in the center of the city may make people feel lazy to go to it. We found our way to Chi Lin Nunnery easy enough. Very lucky because I started to wonder if I missed a sign or something which I am prone to do. Recently I read that it's built in 1934 so it's quite old compared to Nan Lian Garden who's 10 years old this year. However Chi Lin Nunnery is so well maintained that it doesn't look old at all. Again the layout of the compound is the same as the monasteries we visited the day before. The Buddha statues here are also golden. Its courtyards are really nice, they looked bright white under the hot sun and they're dotted with the greeneries of a lot of bonsai-styled plants.

After this we went to see my aunt and uncle again to say goodbye and had yum cha. First my aunt brought us to a Chinese shop and market nearby because my cousin wanted to buy some things. It was quite interesting seeing the market where actual Hong Kongers go. It was also interesting going to the yum cha place. I don't know if the one we went to is popular but there were many people. This is like what I have seen on TV. A place where I'm not sure I can handle going on my own because the menu doesn't come in English and I think many of the staffs don't speak English either. My aunt ordered way too many things. Some are common like what I have seen in Singapore. Others were quite unique. I like the whole experience. After that we went to the airport.

It was really nice meeting my aunt and uncle again. Last year when I met them, I didn't think I'd meet them again this soon, though soon is almost 1 year. Who knows maybe the next meeting will be soon too. My aunt is disappointed that I don't speak Chinese :D Yeah, it would make it much easier to communicate with my cousins and my uncle's wife who is super nice. My aunt asked me if I like Singapore or Hong Kong better. I said Singapore. Are you surprised Singapore? Especially with the many bad things I say about you? My aunt said people there said they like Hong Kong more. Well here's the thing. As mentioned I've experienced the unfriendliness of the people in the service industry in this trip. I also would seriously not be able to handle the small size of their flats. However I didn't say all these to my aunt. I just said, I don't speak Chinese and many people don't seem to speak English (at least not as widespread as in Singapore) and this will be very problematic for me. The more I think about it, the fact that Singapore is close to Indonesia and some of its cultures are similar to Indonesians is a plus point. I know where the good Indonesian restaurants are when I really need to eat some comfort food, though I guess these are also available in Hong Kong and I just need to do some searching. Another thing about Singapore is that for instance if I miss speaking Indonesian, I can just speak Indonesian to some Malays which I often do or watch some Indonesian programmes that they sometime show in the Malay TV channel here. I guess in Hong Kong, I could just approach any Indonesian maid and start talking to them. However my point is Singapore has more aspects which are similar to Indonesia than Hong Kong and that makes it easier to adapt here.

Talking about Indonesian maids which I think are some of the most resourceful and bravest Indonesians out there, they often amazes me. They go to a country so different and that being their first trip oversea and then they make it work. They're not highly educated and all they have is guts and I know many people, perhaps me included, who are not this brave. Anyways, I have seen some Indonesians maids in Hong Kong who seem to be able to speak Cantonese and I just admire that so much. So that's the Hong Kong story. If there's any regret and things I am embarrassed about is that there were moments where I was not nice to my parents and cousin. Shame on me, really :( For pictures please go here.

:) eKa @ 4:46:00 PM • 0 comments

A Weekend in Macao

So this post will be about last weekend which I spent in Macao. What happened was, mom and dad was going on a tour to China then they found out that they'd be transiting in Hong Kong and then they wondered if they should spend some days there to meet my aunt and uncle. I said tell me when and if I could, I'd join them. At that time I didn't think that financially this will be quite demanding. When they finalized their plan, mom said I should go too since they wouldn't know their way around there. Since I have stupidly said I might go, there's no backing out now. Macao got into the plan because I found out that last Saturday my Japanese class was on break and there's also the fireworks festival in Macao last Saturday. So it's like go big or don't go at all. I didn't go big actually. The trip's expenses have gone way beyond what I was comfortable with that I had to rein myself. I so wanted to watch The House of Dancing Water, but I didn't because it's expensive and I just couldn't bear spending more money. So in the end it would be me going to Macao alone for the weekend and on Monday I would go to Hong Kong and meet up with my parents.

I took quite an early flight on Saturday. It's 8 AM and that's early for me. It was still dark when I went out that it felt like in one of those movies when someone is running away from home. I was quite worried because it took some time to get a taxi, but I finally got one. That was just the first of my many prayers in this trip, I had so many please please God help me. Got into the plane on time. The plane arrived later than scheduled though so I was quite worried if I could make it for the ferry that's departing Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to Macao. Walked as fast as I could and prayed to God to let me make it. The ferry from HKIA is not as frequent as the ferry from the city and I really didn't want to make my way into the city or wait 3 hours plus at the airport for the next one. I think I arrived in the ticket counter around 30 minutes before the ferry was scheduled to leave and thankfully I could get on. It helped that I didn't have checked-in luggage. So all was good there. Arriving in Macao, I had difficulty finding my hotel shuttle. I think I missed one actually. Eventually I found out it parked itself not really in the area where people were waiting. I only managed to see it because some buses moved. I was quite annoyed with that and the waiting, but at least I made it.

The plan for the day was actually to just relax and take it easy because I needed to walk some distance to watch the fireworks at night, but then the weather forecast showed that there'd be rain the next day so I thought I should try to do some outdoor activity on that Saturday. The weather forecast was so wrong, but anyway, so I first had something to eat at Wong Chi Kei in Senado Square which was mentioned a lot in people's blog. I didn't have to wait long for a seat, but I was seated with a Korean couple. The shrimp roe noodle I had wasn't amazing for me. I also had the fried dumplings which I think I only finished 4 out of 5 because they were just too big. Overall I think Wong Chi Kei is expensive. They don't even provide tissue, you gotta pay for them. After the meal, I made my way to the ruins of St. Paul in which I had to brave many many people. It was so crowded that I was just hating the whole walk up there.

I think the most interesting thing about the whole thing is that all around are just buildings where actual people live. I don't know if I can handle that. Living near a tourist attraction where there are so many tourists all the time, where it's always crowded and noisy. Below is a picture of the buildings by the side of St. Paul's Ruins. I spotted some people sitting around a table. You could see it too in this picture, second balcony from the top. Immediately I knew they must be playing something and funnily in the midst of all the tourists' noise, I faintly heard the sound of tiles being moved around and I guessed it right, they must be playing Mahjong.

So anyway, I was eager to leave all these crowds and made my way north where the crowd were lesser and there were more buildings where the locals live and truly this fascinated me most about my time there. I am truly curious how the local Macanese live. What the inside of their houses look like and how they really think about the so many tourists around. Eventually I reached Camões Garden where I think I was the only tourist there. There were many locals just enjoying their Saturday evening. I was trying to take picture of the nice tile and this boy and his ball came into shot. Then he looked at me and I took another picture of him and showed it to him and he smiled :)

Deeper into the garden there's more greenery, less people. The only ones were just locals hanging out or exercising. I walked round the garden a bit. Reached a point quite high to see the view of the buildings below. It's really nice in that garden away from all the tourists' noise. When I made my way back from the garden, again I found it horrible having to go through so many people around St. Paul's Ruins and Senado Square. All the while I was thinking how I hate people. I spent some time in my hotel room before heading out at around 08:30 PM to see the fireworks. The best place to see it is in Macau Tower. I followed the direction from google map to go there. Passed Nam Van Lake where there were many people milling around and I took some pictures of the buildings and casinos across it.

So following the map I had, I reached this small grassy field near the tower where there were already many people waiting. I still had time to make it to the tower, but I wasn't sure if I should because I couldn't see a direct path to it so I decided to just stand there and watch. Macao Fireworks Festival runs over several Saturdays. In each Saturday there are 2 teams performing, at 09:00 PM and 09:40 PM. Each Saturday there's a different theme for the teams. The theme for the Saturday I was there was Tribute to Bond. It was a weird experience watching it there because it's like watching fireworks without context. Maybe because I wasn't near enough the tower, I couldn't hear any accompanying music. I also don't know if there's any music. Anyways who need context right, just ask the Indonesians in my neighborhood in Jakarta who like to set off fireworks without any apparent reason. Another curious thing is I wonder how this is judged. Is it by choreography and how do you exactly choreograph some fireworks to fit a theme like Tribute to Bond or is it by the actual design of the fireworks, how the colours and explosions are formed and the duration they last after explosion? Side note: I would be so interested to learn how to make fireworks. So yeah the whole thing was rather weird, but the fireworks were awesome and it's amusing hearing the kids and adults say wow whenever there's big colourful explosion in the sky.

The whole thing lasted 15 minutes or so. Again without music and all, we didn't know if it's actually done. So after some time not seeing anything, everyone assumed it's done. For the second performance, I decided to go to another recommended place which is by Sai Van Lake. This is because there's some time until the next one and the area would bring me nearer to my hotel. Along the lake, you have this nice view of the tower and bridge.

The area around the lake was very dark and there were already so many people there with their cameras and tripods. I thought the vantage point was not as good with the fireworks being blocked by some building and this perhaps contributed to why I thought the first performance was much better. It was again weird watching the whole thing there without context. People wasn't sure if it was really done too so we just waited a bit until there's really no more fireworks.

I took another shower when I got back to my hotel. I really struggled with the humidity in Macao. I sweated a lot. The next day, the day which should have some rain according to the weather forecast turned to be a really hot and humid day without even a drizzle. This is good news, but I almost passed out from walking in the hot humid weather. It was just brutal. I don't know if something was wrong with me, but I was just sweating a lot. So anyways, breakfast was egg tarts and milk tea from the famous Cafe e Nata Margaret's. This was one of the famous egg tarts sellers in Macao. There was a queue and already there were people not queuing properly and this annoyed me so :( Inside the auntie wasn't very friendly. Gosh, seriously I found many of the service people in Macao and Hong Kong are not that nice :( So anyway the egg tarts were warm, freshly baked, and the egg filling was definitely soft and custard like but the auntie really annoyed me. There wasn't enough place to sit so I walked and ate and that got me quite lost for my first destination, A-Ma Temple. It's all because I ended up not really paying attention to the map I had. As I didn't want to walk aimlessly, I stopped for a while by Nam Van Lake where apparently there's a dragon boat race. No wonder I saw some people carrying paddles the day before and the boats at the lake the night before.

I sat by the lake awhile taking pictures while figuring out the direction I should go. I managed to get into the correct direction with the correct milestone like Lilau Square and finally I arrived at A-Ma temple. It's quite an interesting temple on rocks. Wanted to pray but I didn't understand how to buy the joss sticks and all and I wasn't keen on trying to ask and getting things lost in translation. So I just went up and explored the temple.

After I was done, I found the very recommended A Lorcha restaurant. It was near opening time and there's not many people waiting outside so I thought I could get a seat easily. How wrong I was. By opening time, so many people with reservations came and then the seats were filling fast. Many of the waitress are Philippines and one of them took down my name and told some of us to wait. By the way, there are many Philippines in Macao which I think shouldn't be surprising because there are many of them everywhere. In a way I think it's very resourceful of them to always be able to find work all over the world. Anyway here waiting outside A Lorcha, I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out. I don't know if it's the heat, low sugar, or dehydration. I started to get worried I would collapsed. I haven't started seeing black spots, but I really didn't know if I could last. Again it was time to pray please please God help me. After some time, the waitress came and asked if I was okay about sharing a table with another person. I just needed to eat and sit down so I was okay with that. In a romantic movie, the guy would be handsome and sparks would fly, but this was not a movie and we didn't speak. I quickly had some coke in hoping the sugar would help me and I also ate some of the bread slowly. I ate very slowly because I was also feeling rather nauseated. I ordered the African chicken which had tones of deliciousness, but I thought it might be better if it's spicier. It was half a chicken which I finished and I was in the middle of finishing my fries and thinking if I should eat dessert. However in the end I didn't and I also didn't finish my fries because the nausea was real that I thought I might vomit if I overate. I was feeling better after lunch, but not 100% that I sat on the bench under the tree in front of A-Ma Temple finishing my coke and waiting until I was sure I would be okay. After some time, I thought I could go on. So I continued on. The next stop was Mandarin's House in which I got lost a bit. Stupid me, I walked further than I should have gone because I didn't see the sign. Mandarin's House is very interesting. It's quite a big compound and it's pretty nice. There were not many tourists there but darn the day was really hot.

I also stopped at other points like churches and stuff and eventually I ended up at Senado Square again. Went up to St. Paul's ruins again because I was feeling better. This time I could go down to the Crypt which I couldn't do the day before. After I was done, I went inside a bit to Mount Fortress garden but I thought under my condition, I shouldn't waste energy going all the way up. I think I also stopped at some other places as I made my way back to the hotel. I also stopped at a few Pastelaria Koi Kei and tried many of their samples. They are like everywhere sometime just across from each other or separated by 1-2 shops. Their sample sizes are big. I wonder how good their business is to afford all these. I bought some snack and walked back to my hotel to drop them. Lied down a bit, then I made my way for the next in the plan. Outside my hotel, there's a shuttle to Studio City and City of Dreams, so I took that. My plan was actually to go to City of Dreams, but I ended up at Studio City first. It was weird because the doors were covered up that it blocked the outside view. I entered my first ever casino here. It's not very crowded. Many of the staff looked rather jaded sitting at empty tables. It's quite nice though. I think it smelled nice and no one was smoking. Even the food courts were rather empty. So I wondered how they're sustaining their business. I didn't stay long and next I took another shuttle to City of Dreams.

Again this place was also not very full with people. I went to the Casino too. Many of the tables were empty too. By the way in these 2 casinos, there wasn't a queue to get in and no one checked ID and stuff. Like the casino in Studio City, some of the tables have like 500 and 1000 written on them which I think is the minimal bet (500 MOP or 1000 MOP), which I think is really high. I really do want to learn how these games work. A good thing that I don't understand I guess because I get addicted to things easily. Anyways, had dinner here and had my second can of coke which is way too much sugar for one day but it was not a normal day and I thought I really needed the sugar. After this I went to The Venetian.

The Venetian had more people. I didn't enter the casino because it looked like it had more people (and I hate people remember) and also because the security here seemed to check people and I didn't want to go through the hassle. I just walked the canal area which is perhaps amusing for some people. It's just I've been to Venice and seeing all these fake things just made me rather gloomy. The whole area is very big though and one could get lost easily. Somehow I found Lord Stow's Bakery which is the other famous place for egg tarts in Macao and I had that. Comparing this with Margaret's, I may like Margaret's more. It seemed to me Lord Stow's ones have thicker skins. These two are like ruling the egg tarts business in their own territories in the different islands. Again I just walked and ate. I tried to walk to the Parisian, but the walk was much longer than I would have liked, so I just turned back. I was curious because outside I saw a model of the Eiffel Tower. Here's a picture of a model of the Eiffel Tower inside the Venetian.

It was already dark when I left. I took the shuttle from the Venetian to the Ferry Terminal and the plan was to take a shuttle from there to Wynn Macau, the last thing on my list that day. The plan was to watch the fountain show. When I arrived it just ended :( So I went inside to see the Dragon or Tree show thingy. I waited some time and it was the Dragon. It was very short and not very meaningful. A dragon with lotus flower emerged from the ground below, made a turn, and went back down. The only nice thing was perhaps the zodiac animals on the ceiling, those were cool.

After that, I went outside again and waited for the fountain show. It was really good. Not very long though and it's using Johann Strauss II's The Blue Danube as the accompanying music. Seriously this song is like default fountain song, don't you think?

Then I made my way back. I was thinking it's 2 days in a row now I was out in the night. Whenever I'm travelling alone, I tried my best to be back in my hotel by sun down. Of course there were times when I was out after it's dark and I've been fine but one can't help wondering if my luck would run out like I was that day. Luckily I made it alright and didn't get lost. Thank God again. I really cannot do any of this without Him.

The next day was the day I was to leave Macao and go to Hong Kong to meet my parents. I still had some time in the morning. Had a porridge breakfast at Wong Chi Kei again. This time I had to wait for some time. Ended up seated at the same seat as before along with another couple, not Korean though this time. After the meal, I also spent some time in Saint Dominic's Church. If there's any last thought on being in Macao is that and this is maybe very bad of me to say, it's just there were many people who didn't shower so I often smelled things which I didn't like. Maybe it's not the locals, maybe it's tourists from some places whose cultures just don't put much emphasis on showering. It's just I stand by my argument that in the tropics, it's important to shower regularly because we sweat more. You should do it at least when you're going out into the public. I also realized more than I hate the bad smell, I hate it when I suddenly bumped into these people in crowded places. I feel sorry when people accidentally rub skin with my sweaty self because you don't know what kind of disease I'm carrying. By that argument, I hate it when I rub skin with people who don't shower because I see them as less clean and that equals more diseases to me :( You may think that it's a very mean rant I just did, but yeah that's how I feel and I'll never stop be annoyed with people who don't shower enough. Another thought I have about Macao is I wonder if many of the locals speak Portuguese. All the signs and information are also written in Portuguese. I'm also wondering if it's standard Portuguese like the one used in Portugal or it's more of a variation of it, like the one used in Brazil. Well that's it peeps, my 2 days in Macao. For pictures, please go here.

:) eKa @ 4:40:00 PM • 0 comments