Tag Archives: hydrofoil

Macau

I took the hydrofoil to Macau first thing in the morning on December 31. Macau is a former Portuguese colony that’s mostly turned into Las Vegas.┬áThe center of town still looks like the old colony, though, with forts and churches and densely packed, beat-up-looking buildings.

The focal point is St. Paul’s cathedral, which burned down in 1835, leaving only the facade.

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So I got through that pretty quickly.

Adjacent to the church is the main fort of Macau. They’ve put a history museum in the center of it, which is mostly underground.

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It’s not really a large museum, but it’s nicely done. It covers the early history of China and Portugal, done in parallel, until they converge in the 15th century. Most of the displays are commerce-related, since Macau was concerned mainly with trade and fighting off the Dutch.

The fort is, not surprisingly, on a hill, and has views of the city in all directions through the embrasures.

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In the center distance, you can see the tip of the Macau Tower, which was modeled after the one in Auckland. I didn’t jump off of it, though, because no one was paying me.

That big flared building at the left is the Grand Lisboa, one of Stanley Ho’s properties. For many years, Stanley Ho was the only casino owner in the territory. Then other casinos started coming to Macau, and he had to start scrambling to compete. Buildings shaped like giant pineapples seem to be a part of that.

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In front of St. Paul’s were several people handing out bright orange bags. The bags said “Jesus loves you,” plus a whole bunch of other stuff in Cantonese. It was getting hot, so I got one to put my sweatshirt in. There were also some pamphlets, but they were in Cantonese too.

Down the hill from the fort and the church facade is a tourist street that seems to get ┬ámore densely packed as you walk down it, like you’re being squeezed through a funnel.

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At the bottom of the hill is a plaza with another church. There are a lot of churches in the center of town, and most of them are yellow.

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The nicer parts of town were like this: European-style buildings around small plazas.

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Other parts were less nice.

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I got lunch at a restaurant that my guide book recommended as a good place to get Macanese food. As it turns out, it was a Portuguese restaurant. The guide book also spelled the name wrong. It was good, though.

I spent another hour or two wandering around with my Jesus Loves You bag, then caught the bus back to the hydrofoil. The hydrofoil trip was uneventful, but I hadn’t considered how many people would be coming into Hong Kong for New Year’s Eve. Pscrillions, that’s how many. It took me an hour and a half to get through immigration.

Oddly, the act of going through immigration again reset the duration of my stay. An American can stay for three months as a visitor, but going to Macau for a day restarts the three months. I wonder how many times you can get away with doing that.

Having spent most of the day standing and walking, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about staying up until midnight to watch the fireworks. I went to bed at 8:30.

WiFi in Japan

So far there isn’t a lot of wifi in Japan. Maybe it’s just Kyushu, but hotels don’t seem to have it available. They have LAN access, but no wifi. In Korea it was everywhere, including on the train and the hydrofoil.

A quick scan in front of Nagasaki Station showed free wifi in a nearby pigeon-infested plaza, so this blog could be brought up to date. But while doing so, your intrepid blogger was pooped upon by one of the aforementioned pigeons. This shows the importance of making wifi available in hotel rooms.

Fukuoka

I had read that riding in a hydrofoil feels like being inside a washing machine, but it wasn’t like that at all. Not that I’ve ever been inside a washing machine, but it does evoke an image. The hydrofoil felt more like riding on a train.

The trip to Japan took three hours. Passport control was more stringent than in Korea, but not bad. Similar to New Zealand, really. The customs guy questioned me a bit about the purpose of my visit, but let me through when he found out that I had a rail pass. I guess “American riding around on the train” is an identifiable type.

I entered Japan at 5:30 PM with 83,000 won, 150 dollars, and zero yen. The only bank in the terminal had been closed for two hours and the only ATM wouldn’t accept my card. I had no hotel reservation, but I had identified several hotels around the train station, which was where I would want to be the next morning. There was a bus that went straight there from the ferry terminal. For 220 yen. Which I didn’t have. So I walked.

I didn’t take a very efficient route. What’s with these guide-book maps? Eventually I found the train station and got a room at Hotel Active! The exclamation point is part of the name, and appears as a monogram on the pajamas they put in the rooms. It’s a business hotel, which was supposed to make it cheaper, but it wasn’t. It included an all-you-can-eat breakfast, though.

The train station includes vastly more than mere train-oriented services. It’s an 11-story shopping mall with a department store and two stories of restaurants and who knows what else. The department store has a currency exchange desk, so I exchanged my dollars for yen. The rate wasn’t that great, so I decided to keep my won for now, in the foolish hope that I’ll get a good rate somewhere else.

I had dinner at an Okinawan restaurant. The waitress spoke pretty good English and was very excited to meet an American to talk to. She’d studied English at Queen’s University near Toronto. The food was really good too: chicken with roasted garlic and some kind of salsa.

Then I walked back to the hotel and went to bed. Next up: Nagasaki.