Yesterday David and his friends and I went to dim sum for brunch. I had been advised to check out a place called Dragon-I by one of the girls at the Thanksgiving on Tung Chung, and had mentioned it to David’s group over the weekend. Apparently Dragon-I is THE ex-pat place to go for brunch and lunch and dinner and drinks -- apparently one of Soho‘s “see and be seen“ meccas. Although it is owned by wealthy local businessmen, Dragon-I is definitely targeted to the western crowd. It’s as authentic as authentic gets, minus the chicken feet and cow stomach and dog intestines. It’s also very hip and posh and a beautiful restaurant, and as such is very successful. Dragon-I reminds me of Buddakan in New York, although the food and the service (and the price) are not quite that caliber.
Good food + good vibe + good scene = yes please.
Cara, one of David’s friends and also a fellow vegetarian from the Gold Coast (read: I am crushing on her HARD) assured me they had many yummy vege options and took the liberty of ordering for us both. There were five of us in all, and dim sum being an all you can eat meal, we had ourselves a FEAST. It was delicious. And thankfully, having avoided Chinese food for a couple of days, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
From dim sum I rushed off to meet Sandra again, this time to catch the ferry to Macau for the evening. As with every single time Sandra and I have met to do something touristy, we get a late start and it takes longer than it should and all of a sudden it’s dark and nighttime and I’m frustrated and annoyed and wishing I hadn’t bothered.
View from Saint Paul's
In a nutshell, Macau is everything you’re told: a dirtier, skeezier Vegas, minus the wealth and the glitter and anything remotely appealing. It’s crap. We got there just as the sun was setting, a little before 6pm. Hopped in a cab and headed to the ruins of Saint Paul’s, walked along the kitchy tourist street at the bottom, ate too many not great almond cookies (apparently that’s what you eat in Macau: almond cookies), hoofed it all the way across town to see some dumb lighthouse only for it to be dark and closed (DUH), hoofed it back across town to the end of the strip so we could walk along the water and see the casinos, forced down long detours due to construction, and finally arrive at the recommended Portuguese restaurant in The Sands only to be told it’s closed on Mondays.
If I had more time and could do it all again, I would do Macau properly (and entirely differently). I would arrive in the morning, plan to spend the whole day, see the ruins, head down south to the other Portuguese remnants, check out the old western architecture, and then head further still to the southern islands and have a late boozy brunch on the water at Fernando. Alas, after blowing my first two days in HK with frustrations and disappointments, I had run out of time.
Hong Kong and Macau are definitely better if experienced as slices of the western world in Asia. Don’t bother trying to experience them as if they are Asia, you will only be disappointed. I’d been told this by a number of Europeans throughout my travels in China, but couldn’t fully grasp what they meant and why they disliked it so much until I experienced it for myself.
While Hong Kong and Macau are easier to navigate and communicate, they’re pricier and the food is shit. You spend all your time banging your head against a wall going “WHY do so many people rave about this place??“ I’d think you’d be equally frustrated and disappointed coming from either Asia or a western country if this was your approach, and were expecting Asia. They’re doing everything they can to be western, and my experiences were infinitely better once I tapped into that world.