Macau China- Christmas 2017

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Qi had both Christmas day and Boxing day (12/26) off work so we decided to take a quick jaunt to Macau/Macao.  Macau is an hour ferry ride (~40mi) from Hong Kong and a huge gambling mecca of the east.  Gambling is illegal in many nearby countries so Macau is a very popular destination.  Since Macau was a Portuguese colony until the late 1990’s, it had an interesting blend of Portuguese and Chinese influence.  We arrived on Christmas morning and left the following evening.  It was a quick but fruitful trip.

I did some research on Macau concerning where we should stay.  It is much like Vegas- there’s a downtown with gambling and then the strip is in a different location.  Additionally, Macau has a beach resort area.  I was expecting many more casinos since its gambling revenue is larger than Vegas.  However, it felt like a very tame Vegas- no drunkies on the streets or people whooping and cheering in the casinos.  The vibe was pretty mellow.  I wanted to blame this on Christmas, but it might just be less flashy.  Although we visited over a holiday, it was still crowded.

We stayed in what is considered downtown Macau because a lot of the history is in this area.  It is a very small island, so traveling to the other regions is no more than a 15 minute cab ride.  Our hotel let us check-in right away so we dropped off our bags and began sightseeing.  From our hotel it was a short walk to the Ruins of St. Paul’s.

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the crypt

We saw the Historical Centre and St. Dominic’s church:

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Senado Square:

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panner used to roast chestnuts over a fire

A Temple:

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The streets and landscapes:

We love to try the local food specialties.  I was especially excited for the egg tarts (they were divine!) and Qi was excited about the pork chop bun.  I filled up on egg tarts and bread so I didn’t have room for the pork chop sandwich.  Qi said it was delicious.  We also had the steamed milk pudding which was amazing!

That evening, we went to a cirque du soleil-like show at City of Dreams casino called House of Dancing Water.  It was a beautiful show featuring ballet, silks, acrobatics and all partially in water.  It was like Le Reve in that sense.

What an enjoyable Christmas Day!

 

 

Beijing- Tiananmen Square – Nanluoguxiang Hutong

IMG_20171215_130405 Tiananmen Square

My day in Tiananmen Square was the day I walked 12.6km exploring Beijing.  I took the hottest shower ever when I returned to the hotel that night!  I started the day by walking to Tiananmen Square from my hotel in Wangfujing.

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Traveling in China was not as easy for me as in Hong Kong or Tokyo.  Many things were not in English or even pinyin.  However, I went to a lot of touristy places where maps were along the roadsides.  Although I could not tell what they said, I had a familiarity with my destination locations directionally and the red star demarking “you are here” was pretty universal.  My only destinations were the Tiananmen Square and the most famous hutong, Nanluoguxiang.

For those who might not know, Google, Amazon, and many social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc) were banned recently in China.  I knew this ahead of time and thought I had planned for it.  My research suggested certain maps apps. They were supposed to work but didn’t work when I arrived in Beijing.  The hotel had suggestions for alternatives as well, however they were all in Mandarin.  Without a map app, I got lost a lot.  My fellow tour-goers had told me about an app called Turbo VPN.  This app supposedly scrambles your phone to show that you’re not located in China.  I cannot vouch for it because I could not upload this app.  I could not access my Google play store.  Without Google translate, I was squandering.  It was still doable.  However, I was not as adventurous as I’d been in Tokyo.

We’re going to Shanghai for Chinese New Year and this time Mr. Chen is coming with me so I won’t have to worry about it….although, I will download the Turbo VPN and report if it works.  If anyone else has suggestions, please leave a note in the comments section.  Thanks in advance and cheers!

One of the first things I couldn’t figure out was crossing the street.  There were railings along the street at intersections so it was impossible to cross.  I kept passing these signs but I figured it was for entry to the subway.

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see the railing along the road and the sign for stairs? those stairs go down under the road so pedestrians can cross the street
underground crosswalk

Some of them had peddlers selling hats and toys.

After Tiananmen Square, I walked north to the most famous hutong in Beijing- Nanluoguxiang Hutong.  It still had residences but now it’s mainly a mall with street food.  It smelled delicious.  I had pineapple bread there but it wasn’t even 25% as good as it was in Hong Kong.  I’m addicted to it in Hong Kong!  My stomach growls just thinking about it.

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Next up, the food in Beijing and Wangfujing street market.  We also went to Macau for Christmas, hiked up to Victoria Peak, visited another famous street market and went on a dinner boat cruise in Victoria harbor for NYE.  I have never seen so many fireworks!!

If you missed my other adventures in Beijing:

Great Wall, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven.

Thanks!

Beijing- The Ming Tomb- Dingling

We went to a Ming Tomb prior to heading to the Great Wall.  The Ming Tombs are scattered throughout China, but most are near to Beijing.  All of the tombs were built at the bottom of a mountain. They’re mausoleums built for 13 of the 16 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty.  We went to Dingling.  “Ling” means tomb in Mandarin.

I loved our tour guide from Viator, although he was very superstitious.  We went to the 13th and last tomb that was built.  It was destroyed twice.  Once was from WWII by the Japanese.  I cannot remember the other time it was destroyed.  Maybe the Cultural Revolution?

Although the Emperor was not really buried there, according to our guide, we could not enter the tomb from the main entrance.  The main entrance is called the “gateway to heaven”.  We had to enter along the side.  Only the dead would enter through the main entrance and it could only be the Emperor.  It totally made sense once he verbalized it.  He also told us we couldn’t take selfies with the tomb as that would be bad luck.  I think that’s a bit disturbing but I guess I can see someone taking a selfie with a tomb?  I was a little freaked out I was going to mess up one of the rules.

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This is the “gateway to heaven” that we couldn’t walk through on our way into the tomb
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same for this entryway; we could only enter to the right or left

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The doorways weren’t large enough for the tomb to fit through so the Emperor and the two Empresses were never actually buried there.

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donations of incense, flowers and fruit are considered good luck
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the biggest one represents the Emperor’s tomb

We could exit through the main entrance.  Women had to step out with their right foot first and men with their left.  This part of the trip made me so nervous.  Our guide was so excitable and I didn’t want to break any of the rules.

But if you’re curious, I saw plenty of people entering through the main entrance when we were leaving.  I guess they didn’t have a tour guide to explain the bad luck in that.

This concludes the second day of my tour with Viator.  In addition to the tomb, we went to The Great Wall, the jade factory, tea house, and lunch was included.  We did have to pay an additional $100rmb (~$15US) for the round trip ski lift ticket at the Great Wall.  The total for this day, including the lift pass, was $60US.  They picked us up in our hotel and drove us around all day.  I was pleased with their services overall.

Day 1:

Day 2:

The total was $115 US.  I have seen different prices on different days.  I was lucky as both days my tours were a total of 4 people and we had pretty great viewing conditions.

Cheers for a prosperous 2018!

More to come on our Christmas trip to Macau, Tiananmen Square and the fireworks in Hong Kong for NYE.