About once a year, I attend an alumni event for my alma mater’s honors college. The director usually asks me what I have been up to. A few years ago I replied “well, I’ve been to China and back among other things,” as I had just been to Macau. I then had to explain to every one that the company I work for has a global gathering every year, only top performers get to go, and on this particular trip I spent more time on a plane than I did on the ground in destination. I also pointed out the scars I had from whatever mutant bug thought I was tasty. This particular conversation reminded me that I’ve been to ASIA – which still blows my mind to this day (and I have been back since this conversation happened).
My first experience with Asia was a lot different than I thought that it would be, but still amazing. I always thought that the first time I went to Asia I would be walking the Great Wall or seeing the soldiers and having to muddle through ordering dinner because I couldn’t read, let alone speak, any form of Chinese. I wanted to experience culture, try foods that weren’t familiar to me (though my boss would never believe that), and explore the city without a map…but still have the ability to return to my decent hotel with (hopefully) a non-squatter toilet at the end of the day.
Instead, my first experience with Asia was very Western influenced. After all, they do call Macau the Las Vegas of the East. Honestly, the only thing that kept reminding me I was over 8,000 miles away from home was the Chinese on the signs at the hotel.
I did get some time to venture out into the city on the Sunday that I left. My flight wasn’t until 8pm, so my transfer was not until around 6. Checkout was at 11am, so I had time to kill and an adventurous roommate. So we pulled some money out of the ATM in the lobby and got in a cab to go to the Ruins of St Paul.
Lesson number 1) don’t pull out 500HKD and then get in a taxi. Having to make change apparently makes taxi drivers cranky. At least, I’m fairly certain our driver was angry with us. The language barrier made it hard for us to apologize and explain it was all we had, but we eventually got our change and went on our way.
Macau used to be a governed by the Portugese, so the square we were dropped off in was VERY European and so NOT what you expect when you venture out into an Asian city.
But, we eventually got to what I pictured Asia being…
Street markets with way too many people! And odd samplings of something I’m pretty sure was meat. I tried it, didn’t buy it. I’m not even sure what “it” was…a jerky of some sort, maybe?
The ruins themselves were pretty cool. It’s fascinating how such old structures can withstand the elements and the tests of time.
I have to say though…the most interesting experience was the little Asian ladies that took turns taking pictures with us. They didn’t speak any English, but were able to make it clear they wanted pictures with us. My best friend says it’s because we were tall, blue eyed blonde girls and they probably have never seen anything like us before. All I know is that somewhere on the other side of the world, my roommate and I are forever immortalized on some computer with a caption along the lines of “picture with the Americans!”
All in all, Macau was a rewarding, yet exhausting trip. I may not have gotten a lot out of the trip in the way of culture but hey, how many people my age can say they have been to Asia?