15 October 2009

Macau: In the words of Ani DiFranco, “Falling is Like This”

Caitlin, Karim, Kathleen, and I had long planned for Tuesday to be our day to journey to Macau, another of China’s Special Administrative Regions. Owing much of its heritage to Portuguese colonization and now often coined “The Las Vegas of the East,” Macau provides a unique look into a totally different kind of China.

Upon our arrival, we found a man who offered a free shuttle to Macau Tower with the payment of the entrance fee to the tower. Since we were going to have to pay anyway, we obliged, and the man took us on what seemed like a rather scenic, albeit quick, route to the tower, taking us by a couple of interesting statues and more than one of Macau’s long bridges. Once we got to the tower, the man showed us where to find A. J. Hackett, our bungy jumping company. (Mayhaps I should point out that Karim’s and my desire to bungy jump was the impetus of our entire Hong Kong trip...)

In the elevator, we were joined by three foreigners about our age who looked as if they had just had the most fun and thrilling time of their lives. When I asked, they replied that, yes, they had just gone bungy jumping. As the four of us were still trying to process the fact that we were going to plummet ourselves 233 meters in air attached only to a small cord, this response exhilarated us (well, it exhilarated me, at least.) We arrived at the A. J. Hackett floor, got off the elevator, previewed some pictures and videos so as to decide what package to purchase (we all ended up getting the picture CD, DVD, and all), and then got started: we bought our tickets, changed into required clothing (an A. J. Hackett Macau Tower Bungy t-shirt), and got to it! We emerged from the changing room more than a little nervous but mostly excited. Patrick and Tak helped us get into our harnesses, and then we waited for the platform to clear. Because of something related to weight, I was deemed to be the first jumper: hooray! The four of us were then ushered outside to the platform.

As Mick and Tony helped me suit up and attached me to all of the necessary lines, a videographer interviewed me as a photographer...well, photographed me. With the sounds of a disco mix of Imogen Heap, my three friends cheering for me, and the workers counting down, all of a sudden, I was in complete free-fall over the city of Macau. The fall itself was really only a few seconds, but the controlled rebounds allowed me time to somewhat process things and also to enjoy the view. Thinking back to the falling feeling still gives me a feeling of utter abandon and euphoria - I loved it! The scariest part was standing on the edge of the platform, because a counterweight was attached to my feet that made me feel very unstable for the few seconds that I was standing there. (Never fear - Tony and Mick had my back - literally.) During that time, though, I could look out and see SO FAR in all directions - we were 61 stories in the air, after all! I would go bungy jumping again in a heartbeat. (Incidentally, Karim and a friend from back home who have been both bungy jumping and skydiving say that I definitely need to try the latter. It is on my to-do list!)

I was finally lowered onto a giant cushion, where a Filipino guy and a Macanese guy (both A. J. Hackett employees, not randos) helped me out of my equipment and chatted with me as I waited to watch the other three come down. The Filipino guy (I didn’t catch either of their names) led me to the best viewing area when it was Caitlin’s turn to jump.

After Caitlin and Karim jumped, while we were waiting for Kathleen, I somehow befriended a Filipino woman named Joanna...and then met her entire family...and posed for pictures with them...but not on my camera, dang it, because we had to leave all of our things in a locker up in the tower! That’s okay - it was an interesting, random, fun experience, nonetheless. We then went back up into the tower, collected our things, told everyone goodbye, and stopped at the observation deck floor on our way out of the building.

After leaving Macau Tower, we realized that we were really hungry. I was interested in finding cheap and local food, so we took a taxi to a central area of town. We walked around a bit but didn’t find much to our liking, so we decided to just head to The Venetian, the world’s largest casino and our next goal destination. Wanting to see a bit more of the city and also not wanting to hail another taxi, we hopped from one casino/hotel shuttle bus to the next and, after a walkthrough of MGM Grand Casino and a quick order at McDonald’s, we finally made it to The Venetian complex. When we got there, we saw that we were across from a Hard Rock, so we headed there, only to find that there was no Café attached to the hotel. Sad day. Still hungry, we curiously cut through City of Dreams on our way back to The Venetian - and are we glad we did! There was a free “dragon show” in “The Bubble” that night, so we went to the box office and got tickets, having no idea what we were in for. It is hard to describe via words and pictures, but suffice it to say that the show was absolutely amazing and one of the best decisions of the night.

(If you still have no idea what happened, you are not alone: neither do I! The show was a combination of lights and projection and water and smoke and music and narration in an elliptical dome in the middle of a huge casino/hotel/shopping complex. It was as if we were transported into another world. Sheer brilliance!)

Finally situated at our destination, we went in search of food. By the time we found restaurants, though, they were actually closing, so we ended up ordering some noodles in a 24-hour place in the middle of the casino area that were actually quite good! We then spent a good amount of time just observing the sheer size of the place - not only the casino, but all of the high-end shops outside. One could wander around The Venetian for days, I think! Thus, it ended up being a late night.

Macau definitely has a different flavor than any other place that I have been. There were people and accents from all over the world, that’s for sure. Though we only spent a few hours there, I do feel that I got a decent feeling for the area, through not only doing things but just observing the architecture and activities from bus seats. It was fun, to say the least, and I would definitely return.

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