A Travellerspoint blog

Day 15 (AM) - Emerald Sevens..

Macau = 30 December 2013

overcast 20 °C

We woke up after a little sleep in, and headed down to a yum cha breakfast, then over the road for a little look-see at the Crown Towers casino. It was not as touristy as the Venetian, and there were far fewer people there, but it was very schmick:

After we checked out, we had a few hours to kill, so Justin suggested we go back down to the casino. There was a pokie machine we had found called 'Emerald Sevens' which we both thought was good luck (emerald is my birthstone and seven is Justin's lucky number), so we settled in and took turns visiting the bar to have a shot.

I went first, and when Justin came back from his visit, he was extremely excited. As per usual, he had befriended the manager, and they had a chat about the casino. Justin mentioned the jackpot value on the machines and asked whether anybody had ever actually won. The manager replied 'yes, of course sir - the last person who won was the previous manager here'. Apparently the previous manager had been obsessed with winning the jackpot and would come down every single night after work and put his entire pay through. One night, after THREE YEARS he hit the jackpot. He won the $64 million jackpot (ie about $9 million Australian dollars) and they threw in a free band-new Mercedes for him to drive away in. Obviously he quit his job immediately.

So, of course, after hearing this fabulous story, Justin and I spent far too long playing, and put through far too much money in the hope that we would be leaving in a Mercedes full of cash. Better luck next time!

Posted by MealsEeles 13:17 Archived in Macau Tagged venetian gamble Comments (0)

Day 14 - Gamblor!

Hong Kong = 29 December 2013

semi-overcast 21 °C
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We pulled into Hung Hom station around 1pm and jumped into a taxi which took us to the ferry terminal, where we were going to catch a ferry over to Macau:

The ferry ride over was about 55 minutes, and once we arrived we followed the crowd to a bus station full of (free! - spend those dollars in that casino, not on transport!) buses to take you to your casino of choice.

We were staying at the Venetian, which definitely had a much longer line that all of the other casinos. When we arrived at the Venetian it was like going through an international airport - there were so many people and it was so big.

Our room wasn't ready so we got upgraded (yay) to a room that was big enough for us both to live in permanently. Knowing that there was a canal somewhere in the Venetian, along with gondolas and gondoliers, I said to Justin, 'let's hurry up so we can see them before the sun sets'. We rushed downstairs and made it through the maze of luxury shops to the canal, and Justin looked up and said 'there you go, the sun hasn't set yet'..

That is because the sun never sets on this canal - it is all inside - with an incredibly realistic blue sky painted on the ceiling. I stupidly forgot to take a photo but you can see one here: http://sandsconfidential.com/2011/06/16/hat-tip-to-gma-news/. It was very surreal.

After dinner we went down to the casino area which was huge, but almost everyone was smoking - ugh. Justin had a go at roulette, and won money, and then spent a lot of time at the craps table and won more money.

It was pretty cool playing with 1000 dollar chips even if it was in Macau dollars, rather than Australian.

Posted by MealsEeles 03:09 Archived in Macau Tagged canal venetian chips gamble Comments (0)

Day 13 - Fly flogs

sunny 4 °C

We checked out of the hotel and made our way to the Beijing West Train Station. Like many other Beijing buildings, it was absolutely massive.

I started to feel a bit nervous that we wouldn’t be able to find our platform, but luckily we walked right past it, and I recognised the train number, because everything else was in Mandarin symbols. We went through passport control and made our way to the train, and our deluxe first class sleeper and settled in. We had our own bathroom, a little table, two beds and a big window to watch the country roll past:

Everyone knows there are over 1.3 billion Chinese, but I had never actually thought about how they all live in this country. We went through city after city after city filled with skyscrapers for hour after hour after hour. It was pretty incredible, but also a little bit depressing. For some reason, we both thought we would be going through some picturesque countryside:

We headed down to the food cart, which provided some light refreshment, along with some light amusement:

Posted by MealsEeles 18:30 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 12 (PM) - Delicious duck dinner

Quan Ju De = 27 December 2013

overcast -6 °C
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The lovely family we had met on our tour group was nice enough to invite us to dinner, so we met them at the Quan Ju De roast duck restaurant.

It was five stories high, and had huge ballrooms that could sit up to 600 people, and there were also numerous private dining rooms that sat about 100 people all up – the entire restaurant could serve 3,000 people! Apparently it is favoured by Communist Party Officials, and was a total throw back to the 1970s with pink and red decoration, and huge crystal chandeliers:

As we walked out of the elevator, we walked past the kitchen, where there were ducks hanging in front of the wood fired ovens:

We ordered duck spring rolls, duck pate and two roasted ducks, with spring onions and pancakes. Oh my goodness, it was so delicious.

While we were eating, the family told us some funny stories about children's names in America that they had actually seen. One woman named her twins 'La'Washa' and 'La'Drya'. When the names were written down on the certificate, the woman specified that in the middle there needed to be a 'comma to the top'. When the nurse clarified and said 'an apostrophe?', the woman said 'no, I want a comma to the top'.


Posted by MealsEeles 18:09 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 12 (AM) - The beauty of China

Tiananmen Square - Forbidden City - Temple of Heaven - Summer Palace = 27 December 2013

overcast 1 °C
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For our final full day in China, we had decided to do a day tour and met our guide at 8am, and jumped on the bus where there was already an American family of five. They were all really lovely, and we were grateful to have other English speaking people to swap stories with.

Our tour guide, William, spoke excellent English and told us our first stop would be Tiananmen Square. We pulled up and jumped out of the bus and William showed the huge square in front of the entrance to the Forbidden City, which in the past had fit over one million people for a past event.
William then went onto talk about Tiananmen Square in 1989. When referring to the event, he kept saying ‘the student attacks’ and then he would check himself, and saying ‘the student protests’, reminding us that our version of what happened differs from the Chinese version:

We turned around and walked over the bridges (the river underneath was partially frozen, because it was so cold), under the massive red archways that had a huge portrait of Chairman Mao, and into the first part of the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.

Once through the first gate, we came into another huge courtyard area, and through another set of arches. William showed us that there were nine huge golden knobs vertically and horizontally, which was the lucky number for the Emperor.
There were beautiful statues of male and female dragons guarding the entrance to some buildings. The female holds a baby dragon under its paw, showing that the empress will bear the child, and the male holds a globe under its paw, showing that the emperor rules the world.
Further along we saw huge caldrons, and William explained that these were once covered in gold but when the French and English had invaded in the early 20th century and had sacked the city, they had taken their sword blades and scraped all of the gold off.
William also pointed out the edges of the rooves of the buildings, showing the little statues along the edges of the eaves, and explained that they are like stars for a soldiers lapel – the more statues the more important the building.
We had walked through the entire Forbidden City and came to the man-made mountain at the other side, which was made from the dirt, hand dug out of the canal by commoners, which is part of the feng shui for the City.
After the Forbidden City, we jumped back in the bus and went to a silk shop, which had a demonstration on how the silk is pulled out of the cocoons:

She showed how it takes eight cocoons to pull together one string of silk for weaving. She also explained that the Chinese will eat the pupae out of the cocoon. She broke one open and jokingly asked if anyone wanted to taste it - Justin put his hand up, and then gulped down the dark, cashew-sized pupae. He said it tasted like a peanut (gross). While we were at the silk shop, he bought a pillow filled with Chinese silk - he is so excited:

After the silk shop it was onto the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. The common people were not allowed to even enter the Temple, only the Emperor. These Chinese Emperors were not about doing things on the cheap - this huge temple complex was only used ONCE A YEAR.

We jumped back in the bus for the longer drive to the Summer Palace, which is to the north of Beijing. On the way, William told us various bits of information about China, and Beijing. One of the topics was 'The top five scams'. As he went through them, Justin and I realised that our two cons were in there. William said that last summer, an older English couple had been scammed with the rickshaw ride like we had, but that when they were taken into the back streets, there were menacing men standing around, and the couple had ended up handing over 1000 yuan (ie $185 Australian dollars). I guess because it was so cold the day we were there the menacing men were staying warm indoors.

William also warned us about buying fakes in China, saying that it has been found that some of the plastics used in these are made from recycled MEDICAL WASTE, and that the dyes used in the t-shirts are made using mercury which is 50 times the safe limit for humans. Lesson = don't buy fake stuff in China.

After a drive, we arrived at the amazing, beautiful Summer Palace. This Palace was built for the royal family to spend (you guessed it) summer at. It overlooks a man-made lake, and although we were there in winter, you could see how wonderful it would be during the warmer months. The royal family jumped into a boat at the Forbidden City, and were rowed down to this golden gate at the Summer Palace (they couldn't possibly be expected to ride a horse and risk seeing commoners, or worse, walk):
You can see in the photos that the lake has ice across the top, and it was frozen in places, but not totally.

There were crazy people out walking on the ice and cutting holes in it to go fishing!

Our great tour group:

We were so glad to have a whole day with nice people who spoke English and not get scammed again!

And on the way back to the hotel we passed the Bird's Nest which was pretty cool:

Posted by MealsEeles 16:57 Archived in China Comments (0)

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