Hong Kong and Macau



Hong Kong, together with New York and Chicago, is the city of skyscrapers and this can be seen immediately when going from the airport downtown by a double-decker. We get off in front of Chunking Mansions, where many cheap hostels of not very good quality are located. An older man at the entrance offers us accommodation and walks us through a corridor full of people selling watches, suits, but also drugs and girls. Then we finally get to the elevator and go up to the 11th floor where we put our bags and go back in front of the building, where Ondra was waiting for us – Ales’ friend from high school. He is here at an exchange program, studying at the local university. For the next couple of days he becomes our guide through the city. We head off to the nearby “Avenue of Stars” – Hong Kong equivalent of the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. This place has the best view of the illuminated skyscrapers downtown – straight over the sea channel. Before leaving we of course take a picture of ourselves in front of the statue of Bruce Lee. The next day we relax and just walk through the city enjoying the bustle of the narrow streets. After long time we are able to get hold of some pastry and Czech beer. In the afternoon we go to the Chinese embassy to apply for visa.

The next day we go to see the fourth highest building in the world – the International Commerce Centre. Unfortunately because of the heavy smog we don’t consider the relatively expensive opportunity of going up to the vantage point. Instead we rather go for a nice evening trip to the top of Victoria Peak, from where we have a wonderful overview of the illuminated skyscrapers.

Hong Kong however, is not just a city. We realize this during our trip to the “Big wave beach”, where we finally get after half an hour drive through serpentines by a public transport bus. Because of the coming typhoon, the waves are pretty high. Finally the sea gets so rough that even the most experienced surfers leave the water and go to the local pub. In the evening we go to the local horse race site, which is where the Hong Kong Oktoberfest begins. What you can see here is for example women competing in who can drink a beer in a shorter time or an “authentic” German band.

The visas are supposed to be ready on Thursday. Our plans however are disrupted by level 8 typhoon warning (maximum is 10). Streets which are normally full of people are suddenly almost empty, broken tree branches are all over the place and going to work is voluntary. The employees at the Chinese embassy are obviously not one of these volunteers and so we have to stay until Friday. While waiting, we go to Ondra’s flat, where he lives with his housemate Vašek. On the way there we buy some beer and when we get there we just watch movies and spend the night there too. Next morning we pick up our passports and together with Ondra board the ferry going to the neighboring Macau. Just like Hong Kong, Macao also just recently gained independence and became part of the Chinese republic. However, while in Hong Kong you can still see the influence of the British governing, here in Macau everything seems much more cosmopolitan. It almost seems like the border between China and Macao could disappear right now. Even the Portuguese signs in public transport vehicles seem more like a formality.

We find accommodation and after dinner go in front of the Grand Lisboa casino, where we are joined by Vašek, who arrives from Hong Kong later because of his job. Macao is the only place in China where casinos are allowed and the one in front of which we are just standing now is architecturally one of the most valued buildings in the world. Our team being complete we head to see the biggest casino in the world – the Venetian. It is almost midnight, which also means it is Ales’ 26th birthday and all of us end up trying to win some cash in the roulette. It is not until morning before me and Ales bankrupt and just for fun bet our last two tokens on zero, which surprisingly is the winning number. At this point I would therefore like to thank for a nice birthday present for Ales and approximately two thousand Hong Kong dollars. It is not so common that one comes home at dawn, drunk and with more money in his pocket than before leaving.

In order to see other things apart from casinos as well we get up around noon and go downtown, where there is quite a lot to be seen. The remains of Portuguese temples and fortresses next to the Chinese signs and houses is almost like a view from a different world. The highlight is the Guia fortress, from where there is a really nice view to all directions. Later in the afternoon we move towards the border and our journey through the “Middle Empire” (China) can begin…

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