oh sweet incense, Macau.

“Ha, you’re going to Macau hey?! Don’t gamble too much!”

Really?! Do I look like the type who’d rather spend her weekend hovelled up in some glitzy casino with hordes of men from the mainland gambling away every penny?! Come now. Not that I wouldn’t be partial to trying it some time, just for fun, but right now I can think of hundreds of things I’d rather do with my sacred weekend.

Being my second time to visit Macau, I thought it’d be a good idea to acually see some of the cool architecture rather than bypass it all by heading straight for Coloane, the beautiful beachy village of the south, as I did last time. Now the only part I haven’t explored is the casinos. A strange concept for most people I’m sure, especially as that’s what Macau is famed for. Even so far as being labelled ‘Vegas of the East.’ Indeed.

Being the adventurers that we are, we decided we’d just use my flimsy torn-out-of-Lonely Planet-map and take Macau by foot. It made for an interesting day. Firstly, as the ferry came to a halting stop in what we thought was Macau, the lovely ferry lady announced our arrival over the mic ‘Welcome to Hong Kong!!’ Sorry, uhhh, WHAT NOW?! Thankfully it was just an error on her part, probably due to the fact that we were on the first ferry of the day. Hello exhaustion.

So we were in Macau, relief!! We started off at the ruins of the once beautiful, St.Pauls Cathedral with the other gazillion tourists, before quickly escaping down a back alley, past the delicious fruit market in search of more hidden delights. Immediately we stumbled upon the coolest park ever! Against the backdrop of the awe-inspiring colourful graffiti, an old guy was just casually doing some lunges, whilst two kids chased a cat as their grandparents played on the old peoples swings. (I love old-peoples parks!) Supposedly this was the park where an art fair was being held, but today of all days the sign instructed us to go in search of a different park where the fair would be held today only. Harriet hopped on the mission immediately and off we went to find this place. This place did not exist. Hours later we found ourselves back in the same place and there it was: the art fair. In the original place. Macau’s chilled OK. They don’t start early here.

The rest of the day was spent wandering. We covered the entire island. Twice. Without meaning to. I had the bright idea of checking out Ox Warehouse, a place where a group of artists can let their creative juices go crazy. It sounded really cool, but there was actually only one small video exhibition. Anyway the point of this story is that we wandered for a good hour looking for a taxi, on the opposite side of the city from Ox Warehouse, and yet where did we end up eventually finding the only taxi in the city? Yes. Ox Warehouse. Exact same spot we were dropped in only hours earlier. This world is bizarre I tell ya.

Apart from this weird coincedence, we had such a gorgeous day. Google weather informed me that it would be a sweet 18degrees. It was no such thing and we were freezing, but that’s OK because Macau is beautiful. Just as Shenzhen smells of sweet jasmine (at least where I live it does), Macau smells like incense and candy-floss. Wherever you go, you can see the smoky spirals (hallelujah it’s not nicotine-induced spirals) drifting into the air from their coily,twirly-shaped bearers.

It’s such a refreshing little place. People are unbelievably friendly. Two girls on the hunt for some art fair, huge map in their hands, and it seemed like everyone was stopping to ask if we needed help. I actually love Macau. From church to church to temple to park to tea shop to eating the most amazingly fresh cod-cakes and fish with tomato rice at ‘A Lorcha’ (famous Portugese restuarant), to chatting with lovely crafty artsy people in the park. We had such a wonderful day.

Macau may have been handed back to China, but it still has a completely different air about it. (No, but literally, it’s fresh like an incense daisy.) The stunning Portugese-esque architecture is everywhere, infused with a Chinese twist. And it’s got the feel of a little town rather than a big city. I could wander along the cobble-stoned alleys forever with their colourful street art and delicious biscuity snacks that are neverendingly delicious. The architecture alone is like something out of a story book. Ah, so pretty.

Macau, I’m sure I said this last time too, but for really, I’ll be back to explore you again. Soon soon.

                                                             Just look at how lovely it is:

hello cool cling-film arty people.
bit of art gazing, big of lunging.
oh so pretty architecture.
sweet smell of Macau.
just chilling on my horsey.
i could certainly live here. no problem.
my favourite graffiti in Macau. reach for the moon…

St.Pauls ruins.

dreamy Macau.

I have always wanted to go to Macau. So finally me and Dan decided to embark on a little bus excursion to this dreamy city. All I’d heard about it was that it is the ‘vegas of the east.’ I’m no gambler, so this had no attraction for me, but I also did some of my own research and found there was an island called Coloane which until the end of the 19th century, was inhabited by PIRATES! Now who doesn’t love pirates? So THAT is why I wanted to go to Macau. Everyone warned us don’t gamble too much now! Pshhh, not even a penny.

So we took the bus to Gongbei in Zhuhai. A smaller, seaside city about 2hours south of Guangzhou. It felt great to see the sea again, and we quickly got through immigrations and made it out of China and safely landed on the other side. Obviously we had no idea where to go so we just decided to start walking. It’s amazing that you can literally walk for 5minutes and be in a different ‘country’ and suddenly be standing under a blue sky again. Now I don’t get that? I mean why does the sky shine blue on Macau side, and if you walk for 5minutes back into China you will not even be able to see rooftops again never mind a blue sky?! Strange.

So we walked and walked and were delighted to be greeted by friendly people EVERYWHERE. I already loved Macau and it had been 5 minutes. The mixture of Portugese with Chinese culture became immediately apparent. No-one stared at us. This was the best part. Suddenly it felt like civilisation again. Bliss. We kept walking and walking and eventually starved, found a Portugese-esque cafe and had lunch. The lady working there spoke no English and no Mandarin. Fuck. So I had no idea what I’d just ordered. Also this was the first restaurant in the history of my China experiences that had NO RICE. They just ran out of rice. Well what d’ya know?! haha.

After lunch we kept walking. We found ourselves walking in the middle of a highway (Mum don’t panic…we quickly turned back). We had actually walked a third of the island already and it was only 1hour into our time there. Wow Macau is small. We found ourselves down at Fisherman’s Wharf. A new, bizarre area of the city. A random volcano was standing there. Fake, obviously. Right next to casino after casino, and right inbetween all of this I found a LUSH! Lush! 2hours from where I am living. Heaven. I would never have noticed, but Dan was like ‘mmm what is that smellllll?’ My nose perked up and exploded in delight. I spent a fair bit of money there, but it was completely worth it.

We decided that we should probably find our way to Coloane, so we took a taxi. I tried to speak Cantonese. What a joke. The driver kind of giggled and replied in English. Siobhan you know you’re not in China anymore when the taxi dudes speak in ENGLISH! Delightful. We drove past casino after casino after casino and got dropped off in the cutest little village I have ever seen (apart from Strathkinness, of course ;). We went straight to the shop and I bought hobnobs :D HOBNOBS! yummmy. We took a wander along the sea bay, and basked in the wonderfulness that is the sea. Perched on a wee wall, next to the sea, munching on a hobnob. Does life get much better? Well yes, it does indeed, as was soon to be discovered….

We started walking up some green, foresty hill, looking for a hostel. Eventually we came to some old steps leading downwards. Being an explorer, of course I took the steps. They led to the beach. Success. A beautiful big deserted beach. Wonderfulness upon wonderfulness. We found a gorgeous hotel, way out of our price range, but it’s OK to treat yourself every so often right? Boy this was a treat. They were such friendly staff, they even upgraded us to the ‘master suite.’ We had a freaking jacuzzi in our bathroom, complete with head rests. I was in heaven. A soft bed, a jacuzzi, a new face-make from Lush, hobnobs in my handbag and a deserted beach with 1 hour until sunset. Perfect time for a swim. Not exactly warm, but it felt sooo good. I couldn’t quite believe that life could get any better than this. It was the complete opposite to my busy working life in the city, and JUST what I needed. And we literally stumbled upon all of it by pure chance. Fate?!

We had the most amazing Italian meal that night, complete with orange and chocolate cake for dessert. Not to mention a bottle of cheap bubbly which we picked up on our late-night mission to find an A.T.M. Of course on this particular mission we got completely lost and went in the wrong direction to some random village with no bank. Ah well at least we found some wine to keep us company. What a fabulous night!

We awoke early the next day and I lazed in bed reading while Dan ran off to the sea. It was about 14degrees at this time. I couldn’t bear the sea. But I decided I could handle the swimming pool, so tried to act all cool and do some laps. Managed 4 before I almost passed out. Jumped in the jacuzzi one last time( I could get way too used to this), before checking out of our wonderland and heading back to the main village for a yummy brunch of hummus, pita bread, delicious salad, home-made lemonade and a chocolate croissant for take-away.

Arrived back at the border and went to stock up on chocolate before heading back to China. This is when I found STRAWBERRY RIBENA. That’s all I have to say. Needless to say, I went back home a very happy person.