Travel curtailment? Just enjoy places locally

2020-07-13 02:23     Comment:0

Commentary by Swallow Xu*

At 9:20 p.m. on Sunday, July 5, I was gasping in the queue when a friend told me on WeChat that I could not cross to Macau from the Gongbei border, which was soon to close at 10 p.m. But I just went ahead with a gambling spirit… I felt as if I had won a huge prize when I finally, successfully, crossed into Macau. It was my last “legal” day of being allowed to be in Zhuhai, as my 1-week-valid nucleic test (negative) would expire the next day, and government information (a bit confusing) seemed to mandate that Macau residents like me who got the approval to visit Zhuhai for business or a special reason must cross via the Hengqin or Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge checkpoints. Now I can happily conclude that residents who, armed with a special permit, have visited Zhuhai (since July 6, extended to 8 other Great Bay Area cities) could also cross from the Gongbei checkpoint to Macau!

Aiya! The whole process, from submitting an e-application and getting e-approval, then booking the test, doing it with a big crowd in the Pac On test facility, to crossing the border with a signed guarantee letter (at the time guaranteeing one shall not leave Zhuhai an inch ) and switching health codes (of the mainland and Macau), was almost like a war-time anecdote.

Jim Gordon, a user on wrote about WWII measures:

Travel and tourism were drastically curtailed in Europe. Transportation links were reduced and tightened, although cargo movements were increased between some countries. Airline, maritime and rail transportation across borders was restricted to officially-sanctioned travel… Every country tightened their border controls. Business travel continued, but only with greater official involvement and documentation. Departure controls were instituted, not only to control emigration…

Current travel curtailment caused by the pandemic is similar, or virtually the same. Does it hurt you? News said that “Portugal slams UK decision to leave it off quarantine list as ‘absurd’” and that Washington is offended by the EU barring entry to Americans. At this special moment of time, indeed there is a lot of frustration over travel, essential or leisure. A few local friends have been blocked out of Macau, their home city, for the whole 2020 up to now due to the quarantine measure. I, like many of you, have had to postpone travel plans again and again. Now it is said that it looks optimistic that we might be able to start travelling again in 2021.  All around the world, tourist destinations are quiet, while airlines and travel related industries are suffering big losses. Dare anyone buy Cathy Pacific shares when the price has plummeted?

Nevertheless, after the storm comes the rainbow. During this hard-earnt visit to Zhuhai, I saw all has recovered. The city buzzed with vitality with all businesses open and some people were not wearing a facemask (on buses it’s mandatory to wear one). At a busy restaurant, diners including family patrons queued up in the small lobby waiting for a table for yum cha, those already seated were enjoying the meal time beaming with joy. All vehicles on major roads were running at the mainland China speed…

I was lucky enough to be able to get the application for my Zhuhai Residence Card done, which will allow me to travel between eight cities in the Greater Bay Area and Macau with a nucleic acid test (negative) according to current policy (which is surely subject to changes with the COVID-19 developments). Still, deterred by the troubling red tape for a test, I will reduce travelling even to nearby cities, never mind abroad.

Now, at a time when we can’t travel due to destinations’ quarantine requirements or because of personal cautions, how to calm the travellers’ nerves?

Try to tour around our own city, behold things we ignored in the past and try different local offerings. Macau is a mini-cosmos with everything from landscapes, attractions – historical or modern – to unique gastronomy, which all deserve our appreciation and exploration anew. The way is to open your eyes and mind to discover the small beauties and surprises.

On Thursday, I encountered a wonderful double lion dance performance in the inner street of Bairro da Horta da Mitra. The drummer and dancers were young men, whose passion for the traditional art was infectious. How nice to see the ancient lions becoming alive in this old district with all the rhythmic exciting drum beats and gongs! On the last Sunday of June, I visited Coloane, to taste the famous egg tarts and have a pleasant Macanese meal alfresco after not doing these things for such a long time. Finally, I went to Cheoc Van Beach, my last visit was perhaps eight years ago. All has been kept intact, as how it was in the 1990s, a rare gem for Macau, where beachgoers of all ages just killed time gently. I had a very good rest lying on the towel listening to the sound of the waves and people’s happy noises.

A senior told me he visited the Macau Science Centre for the very first time with a local tour promoted by the Macau Government Tourism office (MGTO).

So I say, to tackle the travel curtailment during the pandemic, just enjoy places locally.

* The author is a Macau-based travel writer, translator and columnist

A traditional lion dance groups performs in Bairro da Mitra e Horta on Thursday last week. Photo: Swallow Xu

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