There are times we seek to get away, when work or life takes us to the edge of a precipice, when the stresses or boredom of stagnant, menial days presses us to flee far from home. We seek repose in nature, leisure at a sea side resort, peace of mind on a bench in the park, or quiet in a stool at a coffee shop. When I find myself feeling Ishmael’s drizzly November stirring in my soul, I take ship as he did, but that ship sails but for one hour, from Shenzhen to Macau.
Macau wakes and rests within the water; it is a few hills of land before the start of the South China Sea. Walk its streets and feel both the European continent and a Guangdong village. There is much more than casinos here. In fact, casinos are the least interesting bit about this island. You could taste wealth, only to see it swiped away from the baccarat dealer’s hands…or you could taste succulent, suckling pig slowly roasted with perfectly crispy skin. That taste, the taste of Portugal and of Guangdong, will stay with you sempre.
There are churches here as old as baroque Europe, sidewalks designed of black and white and yellow tiles, depicting the creatures of the sea. There is port and vinho verde, and octopus in olive oil. There are neon signs of traditional chinese characters lighting up the narrow streets where small shops offer the necessities of daily life. There is dampness always in the air. Humidity that soaks you and deteriorates the buildings all around so that the sea is in everything.
In the sweltering heat of southern china, there still remains an ocean breeze that can momentarily refresh you. The sweet meats somehow stay edible in this sub-tropical clime, and their smells entice you to sample them from the local vendors. Take an almond cookie into your mouth, and feel all the saliva instantly dried up into its sweet, powdery flour. You can find the typical small diner-like restaurants familiar to Hong Kong, but also stumble upon small gems like the the Pancake House. But whatever you do, don’t walk too fast. Though the climate and many other things are shared between Hong Kong and Macau, the local residents differ greatly in at least the speed of their gait. There is shopping to do, and great wealth, but people here still remember to meander through continental streets, soaking in the history, the atmosphere, and the humidity.
And if in this slower pace you let the colours and flavors of Macau blend before you in a delicious mixture of east and west, well, perhaps it will bring you back to the simple pleasures of life. Enter early on a Sunday afternoon any Portuguese restaurant, and witness families fresh from morning mass enjoying a meal together, leisurely leaning back in their chairs. Life has been slowed down, and the everyday, relished.