Just noticed that Picasa Web Albums added a new feature where you can link your photos directly on to Google Maps… the idea is not new but again, the simplicity of their interface wins me over every time.
Click HERE to see an example.
Trying to catch up on my posts here… After touring the bay in Hong Kong as I mentioned, I took a random ferry and ended up in Lama Island. Basically a fishing community + a power plant and a single wind powered generator. Walked around and shot this little film:
Bizar to see all the signs in Portuguese and in Chinese. Like Hong Kong, Macau was handed over back to China about 10 years ago but it is still under Portuguese law (hence a huge number of lawyers in the area) and will have a formal border for the next 50 years… part of the hand over agreement. But unlike Hong Kong, the Portuguese have been here for the past 500 years while the British were in Hong Kong for only about 100 years. All in all it is a small area full of casinos – that and construction are the main businesses of Macau. So much so that apparently the government has a surplus of cash every year – that is how much money gambling brings to the table. There are about 10 very big casinos and about another 10 being built. One to be noted is the Venetian – HUGE, HUGE, HUGE… looks like there could be over 1000 rooms in the place and it will include real canals, gondolas and replicas of the bridges and some monuments of Venice. Most of these constructions are being built on reclaimed land (landfills). Real estate prices have quadrupled in the last 5 years. On the other hand, the northern part of Macau holds one of the highest population densities in the world!! I am incredibly thankful to Miguel and Diana who informed me all about Macau, took me all over the island, and explained to me how it all worked there. We had a great Chinese lunch with a bunch of other Portuguese expats – great fun. Here are the pictures:
Just got home (3am) after an early start – went to Macau and met with Diana and Miguel, a Portuguese couple (interior designer and architect) friends of Andrea’s. They took me all around Macau, had a great traditional Chinese lunch, saw the other islands and outskirts of Macau and came back to Hong Kong. Went straight out to meet with Thomas, Mirada + friends at a restaurant then to the nightclub JP’s magazine was hosting a party. Great time… too tired to fill in the details, select and upload pictures… so tomorrow there will be more details. For now, here is a quick video I did yesterday when I went to the Zoo through the escalators, went all the way down again to the ferries:
Started out as a very lazy day in bed sadly watching the rain pour out of the sky wondering what the heck I was going to do if the rain did not stop. Went down for breakfast, came back up, watched some more TV… at around 11 the color outside changed… the sun is out! Got my “gear” together (minus my wallet) and went out. This time my money and credit card in my pocket. Started going up the escalators to the Mid Levels – there must be 20 or 30 escalators that take you up and up and up. Incredible addition to all of the walkways in the city. Videos coming shortly…. It was so hot again that my camera fogged up INSIDE – can’t be good for the CMOS chip or the lens. Strolled around the Zoo and Botanical Garden – not that exciting. Walked back down to the sea level and got on a cruise around the bay – nice view point of the Hong Kong skyline + there was a recording talking about each building and location we passed by… quite instructive. Once I came back I was thinking “what the hell am I going to do now?”. To be honest, I am getting a little tired of aimless sightseeing… going to places just because they are there to be visited. Walking along the harbor I saw another ferry… this one would take me to Lama Island… had no idea what I would find there but took it anyway. After 30 minutes on board, heading towards the south of Hong Kong island we got to a small bay on Lama Island where there seemed to be no roads, a bunch of seafood restaurants and a hiking path! Great! Started going uphill and ran into a cemetery. Out of respect I decided not to take pictures but went ahead and explored a pathway marked by an arch – no idea what was written on it. I reach a closed gate with a notice posted on it saying that electrical service was suspended for lack of payment… interesting… not even temples (if it was a temple) was allowed some months without pay. As I was going back down the path I hear to dogs running down from the “temple” towards me… I pick up the pace… I hear a metallic thud and think that the gate stopped the dogs on their tracks. Well… it stopped only one of the dogs who kept barking at the gate. But the other dog went through the gate and was running towards me – I could not see him yet – just heard him running. I thought of running as well but then that would be it… the perfect excuse for it to get me. So I turned around and finally saw this mixture of German Shepard and some local bread. This dog was big! So I whistled and him friendly… that didn’t stop him… so instead I became aggressive – I shouted and clapped my hands and at the same time continued to go down the path… uff!! That stopped him. With renewed energy and tons of adrenaline in my blood I went on the marked trail around the island. The vegetation reminds me a little of the Brazilian one… At night went out to meet Thomas… we went bar hopping around Lan Kwai Fong for a little bit. He then left and I went on to Wan Chai – another “entertainment” district. There I found a bunch of regular bars packed with people and also a bunch of not so regular bars with girls pulling you in, offering massages, a free beer and so on… went into a couple of them only to find a typical film setting of a bunch of drunk westerners and hoards of small Asian girls trying to make a buck. Quite depressing actually.
After waiting a little for the morning rain to stop I started walking around the area close to my hotel and taking some pictures. It is a mixture of high rises and of tiny shops on the streets. One of the things that impressed me the most are all of the pedestrian walkways on top of the roads connecting all of the buildings… and every single building has shopping malls… Met with Thomas for lunch – a friend from college who has been living here for the past two years. Had some great Chinese food. Then went to the Peak – a viewing area – you take a tram all the way to the top – very steep gradient. At the top I lost my wallet somehow… must have fallen from my camera bag or, less likely, someone took it. The local authorities were extremely helpful in trying to locate it and were kind enough to let me go down the tram without a ticket. Bummer… fortunately I did not have that much money inside and only one credit card. My Brazilian driver’s license is gone so I will have to start walking around with my passport, which I hate doing… I still have hope that they find it and call me giving the good news but I think it is really gone. Argh!!! In any case, here are the pictures:
Ah… so organized and clean! Tall and thin buildings… the streets are bustling with people and the fresh produce markets are incredible – fish, fruits, meat, vegetables and all that you would expect from Chinese street vendors. Still getting my bearings around – tomorrow I will start to explore.
So it goes on… wanted to check the web site for the French Photo magazine (www.photo.fr) and it is BLOCKED by the government!!
So rich yet so backward…
Quick fact – Qatar is the country that has the most natural gas in the world… even more than Russia. By 2010 they expect to have tapped into these reserves and be the world leaders in natural gas. They are currently building 70… yes 70 processing plants at the moment.
To start off I must say that I am glad to leave Doha… the prices here are absurd! I had one clean t-shirt left in my bag so I had to do laundry. I searched town for a laundry but found none. Had to do it at the hotel. Came out to be USD 100!!!!! I complained and all I got was that I should have asked before hand. Then at the the airport my bike was in excess weight… fine… it was 25kg over the 30kg allowance. Turns out that I would have to pay USD 500!!!!! I complained and complained saying that I did not have to pay anything to come to Qatar – mind you – it is the same ticket!! Paris to Hong Kong via Doha. They reduced it to 10kg of excess leaving me without an option but pay USD 325!!! And hey were pissed off that I was complaining. At least the WiFi is free here at the airport. Ufff…
So… drove around some more and went to a fort about 20km outside of Doha called Umm Salal Mohammed Fort – as per the guide’s description it was built during the late 19th century and has high thick walls and an “impressive” facade. “Inside the fort, you will find several examples of architectural and decorative elements.” Well… couldn’t go inside anywhere. In any case, took some more pictures of all the construction that is going on around town. Very impressed by how much of it is going on… I also lost track of how many bridges are already erected with no roads on either side. Here are the pictures:
Tonight is going to be another hassle… have to check out of the hotel at 4pm… could be worse – a 12pm check out – and then hang around waiting for my flight which leaves at 1am!! Guess I am going to be able to finish my book “Guns, Germs, and Steel – The Fates of Human Societies” by Jarred Diamond. An interesting account of how agriculture, language, politics, and the spread of civilization occurred in the world, focusing on why it developed faster in some areas and not in others.