Thursday, January 18, 2007

Macau I - Guangzhou to Macau

Yesterday I had to make a visa run. But rather than head to HK and catch some work there, I decided to bolt for the Macau border. There was an undertaking I had to realize there, something my brain had been chewing on for a few months now, but I’ll get to that in later. First I had to make it out of the city. I woke up bright and early and took a cab to the Guangzhou Haitao Hotel, which is only about 10 minutes from where I live. The ride cost me about $2. All my currency references are to US Dollars.

Upon arrival to the hotel and some inquiry I found my way to the ticketing both on the far right hand side of the lobby. The guy at the counter could not speak much English but a host and hostess from the CTS Express Coach bus service, wearing crisp green jackets, were on stand-by and they managed to get me on a bus that was leaving the hotel in 10 minutes. They were extremely friendly and helpful. The ticket cost only $7.50 one way. CTS Express provides bus services to numerous locations around China and it is wonderful way to tour the country when you are on a budget or just enjoy seeing the country as you travel.

While waiting outside the hotel for the bus, having a smoke, a group of really hot Chinese birds wearing blue track suits streamed out in front of me, followed by another hot girl carrying an accordion. It must have been close to 9am at the time. I became blur!? I should be out this early more often if this is what they mean by early bird. Without any notice the chick with accordion busted out a tune and 10 hot ladies in blue track suits commenced to perform a synchronized dance. I was totally blown away. It turns out they all work at a Korean restaurant in the building and they were accosting customers. The marketing worked because the next time I am taking a bus to Macau it will be in the afternoon so I can have lunch there first. You got to love creative marketing, Ro.

The drive to the border took only around 2 hours. The bus seats almost 50 people and even though I was sitting all the way in the back, the ride was exceptionally comfortable, and it stops at a gas station half way for people to get out and use the restroom, or just stretch their legs and have a smoke. I spent the whole ride immersed in a book and listening to my ipod. Occasionally I would stop and stare out the window at the landscape. Making the drive in the day time is worth it to view the growth of Guangzhou on the outskirts of the city. It is also especially wonderful to see the ocean when you get closer to the Macau border. It has been so long since I had seen the ocean. There is a certain calm I feel when I look out over to the horizon and just see open space. No buildings, cars, shops, or people. Once you get to the border you can forget about that. The bus dropped me off and what felt like a super mall.

There were people in all directions buying, selling, walking, and running. After spending 2 hours lost in my own thoughts I found the scene a bit over whelming. It actually took some wandering around and inquiry before I found my way to the border.

The first line of immigration you cross is the Chinese side so you have to fill out a departure card and stand in a line for about 20 minutes. It is even worse on a weekend. This is probably my least favorite part of the trip. I am already quite freaked out by customs and immigration and after my last trip to Macau (which I have yet to post about) I was really facing some demons here. But things went smooth and I moved on to the Macau side where I filled in an arrival card. The transition there was much smoother and it actually only took 2 minutes to get stamped. Walking out of the border in Macau is really like stepping into another country. Immediately the air is different and the whole environment has changed. What especially sets the contrast is the fact that all the signs in Macau are still printed in Portuguese. Only $10 away from home and I am in a whole new country. That’s cool.

So there I was in Macau. One step closer to my mission. Macau is what I think of as a Far Eastern Las Vegas. Macau is Sin City baby and I had been psyching myself out since the night before. I had to follow through. I made it across the border now so there was no looking back.

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