New country for the afternoon

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Today was our fourth morning and second hostel of the trip so far, and we finally have our routine down.  The rooms in Asia are tinier than most westerners are used to (at least at our budget), so only one person can get ready at a time.  Typically the alarm will go off which means we get 15 minutes of snooze time after we turn on the water heater.  Then one person (usually Amy since she takes longer) will shower and get ready.  I get to either sleep in a little longer, or check email and to see Michigan get a surprising 8 seed in the tournament.  Then once Amy is finished, I get to wait another 15 minutes for the hot water tank to fill up again.  Now it is time for me to get ready.  This charade takes about 75 minutes which is longer than I am used to, but we are on vacation, and in Hong Kong, so it is necessary to look our best (and we have the time). 

After watching the 5 Takes Hong Kong epi yesterday, we saw our good friend Gabe dining at what looked to be a delicious dim sum restaurant in our neighborhood.  Knowing only the name, street it was located on, and what the front door looked like, we decided to venture out to find this restaurant.  Pretty daring for 2 tourists being in HK for the first time.  Now most would think to look on the internet for an exact location, but like my father in law will tell you "who needs technology when you have a good ole fashioned map to study."  Luckily we found our dining establishment no problem.  We entered Fook Lam Moon Restaurant and they ask if we have reservations.  This place looks a lot nicer than I remembered from seeing Gabe.  I guess I wasn't prepared as I was wearing shorts.  Quick side bar, I guess 75 degrees F is considered cold here because most people are dressed in winter coats and boots with the fur, while I am the only person walking down the street in shorts.  Anyway back to the story, I felt a little under dressed, but our money is good anywhere.  They show us to our tables.  The reason this is plural is because we had a special table for Amy's backpack/handbags.  Wish U.S. restaurants would pick up on this custom.  We got our menu and decided to go with 4 dim sum items along with a dessert.  Overall the food was fantastic, but not sure it was twice as good as Ho Choi which we ate at the other day and was half the price.

After lunch we stopped by the local grocery store to pick up some breakfast items for the week.  Surprisingly, HK does have granola bars in the grocery stores.  I guess Amy told me so on this one.  We dropped off our breakfast at 'Dongs, and changed so we could look classy for the casinos in Macau.  We then made our way to the ferry terminal.   Ferries leave every 30 mins from our area in HK to Macau, and The First Ferry company has very nice ships.  We were able to secure seats near the window on the very empty 2pm ferry.  The seats were very comfortable.  Like clockwork, we land in Macau exactly one hour later.  We make it through customs (since we entered a new country) and tried to find the number 3 bus to Center City.  We were unsure whether we needed Macanese money though, or if our HKD would work here.  So as we looked around for a desk, we were bombarded with 5 to 10 hawkers trying to give us a tour of the city.  They break the ice by handing you a free map.  I quickly picked up on this and said bug off, however my traveling companion was raised to always take a free map (please read paragraph one again).  We now had a third member of our trip as the man followed us around for 5 minutes insistent we get a tour with him.  Finally we find the information desk, which had hundreds of maps.  We asked if we could use HKD, yes, and how much to ride the bus, $3.20 each (about 40 cents).  We head out to the buses waiting for the #3 when a local tells us we can take the #10a as well.  She looked honest so we got on.  Who needs to pay for a tour, we got a great one in the price of our bus fare as we worked our way to the center of town.

We had borrowed the Lonely Planet HK and Macau guide book from my classmate Jon who is studying abroad here.  In the guide there is a great walking tour of Macau, so we tried to follow the route suggested.  The walking tour started in the main square, which had a few demonstrations going on (I consider demonstrations along the same line as riots, so item #3 on the scavenger hunt list is done).  After the main square, we weaved our way through the narrow streets going from church to mansion to church.  It is very interesting to see the Portuguese influence in Macau.  The names of most of the sites had Cantonese names but written in Portuguese.  Amy, the linguist, found this more interesting than me.  What was interesting to me was all of the food stalls.  It seemed that every stall/store sold 3 items: Macanese style egg tarts (which were different than the ones found in HK), cookies (that tasted like Richard Blaise concocted them in his lab using liquid nitrogen), and jerky.  The jerky was cut into large squares, and once ordered, the restaurants used their scissors to break them down into whatever size the customer chooses.  After trying a piece I was immediately sold.  It was the 2nd best jerky I have ever had, slightly behind that of Nate's Jerky Emporium and Malt Shoppe.  We washed down all of these delights with some bubble tea (green tea with milk). 

After the snacks we continued the tour which led up to ruins of what is left of a church and a fortress of top of the mountain.  We decided we had enough of the tour at which point we walked to the casino area.  First stop was the Wynn.  Looks very similar to the one in Vegas, just 1/3 the size.  The major difference was the water fountain show to music in the front of the hotel.  I wonder of the owners of Bellagio know about this blatant copy (what isn't being copied in Asia).  We walked around for a bit, but I decided it would be smarter to gamble at the lower limit casino next door, MGM.  The video craps machine was all full, so I decided to sit down at the blackjack table.  Along with me at the table was a guy with his girlfriend, an older lady, and another middle aged lady hovering around the table.  The first 5 hands were all losers, as without fail, I managed to get the very undesirable 22 in the first 3 hands.  My strategy was very similar to what it would be in the U.S., however I wasn't sure if I was playing a different game as I often received dirty looks for hitting on 16 against a 10, never surrendering, and hitting when I had under 10 (often taking the dealers bust card).  I managed to stay pretty steady after the rocky early hands thanks to a few double downs and splits, but for the most part the entire table was a loser.  That is except for the lady hovering behind the table.  She watched very carefully, deciding to piggy back off of one of the three of us at the table every once in a while.  She was winning around 90% of the time.  I guess she is lucky, or very good a card counting when there is a machine shuffling the deck.  For some reason she never piggy backed off of me though, which further led me to believe my strategy was wrong.  Instead she favored the guy that had to constantly ask the dealer the count of his cards (often hitting on 14 against a 6 and staying on 15 against a 10).  After about an hour I had exactly half of what I started, so decided to go all in to either break even or call it a day.  Unfortunately the dealer pulled a 6 card 17 to beat my 16.  I ended up losing, but the way I see it, I am still up $750 from this last time I stuck it in MGM.  We finished walking around MGM, whose lobby looked very similar to that of Bellagio with the glass flowers on the ceiling (why is everyone copying Bellagio).

By this time we were still a little full from all of our earlier snacks, but we knew if we headed back to HK, dinner wouldn't happen till 9:30 (which, from past experience, I know would not be the best idea...happy wife, happy life).  We went to a restaurant just down the street from MGM which specializes in Portuguese inspired fare.  Amy and I ordered the African chicken and seafood rice, both very traditional dishes of the area.  The chicken was well spiced which we both enjoyed and the rice was good as well with all the mystery seafood items.  After dinner we took the ferry back (which was more of nap time for me).  It is funny how in a plane, I get no sleep while Amy passes out before buckling her seat belt.  However on a boat, the roles are reversed.  Maybe we should go by sea more often.  We got to HK an hour later, received our 4 stamp in our passport in 6 hours, and headed back to the hotel for a good nights sleep.
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