Macau is a small island off the coast of Hong Kong. It’s about a 60-minute ferry ride and is known as the Las Vegas of the Eastern World. Of course we were going to check it out! But first, we had an early morning errand to run.
Tony wanted to get pearls for some family and friends. Pearls are extremely inexpensive in Hong Kong and are “the thing to bring back.” There is a place recommended to get them – Sandra’s Pearls. The day before, we had attempted to find her store. We took a 45-minute train ride followed by a 20-minute walk to find out we were quite some distance from the city, in the suburbs of Hong Kong, and that the pearl place was nowhere to be found. It was getting dark and a little sketchy when we decided it would be best to just head back to the hotel and look for the pearls early in the morning, before our day trip to Macau.
So, we were up at the crack of dawn and on the train to the Jade Market, where Sandra’s Pearls was located (which we found out after some extensive research and information from the locals). The Jade Market was just that. A market. Small booths, probably 100 of them, all lined up and crammed into a tiny tent. We walked the aisles and aisles of locals trying to sell us jewelry, convinced that Sandra’s must not be in existence any longer, when finally, the booth was right there. It wasn’t Sandra herself, but a very nice, young gentleman helped us. I wasn’t planning on buying anything (jewelry just isn’t my thing). But about 20 minutes later, Tony and I left, not a coin or bill left in our wallets.
We made our way to the nearest ATM. Up until this point, we had taken the train everywhere, but today we were going to call a taxi so we could get to the ferry terminal as quickly as possible. At that we did.
We arrived at the ferry terminal and proceed up about seven escalators (as we had become quite accustomed to) to the area where tickets could be purchased. There was a very aggressive man trying to sell us first-class tickets to the ferry, which included a meal and drinks. We went for it. That is, until they asked for our passports (Hong Kong and Macau are both separate territories of China and have separate entry requirements). So…back down the seven escalators, back to the taxi, and back to the struggle of explaining where our hotel was. We made it back to the hotel fairly quick, and I waited in the car while Tony went upstairs to get our passports out of the safe. Thank goodness the driver understood what we were doing! It could have been interesting had he just driven off with me.
Back at the ferry terminal, and up the escalators again, we found our salesman and showed him our passports. Unfortunately he didn’t want to offer us the first-class tickets anymore. We purchased the coach tickets and he directed us to an angry looking woman on the other side of the building.
The woman, with short hair and very bulky and stiff security clothing on, led us to an elevator where we went down a few floors, through some hallways, up another elevator, through some more hallways, and outside to the loading area. It appeared that this wasn’t where everyone else was boarding. There was a long metal dock that ran alongside the building with several boats lined up against it. We walked past half a dozen boats, all vacant with no one around. Finally, we stopped and the woman indicated that we should wait where we were. She went inside and a few minutes later four uniformed men appeared. One grabbed the back of my chair and started pushing me towards a very steep ramp. He turned me around so I was facing away from the ship and the other men all crowded around me and my wheelchair. I tried to stop them to indicate that it would be safer and easier for me to go up the ramp facing forward, but they fought with me and proceeded to pull me up the ramp backwards. They were insistent on me keeping my hands on my lap, not allowing me to hold onto my chair. The ramp was at least 45 degrees, and gravity simply starting pulling me down and out of my chair. I was a bit panicked as every time I tried to grab for something to hold myself into my chair, they scolded me – “No, no, no!” Finally, Tony held his hand out in front of him, as if he were telling someone to stop, reached around the men, and put his palm against my chest to hold me in. At this point I was pretty upset that I wasn’t able to get onto the ship the way I wanted to. And how dare they tell me what I am and am not capable of doing! I was the one that had been using a wheelchair for the past 20 years. After they directed us to our assigned seats and watched me seat myself, one of the men looked at me sternly and told me, “Put my seatbelt on.” They walked away quickly and all I could do was stare at them with my arms in the air. It was like I was a two-year old who needed guidance on safety. They hadn’t told anyone else on the ship to put their seatbelt on!
We arrived in Macau and they proceeded to get me off of the boat the same way, facing forward so that I nearly fell out. At this point, I just let them go through the motions. There was simply no point in arguing, especially with the language and cultural barriers. No one here disrespected authority and I wanted to be respectful to their culture.
Macau itself was exactly as the books and websites described it – just like Vegas. It had the same carpets, the same smells, the same cheap glitz all over. It even had the sex. At one point, we saw about three or four scandalously dressed young women, legs and artificial breasts well exposed, strutting up and down the hallways. I can only assume they were waiting for their next clients.
After a quick dinner and some wandering through the casinos – The Venitian, MGM, and another very old casinos – we headed for Macau Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. Here we took an elevator to the top and watched as people bungee jumped off the building. I bored quickly with this and found myself curiously looking around the top floor. Here I ran into a bar, had a Macau beer, and found a very interesting Australian man who had moved to Macau solely to run the bungee jumping operation. He was a fascinating person full of stories!
Shortly thereafter, we headed back down and back to the ferry. As we were walking back, I could hear a squeaking noise coming from my front right wheel. I was trying to ignore it, pretending that it was perfectly fine when Tony said, “You’re making some awfully scary noises.”
“I know…” I responded, wondering how I was going to fix this, at least temporarily until I got back to The States. I knew it needed grease, and had even thought about melting butter from breakfast the next day. It was late though, so I would deal with it in the morning.
On the way back, the waters in the bay were rough and so was the ferry ride. I was leaning against Tony’s shoulder, half asleep, when I heard the hurling noises from a woman towards the back of the ship. It went on for about 20 minutes, and it took everything I had to focus on not becoming the next sick person. I was glad to reach solid land.
The next morning, as I showered, I started to stress about my squeaky wheel. I knew it wouldn’t make it much longer before it would completely stop turning. I also knew the axle had hair and dirt wrapped all around it. This was a pretty common thing, for my wheels to collect hairs, strings, and dirt. I wondered if removing some of the hair would help in keeping it turning and prevent the obnoxious squeaking that was going on. So, after my shower, I was determined to get the “hairball” off.
Tony had just finished his shower when he came out of the bathroom and saw me sitting on the bed with a tweezers in my hand, trashcan by my side, facing my upside down wheelchair. He was perplexed and confused with everything I was doing. But it worked! I used my tweezers to pull some of the hair away from the axle on my wheel, and eventually, after several minutes of playing mechanic, the wheel was turning smoothly and quietly.
The wheel worked almost as if it were new for the last four days of our trip. It was in the airport once we arrived back to The States that the loud screeching of a worn out wheel began again. I proudly propelled myself through the airport to my next gate, thankful I was home, and uncaring of all the staring passengers.