March 10, 2004

As we stepped from the plane onto the tarmac in Macau, a tropical breeze blew the memory of the previous week out over the ocean. The overnight drives, the confined spaces, the fatigue, the irritation… all of it left me as I took off my sweatshirt and tied it around my waist.

Macau is an island located in the south of China, released from Portugal to the People’s Republic of China in December of ’99. It is therefore an island of mixed cultures. Though most of the 400,000 residents speak Cantonese, all public signs and notices are written in both Chinese and Portuguese. The architecture is alternately Asian and European, with bright pink and yellow colonial mansions next to red and green temples with terra cotta roofs and elaborate alters. The people are also a blend of the two ethnicities, with tanned skin, dark eyes, and handsome features.

We met up with Gen at the airport, our go-to guy for the week. A bunch of other folks loaded our bags and cases into a truck (a nice break after lugging them through the airport), and we got into a bus to take us to our hotel. I stuck my head out of the window like a dog, smiling at the bridges and the water and the hills and rocks. I kept laughing out loud. China! We’re in CHINA.

After leaving our things at the Ritz Macau, (a step up from our recent Best Westerns and Super 8s), we headed out to see the city. Here are several things you should know about downtown Macau:

The streets are beautiful and totally crazy. Mopeds go very fast and the buses will run you over. Also, all vehicles come from where you least expect them. Look both ways several times before you cross a street and then run.

The Portuguese sweet bread is beyond compare. Be wary, however, as some of the bread is inexplicably made with things like pork.

The American dollar will take you very, very far. (Either Americans get away like bandits in places like Macau, or we are being severely duped in the States.) One dollar will get you 8 patacas. A bus ride will therefore put you out about thirty cents. Lunch will cost about three dollars. A tee-shirt will run you about two bucks.

The buses are fun to ride. They are small, crowded, fast, and take corners like a roller coaster. Be careful, though, because the bus will not stop for you unless you throw yourself in front of it. Also, don’t count on the bus to completely stop when you get off.

After an afternoon of walking about, I trekked back to the Ritz on foot, where I met up with Rex and Sam. Frogz is sharing the bill at the Macau Arts Festival with a number of neat companies, and we went off to the Cultural Center to see Tap Dogs, a bunch of crazy, tap dancing Australians. It was cool. We were sleepy. After the show we fell into our beds back at the hotel and slept very, very soundly.

All of the Macau photos featured on this site were taken by a team of wiley photographers. Their names are: Rex Jantze, Sam Kusnetz, Jeff Simmons, and Danielle Vermette. And me too.