East to West

This week, we returned from Hong Kong after a relaxing two-week holiday. This time we saw much more of the area than before, visiting not only Hong Kong island and the New Territories, but also making trips to Lamma (which is part of the Hong Kong S.A.R.) and Macau. One of the things we’d missed out on last time, due to closures at Lunar New Year, was a trip to the races at Happy Valley which turned out to be an extremely enjoyable evening of buffet food and drink, plus extremely poor betting choices. Thankfully the money we gambled was more of a token gesture than anything else or we’d have left the stadium somewhat less enthused!

Lamma Island was, despite being the site of the massive power station which provides all of Hong Kong’s electricity, a little haven of peace and tranquility. Only a short ferry trip from Central, Lamma is a little car-free island with a rather hippy feel to it. A friend who now lives there invited us over for a Chinese-style beach barbecue, and a lot of food and Tsingtao was consumed under the trees in the afternoon sun that day. Thankfully, I didn’t catch sight of any of the snakes or large spiders that they share the island with, or I’d have been out of there far sooner than planned. I did spot some rather nasty wildlife in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island one night though. No, not the hookers… cockroaches! It baffled me how a group of expats could spend time discussing how awful living in England had been when their watering hole of choice was a faux-British pub with roaches in the toilets. Perhaps there were none in the gents, or these chaps’ beer goggles were of truly excellent quality. Either way, a move to a better bar with crazy live music and a bunch of friendly locals and backpackers outside solved my creepy-crawly problem. The threat of a typhoon inspired quite a bit of ‘I might not have to work tomorrow’ drinking for some people that day.

The Macau S.A.R. is quite something else entirely. If I thought Hong Kong was full of contrasts – eastern temples meeting western skyscrapers – Macau is positively bursting with them. The old city has amazing Portuguese colonial architecture mixed with Chinese street markets, and then there’s the Cotai Strip with its massive Vegas-style casinos which, according to Wikipedia, overtook the Las Vegas Strip in gaming revenues in 2007 after the entry of large foreign casinos. However, after the initial shock of all this wears off, one of the most striking things as you wander around places like The Venetian is that there’s no ban on smoking in casinos in Macau. If they send the smokers outside, I guess they’d lose too much money! It was definitely a great place for a short trip from Hong Kong and was an excellent addition to our holiday.

I took a lot more photos on my travels too so, if you’re interested, check out my Flickr photostream.

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