Fri 11.05.12 – Sat 12.05.12:
This would be my last full day in Fragrant Harbour, or as you know it, Hong Kong. It started late (as last night had ended), but before long I was up an’ at ’em, collecting my Chinese visa and heading over to the Queen Vic for a bite to eat.
I won a free meal at the Queen Victoria for coming second at the quiz on Monday, and if there’s something I’ve learnt in life it’s that you should never pass up the opportunity for a free lunch. Therefore I dropped by, and although Stuart wasn’t there, helped myself to a generous steak. See kids? Being a smart-arse sometimes pays dividends. I don’t see you getting a free lunch for being good at football, fellow schoolmates of mine quite possibly picked before me ARE YOU READING THIS?
The rest of the afternoon was whiled away playing on the longest escalator in the world, going to the free zoo, mooching around the botanical gardens, all very pleasant. In the evening, I had half-planned to have a night out in Macau, but with Michael not keen and me running short of Mexican jumping beans as it is, I thought I’d be better off having a well-deserved night in for a change – you know, an early one. This was the plan until Michael returned around 11pm and demanded that I play Arkham City until some ungodly hour of the night. An early one! As if!!
By 9am the next day I was on the ferry over to Macau. It takes an hour and I’m not coming this close and not ticking it off my side list of territories. Macau would bring the running total up to 18.
Macau was a Portuguese colony up until 1999, and is remarkable as the only one (with the possible exception of Goa) that they didn’t leave completely in the shit. Reference: East Timor, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome & Principe and Cape “Bleedin’” Verde. As Macau is the only place that the gambling-obsessed Chinese can legally bet their children’s futures on black, it is now truly the Las Vegas of the East. In fact, sod Las Vegas – for the past five years, Macau has routinely brought in more money than that glitzy American trash-heap in the desert. And Macau has something Las Vegas doesn’t – a soul. You see, Macau has been around for donkey’s years and has the bootiful ol’ buildings to prove it. So while Las Vegas has to make do with aping (badly) some of the more glorious examples of human endeavour, Macau has the real thing.
Plus – get this – even though Macau was never a British colony, they drive on the LEFT!! Yippee! Civilisation at last!!
I can honestly say that Macau really knocked me for six. I was half expecting an ugly set of tawdry concrete skyscrapers rendered in the most appallingly tasteless gold plastic shite, the architectural equivalent of Sylvester Stallone’s mum, and while there is some of that, you mercifully cannot see it from the old town – which was (for me) an adventure playground of old churches, monuments and temples. And so long as they remain, the developers will never destroy the heart and soul of Macau.
I jumped the ferry back to HK to pick up my things. Unfortunately, Michael wasn’t around for me to say ta-ta, so I just left him his brand new toilet seat (I broke his old one!) and was on my way.
Guangzhou is just two hours from Hong Kong on the train and it was about 8pm before I arrived. I met a lovely girl from Russia called Lena who helped me pick the right Underground line to get to Chris and Debbie’s place. Thanks Lena! Chris was staying at the hospital with wife Debbie and their newborn daughter, Talia, so after meeting me and showing me the ropes I was left alone in this swanky apartment in downtown. Determined to finally, FINALLY get an early night, I put all my things on charge and set about sorting through my bag for things I could dump on Chris and Debbie (such as my Lonely Planet guidebook for the South Pacific) and stuff that I could throw away.
All done, I settled down in front of the telly to wind down and became engrossed in ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ a made-for-TV film starring Al Pacino and Susan Sarandon about Jack Kevorkian aka ‘Dr. Death’. Terrible moniker aside, it was really good, and before I knew it it was 1am. No problem, I think as I’m about to turn the telly off, but then NEXT: SENNA. Damnit, I *really* want to watch this film.
Although being nothing more than a fair-weather armchair supporter of sports in general, I grew up with the Grand Prix on the telly every Sunday afternoon – my Dad, an ex-racing driver himself, is an avid fan. I still can’t hear the wasp-like drone of an F1 car without thinking about Yorkshire puds and gravy. I remember watching the San Marino Grand Prix on that shocking day in 1994 when Ayrton Senna, one of the best F1 drivers of all time, crashed into the barrier at 300kph and literally died live on camera. Freddie Mercury, Kurt Cobain, Princess Di – yes they were tragedies, but as Heysel, Hillsborough and 9/11 taught us – when we watch, helpless, as terrible events are beamed into our living rooms as they happen it adds a rawness and a grim connection that stays with you for the rest of your life.
So I stayed up to watch Senna. It was a damn good film. A damn good film.