Thursday, 6 November 2008

Zhuhai, China

Zhuhai struck me pretty much as a beach holiday town, that seemed quite popular with the chinese tourists. The only place I saw caucasians was at the border crossing. I'm very glad that my friends could speak the language, even if they couldn't read it. At least they could have someone else read for us! It was because of our general difficulty with the reading of the language that we decided to have a tour guide (driver) take us around all day. I never did find out his name, however...

He picked us up at the hotel at about 8am and then took us to breakfast at a new hotel around the corner from ours. It was a nice dim sum breakfast, which we had the waitress read the menu out and my friends chose our breakfast. Doris knows what I like, so I ate and enjoyed nearly everything (except century eggs - gotta draw the line somewhere!).

After breakfast, we were driven to the Fisher Girl statue out on the bay. This is probably the most famous sight to see in Zhuhai. There's a whole legend around it....which I didn't get much of, since I don't understand the language... but the statue is pretty and the views from there also:
The beggars at the statue were very, very annoying though. One in particular kept touching us with his bowl and just wouldn't leave us alone. He even followed us all the way back to our car. The guide told us not to give him anything. He's probably a rich man.

Next stop was Shi Jing Shan Park, where we got a cable car to the top of a hill, for some nice views:

Not really sure what the 'wishing-rock' with the locks was about, but it was interesting:
My friends were very courageous and went back down with the luge, while I got the cable-car back down so I could take more photos. That'll teach me to take all the photos while I can, rather than thinking I can take more later...

Next stop was Zhuhai Museum. The guide told us it was not very interesting, and just lots of photos and text. Since we can't read anything, we decided not to enter. The building is nice though:

and has a huge square outside:
which we came back to for some shopping the next day.

After the museum, we went to Meixi Village. This place was quite interesting, having all the royal stone archways (paifang) and then some buildings with furniture. I quite enjoyed this one, even though it was quite hot walking around the complex:

 Next was the Temple of the Four Buddhas (or at least that's what we think the name is). This place was far away from everywhere, and not mentioned in any of my research. But I'm very glad we went here:

We stopped for lunch at a chinese (obviously) restaurant. The food was nice and cheap as per usual here in Zhuhai. The guide ate with us and helped us order things (that he liked, no doubt!) and then was going to finish by smoking a cigarette at the table (we told him off though!). It's strange to go somewhere that this is still allowed. 

Next stop was a traditional chinese medicine place that the guide insisted on taking us to (because he'll get commission, of course). We had to listen to the whole spiel and watched the fellow burn his hand and then put on his 'miracle cream' for 10 minutes and let us see how his skin was unmarked... Then the doctors were called out to diagnose us individually. Not that they could speak english... They had a young lady there translating and I was told I had low wind in my blood. Uh-huh. Whatever that may mean. Blood pressure it's not - I asked. Anyway: didn't learn anything I didn't know, which didn't stop them trying the hard sell. I was strong though, as were my friends, and bought nothing. We did, all of us, have headaches after this. We suspect they did something to us to make us feel ill so they could sell us something!

After this, we went to the Yuang Ming Palace. We'd been told that this place was a waste of money (the admission was RMB 110 - about $S25), so I just took some photos from the outside:

Our guide was running out of places to take us to, so he took us to the Stone Garden, which none of us were interested in, and to a shop selling stuff that was never claimed from customs. We know why it wasn't claimed....there was nothing worth buying! Our mini-bus was overheating too, so we pulled over to add water....and more water....and still more water:

It was finally time to go back to the hotel for a little while (yay! toilet! finally!) to relax before dinner in Wanzai.

The guide picked us up punctually and then drove us out to Wanzai. Here we could choose our live seafood from the stalls, and then have the restaurant cook it up for us. All very cheap. Our dinner for 5, consisting of all seafood plus a vegetable and rice dish cost us about $S50. Cheap!:

The guide took us back to our hotel, and we decided that since the massage on the previous day was so good and cheap, we'd have another go. This time I had a reflexology foot massage, a manicure, pedicure and full body massage. All for less than I pay for an hour's massage here in Singapore! Though the back massage was more pain than anything else that second night.

We finally got back to the hotel around midnight and agreed to meet around 8am for breakfast the next day.

We had dim sum breakfast again, but this time across the road at the markets. It was OK - I found two or three hairs on my plate which was off-putting, but ah was cheap and the food tasted nice. The markets were interesting too:
This day was to be our shopping day. We'd been told that we could buy cheap clothing and leather goods in China. One of my friends had read about an 'outlet' shopping centre, so we decided to go there. We used a taxi, but true to (chinese) form, they just dropped us off 'near' our destination. Which happened to be a completely different shopping centre across from the museum. It was a nice shopping centre though, so we walked through here for a while. Nothing was worth-while buying though - you can buy the branded goods for the same price in Singapore! So we asked around to get to the outlet shopping centre. It was only 5 minutes walk, apparently...

When we got there (after asking several more times), 20 minutes later, we were disappointed to see it was only one single shop! Again, selling nothing we wanted to buy... The impressive building at the back is the International Conference Centre. The plane has something to do with Mao...but I have no idea what:
The shop was across the road from the beach, so I quickly went and took some photos, while the others found out how to catch a bus back to the hotel:
We got on the public bus to go back to the shopping centres near our hotel, and had a late lunch and wandered the streets until it was time for dinner:

Then it was time for more massage, this time with a nice facial after the foot reflexology.

It was midnight again by the time we got to our hotel, and we wanted to get an early start to get some more market shopping done before heading back to Macau and then Singapore.

We had breakfast at the same dim sum place as the previous morning (my friends sang happy birthday to me!) and then we hit the market where my friends stocked up on things like sharks fin and dried scallops (yum!). They also bought lots of cheap fruits (persimmons etc) to take back.

Then it was time to go back to the hotel to pack our bags and go. 

Getting across the borders to Macau was hell! It was endless queues, first for the chinese border, and then for the Macau border. It took us well over 2 hours to get through. Then we had to queue for the bus to take us to the Venetian, where we wanted to have lunch. Didn't have very much time for it, unfortunately, and no time for photos (sooooo sad!!) and then it was off to the airport. The queue to check in was the shortest, but took the longest of all the queues today. We were in that queue for at least 1 1/2 hours. It was awful!

Luckily the queue for the taxi and customs in Singapore was very short and the taxi ride home uneventful.

And thus ends my trip to Macau and Zhuhai!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Macau to Zhuhai

We checked out of the hotel, but left our luggage with them for our leaving the country that afternoon. The previous night, we'd found out from the hotel next door that they had a shuttle bus that would take us to Babylon casino. However, when we got there at 8.50 or so, waiting for the 9am shuttle, we were told it would be another 15 minutes....then 30....then 45. At this time, we gave up and went to the Star City Casino and got their shuttle to the ferry terminal.

We had vaguely decided to go to the Babylon casino and Fisherman's Wharf, the closest by the Ferry Terminal, because it looked pretty good from the bus on the way past, the previous evening. However, when we were in the shuttle to the ferry terminal, we (by which I mean my friends, since I speak not a word of chinese!) got chatting with some tourists from Hong Kong and Doris and I ended up going sight-seeing, while the other two went to the casino. I was selfishly glad, because I'd been hoping to see the temples and things and had little interest in the casino, except for its appearance - which was most disappointing in daylight.

So the other two and we parted ways and Doris and I got on the bus with our new acquaintances, to go to our first stop: A-Ma temple:
This temple is quite popular with the locals and tourists alike, and is one of the oldest in Macau. It's built on the side of a hill and has great views from some of its little shrines. Very pretty.

The next stop was to be the Moorish barracks. Only we got lost, because I couldn't follow the map properly. Doris did the honours and asked for directions :-). So anyway....we finally got to the barracks, and the building was quite nice to look at. Can't go inside though:
It's also built on the side of a hill, and I dragged poor Doris all the way up to see the other side - which is mostly the car park. Ah well...
From here, the next stop was the Lilau Square, which is near the Mandarin's House which is what I was very keen on seeing. Only it was closed for renovation! Wah! Not fair! Took some photos of the Square anyway:

Our map mentioned the Penha church, though it wasn't marked as one of the tourist stops. We decided that since we were right by it, we'd go and have a look. It looked like it was really near anyway....poor Doris. We had to climb up and up and up this hill to get to the church. I thought it was definitely worth-while going up there for the (mostly) unobstructed views of Macau and China. But I'd recommend doing it with a taxi or a tour (which we encountered up there), rather than walk up there in the heat and sun. Ah the views! Fantastic!:

We walked back down the hill to continue on our walking tour. We'd decided that since the Mandarin's house was closed, we'd head more or less straight to the Lou Kau mansion (which was near Senado Square where we'd been the day before). Getting there took us past a a couple of churches that we just had to look at...they were on the way! They must be photographed! Here's St Lawrence:

and we went past (though not right up to) Dom Pedro V Theatre:
And past the Sa Cathedral:

Though that was only because we got lost looking for the Lou Kau Mansion. It was marked on the map, but still we couldn't find it. Doris ended up asking some school girls, who were sweet enough to take us around the corner and up the street to the mansion which we had walked straight past earlier. But, in our defence, it is easy to miss! Look:

The inside was nice, though not as interesting as I'd hoped, because it wasn't furnished. Poor Doris' blisters....:
Then it was getting ever closer to the time we were to meet the other two back at our hotel, for the walk across to China. So we went back to the Lisboa casino for coffee (free! yay!) and gambling (for Doris, at least) for an hour before it was time to meet.

The walk to China was somewhat interesting. We got the shuttle bus from the Star Hotel to the Barrier Gate, and then walked through customs in Macau and into China, where we had to hold up traffic, filling in forms. Oops. Our hotel, the JinYe hotel, was supposed to be 5 minutes walk from the border, and it was even true!

From hotel to hotel, the trip took 1 3/4 hours. Checking into our hotel took nearly that long too! What a drama! All the forms you have to fill in and then pay it all in advance plus a security deposit, which had to be paid by credit card, which they will actually charge to your card for 15 days, regardless of whether you steal anything or not....crazy, crazy!

The room wasn't too bad. Not great, but at S$20 or so a night each, it wasn't bad, and had a nice view:
Even if it had none of the expected a hair dryer, or electric kettle... And the water taps were marked 'Do not drink'...

We went and found ourselves some dinner, organised a tour guide for the following day, and then went for a massage - at 10pm!

The massage was at a huge 24 hour massage 'parlour', spread over 3 levels, with probably 30 rooms on one level and a massage 'lounge' with probably 50 chairs or so on another. The first thing that happens when you enter is that they give you a tag and you tell them what you want done - or at least, this is what I understood to be happening, since I couldn't understand a word of the various exchanges! Then you put your stuff in a locker and a woman gives you a towel and 'happy suit' - a short sleeved button down blouse with no collar, and shorts. You then go and have a shower and get changed into your suit. If you want, you can also have a steam, though we didn't take advantage of that.

Once we were all ready, they took me to my own room and I was massaged by this petite woman, who had unbelievably strong hands. I told them I only wanted my back and shoulders and feet massaged, but she didn't seem to have gotten the memo, so I got the full body massage regardless. It was good though. And the one hour massage cost me S$8. Bargain!!!!

We finally got to bed at around midnight, and set our alarms for our early morning tour start.