Being keen travellers and always willing to add as many countries to our visited list we make sure we see as many places as possible during our trips. Previously when I visited Hong Kong I took the fast boat to nearby Macau. Macau.. “where is that?” Many of you may say but to lovers of gambling and motorbike racing a place they may be familiar with. We left our visit to the last-minute on this occasion as we would be leaving Hong Kong later in the evening. In the end we squeezed in a couple of hours to set foot on Macau turf. Was it worth it?
Macau Casinos and Cream
As you may have read in our previous blog, Hong Kong, you could see we were in the wonderful city for a few days. Our comfortable bed in our hotel made waking early quite difficult, hence our intended trip to nearby Macau was left to the last day of our stay. You may also have read that the day didn’t start off too well for Paula as she was very sick upon waking. In the end she perked up enough to make our day trip. The trip would involve two subway trips and an hour-long fast boat trip to reach the peninsula. We walked to the nearby Tsim Sha Tsui Station and for 33 Hong Kong Dollars for two, or just short of €4, made our way to Central station only a few stops away.
From here we took another line to Sheung Wan where we could make the short walk to the Hong Kong/Macau ferry terminal up the nearby escalators. There were a few options to choose from but we went with Turbojet costing 160 Hong Kong Dollars per person or close to €19 euros. We had 45 minutes to kill so ate at one of the many restaurants in the complex before making our way to the departure gate. Here we went through customs and passport control but no stamp on this occasion. We took our seats on board and slept for most of the hour-long trip.
When we did reach Macau an hour later we passed quickly through passport control and out to the arrivals hall where I was immediately met by a tour guide. She gave me a free map and asked about our itinerary but we explained that we only had a couple of hours as we had to make our way back to Hong Kong for a flight later in the evening. She showed us all the sights to see on the map but having been here previously I knew where we needed to go. She still tried to convince us to take a private car but for 1,000 Hong Kong Dollars or €117, a bit pricey to say the least. This was never going to happen so we politely refused her offer before locating a tourist information counter. Here we were told we could take a local bus directly outside the terminal for the cost of HKD 3.20 or 37 Eurocents, quite a bit cheaper than the private car offered on arrival! We couldn’t miss the nearby Ponte de Amizade (Friendship Bridge) from the Peninsula to Taipa Island from onboard our bus as it is quite impressive. The journey took about ten minutes before we arrived at Avenida Almeira Ribeiro, no we have not been mistaken we haven’t landed back in Porto, Lisbon or even Rio. Until 1999 Macau was an overseas territory of Portugal.
As a result most streets have Portuguese names and the streets and many buildings look like any from the Iberian peninsula. The bus stops are in Portuguese and Chinese, the street names and popular attractions even one of the largest casinos, the impressive Casino Lisboa. Even though the place has a large portuguese influence many here do not speak the language and Chinese is mainly used.
We joined the masses of day trippers and tourists as we walked up Avenida Almeira Ribeiro with its tiled, pristine streets and many shops. We barged our way through people posing for photographs to quickly take some shots and move on. Next stop was to the Hotel Grand Lisboa a landmark building on the island. Gambling is Macau’s biggest industry, and bus loads arrive daily from mainland China to try their luck. In addition, many Hong Kongers arrive on weekends with the same aim. For many years, the Casino Lisboa was the most famous and a landmark well-known to people outside Macau, but it is being eclipsed by Sands Casino which opened in 2004 and is one of the first places you see when leaving the ferry terminal. Nevertheless, the original Casino Lisboa is still worth a visit as its halls contain many original antiques on display from the private collection of gambling tycoon Stanley Ho.
We decided to stay outside and take some pictures of the impressive flower shaped hotel building before moving swiftly along to the waterfront. Here we caught a glimpse of another Macau landmark, Macau Tower. The tower looks like many from across the world particularly the Skytower in Auckland and like Auckland is a magnet for adrenaline junkies. Bungee jumps and skywalks are just some of the activities available aswell as restaurants and shopping malls. On this occasion we had no time for a jump but On December 17, 2006, the father of contemporary bungee jumping, A J Hackett, and popular artist Edison Chen broke two Guinness World Records at the Macau Tower. A J Hackett, broke his own Guinness World Record of “The Highest Bungee Jump from a Building” achieved in 1987 from the Eiffel Tower. Edison Chen represented Macau Tower in the inaugural jump to bid for “The World’s Highest Bungee Jump Facility”.
After some more lightning fast photographs it was time to wander down some more streets with Paula stopping off at a Dairy Queen for some ice cream, maybe not the wisest choice as we’ll talk about later! We paid in Hong Kong Dollars which is accepted here along with Chinese Yuan, both linked to the local currency the Pataca, Pataca is the traditional Portuguese name for both dollars and pesos. After some glances at our watch we felt it was time to make it back to the ferry terminal and our boat back to Hong Kong as we had quite a busy schedule ahead. We boarded the number 3 bus again and made the short 10 minute trip direct to the terminal. Short and sweet but we were glad to have come especially Paula as she had never even heard of Macau before!
Macau is clearly popular for its many, many casinos but in November also hosts the most internationally prestigious event on the local calendar, the legendary Macau Grand Prix which is now edging into its sixth decade. The race pits the best motorcycle, WTCC and Formula 3 racers in the world against each other and the clock in dedicated competitions along the narrow, twisting Guia street circuit of Macau city. As well as offering great shopping, food and sightseeing it is also a great place to come and escape the madness of Hong Kong and Kowloon for a few hours or a few days. At times however the narrow streets filled with people feels even more claustrophobic! There is also an airport too with many connecting flights all around Asia making it easily accessible. Where else in the world can you be in Brazil, Portugal and China all in one day?
After our two-hour stay we took the Turbojet back to Hong Kong, this time at a slightly cheaper price of 153 Hong Kong Dollars or €18. I mentioned above that Paula’s decision to eat heavy ice cream might not have been the wisest of decisions and it nearly proved so. As the waters were a bit choppy on our return journey a lady sitting close by spent the entire trip vomiting into a sick bag. Not her fault but the exaggerated and audible hurling sounds were a bit excessive. Poor Paula had no choice but to cover her ears for the entire trip to avoid doing the same. As she cried wondering “Is all this worth it?”, I consoled her by telling her we only had a couple of subway rides left, a bus trip and three-hour flight and airport stay in Seoul, South Korea ahead today!!! It could be worse. Overall our trip to Macau was well worth it, even if it was only for a short time.