Friday 12 August 2011

Everything is illuminated

Macau is a very compact place: a peninsula and a couple of islands linked by bridges, only 30 square kilometres altogether, so we’ve been travelling the same roads back and forth as we’ve been taken to various sights over the last four days. This quickly became a favourite view, across a man-made lake to the man-made cityscape of tall and extravagantly-shaped buildings. The Grand Lisboa is the oddest of them all, and at night is spectacular.

We were on our way to yet another Portuguese restaurant, Antonio’s, and were served by Antonio himself who indulged us (and himself) with his party piece after the excellent meal and the flaming crepes Suzette: he wiped off his sabre – what, you didn’t know that chefs had sabres? – and showed one of our group how to take the top off a champagne bottle with one swipe. That’s the glass and all, cleanly, with no splinters, or lost wine. Pretty cool, we all had to admit.

There was nothing cool about today. I’ve no idea of the temperature or humidity, but walking around the narrow streets I nearly melted, and reduced a substantial paper serviette to a limp rag simply by wiping my brow with it. My sense of direction was discombobulated and I went in frustrating circles trying to find my way back from a little park where I was sorely tempted to commit a sort of theft by releasing the birds left there by their owners in tiny little bamboo cages.

Despite the heat, there were people there working on the machines that are dotted about in parks throughout the city, doing unselfconscious tai chi under the trees and even walking backwards down the path; as well as playing cards and mah jong in stone pergolas. And everywhere there were people sweeping and tidying, keeping it all neat and tidy.

Then it was off to the ferry for the hour-long trip to Hong Kong, for which it would have been lovely to stand on deck to enjoy the islands and the interesting shipping, but we had to stay shut inside by foggy windows, alas. This city is as busy and energetic as ever. It’s odd to see other white faces here, after Macau, and the waterfront is very cosmopolitan – as well as spectacularly illuminated too, on this hot and muggy night.

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