Tuesday 17 September 2013

Day 7 - Mad for Macau

Hong Kong whilst part of China is a Special Administrative Region, or SAR. There is a second SAR, Macau located an hour away by ferry. It was ran by the Portuguese for some 400 years before being handed back to China in 1999. Today we took the ferry and visited this strange but wonderful city.

The one way ticket to Macau
We took the ferry to Macau, boats leave every 15 minutes from the ferry terminal on Honk Kong Island. We opted for a single way ticket as tickets are for timed crossings, so if like us and you don't want to be watching the clock for your return trip it's best to go one way each way. With 4 sailings and hour it's fine to turn up and be on a boat within half an hour.

On board the boat - it's allocated seating

The boat we took
 It takes just 1 hour to cross. You do need your passport and need to officially leave Hong Kong and pass through customs and gain entry to Macau when arriving. The same is true when returning. 
Street signs in Macau are in Portuguese set in tiles 
Macau has a different currency to Hong Kong and China but Hong Kong Dollars are accepted and from our experience you will get change back in HK dollars but small coins will be in Macau patacas.
Outside the ferry terminal in Macau is a casino set inside a replica blue cube, made famous from the Beijing Olympics 
Motorbikes seem to be the locals preferred mode of transport.
After arriving we noticed all the big hotels and casinos had free transfers to their resorts. We wanted to see the city first so we bypassed and walked the 2 or 3km's into the historic city centre.

The symbol of the city in one of it's public plazas
Macau is famed for its Portuguese influence on the cities design and for its Casinos. The street paths are lined with stone tiles whilst road signage is in both Cantonese and Portuguese. 

Pavements are lined with stone tiles
It's very European in parts whilst in total contrast all the major casino brands have set up home here, with a strip with names more common to Las Vegas including the MGM, Sands and the worlds largest casino The Venetian. It's a vast contrast which makes Macau a fascinating place to visit. 

The Grande Lisboa
One building of interest in the city centre was  the Grand Lisboa. It's lotus flower design in gold dominates the skyline. It's gaudy and simply wonderful. We detoured and ventured inside to join the 100s of Chinese tourists inside the lobby photographing the impressive art displays on show. As dominant at the building is during the day, at night it's shines bright in crazy colours with a light show more fitting to Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour.
The Grand Lisboa to the right and the main street in the distance
Senado - the main square is a real throw back to the cities European past. Complete with a fountain it's rather out of place here in China. However it has been localised with lantern decorations and at night is brightly lit up in all sorts of coloured lights which does cheapen what can be a classy public square.
Senado Plaza - very European indeed
We visited the only wall left standing in the ruins of St. Paul's cathedral. This 16th century cathedral was burned down. What remains is a single facade from what was one of the biggest Christian buildings in The East.

The ruins of St. Paul's
The view down over the city from the hill where the ruins of St. Paul are situated
After a walk of the city at night and some Portuguese vanilla egg we jumped in a taxi and headed to the worlds largest casino for a look - The Venetian. 

Portuguese vanilla egg tart - very tasty

Grand Lisboa as illuminated at night
The Venetian is one of 7 hotels on a separate strip on a neighbouring island. It's rather Disneyland. You really can get drawn in by the bright lights and whole theme park feel to the hotel. 

Inside the shopping area of The Venetian Hotel
Alongside the canal and gondola
The entrance to the worlds largest casino
Yes there is a crazy big casino which allows folk enter wearing shorts but there is also the shopping element set against the backdrop of a Venetian cityscape complete with fake sky and canals with gondolas! It's just like its counterpart in Las Vegas. 
Inside the worlds largest casino
Local food available in the many restaurants
We stayed for dinner but took the complementary bus back to the ferry terminal and travelled back to Hong Kong on a 22:30 crossing. We highly recommend visiting Macau if you find yourself in this part of the world. It's a real experience and contrast to that found in Hong Kong.

On the boat back to Hong Kong (Kowloon)

1 comment:

  1. Looks fascinating.... won't be eating the gizzards but the pastel da nata are yummy!