Saturday, February 14, 2009

China, Macau, and Hong Kong Pt1

I may be back at work now but not so long ago I was a free man, traveling the world, seeing all the sights that the good life has to offer and tasting all the good things that culinary minds can devise. We were able to get away for a while during the Chinese New Year holiday period. We both had two weeks vacation from work but Andrea's school vacation started a week before mine, the implication of this being that we only had one week in which we could be traveling together. As it was, Andrea left as soon as her vacation started and spent a week in Guangzhou before I finished work and flew there myself to meet up with her.

I like this map because it shows the relative sizes and positions of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangdong. Taiwan may be tiny compared to China but it still makes Macau and Hong Kong look like those angels that dance on the heads of pins. I found this map at http://www.china-waterworks.com/china-map.jpg

As you can see in the map, Taiwan is not far from where we traveled, in Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangzhou. It's only about 600km from Kaohsiung airport (the major international airport nearest to Tainan) to Hong Kong and the flight only took about 50 minutes. However, that was long enough to warrant an in-flight meal, to my great delight. Despite myself, I love aeroplane meals. They symbolise so many things, not the least being the human ability to adapt to new surroundings. There's something special about those trays of food, drink, utensils (all plastic now) and napkins that magically start appearing about 25 minutes into the flight.

From Khaosiung Airport I flew to Hong Kong to catch a connecting flight to Guangzhou where I met up with Andrea. On the bus ride from the airport to Guangzhou city she told me about the places she had been and the people she had met. Here she is exploring one of the local mountains with a girl from Taiwan who she had befriended.

I had been in China for a couple of months back in 2003. I was pleasantly surprised by Guangzhou. It wasn't nearly as polluted or the city as stark and barren as I had been expecting. However, it does have a different feel about it compared to Taiwan. There's something about China that contrasts with the warmer, cozier, friendlier feeling I get about Taiwan. I was only in China for one night; the next morning we boarded a bus for Macau.

China now includes two Special Administrative Regions (SARs), namely, Hong Kong and Macau. Not so long ago the British still controlled Hong Kong and the Portugese controlled Macau. Hong Kong was returned to the Chinese government in 1997 while Macau was handed back in 1999. I don't know exactly how these former colonies are specially administered but I do know that they enjoy more liberty than China proper. On the dock of one of the harbours in Hong Kong, I saw protest banners promoting the wholesome character of the Falun Gong movement, banned by the Chinese government. These banners would not remain up for long if they were erected on the mainland.

I was going to use this photo to depict our reunification in Guangzhou but as usual we were pretty lazy with the camera and I think we only pulled it out the day after we arrived in Macau. Here we are posing for ourselves in some strange place just across the road from the main plaza. There were Chinese New Year decorations everywhere and an awful lot of people were coming and going from the place.

Same place, one less poser. By the way, it was really cold in Macau. Our extremities always seemed to be cold and we did our best to cover them up. Here I am wearing my gloves, scarf, and beanie/tuque.

According to Wikipedia, the gaming, tourism, and hospitality industry contributes more than 50% of Macau's GDP and about 70% of the government of Macau's revenue. On a walk around the island we saw plenty of impressive (gaudy?) looking buildings, not the least of which was the Grand Lisboa.

Interestingly, in the 5 working days leading up to the start of my vacation in China I saw three separate articles on the BBC's Asian Business Report (or it could have been the Asian News in general) concerning the deleterious effect the global financial crunch was having on development in Macau; building projects put on hold, thousands of laborers laid off, huge falls in gambling revenue, etc. We didn't feel the effects of this ourselves when we were there but I guess we didn't have an experience of a booming Macau to compare it with. I have no idea what Andrea is trying to communicate with her hands ini this photo; I never learned ASL. Neither did she.

2 comments:

erin said...

Wow, I think she was trying to say "nice double flower here". Sounds like you guys had a great vacation. I'm kinda on one this week, in barrie on a cooking course for the week. Jeremy and I are going to Cuba for march break, if i can get my passport processed in time. Oh paperstuff...

Adrian Brown said...

The paper work for our spouse visa seems never to end. And a lot of it is difficult stuff you can't just fill in and be done with. We will be waiting for a while for Andrea's federal Canadian police check: the RCMP says that it may take up to 120 days. Horrible.