Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Visiting Hong Kong and Macao

Hong Kong and Macao are like sister cities. Today both are part
of China but for many years Hong Kong was an English colony and Macao was a Portuguese colony.  Hong Kong is very prosperous with many huge skyscrapers.    We like to say Hong Kong is where people make money and Macao is where they go to spend it.  Today Macao is the “Las Vegas of Asia.” They have many casinos including sister casinos to the ones in Las Vegas. The ones in Macao are bigger. In fact the Venetian Macao is the largest casino in the world and one of the world’s largest hotels.

During our visit both cities were decorated for Chinese New Year which starts on Jan. 31. It is a celebration that goes on for many days and it like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter all rolled into one.  Each year is represented by one of 12 animals. The New Year will be the Year of the Horse. People born in the Year of the Horse are said to be warm hearted, intelligent and full of energy. Even though they use our western calendar, according to the ancient Chinese calendar it is the year 4712. Emperor Huang-di invented the calendar in 2637 BC.

“Kung hei fat choy” is the traditional New Year greeting, it means,
“Wishing you success and prosperity.”  To get ready for New Year’s people go to the Flower Market.  Flowers are an important part of Chinese New Year and instead of a Christmas tree they have a small tangerine tree. Tangerines are a symbol of good luck because the word for tangerine in Chinese has the same sound as "luck."  Everything has a special meaning.  Chinese New Year’s Eve is like our Thanksgiving.  The whole family gets together for a huge meal but fish is the most important food because the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance.  This is the time it is traditional to give children red envelopes with money inside.  These are called lai see envelopes which means “lucky.” There are many special celebrations with the start of the new year including the Lion Dance, parades and fireworks. 

There are always so many things to do in Hong Kong.  After a long flight to Asia from the United States we like to go for a walk in the park and beautiful Hong Kong Park was close to our hotel. The park has a tea museum, ponds, an aviary, fountains and other interesting things. 

It is easy to travel between Hong Kong and Macao. We took a fast ferry from Hong Kong and we were in Macao in one hour. There are many ferries every day.  The ferry is a lot like an airplane with food service and televisions to watch.  It is not possible to walk outside while the ferry is moving. 

In Macao we stayed at a small hotel that was part of a college that prepares students to work in hotels and restaurants. The hotel is called a pousada which is a Portuguese word for small hotel. It had little inside patios with Portuguese tile decorations. While we were there we learned to make a Macanese recipe called Shrimp and Rice Vermicelli Soup. Macanese food is a combination of Macao and Portuguese food.  They say it is Portuguese cooking methods using Asian ingredients. Chef John told us it is important to taste-test.  If it is too fishy then just add water. And, if you like hot spicy food, then just add a bit more red peppers. We like learning about different cultures.