Fat Van Man Lam

Wednesday 16th May – a.k.a. Macau Day. Because that is the day we went to Macau. We got up at a very early (for holiday time) 7.15, only to meet up with Mum’s cousin and hubby and Mum’s friend (a really loud and mouthy friend) at ~9.15 and then spend ages creaking along in traffic on a bus that charged almost as much has the train fare to the same destination. Was quite annoyed at this, as we have paid a lot of money for our precious limited holiday time and would rather spend it doing anything else other than standing on a packed bus at rush hour stand-still time, which I can do easily at home thank you very much. So we arrived at Tsim Sha Tsui dock approaching 11. We just managed to get tickets for the ferry leaving in about 5 minutes, so all ran like mad things for it (well us young ‘uns could speed walk at the rate the more mature members of our party ran). Well I thought it was a ferry, but (as big bro very condescendingly pointed out) it went pretty fast for a ferry, almost speed boat-like. So was probably a hydrofoil, despite all other misleading indications that said it was a ferry(!). Anyway will leave this argument there.

Finally made it onto Macau land after 12. The port, being where all the gullible and loaded HK tourists usually show up, was crawling with greasy folk selling guided tours. After having a go at one bloke for offering a minivan tour for $100 per person, Mum’s cousin and friend then quite loudly and embarrassingly tried to haggle down some other dude’s 5-hour $150 tour by using the tried and tested HK haggling techniques of comparing other offers made by rivals and insulting the current salesman, namely by saying that he was a fat arse. Or at least fatter than the other salesman, who whilst still fat was not as fat as him (fatty fatty boom boom!!). How can you go wrong eh. Turns out that they knew each other and were in the same company. Haggle backfire! So we settled for fatty no. 1, who, since his surname is Lam, I’ve dubbed Fat Van Man Lam (or as bro prefers, Fat Man Van Lam as it sounds like some action film star, can’t think who).

So Fat Van Man Lam took us around in his van, though it was more of a people carrier. Throughout the journey Mum’s cousin and gobby friend loudly asked him what there was to do/eat and berated him in equal measure. He took us to a noodle place first, where the queues of school kids and business people (who luckily arrived just after we did, too bad suckahs) were testament to the surprising quality of the food. Everyone enjoyed their meals – wontons were good, noodles nice if a bit sauce-soaked in the dry (i.e. non-soup) variant, beef very tender. Only gripe was the service – the waitress forgot some orders and then at end they tried to make us pay for a phantom coffee, but they picked the wrong people to mess with. Cue shouting from the gobby ladies and other customers staring like mad. I guess it’s an upside to travelling with rowdy people, as the staff were scared off and we went on our way without paying any extra.

Then it was to the Macau Museum, which was a speed visit so as to not keep Van Lam waiting too long. The oldies didn’t really want to see anything much, they thought it was all boring. I think the only reason they came was to buy souvenirs and gamble. Which they did! Well, Mum’s cousin and her hubby did.

Gems from the museum: The Champion Fighting Crickets of Macau!!

Terrifying antique coat hanger

After the museum – we didn’t realise we were about 10 feet away from the famous Ruins of St Paul’s, so Van Lam drove us, well, about 10 feet and dropped us off so that we could take photos and and he could go fill up on free samples from the shops. It wasn’t surprising we missed it because there honestly is nothing left but one wall, and from the back there isn’t anything to see. From the front it’s a different story, not least because there are hundreds of tourists there photographing it. It is a great piece of architecture (despite 90% of it having been blown up or whatever retrospective nb – it was destroyed in a fire during a typhoon in 1835) and it is covered in intricate statues and carved arches that somehow survived.

Unfortunately due to bro being distracted by mum yakking about something, he accidently put an empty battery back into the camera and it was dead. Gah. Luckily I had my trusty phone. Huzzah! The focus is a touch dodgy though and some pictures came out quite blurry, including one of St Paul’s. Oh well. Lesson to be learned here – check all equipment before setting out!

The oldies ventured off into the so-called “No. 1 Selling Souvenirs” shop just down from St Paul’s, which,  because it looked like a total meat market in there, me and bro decided not to venture into ourselves. Instead we stood outside drinking guava juice and eating the delicious famous Portuguese egg tarts. They were buttery, oily, creamy and probably 60% pure saturated fat but were so shamefully worth it, I could have had another but may have keeled over from atherosclerosis or something.

After souvenir shopping was complete it was off to Macau Tower, proudly known as the, er, 10th tallest building in the world. Probably even less than that but I can’t remember (retrospective nb – it was the 10th tallest tower in the world, but in 2015 is 19th). All I remember is that there are still a lot of buildings taller than it, which are on a diagram on the wall on the 2nd highest floor (65th or something. Damn my cruddy memory!). When we went up in the lift it shot upwards, which you’d expect otherwise it would take yonks to go up and down this very tall building. However there were windows in the doors, and Mum’s fear of heights took over again causing her to grab me. Like I could do anything about it if we were to plummet to our deaths. Talking of plummeting to death, there were plenty willing to chuck themselves off the top of the building. No, not businessmen and women driven to suicide by the economy or insecure girls driven insane by all the incessant weight loss adverts, but rich tourists who forked out £170 to throw themselves off a high building with only a piece of bungee cord to prevent their innards from being outers. On the floor below you could see people falling (as pointed out by the helpful ‘Caution – Falling People!’ signs), and also see the air-filled mat they would clamber onto at the end. There was a freaky glass section where you could look straight down and see the ground, which made even me feel a bit funny. Bro joked that if the glass fell out, you would have to aim for the bungee pad to survive. Thanks! Mum’s cousin said we shouldn’t stand on it, just in case! As if it just might, after millions of visitors have stood on it, give way when a 7 stone girl happens to walk on it. Design fault there.

After this we went to one of the most random things I’ve ever seen. It was in a hotel. Van Lam saw that it was coming up to 4pm, and every half hour in this hotel some weird shit happens. So we thought, why not? All we heard was that some massively expensive tree is on display. So we get there and there’s loads of people there, gullible tourists like us obviously. Music started playing and flashy light effects began. The room has a funky ceiling with reliefs of the zodiac animals on and is a dome with segments that fit together. Opposite it is another dome coming up from the ground, behind a barrier upon which mad tourists were jostling to get a good view.

The dome on the ground was also segmented. After a bit of music the ceiling opened to reveal an LCD screen/projector screen/some sort of screen, don’t know the specifics. It showed funky patterns to the music, a bit like a more upmarket version of the Windows Media Player music thing. Then this opened to allow a whopping, and even I have to agree, dazzling (literally) chandelier. It must have consisted of thousands of faceted crystals. Or diamonds!! No no, must stop salivating. Then the bottom dome opened and The Tree appeared. It looked almost like a real tree, like an oak or other regular type. The lights changed the colour of it from green to gold to silver. The theme from ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ played for no discernible reason at all. Compared with the chandelier it was a tad shit actually. Sorry, expensive tree. People were throwing coins down to the base of the tree, the saddos. A shamelessly commercial, staged tourist trap show is probably the least likely of all nonsense superstitions to grant any type of wish. You fools! Anyway. Me and bro joked that after the tree went down the dwarfs that operated it probably fought each other for the change.

After a couple of minutes of the tree spinning around to this song, it went back into its cubby hole and thus began the reversal of the whole thing. I recorded the whole 7 minute debacle on my phone, and had to keep switching arms as was losing all blood from them holding it high enough to not just film the backs of people’s heads. And that was that! Won’t get those 7 minutes back again. Mum’s cousin said we better get back as Fat Boy was waiting, which set off a whole bunch of guffawing from the rest of us and can be heard right at the end of my video, quite funnily.

The last part of the day involved involved us all saying goodbye to our beloved fatty Lam Van Man, and taking the free coach to the Venezia hotel/casino. It was massive and garish like all the hotel/casino combos in Macau that blight its skyline. Mum’s cousin and her hubby ran off to gamble, saying we should meet up at 19.00 for dinner, but as there was no reception we couldn’t call them to find them in the labyrinth of machines and tables. They were all, “whatever, we’ll find each other!”, so eager were they to fritter their money away. The rest of us spent over an hour just wandering around the shopping area, which was made up of shops (mainly designer) in a mock Venetian town. There was a sky-painted ceiling, dynamic lighting (i.e. it dims when it’s later in the day) and the crowning glory – a canal running all the way through. You could get a canal ride in one of their fetching gondolas, complete with opera singing gondolier for ~£10 each. Most of the gondoliers were women, maybe because they sang better. There was one who had quite a good operatic voice and sang the ‘Cornetto’ song (damn you, marketing fiends!!) several times to some smatterings of applause.

We didn’t actually go in any of the shops, probably because HK assistants are notoriously pushy and clingy and it would probably be worse in a designer shop. Most of the shops were pretty empty, so weren’t getting much of people’s winnings by the looks of it. There was a juggling act randomly in one area – they looked European, Portuguese probably, and although some of it was entertaining they dropped stuff quite a bit. Luckily they didn’t drop the deadly knives as much.

When we finally found the gambling duo back in the casino (purely by fluke as hubby was leaving the toilet while we were standing outside), they were ~£2000 up. So gambling can be good! For some. The thing is they spent the whole time on the electronic roulette, so there isn’t really any point in going to Macau to play against a computer surely…? Well, whatever floats their boat. They obviously had some sort of system against it.

Dinner was not a nice sampling of Portuguese/traditional cuisine, but a really dull buffet. They had some discount card, but it was still overpriced. And overcooked. There were good though processes going on, but poor execution. There was sashimi, but it was hacked off in massive chunks with no skill whatsoever. They might as well have let people cut their own. Crab claws and king prawns – luxurious and pricey, but wasted as they were cooked beyond death and really rubbery. Same for any meats, like the duck. According to Mum the fish didn’t escape either. Desserts were a redeeming factor, though still wrong – pannacotta tasted of cheese (like mascarpone) and tiramisu didn’t, but just tasted of cream. Surely it should be vice versa?! But was ok. Filled up on desserts to make up for lack of good savoury food (where I get my money’s worth!), was really full after.

Mum’s cousin’s hubby heaped up a pile of stuff and was just about to dig in, when a member of staff came up and said that his wife was going to the hospital with an unwell friend and he should go too. Turns out she’d met someone she knew and she was having bad effects from taking meds on an empty stomach. So off they went without cashing in on their buffet tickets. Sucked to be them. Luckily we managed to get refunds for them. They never came back, and since they had their return tickets we decided to just leave without them. Like on the way there we just made the return hydrofoil at 21.30, otherwise it would’ve been a half hour wait. They closed the doors right behind us, so it was close.

After getting back to HK we almost had a Hollywood movie-type dash for the bus back – we saw it across the road so ran for it, but just missed the green man. This in turn led us to wait for the next green man at the following crossing, both of which felt like an eternity as we stared at the bus willing it not to leave. Then, finally across the roads, we ran (or walked briskly) up to the bus stop when some dudes walked out of a shop with a whole bunch of furniture or other bulky crap, blocking the whole pavement. Gaah! Luckily when we reached the bus it turned out it was empty and just sitting there. D’oh. Another one came up behind it which we got on.

And so end the Macau Saga! Not that exciting huh.

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