Macau, to me, was just another part of Hong Kong until I saw it on a travel show on TV. They showed the ruins of an old cathedral and spoke about the yummy Portuguese egg tarts that we recently discovered, which are made all over China. Since we were going to Hong Kong we decided to head over to Macau for a day trip. To get there ferries head over numerous times a day. Turbo Jet is the most common and popular tour company with the most crossings. Prices vary as there are 3 classes to pick from. Book early since seats fill quickly and the cheapest class sells out. We went to the terminal in MongKok and found the morning times were sold out. I had read on the internet the main terminal on the island had more options, so we went there. Again the cheapest seats were sold out until after lunch and not many more options were available. We decided to take a class up instead of waste away the hours. For $300+ Hong Kong dollars ($40 CDN) each one way for superior and about $150 HK ($20 CDN) each return for economy we had our tickets in hand. We had a few minutes to go through the terminal and customs before boarding. A small 2 story boat was our transportation across the large bay for the 50-55 minute ride. In superior class we had the top-level, nice comfy chairs and a snack box, which included a tofu snack, roll and few other items. We also had an offer of coffee. The return journey in economy it didn’t include a snack. Turned out to be a blessing since the return trip was pretty rough and I can only imagine what would have happened to a few hundred passengers with full bellies of snacks in close quarters on rough seas.
We landed in Macau and easily enough we found our way. Right at the terminal an information booth gave us a map and directed us to the buses located outside. Macau accepts HK and RMB, so no need to exchange anything. For small change we got on the bus. The bus was crowded with other tourists and we made all the stops along the route. It was tricky since the bus route was marked, but not the stops, on the map we had. As another passenger said this must be our stop when all the tourists got up to leave. We followed suit.
I was surprised by the architecture and many of the buildings held a European feel. Some were modern hotels and casinos that resembled Shanghai and Hong Kong, but the distinct style, curves and colours of Europe shone through the dull day. The pattern of the mosaics on the street sidewalks and squares were unique. Along with Hong Kong, Macau was returned to China in the late 1990’s, but unlike Hong Kong, Macau was ruled by the Portuguese for many years. The European feel in the food and architecture was still very vibrant.
Our first stop was a hunt for the delicious Portuguese egg tarts. After inquiring at the tourist information where we got off the bus they directed us to a small street down an alleyway only a few blocks away. After a wrong turn some helpful young girls directed us across the street. I turned down a small alley and we soon saw a long queue and knew we were in the right place. The small bakery/deli had a few tables out front that were packed with guests. According to the travel shows we had seen (it was highlighted on 2 or 3 shows) and a few comments on blogs this place was ranked the best and we were about to find out. Inside the owner Margaret herself was working the cash. We wanted to take a photo, but another person tried and was told no. John said “Hello Margaret” and she responded as she was busy with taking orders and cash. She glanced at us and asked how we were. Small talk continued and she said “I am sorry sir at first I didn’t recognise you, but I recognise the lady. How are you doing?” We giggled to ourselves since she thought we had been there before. By this time we had our half-dozen egg tarts in hand and we went outside to find a seat at the crowded tables to try the scrumptious treats. They were hot out of the oven and flakey sweet goodness melted in our mouth. The ones we had in Shanghai are good, but these were better. Maybe made with real butter or some other loving touch that made them a little flakier or sweeter.
After our bellies were full we returned the way we came and made our way along alleys that snaked this way and that were lined with little tourist shops. We continued on to St Paul’s Cathedral, the ruins of a church, perched high on a hill that was built in the 16th century and lost by fire not once, but 3 times. Today only the detailed facade remains as well as the imprint of where the majestic building once stood. It was crowded with tourists despite the misty rain that started to fall. We snapped some pictures and explored around the area before heading back from the past into the future, a modern casino.
We walked along the streets and came to a grand casino. Inside we looked around and John played a few slots, dropping a few Hong Kong Dollars, which quickly ate up all his money. Down stairs we looked at the beautiful carvings encased in glass that were on display. Outside the mist had turned to a light rain. Not much was visible and with only just over an hour before we needed to check back into for the ferry home we decided to head back early. As luck would have it our bus stopped right across the street and a bus was just pulling up.
The ride back to Hong Kong was rough and we rocked through the waves. On a few occasions we had to stop and ride the waves before slowly picking up speed again. There was remnants of a typhoon in the area and it was feared it was reorganising as the waves and light rain were indicating despite it hitting landfall days before. Standing was near impossible. We arrived into Hong Kong Harbour and the calmer waters were welcoming to many queasy passengers.
Macau was much larger than I expected and there was a lot to see. I forgot my back up battery, so I sparingly took photos in fear that my battery may die and I would not get any photos of the main reason for coming, St Paul’s. Only a good reason to head back another time 🙂
Stay tuned… next week one last post on Hong Kong and the interesting markets.