Macau, Las Vegas of the East

Smoggy casino top.

Smoggy casino top.

 

We were told that Chinese people love to gamble. Macau has developed an economy for itself by becoming a gambling centre. Some of the casinos are modelled on ones found in Las Vegas, including the Venetian.

The Venetian

The Venetian

The Venetian

The Venetian

 

Our hotel was more or less across the street from the Venetian, and when Google earth filmed the ‘strip’ in December 2008, our hotel was still under construction.  It too had a casino which you had to enter in order to sit within the lobby.

This view is from the pool area of our hotel which was lovely and cool that evening.

 

Night life at the Venetian.

Night life at the Venetian.

Monochrome Macau

Here’s a selection of photos from Macau which, I thought, looked better in monochrome.  The better to show off the smog in the first two photos.

 

In the waters around Macau

In the waters around Macau

Another view from Mont Forte

Another view from Monte Fort

On Fort Monte with a view of Grand Lisboa Casino and Hotel in the northern half of Macau,

On Monte Fort with a view of the Grand Lisboa Casino and Hotel in the northern half of Macau.

 

The facade of St. Paul's with those lovely striped stairs resulting from the Black and White conversion.

The facade of St. Paul’s with those lovely striped stairs resulting from the Black and White conversion.

Senado square.

Senado square.

My partner and I decided to forego the temptation of the casinos in Taipa, and the swimming pool at the hotel, and walk into the commercial centre of Taipa. At the pharmacy below we finally found aspirin, which we had been unable to figure out how to buy since Shanghai! It wasn’t quite dark, but it was smoggy and the buildings were tall so the lights are already on. The boys??? Well, make up your own mind.

In the 'city' of Taipa in the northern half of the island which makes up the bottom half of Macau.

In the ‘city’ of Taipa in the northern half of the island which makes up the bottom half of Macau.

Macau – China – Two Systems

Zhuhai Fisher Girl

Zhuhai Fisher Girl

Our day went like this: breakfast in Zhongshan, the bus to Zhuhai for a comfort break (the worst of the whole trip?) and a visit to the Zhuhai Fisher Girl.  Back on the bus to a ferry terminal for a short ferry ride and immigration check into Macau, several tourist stops in ‘mainland’ Macau, lunch, a Buddhist temple, bus to the ‘island’ part of Macau, our hotel and a free late afternoon and evening. Map of Zhongshan and Zhuhai  here.  Scroll down the map a bit to get to Macau.

The first photo below was taken from the ferry boat, on the Macau side.  At the time, I didn’t notice that the two young men on the boats in this photo are wearing fatigues and are dressed the same.   I wonder whether they are either inspecting the boats for contraband, or are crew on the boats which patrol the coast doing their chores.

A city across the bay.

A city across the bay.

Macau was a Portuguese trading colony in the South China sea, in the same way that Hong Kong was for Britain. Macau, like Hong Kong, is a Special Administrative Area under the Chinese policy of “one country, two systems.” Portugal handed over Macau to the People’s Republic of China on December 20, 1999, but Portuguese remains the primary language with Cantonese and Mandarin also to be heard.

From the ferry terminal we took a bus to Monte Fort and its garden from which we could see the city laid out around us. The fort’s walls were lined on the inside with planters of Canna lilies.

Inside the park.

Inside the park.

Outside the park.

Outside the park.

An overhead preview of the facade of St. Paul's.

An overhead preview of the facade of St. Paul’s.

We went to visit the facade of St. Paul’s (which will feature in my next Chinese post) and then walked down the stairs in front of the ruin and on to explore the pedestrian precinct of Macau.

Below St. Paul's.

Below St. Paul’s.

Next Chinese post: Christian Macau

South China

Disclosure: the photo quality in this post is awful..

Pose for the Canadian tourists.

Pose for the Canadian tourists.

During our morning visit to the Chen Family Ancestral Temple, two lovely Chinese ladies desperately wanted their photo taken with our oldest tour member, a cheerful 82 year old man. (This happened frequently!) They also wanted him to have the pictures, so I took the photos with their camera, they emailed them to me (good reason for carrying business cards), and I then forwarded them to him. In the process, I took a portrait of them.

We had lunch in Guangzhou (Canton). The menu looks like neither a Cantonese restaurant in Canada nor what we were served as part of a bus-tour group. Both of the latter probably dumbed down for a western palate.

Menu items in Guangzhou (Canton)

Menu items in Guangzhou (Canton)

Leaving the restaurant and returning to the buses we passed a line of police motorcycles parked in the lane usually used by scooters and motorcycles in larger cities. I doubt that any rider was about to protest that they couldn’t use the lane.

Tour buses, two narrow sidewalks and police motorcycles.

Tour buses, two narrow sidewalks and police motorcycles.

After boarding the bus we drove from Guangzhou to Zhongshan to spend the night.

I snapped a few shots from the bus window as this was our first glimpse of south China’s intensive food growing. The last photo is pretty fuzzy but appears to be fish ponds inhabited by ducks. Two protein crops in one pond. I could be wrong and would love to be corrected.

Another impressive bridge.

Another impressive bridge.

Acres and acres of roadside aquaculture.

Acres and acres of roadside aquaculture.

Intensive protein farming

Intensive protein farming

Zhongshan proved to be a jumping off point for Macau but otherwise, as the next couple of Chinese posts will show, it was a quiet riverside location with unremarkable architecture but with some great opportunities for street photography. (We weren’t shown any must-see tourist attractions!)

Next Chinese post: Riverside Zhongshan.

Li River Karst Hills

 

Yangshuo near Guilin China

 

Early one morning,

just as the sun was rising,

we took a bu-us to

the  lovely River Li.

And they're off....

And they’re off….

 

 

Standing at the bow.

Standing at the bow.

 

Smog or haze?

Smog or haze?

Back story:  The previous day our tour group had debarked from its cruise on the Yangtze, visited pandas at the zoo, People’s Square, and a shopping precinct before flying  from Chongqing to Guilin and taking a 90 minute bus ride from Guilin to Yangshuo.  This made for a very long day which made some of us very cranky (not me!)  We spent the night in Yangshuo in a typical tourist hotel. The hotels pictured below are on the other side of the street from ours, with cones of Karst behind them.

 

The tourist hotel strip.

The tourist hotel strip.

 

It was quite hazy and/or smoggy on the river and the distant Karst hills were quite faint. I’ve used Lightroom to add contrast and vibrance to the river scenes.

Next Chinese posts: The Li River and Yangshuo

Chongqing Street Photography

At least one pig isn't flying.

At least one pig isn’t flying.

All flying!

All flying! But no pigs.

Giant pinwheels.

Giant pinwheels.

At the intersection of the two major streets making up this shopping precinct was a giant monument, which also shows up in the first photo in the previous post. It must have been a meeting place, because most people were scanning the swirling crowd.

Waiting for ....

Waiting for ….

I don’t recall seeing food vendors on the high-end pedestrian streets, but there must have been at least one just beyond where our bus was parked. The next two photos were taken from the bus window before we pulled away from Chongqing. The girl with the hat caught my eye and grinned.

A style of her own!

A style of her own!

At  least the garbage was in the bin!

At least the garbage was in the bin!

Next China post – Chongqing children

Conspicuous Consumption Chongqing

Ah, Mont Blanc. I still dream of owning one some day.

Ah, Mont Blanc. I still dream of owning one of you some day.

The ads and the high-end stores would have you believe that much money is being spent in China on luxury goods.  Our tour guides told us several times that Chinese people with money do like to show it off.  We found that branded goods –  at least the ones we looked at: Apple products, and cameras – were much more expensive in China.

The faded look to the buildings is because of - your guessed it - smog.

The faded look to the buildings is because of – you guessed it – smog.

I don't suppose Samsung is considered a glamourous item these days.

I don’t suppose Samsung is considered a luxury
item these days.

Classical columns and giant ads front one shopping arcade.

Classical columns and giant ads front one shopping arcade.

Another interesting side note on consumption was that we were given two opportunities for buying knock-offs, another product for which China is known.

I liked the graphics on this window.  We were inside this shopping centre because someone in our group had discovered that the washrooms were really nice!

I liked the graphics on this window. We were inside this shopping centre because someone in our group had discovered that the washrooms were really nice!

Warning: selfie below…

I have never understood the fascination with high end purses...

I have never understood the fascination with high end purses…

Next Chinese post: more from Chongqing’s high-end shopping district.

Chongqing, China

After a four-night, three-day cruise up the Yangtze river, we docked at Chongqing, boarded a bus and were taken to see the city’s tourist attractions. All five photos in this post were shot through a bus window at one time or another during the day.

Smog obscures the highways and buildings of the Chongqing riverside.

Smog obscures the highways and buildings of the Chongqing riverside.

Chongqing (pronounced Chong/ching) (formerly Romanized as Chungking) is one of four direct-controlled municipalities (the other three are Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This means Chongqing doesn’t report to a province or other level of government, but straight to the centre.

The municipality is said to be the largest in China in both area and population. It reaches a width of 470 kilometres (290 mi) from east to west, and a length of 450 km (280 mi) from north to south. The central city’s population is about 30 million with the greater area exceeding 35 million.

This Guardian article is eight years old, and a little long, but looks at the effect of rapid urbanization in China on a cross section of Chinese people living in Chongqing.

Colours muted by the smog

Colours muted by the smog.

Another example of the engineering prowess of the Chinese.

Another example of the engineering prowess of the Chinese.

During World War II and the Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945) Chongqing was the provisional capital of China and the headquarters of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) government. More than 50 embassies moved to Chongqing with him at that time.  The building below probably predates even that period.

An older part of Chongqing, which would have been interesting to explore.

An older part of Chongqing, which would have been interesting to explore. Sigh.

People work hard in China, and the picture below shows typical tree protection and planting work beside highways. In fact, trees that I would have considered as fully grown, still had their tripod supports.

The roadsides and medians throughout China were 98% immaculate.

The roadsides and medians throughout China were 98% immaculate.

Next post: Pandas!

Ghost City, Fengdu China

A beautiful entrance to the Ghost City proper.  It was very foggy/smoggy and humid.

A beautiful entrance to the Ghost City proper. It was very foggy/smoggy and humid.

It was a steamy and smoggy day when we were offered a ‘free’ tour of The Ghost City. In other words, this tour was included in our overall tour/cruise price. Fengdu is 170 Km downstream from Chongqing and it was our last excursion before we docked and debarked the next morning.  There was a considerable amount of uphill trekking to get to the site entrance. And considerably more to get to the more esoteric aspects of the ghostly city.

Another view of the entrance area.

Another view of the entrance area.

An interesting thing about Chinese floral displays was that they were not planted in the ground, but left in their pots.  Is there something to be learned by northern park designers from this?  There certainly didn't appear to be much vandalism - but then in China, in 'official' places you wouldn't expect any.

An interesting thing about Chinese floral displays was that they were not planted in the ground, but left in their pots. Is there something to be learned by northern park designers from this? There certainly didn’t appear to be much vandalism – but then in China, in ‘official’ places you wouldn’t expect any.

The city has been around for nearly 2,000 years, filling it with a spooky sense of the past. The story begins back in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), when two officials decided to run away and live out their lives, where they eventually, the story goes, became immortal. Yin and Wang, the names of the officials, were combined during a later dynasty to mean “King of the Underworld.”There is background to be found here and here.

Superficially, Fengdu looked like a fairly typical older shrine.

Fairly typical Chinese architecture, roof lines and colour.

Fairly typical Chinese architecture, roof lines and colour.

Painting detail.

Painting detail.

Roof detail; mythical figures.

Roof detail; mythical figures.

A terrace for gathering and meditating on what one has seen?

A terrace for gathering and meditating on what one has seen?

 

The end of the tour - vendors selling all manner of spirited souvenirs.

The end of the tour – vendors selling all manner of spirited souvenirs.

There was a long set of stairs back down to the cruise ship.

Returning to the ship from Fengdu.

Returning to the ship from Fengdu.

That’s enough photos for one post, and a good storyteller leaves things hanging.
The next post will include the ghost-like aspect of Fengdu.

Wushan: Living by the Yangtze

Wushan. A brand new cityscape - since 1997.

Wushan. A brand new cityscape – since 1997.

The port of departure for our tour of the Three Little Gorges was Wushan.   If  you look online for images of Wushan, you will see some amazing ‘before’ photos, before the Three Gorges Dam raised the water level and required the removal of hundreds of buildings.

City by the River-3269

High rise accommodation on steep hills.

High rise accommodation on steep hills.

Tours up the Three Little Gorges are an important economic feature of Wushan.

Tours up the Three Little Gorges are an important economic feature of Wushan.

As we docked, returning from our tour of the three little gorges, we were greeted with a huge sign and very dirty water.

Another delightful Chinese sign.

Another delightful Chinese sign.

The Yangtze River at Wushan  polluted by plastic and much more.

The Yangtze River at Wushan polluted by plastic and much more.

I only took one or two photos of other towns on the river, both from further downstream.

Just above Yichang.

Just above Yichang.

Somewhere on the Yangtze between the dam and Wushan.

Somewhere on the Yangtze between the dam and Wushan.

Next post: Community Theatre.