Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Return to Macau

I went back to Macau on Saturday. One of our students needed to activate his visa, just like I did last time I went to Macau.

This time just about the whole Pepperdine group went, together with several other international students, and including Jay from Xi'an (I found out that's how he spells his English name--I'd been spelling it Jie assuming it was a Chinese name). We also had help from a local Hong Konger, Ellison, who I met at Hong Kong Baptist University.

This time we went via the hovercraft leaving from Hong Kong Island, instead of the ferry leaving from Kowloon.

It was very comfortable. As you might be able to tell, a dreary day outside that brought rain occasionally throughout the day. I hoped to get a good shot of the cabin but someone boarding walked in just as I took the shot. But in front on the right you can see Andrew Fay, one of our own Pepperdine students. Next to him was a random person who mistook Jay for a server and wanted to buy water from him. Four rows behind them you can see Mike Simon, another Pepperdine student.

We went to Fernando's, a famous place for its excellent food. It's not in Macau proper, but on the adjoining island of Taipa/Colonae. After shooing away bus drivers who offered to give us tours, Ellison came and hired one of them to take us to Fernando's. Very far. Excellent food. But I don't know if it was worth the hassle to get there and back.

The buses then took us to a temple dedicated to the goddess A Ma, who protected the fishermen of the area. One theory has it that Macau was named after her. Very impressive were the large coils of incense with prayers written on the inside.

We then went to the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral (described in this post) and I got to actually take a picture.

Just in case you don't want to click on the link, to read it again, the dove at the top is the Holy Spirit, and under Him you get a young Jesus flanked by symbols of the crucifixion, wearing a sword, and below Him is Mary. To the left of her are the Portuguese ships repelling the Devil (on the far left) and following a star to the east, that is, to China. On the right is the Woman from Revelation, who is defeating the Beast, which is interpreted here as a Chinese dragon.
Below that level are four main figures of the Jesuit order. On the left you can see St. Ignatius of Loyola. There's an impressive archway beneath all this, not shown.

What is shown, at the bottom right corner, is Nate, who's an exchange student from Baylor University to HKBU, who joined us on the trip. In the center at the bottom is someone with a blue umbrella, indicating that yes, there are stairs that take you up to that level from behind hte facade.

I should have mentioned that many people were psyched about jumping off Macau Tower (down a zip line, hooked onto cables), and I was among them. I didn't do it last time and I'd been thinking about it for two weeks in anticipation. We were a bit impatient here because the A Ma temple is almost at the Macau tower, but the bus driver took us to the St. Paul Cathedral through rush hour traffic, at the other end of Macau, and then brought us back through rush hour traffic.

Now travelling with 20 people is time-consuming. Every little thing is likely to catch someone's attention, and everyone else then gets interested. We were supposed to spend 15 minutes at the A Ma temple (according to the bus driver) but we spent something like 45 minutes instead. Not to mention the delays involved in ordering food at Ferndando's, etc. So it was getting kind of late in the day, and I was wondering if the zip line on the tower would even be open after dark, especially given the come-and-go drizzle.

So when we reached Macau Tower, I wasn't surprised to find that it was closed.

But actually, that was a false alarm. The lower, indoor observation deck was closed for a private function. The upper, outdoor observation deck, with the sky jump, was open.

Here are some tips on doing the skyjump:
1. You don't pay for a ticket to go to the top. This is included in the HK$588 fee (=$75 USD) for the jump.
2. Get several people to do it but make sure there are others who aren't going to do it. You can't have anything on you--wallet, wristwatch, etc., and you need someone to hold it.
3. Don't do this at night. It's safe, but you can't get good pictures. They are supposed to take your picture as you hang suspended in the air, before they let you drop. They did that for the first jump (Delia and Nicole did a tandem jump) but after that the lights were turned off, perhaps in anticipation for the fireworks competition later that night. Then they didn't take anyone else's picture. Well, we got some before pictures, but it's not the same. They also take a video. I bought the video because there were no photos to buy, but it was a DVD and I couldn't crop out pictures. For some reason Apple's screenshot capture is disabled whenever the DVD player is running (and it tells you so in so many words).
4. It's scary only for the first tenth of a second when you can still feel your feet leave the platform and your mind says, "What in the world am I doing?!". Then after that it feels like you're flying. It's also over way too quickly for having jumped off the tenth tallest building in the world.

After the jump we got our stuff back from the people who were holding it (they were already done looking out at the city from the observation deck) and we went back up to return our jumpsuits. As mentioned above, we didn't all get pictures or even decent videos, and going with business majors meant they were trying to get a good deal.

Communication barriers were high. Especially in an environment where there was a lack of trust. At some point the manager came in and negotiated a deal where if we all bought DVDs he would give the last one for free, and they could pay $50 for a CD with the only photos that came out. But the clerk wasn't listening and when we tried to explain it to her, she refused. She went to talk to the manager. The manager came out. "Why you lie to her?", he accused. He explained the deal again. We said, "Yes, that's what we told her." I think she thought we wanted to get the CD for free. Eventually this process was done, we paid, and we were told we had to wait for them to now make the copies. This would take about 10 minutes each.

As I mentioned, for all this trouble I couldn't actually get any photos of me to upload at all. All I have is a picture of me before I jumped and that was taken with my camera:

So no, you don't get proof. And you can scoff in disbelief all you like. Whatever.

I went down to tell the others what was going on, but they had apparently given up on us, and gone to a casino. From what I heard, all except one lost all they had budgeted for gambling, and the blackjack dealers were getting only 20s and 21s seven times in a row before they decided that this was just not fun. This, I suspect, is how one gets lucky at gambling for the first time. Turns you off to the whole concept straight away.

Anyway, once I was convinced they had left, and that you couldn't reach them by phone (Macau is in a different area code, but even with dialing the area code for HK it wasn't working), we ate a small meal at a pricey deli in the tower and went back home, arriving at midnight.


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