MacauTripping Chapter 1: Be Prepared
I'm somewhere over California, sitting in a chair that is hurling through space at 500mph. To my left is my travel companion, a Swiss army knife of technology, casino history and always compelling thoughts and discussion, Hunter. Right this very moment, Hunter has - with great purpose and usual diligence - wrapped everything above his shoulders in equipment designed to turn the living hell that is airline travel into a restful catatonia. Judging by the low murmur of a snore and blissful smirk peeking out of a sensory deprivation mask, it is working. "Be prepared."
To the right of me outside of the window is a splattering of lights, I suspect these Californians, living. Almost directly above me is another light... no not The Jesus. This light, the only other visible light in airplane cabin is shining down on the lap of the small, yet fully reclined man occupying the seat in front of me. He's reading the yesterday's newspaper from a destination we won't arrive at until the day after tomorrow.
In addition to the seat back that is stuffed in my face in front of me, is the rest of this 15 hour flight, plus a six hour layover in Shanghai, a two hour connecting flight to Macau and eight hotel stakes over ten days. Grand Lisboa, Sofitel Ponte 16, Crown at City of Dreams, Studio City, Galaxy Macau, Banyan Tree, Encore and Sands Macau.
But first, we just have to get there.
We've made lots of jokes about China Eastern Airlines, giving it the nickname "Air Ukraine." I guarantee that I asked a number of people familiar with traveling through Asia if China Eastern was legit. They are legit. China Eastern is one of China's largest airlines. The plane that I'm writing this on is a Boeing 777, that is roughly a year old. The interior is grand, with slowly pulsating LED lights, frothy mocha upholstery, sharply dressed flight crew and extensive in-flight entertainment options. Like all major airlines, check in was organized chaos, TSA lines were unbelievably long. Only one thing was missing from this strangely typical travel adventure - a plane. This is important... y'know... "Be prepared."
Due to traffic at LAX (aka, the 405 of the sky) our plane was late to the gate. When it finally did arrive, seating was organized in a Southwest Airlines style cattle call. More chaos... but we found our seats reasonably quickly with the other unwashed masses in economy.
The seats were surprisingly comfortable, my knees are not squished into my rib cage and I don't feel like I'm sitting on Hunter's lap. He may have a different take. Even with a bag full of
nudie mags camera gear stowed unter the seat in front of me, I'm able to stretch my legs out all the way. Everything started off great, but after hour 8 spent in any seat... everything starts to hurt. For me, the trouble spot is where my ancestral tail used to be attached.
Within minutes after take off, the cabin begins to smell like steamed cabbage, with tinged of garlic and some kind of flour product. Please be dim sum. Please be dim sum. Please be dim sum.
The in flight entertainment system features duty free shopping and an array of Chinese and Hollywood movies. I'm surprised to see the latest Bond film Spectre and Oscar winner The Revenant... but more surprised to see the latest Star Wars reboot. I'm tempted to think that booking on China Eastern airlines may have been a coup de grace. Then again, both Spectre and Force Awakens both kinda sorta sucked. I look forward to your comments below.
7032 miles to go
A voice pierces the semi-catatonia induced and hugged by the white noise of airplane air circulation and asks in a delicate Chinese accent "would you like steak or shrimp?"
Tough choice. Knowing only this, what would you pick? Hunter is out cold, I can't ask him. Being that I'm convinced that this meal is steamed dumplings, I put my chips on the shrimp.
The flight attendant grabbed the color coded dish and dropped it on tray, I peeled back the the foil to reveal...
Steamed baby bok choy, spaghetti and shrimp in spicy red sauce. My nose was right. Not dim sum, but I'll take it. The entree was complimented by a side of mayo potato salad, a warm bun and a yummy flanish lemon cake. Possibly the best plane food I've had.
Over the course of the flight(s) we're fed twice more. Breakfast choice was between pork or omelette. Hunter got the pork, which was pork noodles. I got the omelette which was a puffy egg puck covered in two pumps of movie theatre nacho cheese. I fucking loved it. And the fruit and the salads.
We ate in the Shanghai airport as well. Hunter got a spicy beef noodle soup and I got a chicken sandwich and a Beer #2 - a Stella Artois (beer #1 was a Old Rasputin ale at LAX).
I went to Starbucks and got a latte and a swiss roll before we got on the plane to Macau.
Hunter got a "Red Bull" - same flavor, different can, no carbonation and served warm. Room temperature drinks appears to be a trend here.
The flight from Shanghai to Macau was interesting experience. Our gate was located in an overflow basement area below the main terminal. The room featured a duty free shop and some vending machines. The room was packed and gave off an odor you normally find when encountering an indoor swimming pool.
When the flight to Macau was called, passengers were loaded onto a seatless, standing handle bus which then drove out to a remote part of the airstrip. We disembarked the bus and were faced with the first true blast of the hot and humid weather as we queued up on the tarmac to climb the stairs onto the plane. Hunter melted.
Inbound from Shanghai to Macau we were fed again, Hunter passed on the meal (that boy needs to learn how to eat) and I got "Chicken Noodle" which was also great... at least for airplane food.
The clear weather, great views of the islands that dot the coast and billowy clouds made the flight an eye popping delight. I prepped my camera for the fly in and managed to get some stunning shots of Hong Kong as we flew by.
Arrival in Macau was epic. The pilot did a full approach and circle of Cotai and the Macau peninsula before heading east and descending into arrival at Macau International Airport. The clear skies and afternoon sunlight made for stunning photographic opportunity.
Cotai Strip - June 21, 2016
Macau Peninsula - June 21, 2016
Ferry Terminal, Downtown Macau on approach - June 21, 2016
I kinda got choked up seeing Macau with my own two eyes again. This place - as strange, foreign and bizarre as it is - is very special to me. I turned to Hunter and quipped "Daddy's home!" referencing our dear friend Tim Hundy's trademark refrain upon arriving in Vegas. Hunter said "you should post that." There, it's posted.
This has been the longest day of my life - a day which started about three days ago has just started again for the fourth time today. But that will have to wait for the next post.
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