Travel date: Friday 25th October 2013
A short ferry ride from Hong Kong is Macau. This is another SAR (Special Administrative Region) of China. Where Hong Kong was run by the British for 100 years, Macau went to the Portuguese. It is a short distance from Hong Kong and taking only an hour on a ferry it is a popular day trip. This was our destination to split up our stay in Hong Kong.
An early start had us awake before the rest of Hong Kong. It is the first time we have seen the streets quiet and shows that Hong Kong definitely doesn’t get going before 8am. It was a short walk to the ferry terminal from our guesthouse. We got to about the right area quite quickly but by the time we had explored a few dead ends and shopping malls to eventually find the entrance we had just missed a ferry so had a half hour wait.
The ferry trip across was uneventful and gave me a chance to catch up on some blogging. Vicki on the other hand was happy to sit quietly as she isn’t a fan of boat trips. While I thought this one was quite smooth she would disagree.
In Macau we passed through passport control without incident and on the advice of a tour guide who was determined to sell us his services in spite of repeated refusals we boarded a shuttle bus to a casino. We were going to this casino later for lunch but more importantly this got us a free trip closer to the sights.
Our morning was spent exploring the old town with a mix of old Portuguese colonial buildings, church ruins and a fortress. We were very impressed by the old town and it was good to be there before the crowds of Chinese tourists descended later in the day. A particular highlight were the shops selling Cantonese sweet meats. After sampling a few of these we treated ourselves to a some to take with us. Basically this was sweet bacon so very tasty but no doubt very unhealthy.
We really enjoyed exploring Macau’s old town. The mix of building styles creates a unique feel. At first glance you could be in Europe but closer inspection of shops and their contents pulls you firmly back to China. I guess Macau is what would happen if an entire Portuguese town was converted into a China town overnight.
The day was a bit hot for us. Our morning of sightseeing was already wearing us out. At one point while looking round a protestant cemetery we were almost set to drop and join the inhabitants. A much needed drink stop revived us and gave us the energy to get back to the casino for lunch. We were going there to meet George, a friend of my uncle Bruce since they were colleague in Japan. We met George from Macau last year when he came to London during the Olympics.
The casino was the Lisboa Grand. This is a huge ugly leaf shaped building that does not mix with its surroundings. For those unfamiliar with Macau and how it generates revenue, it is a gambling mecca for the Chinese. Think the Las Vegas of the east. This means there are many elaborate casinos with the accompanying restaurants and entertainments.
The restaurant at the Lisboa Grand has large automatic wooden doors that slide open as you approach like something from a Bond film. We can’t tell you much more about the place as they wouldn’t let me in because I was wearing shorts. Sightseeing scruffy isn’t appreciated everywhere it seems.
After a quick rethink, we headed for George’s second favourite restaurant. This was an all you can eat Italian in the Venetian hotel/casino. The Venetian was at the other end of Macau so George drove us over there pointing out a few more sights on the way. The food was excellent with salads, pizza and pasta. When we say all you can eat it wasn’t a buffet either, we are talking about a much classier establishment than a Pizza Hut and also a cut far above Pizza Express. It was waiter service from a menu, it was just all you can eat in the respect you could order as much and as often as you liked. A slightly strange system but it works well for them.
After lunch George has to return to his students so left us alone in the casino. It was great catching up with George again, this time seeing him on his home turf instead of having him come to ours. With today putting us over halfway through our trip it was good to talk to someone about home and family rather than always talking to strangers about our travels.
Since we were in a casino we felt we should have a bit of a flutter. We exchanged our leftover Chinese currency (RMB) into Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) at the hotel and decided to risk that as it was only around £24 left. Not being experienced gamblers we went simple and classic and headed for the roulette wheel. We had no idea what we were doing really but managed to get some chips and place bets.
We soon found ourselves up $100. This sounds quite impressive until you realise it is HKD. So we were actually only up £8. We decided to go all or nothing with our winnings and came out with nothing. At this point we decided roulette wasn’t much fun so left even with the house. We like to think we came out on top as they supplied the free shuttle bus back to the ferry.
Another bumpy ferry ride and we were back in Hong Kong. We arrived back at 7pm and thought we would be able to make the nightly light show over the harbour. HK immigration tried to scupper this plan by delaying us for 45 minutes however we managed to get down to the harbour just in time for the show. Lasers over the harbour, a walk down Avenue of the stars followed by won-ton soup for dinner left us ready for bed. Hoping across borders for a day trip is tiring work.