High Rollin’, Portuguese Style
Today we take a break from our usual transmission of theme parks to bring you something a little different.
When thinking of how to fill our week in Hong Kong, one slightly more random thing popped up. How about we pop over to Macau? I mean, if it’s good enough for James Bond in Skyfall, it’s good enough for us right?! I was really keen to see if the Portuguese influence was still strong and how that made for a different city experience. So after a bit of a sleep in, we popped down to the Macau ferry terminal (conveniently in our hotel complex building) and bought a ticket to the next ferry. Easy!
While we were heading over, we were giving the Lonely Planet a bit of a read, working out our plan of attack. I read that we were in fact heading over on a Macau public holiday, Ching Ming day. We had no idea what that was, but figured considering it was just after easter, it couldn’t be too crazy. Hhhmmm… we’ll see about that. Oh, and for those playing at home, I have since looked it up and it literally means “Tomb Sweeping Day”. Spooky huh?
After a bit over an hour we docked safe and sound at Macau Ferry Terminal. I kind of forgot that we were really leaving one country and arriving at another (well, technically one administrative region to another). Well, we were made painfully aware of this when we arrived into the formal arrivals hall. “I think this could be worse than Heathrow”, Kate said to me. And I don’t think she was far from it. We were in a massive hall, with only a semblance of order, waiting for passport control. After waiting about half an hour, a new check in point opened. “Go! Go! Go!”, so we took the gamble (it is Macau after all, ha ha) and changed queues. Yes! We were through in 5 minutes.
Out in the main ferry terminal, we had no idea where we really we were. Our map gave us a bit of an idea, but didn’t really have an idea of the best way into central Macau. Then it dawned on us. Why not jump on one of the myriad casino shuttle buses? I thought I had read somewhere it was the best trick, and so we picked the MGM Grand at random and got whisked away. Nice one!
By this point we were starving, so thought why not grab a bite to eat at the casino? So we wandered in and it was your typical, Las Vegas, kinda gaudy, kinda kitschy, casino. And good for us they had your typical cheap casino lunch buffet, but holy moly, this one was actually great! All kinds of delicious foods on offer. So we settled in for an hour of eating and drinking to get used to Macau.
With full bellies, it was time to explore. Just up from the MGM, on the water, was the Statue of Guanyin, a female buddah type figure. One thing I read also said she was also part Virgin Mary. It made for quite a cool sight to see. Given it was a public holiday I was surprised to see it so quiet. Maybe tomb sweeping day just means a lot of cemetery and casino visits.
So we said goodbye to Guanyin and headed into Macau proper. As we walked it was interesting to see lots of tiled walkways and buildings. The European influence was quite strong in places.
So Macau certainly is an odd place. The mix of Chinese, Portuguese, and casino influence all mashes into one. Turn one corner and you see this…
Turn the next one and you are here…
It is fascinating to see almost all signage have a Portuguese equivalent on it. As you could probably guess from the sign, we were in the realm of St Agostinho, home of the St Joseph’s Seminary. The whole square had some beautiful Portuguese architecture, where suddenly we were transported to a different place. It was fascinating. We just sat in front of the Dom Pedro V Theatre and took it all in for a while. It was nice to escape the hustle and bustle we had become accustomed to over the past week.
After some relax time, we headed for the main tourist locale in Macau, the Ruins of the Church of St Paul. On our wander up the tiny streets we would suddenly remember we were in a busy, Asian city… bumping shoulder to shoulder with locals, but would then turn a corner and see more sweet churches.
As we wandered up the windy street full of shopping and food, we came across the ruins…
They were both amazingly out of place, and also of their place. In many respects it would be quite jarring to see this in the middle of a bustling city street, but having just seen casinos, then female buddahs, then old-style Portuguese architecture, then quintessential asian city streets, it seemed right at home.
Again, it wasn’t too busy, so maybe the public holiday was a good time to come. We had a chance to get some cool photos and soak it all up for a bit more.
Soak is a good word to use about now, as it was at this time the typical afternoon rain storm arrived, just as we have been getting used to in Hong Kong. Kate barely had time to say “hhhmmm… I think I might get my jacket out” when it came bucketing down. It was OK, as we were about done there and it was getting on sundown, so decided to wander back to the casinos to do some high rollin’ (or just watching high rollin’) and head back to Hong Kong.
I mentioned the mix of old and new, and it is evident in the casinos as well. The Lisboa is one of the old-school casinos, full of tradition (well, I use the word tradition very loosely here), and then just over the road is the new-school Wynn and MGM. Seems Macau is full of juxtaposition.
So on we hopped to another free casino shuttle bus back to the ferry, to grab a ticket and head back to Honkers. Ah. OK. Maybe not that easily. So this is what happens on a public holiday… the ferry terminal was choc-o-bloc with people scrambling to get a ticket back. We were aiming for a 7pm ferry or so, but the earliest we could get back, normal travel, was 11:50pm. Some ferry companies were completely full. Maybe Kate and I should have listened to ourselves about 8 hours earlier and bought a ticket for the return leg. Oh dear.
After chatting with some other travellers and finding out that seats were fast disappearing, we ponied up a bit extra to go “Superclass”, so we could get on an earlier ferry. As it turned out “Superclass” meant paying about $45 for ticket as opposed to the $25 it cost us to get there. Ha. I love this place.
I was quite happy that Superclass got us a little bit of food, even if it was a pretty dodgy roll with some kind of processed meat. We were quite enamoured with Kate’s dinosaur version…
We had planned to try and catch the light show on Victoria Harbour, but we missed it. Oh well, there would be a couple more opportunities. Instead we just soaked up the amazing cityscapes of Hong Kong, on our way back to the hotel.
A quick bit of food shopping on the way back and I settled in for the night…