We caught the MRT (subway), on Kowloon, to the Macau ferry terminal on Hong Kong Island. It was a Sunday morning and the terminal was quite busy. There are several different ferry companies selling tickets for the sixty minute ferry ride to Macau. We chose the ticket office nearest the immigration entrance, Cotai Water Jet. The man behind the counter spoke excellent English – in fact his English was too good! He urgently said that we needed to be quick as the ferry was leaving soon. I thought who cares they leave every thirty minutes. He said, ‘here are your tickets, hurry hurry’. As he handed me the tickets he handed me my change and again in an urgent voice said, ‘hurry’. I chucked the change in my pocket and hurried after Di.
Okay, so we made a couple of school boy errors here. Firstly, there are two ferry ports in Macau. The one we wanted to go to was Outer Harbour ferry terminal as it was closer to our hotel on the Macau Peninsular – a lot closer. The other terminal was Taipa ferry terminal on Taipa Island a fair way from our hotel. We unknowingly bought tickets to the Taipa terminal. The second thing was that the tickets cost $160HKD each (AUD$32). I handed the ticket selling, urgent yelling, man a $500HKD note. When I got through Immigration we found the ferry we were booked on left in 40 minutes. The one leaving soon had been sold out and we were not on it. So what was the rush! I checked my change expecting to have $180HKD but alas I only had $130HKD – the bastard ripped me off!!!! I could not return to him as we were through Immigration – my instinct told me there was something wrong with his urgency, now it was clear it was a distraction to cover the short change – note to self ‘listen to the force’!
The ferry was pretty slick and comfortable.
The swell was minimal and the ferry flew across the water. The sixty minute trip was over quickly. We were through immigration pretty quickly and then we were confronted with a first for Asia – a completely empty taxi stand. All the major casino hotels had free courtesy busses to pick up guests staying there but Di and I were budget conscious, of course, and not staying at a big casino.
We stood in line for about twenty minutes before the first taxi arrived then slowly other taxis arrived in dribs and drabs. The Macau people have a little ‘lurk’ going. You see they will accept Hong Kong dollars in lieu of the local currency, the Macau Pataca (MOP), but on a one for one basis, that is one HKD equals one MOP. The reality is though that one MOP equals only 0.80 HKD on the currency exchange market – a tidy 20% profit on each transaction. Thus we had a clump of HKD left and our taxi fare was 120MOP (AUD$20) as we paid $120HKD we actually paid AUD$24. When you pay in HKD the locals will only give you change in MOP and never in HKD – not a bad little scam happening.
We had booked in a hotel called The Best Western Hotel Sun Sun and paid AUD$80 per night. The hotel was near the old town and the touristy part of Macau rather than being amongst the casinos – can you Imagine Di and I risking our hard earned travel money gambling!!!
Di and I at this stage had been travelling for 16 months and pretty much every hotel had checked us in once our room was ready, we had even arrived at places at 7am and been checked in and a place in India checked us in at 4am. This was not the case at this hotel. The lady behind the counter said, ‘check in was 2pm’ – it was now 12.37pm. There were half a dozen other hotel guests waiting to check in, all asleep on the lounges, in the foyer – we joined them, but not being Asian we were unable to instantly fall asleep like they had. We saw several guests come to check in, approached the counter, speak to the lady, look at the clock and then turn to look for a place to sleep on the lounges.
It got to 1.51pm and Di went to the counter, all the other guests who were awake watched expectantly! ‘Can we check in now, surely our rooms are ready?’ She said. The lady behind the counter actually replied, ‘check in 2pm.’ Di said, ‘come on you have all these people to check in, let’s get started’. The lady looked at the eager expectant faces on the lounges and said, ‘okay’. The stampede started and she was swamped!!!!! Di of course was the first one checked in!
Other than the ‘check in’ debacle the hotel was pretty good, though there was no breakfast included in the room price. The hotel is ‘famous’ for having a scene from the movie Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom being filmed there. I am a really nerdy movie buff you may wonder! No, there is a sign in the hotel stating this fact.
The streets in the area are all narrow alleyways, these appear old and from another time – certainly not Asian. Macau is an old Portuguese colony and the old town area reflects this.
Macau is called the Las Vegas of Asia, so if gambling is your thing there are lots of dowdy looking casinos to go to. In fact Di and I did wander through a couple of the casinos on the Peninsular. We were, though, more intrigued by the tackiness of the outside décor, and the decadence on display inside the casino, than on actually wasting our money on the gaming tables.
Inside the casinos we stood gaping at crystal sparkling chandeliers and at the displays of Mammoth Tusk Carvings, gold sculptures, ivory, diamonds and gems.
Di went into the loo and found her ‘lootopia’! She could sit and do her business under subtle sensual crystals which smelt of rosebuds – all for free – to think of all the slimy shit holes throughout Asia, that stunk beyond belief that she paid to have the privilege to pee in – she had finally found the perfect place to urinate in paradise!!!!
We did go through the gaming area and Di, of course, had to get the camera out – seriously she thought it would be okay – she managed a few sneaky photos before security personnel threatened her with lynching!
We wished we would have gone over to The Venetian Macau Hotel Casino on Taipa Island in the Cotai area. This is the largest casino in the world, the seventh largest building, by floor area, in the world and the largest single structure hotel building in Asia. It is owned by the same people who own the Venetian in Las Vegas and has the same theme of Venice and the gondoliers, etc. We only learned of the building when leaving Macau!!
The centre of the old town is Senado Square which is a ten minute walk from our hotel. The streets leading from Senado Square are for foot traffic only and are crammed full of tourists.
The Square was, under Portuguese rule, the official civic square. Whilst walking through this area you will be confused as to where you are as the colonial buildings colourfully painted in pastel colours simply do not fit in an Asian culture.
The streets leading from the Square will take you to many old historic buildings; Senado Building, The Holy House of Mercy, St Laurence Church, St Dominic’s Church and on to the Ruins of St Paul.
The Church of St Paul was built in Macau in 1640. The church was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835 leaving only a façade of the building. In the early 1990’s a crypt was discovered whilst the ruins were being excavated. The building is now a museum and a World Heritage Site.
Macau is simply a coming together of Chinese and Portuguese cultures. We would stop and buy Portuguese egg tarts and churros for snacks, and then dim sims and Chinese buns, for the next snack. We also went to some quaint Portuguese restaurants in small cobblestoned streets.
From our hotel it was a twenty minute walk to the bridge that goes over to Taipa Island. Without crossing the large bridge you turn left and then follow a walkway around several lakes.
Just before the walkway you pass Ah Ma Buddhist Temple. The temple was lined with about thirty tricycles all taking a group of Chinese tourists in wagon train fashion around Macau – people are simply losing the art of walking!!!!
The lakes are all very scenic with good views of the impressive bridges connecting the Macau Peninsular to Taipa Island. You will also pass Macau Tower. The Macau Tower is 338 Metre high and of course comes with a revolving restaurant and an observation deck. It is also home to the highest commercial Bungee jump in the world at 233 metres – no I did not take the plunge!
The tower bungee jump has been used on various episodes of the Amazing Race to test the contestants. The walk around the lakes takes you past many colonial buildings and then back to the main casino area of the peninsular.
We stayed in Macau for three nights and two full days and were kept pretty busy. All the places we went to we were able to walk to and enjoyed our time there.
Our next destination was to Taiwan and, unfortunately, there are no ferries from Hong Kong or Macau to Taiwan so we flew. Luckily our flight was early in the morning and we would not infringe on the hotels check out time!!!!
I enjoyed our short stay in Macau and would recommend it for a short stay. Our hotel was good and worth staying at but please don’t come early!!!
We made the short flight to the very surprising Taiwan.
The adventure just keeps continuing ………………………..