"Are you free on Saturday?" Jack asks in his wonderful British accent. "We're going to Macao for lunch, there's this wonderful Indian restaurant. The food there is amazing. It's to die for"
He continues on, telling us that the food is so good it will make you orgasm. I roll my eyes, but tell him I'd love to join the group. Jack loves food and can be prone to exaggeration. Even so, when you go out with Jack and Co., you eat well.
It's the Saturday after the National Holiday. All the Chinese people are at work, making up for the days they had/took off during the week. The boarder to Macao is not empty but it's far less crowded than a normal Saturday. We make our way out of China and into the most densely populated region in the world.
There's lines of shuttle buses to take visitors to the various hotels. We get in line to go to the Venetian. The Venetian looks and feels like Las Vegas. Maybe a little bit cleaner. Wide carpeted hallways lead past conference rooms, high end shops, and restaurants. The Casino area is barred off and bouncers direct traffic and prevent pedestrians from wandering through.
The second floor is very reminiscent of the Venetian in Las Vegas. The tall arched ceiling is painted blue with clouds and evenly lit to give you the feeling of being outside... if outside was was lit by small dim lights reflected off a blue and white surface instead of being lit by the sun. High end shopping centers line the walkway which runs along a short canal. An empty gondola is tied to some steps. The bottom of the canal is scattered with coins from China, Hong Kong, and Macao. There'e even a few paper dollars sunk along the bottom.
A trio of performers stand near a small stage. Two men balance on large round balls and hold a flexible beam that must be 12 feet long. The third performer lifts himself onto the beam and performs acrobatics. He bounces up and down, the long beam flexing three or four feet downward. The men on the end strain to hold it in place with their crossed arms. The man on the beam is launched up into the air where he does a back flip and lands back on the beam, perfectly balanced. He does a few more flips and hops down. You can tell that this is hard work from the way they hold themselves when it's done. They make it look really easy.
We stop at Mark & Spensers. We look at the clothing and shop for food. They have imported goods from the UK, tea, coffee, biscuits, chocolate. The veteran travelers have all brought along roller suitcases for food and groceries.
Lunch starts at 11:00am. The Golden Peacock is a fancy Indian restaurant and one of only nine Indian restaurants in the world to have a Michelin Star rating. The lunch buffet is about $200 HKD, just under $26 USD. Our group doesn't leave until nearly 2:00pm.
I sample nearly everything but I'm always partial to the dessert table. It is definitely the best Indian food I have ever had. My favorite dessert, by far, is Baked Gulab Jamun. "Milk dumpling, sugar syrup, cardamom." It's sweet, savory, and wonderful.
After the meal we walk around the Venetian and make our way to the Parisian. It's connected to the Venetian, we just have to walk down 30 foot wide corridors for a few blocks and suddenly where in a building that wants to pretend it's Paris. We stop at a small bakery and are entertained by two couples dressed in tuxedoes and period style dresses as they dance to the music from their portable PA system. They look creepily happy, smiles never never faltering as they dance.
We make a stop at the supermarket on the way back to the border. Macao has some things that are impossible to find in Zhuhai and has better prices on some items.
It's after 6:00pm when I get back to China. The day has flown past. We left Horizon Cove around 9:00am and the only real accomplishment for the day was eating lunch and buying some cookie mix at the supermarket. The sky is dark and while I'm eager to go home, I take my leave from the group and head up into Gongbei to search for a CD shop. Jack says I'm crazy, but the night is still young and I still have energy.
I find the CD store I was looking for. The shop worker keeps trying to get my attention in English. "Excuse me, DVDs, movie? DVD, movie?" I keep telling him I want "Music, CDs." I spend some time looking at all the different options. They have a lot of 3-disc collections for various Chinese artists and I end up buying five sets. It's almost the cost of my lunch, but it's enough music to satiate my ears for quite some time.
Everyday is an adventure in China, and now I have a soundtrack for it.