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I have never attended a wedding overseas. Out of nowhere I had two. The first was in Macau to celebrate the wedding of Terry and Carolina. The second was in India to celebrate with Hardeep and Sonia. Both in the span of four months.
We flew Premium Economy with Qantas. It was OK. Seats are adequate and the meals good quality. But on the way to Hong Kong we sat next to business men who had friends in business class. One of their friends decidedt four in the morning would be a good time to come and talk loudly, disturbing everybody in premium economy. Inconsiderate? A few hours later I was eating muesli, when a filling popped out. It was one of my front teeth, I was the best man, the wedding was the next day. I was not impressed. I looked like a true Collingwood supporter. (For those foreign to Australian Rules Football, Collingwood fans are depicted all too often with teeth missing)
As soon as we landed at 6am I rang Terry. Carolina’s mother Sonia then arranged a visit to the dentist. We had to wait for the 10am ferry to Macau, and by the time we had arrived at Sonia’s house it was past midday. We had time for lunch after which Sonia and I left for the dentist.
Sonia and I squeezed onto a full bus. On the way there, with her limited English Sonia tells me ‘dentist very, ummmmm, messy, but good dentist’. OK. I trust you Sonia. We arrived in town and made our way up a few flights of stairs above a shopping street, and enter a lone door.
My surroundings? Let me just say had Sonia not escorted me there, I may have walked out. It was very messy, the walls a little dirty, and the equipment a kickback from the seventies. Sonia left and I was alone with the Dentist. No nurse? Cool. He gave me two options, temporary fill like the one I had, or full root canal and I had to come back tomorrow. I explained I had a wedding to attend the next day, so the filling will do. We chatted about Melbourne. He had relatives there and in Sydney. Doesn’t everyone?
Sonia was right, he did a great job, with a small amount of pain killer and no nurse. What a dude. I did not have to pay a cent. He told me it was a favor for Sonia. This guy came in on his day off as well! I thanked him and departed.
I had to wait for Terry to come pick me up. I waited and walked around Senado Square for a few hours. Terry had taken the wrong bus and ended up at the Chinese border. He took a taxi from there to make sure he was headed in the right direction. We went to the entrance of a casino to get return taxi. By this time it was getting rather late. We had time to get to the hotel, change, have a shower and go out to dinner.
Our accommodation on Macau was the Pousada De Coloane. The wedding reception was also taking place there. It was reasonably priced, the pool was good, and the room clean and neat. The beds were a little hard but comfortable and the food in the restaurant very tasty and affordable. Looking back it was a great place to stay. It was not too far from central Macau, and it was out of the way enough that we escaped the hustle and bustle of the casinos and we were right next to the beach. We had our own little piece of serenity. Highly recommend it if you are going to Macau. Unless you love casinos in which case forget about it. Not a slot machine or roulette table in sight.
Dinner that night was close by and attended by the immediate family and us. We had a great time drinking and eating. Rebecca and I felt more than welcome. A little too welcome as a matter of fact, as the next morning we had regretted the frivolity.
A couple of pain killers later I am up and dressed and make my way over to give Terry some support. Plus I needed someone to do my tie.
Terry was, to put it bluntly, wetting his trousers. Keep in mind he is already married, in a civil union back in England. But this was different. Terry was not brought up with religion and a church is a foreign and rather daunting place. Terry, I hope I did my job as best man by settling you down. I think we ended up having a laugh of two which always calms the nerves.
The drive to the church was a little squeezed and confused (don’t ask), and after some sweaty armpits we arrived.
A few I do’s and a prayer of two later the wedding was over, and it was photo time. I think the photo session inside and outside the church was longer than the ceremony itself.
Back at the hotel there was some time before the main reception started, so we were able to have a few beers and a shower to freshen up before the main event.
The reception was great. We had a great time and met some new people. Two things surprised me. There were no names on the tables indicating your place to sit. I am not sure if this was a cultural thing or not. What was cultural though, was the karaoke. The band was good, very good. I appreciate a good wedding band. It’s not often you get that. As the night wore on, the perfect pitch of our guests getting up to sing declined. At which such time the western gents retreated to the bar.
We sat up late that night with Debbie, Bel, Terry, Carolina and Adelina. There is nothing quite like being in a foreign place but feeling so welcome and relaxed after such an occasion. I will never forget being there with them. Thanks guys for making me feel a part of your celebration.
For some strange reason I could not sleep very well. Maybe it was from all the excitement, not to mention the alcohol. Who knows? So early morning I got up, grabbed my camera and ventured outside. Carolina’s Uncle Edmundo was out sitting enjoying the morning air, with his cigarette and a coffee. I sat with him over and chatted over a coffee. Edmundo then told me a lot about Macau, its history and how it’s changing. He was also a keen photographer, and noting my SLR offered to take me into a little village close by. I believe the village was called Coloane. Not 100% sure. After a short bus trip, we wandered around town. From the coast you look over the water to China. I learnt a lot about the ever changing Macau that morning, and a little family history as well. It was a rare morning for me. I thank you very much for you time Edmundo. Little things like that will always remain prominent in my memory.
Not much else happened that day. We went out for dinner later that night with Bel and Debbie after which we ventured into one of the Casino’s. The Venetian. So garish. A robust discussion was had about casinos that night between Belly and I. It was good to have a discussion where two people on opposing sides are able to discuss and debate without losing respect for one another. Much appreciated Belly.
Terry and Carolina were available the next day. Or should we say not indisposed. They took us around Macau to see some of the more historical sites. A-Ma temple was our first stop. Terry and I climbed the hill and the girls stayed below. Becks leg was giving her a little grief and Carolina was looking after Lavina in the pram. Not the most awe inspiring temple I have been to but worth a stop.
Next we took a taxi, eventually, to the Mandarin House. We spent a lot of time here. I was fascinated by the layout and architecture. Nestled among the taller buildings, tucked away in a little street on the hill. Somehow this place was serene. It was a small, ancient complex. A great place for us to relax, talk and for Lavina to play.
It was getting late. The sun was going down. And the best place to see the island from was the ancient Monte Fortress which houses the Macau Museum. It was dark, we could not see much, and it was closing time. We left shortly after an argument with the elevator Nazi who made Beck walk the steep cobble stoned slope, instead of taking the lift.
Upon leaving the fort we wandered down the hill and after some antics on the public gym equipment we went down to see the ruins of St. Pauls, then continued on down the hill into Senado Square where I had spent hours waiting for Terry a few days previous. It’s a nice walk with the old Spanish colonial buildings lining the street, and the ladies loved the shops.
We were to depart for Hong Kong the next day, but before we left we had a final lunch of yum cha with Carolina’s mother and father. The place was packed, and I gave everything a try. As far as I remember I don’t think I passed anything up. That afternoon we boarded a ferry and took a cruise over to Kowloon upon which Terry had some interesting noodles. I passed them up for a sandwich. I would have fallen asleep had I indulged myself.
Rebecca and I splashed out for the few days we were staying on Kowloon in one of the cheaper rooms at Hotel Icon. We arrived by taxi and were well looked after. In our room we relaxed and took a shower before meeting Terry and Carolina for dinner. It was a nice room. I recommend it. A very well designed building with a cavernous entrance containing the reception and bar. A welcome change to the poky entrances to most hotels we have stayed at.
Dinner that night was cheap and traditional, and delicious. Noodles were to be had by all, including Lavina. For desert we stopped off for some ice-cream. Some interesting choices with American size servings. We were met by one of Terry’s friends whom Terry informs me is a pop star in Hong Kong. Nice bloke. Forget his name. We left the famous people to lap up the limelight and headed to bed.
The next day there was a lot of walking to be done. Needless to say Rebecca stopped off a few times to rest her leg. After waiting for the arrival of Terry and Carolina during which I got very hungry and ate from a street stall, (I will get back to that later) we wandered down the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade, down the Avenue of Stars on which we knew only a few of the persons listed in the pavement, except for Jackie Chan and the statue of Bruce Lee.
After spending some time at the Kowloon Public Pier, shopping was the call for the rest of the day. First at the Ocean Terminal, and then in Kowloon town, where, by the time Rebecca had finally purchased a few leather bags, my feet were killing me and I was so hungry that anger set in. I think I contained myself quite well considering the last shop she was in for over an hour! One shop! She was still there after going for a wonder looking in shops by myself! We ate dinner in the hotel that night. No way was I going out to find a restaurant! Low and behold all of a sudden Becks leg was killing her. Talk about timing. But I digress.
We had breakfast the next morning in the hotel with Terry and Carolina as we bid them farewell on their trip to enjoy a beach in Thailand somewhere (if I remember correctly). Mean while Beck and I had booked an apartment on Honk Kong Island.
Having one backpack and a large suitcase with us, eventually took its toll on me. Upon arriving at our apartment on Hong Kong Island my back went out. It was giving me a lot of pain. I ventured out onto Queens Road West to find myself a massage parlour. No, not the kind you’re thinking! After an hour of deep tissue massage and a walk on my back, I was back on my feet, feeling a little better but cautious. After a rest and refresh, we used goggle maps to find a place to dine. Becks leg was hurting and my back tender, so we found the closest place with the best reviews, and like a pair of invalids, slowly wandered up a few streets to dinner at Serenade.
It specialises in seafood. I was hungry so I had a steak. A very nice soft steak and we had oysters as an entrée. The staff was very friendly and the atmosphere relaxing. Highly recommend it.
That night, I got the sweats, and the toilet became my friend. That sausage I mentioned I had consumed a few days earlier? We could not think of anything else I consumed that Rebecca did not. I gave Rebecca the other half of the sausage, and she gave it back to me. She said it smelt. I put it down to cultural differences. But just maybe it was bad. So the next day I spent in bed and Rebecca rested her leg. Regaining my composure and drugged up a little we left the apartment that evening.
We wandered over to take a ride on the street escalator. Starting at Cochrane Street we travelled up past Hollywood Road and up into the tourist district where all the western yobs, Bogans and all manner of suited up people could be found. We found a Japanese bar and stopped off for some sake, beer and snacks. We people watched for a bit, contemplated never coming back there ever again and called it a night. We wandered down to Hollywood Road and caught a taxi back to the apartment. Back at the apartment, I paid the taxi driver and got out. As he drove off, looking in my bag for the apartment keys I noticed my wallet missing. Not missing. Gone! It was last seen when retrieving the apartment complex business card out of my wallet to inform the non English speaking driver our destination. Upon entering the taxi, I placed the wallet between my legs, then helped Rebecca to find her seatbelt, which was not able to be located. I must have forgotten to put my wallet away after.
We were duly helped to file a police report for insurance purposes by reception, and that night I either placed a hold or cancelled my cards. I was in hope that the taxi driver was a Good Samaritan. The wallet did have the apartment’s card inside, so hopefully someone would find it and get in contact with reception.
As we were exiting the next morning the receptionist tells us a Hong Kong resident had found the wallet in the taxi, and had waited until the morning to call reception as she was a little intoxicated the previous night. The receptionist lived nearby to this lovely person, would pick the wallet up that night and deliver it to me the next day. So that morning was spent shopping to purchase a little present for the receptionist and a larger present for the Good Samaritan.
After shopping we wandered down to the tram stop. This particular tram transverses the whole north side of the island. It is a good way to see a lot without walking. We travelled all the way to the end and departed at Shau Kei Wan Terminus. We wandered up the street to see a little temple, which was closed and wandered back to sit outside the Shau Kei Wan metro station to have a snack and rehydrate. While I was off getting snacks, Beck was being abused by some old local man. The locals were not engaging this guy, so we figured him for the town nut job, and just ignored him. I guess Beck was a good target, being the only westerner in the vicinity and sitting alone. He stayed away after I joined her. We took the MTR back into town.
Departing the train at Admiralty station, we found it very difficult (as did some others) to get over to Hong Kong park. You could not see the park, but you knew it was close. Not wanting to drag Rebecca and her sore leg too far in the wrong direction we caught a cab. Thankfully there was no argument about the short trip, and if he had taken the long way round we would not have minded. Plenty of people leaving the park to pick up I suppose.
Hong Kong Park is well worth a visit. There are tea rooms and a tea museum. The museum of tea ware was quite intriguing. I spent a lot of time admiring the new and old tea sets. Do not ask me why. I suppose it is just amazing how artistic a utensil can get. After a long day, we had dinner in a Vietnamese restaurant a few doors down from the apartment, which was reasonable, and called it a night.
The next morning my wallet was returned and Beck’s leg was feeling a little better, so we explored locally. I ran up and down a ridiculous amount of stairs taking photos, and Beck did some snapping of her own and some shopping. To avoid a repeat injury to my back we went shopping for another rolling suitcase. Found a nice bargain down what Beck called the Filipino street. Apparently there are a lot of housemaids from the Philippines and we went wandering down their shopping street on their only day off. It was a little congested and off putting for the amputee, but after a little haggling we left happy with our purchase. Not too long after Becks leg was causing her pain so we took it easy for the rest of the day. Dinner was had on Gough Street, but I cannot seem to find the place we ate at. It was OK. It could be one of the restaurants that has changed nine times since its incarnation.
The hop on, hop off bus tour was the call of the following day. Rebecca needed to stay off her leg, and we needed to see more of Hong Kong. It was a beautiful day so we sat atop the bus, took in a little vitamin D and snapped happily from the elevated position. The bus travels around the West part of the island from North to South. The South part of the Island is filled with beach resorts. It was a very nice day for a wander on the beach but we stayed on the bus and returned to the big smoke up North. We did hop off briefly to take a ride on an overpriced boat ride in Aberdeen Harbour. I say overpriced as we were on the boat maybe 15 minutes at the most, while the next bus was nearly a half hour away. It was good to get off the bus regardless.
That night we had another great meal, this time at Basement. I had another great steak along with a fancy bottle of red. It had great atmosphere. Dark enough that you could enjoys each other’s company without feeling like you’re in a large room filled with people.
Our last day we were up early to get the forty five degree vertical tram up to The Peak. Trust that on our last day it was overcast and windy. We got blown a bit, but worth a look. It was very touristy. On a good clear night I would have loved to be there with my camera and a tripod. The tram ride was good fun.
This brings me to the end of our journey. One we may not have had had it not been for Terry and Carolina’s wedding. I find you always get nice surprises when you have no expectations before your journey. It was great to spend a little time with old friends and makes me miss them all the more, and reinforces the importance of travel and living in another country once in your life. All the people I have met have made an impact on me and who I am today. I thank you all for being a part of my life, and I hope to meet many more of you.
Happy travels people.
P.S. – A word on the photography. The images reflect the way I feel in an international city like Hong Kong. Hong Kong for me was like New York. There was form and color, texture and line. I enjoyed it immensely from a photographic sense. But unlike New York, it was very alien, which is reflected by the images of the cats.