Saturday, January 03, 2009

Hong Kong Day 4: Macau Side Trip

Hong Kong had treated me well so far, but Macau was too close to pass up. Macau, like Hong Kong, is a Special Administrative Region. It is part of China, but its is allowed to take care of many of its own affairs such as monetary system and immigration. I experienced both of these. It was interesting that I needed to go through customs between two parts of the same country.

The ferry ride between the two places took around one hour.

View Larger Map
This gives a good idea of the size of Macau in relation to Hong Kong. They are both pretty small though.

This little trip just fell together really well. Mike and Allison were at work, so Clarence and I were on our own. We walked right out of the port to the bus station and the first bus in line was one the we needed. I didn't know which stop was right but managed to just guess the right one. After about five steps we wandered into a store which sold pastel de nata, which is a Portuguese egg tart that my guide book raved about(for good reason).

We started off in Largo do Senado, a nice little European style square. I really liked the style of this place. Sure it was a little touristy, but everything seemed so clean, quaint, and wholesome here.

"Pharmacia Popular"

Church of St Dominic

We continued walking through the winding line of shops, taking in the atmosphere while looking out for road signs.

I really felt like I was in a unique place. How many streets in the world have signs written in both Chinese and Portuguese?

After a few minute walk we spotted it, the most famous sight in Macau, the Ruins of the Church of St Paul. Wikipedia thinks that it was "intricately carved between 1620 and 1627 by Japanese Christians in exile from their homeland and local craftsmen under the direction of Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola". And I bet that crew didn't have any problems communicating.

I don't know if you can tell by the pictures, but all that remains of this building is the facade. The rest of it burned down some time ago.

The nearby Monte Fort rewards those who climb its steps with a nice little view.

From this direction I could see the two dimensional nature of the famous church-

-and over this way I could see the very large Grand Lisboa hotel casino. I had a sudden urge to start putting cannonball shaped wholes in everything.

Random birdcage near the fort.

By this time I was getting a bit hungry. I was too excited to just sit down at a restaurant though, so I just sampled everything along the way to our next destination, the Grand Lisboa.

This place was a bit too fast foody for me, but I thought it was funny that they had put a smiley face on that big egg tart sign. Gotta love those tarts.

Another interesting food offered in several places was these large sheets of jerky. The people trying to sell it would carry a big square of it with tongs and then cut a slice off with a pair of scissors to give potential customers a taste. The bit that Clarence and I bought tasted just like sweet and sour pork. It was super good, but I was afraid of having issues with customs, so I didn't try to bring any back to Hong Kong. Everyone is so uppity about meat products these days.

I spotted a little line at this place, so I queued up without knowing what exactly was being sold. I'm glad I did.

This is a very short video of a man making the little pastries. How could these not be awesomely delicious? There was what seemed to be three family members working here, and they only sold one thing. This guy's operation was so beautifully simple. Dough goes in, cookies come out. He had his little charcoal basket on the right there in case the fire went down. This part of Macau was very lovable.

They tasted just like the pizzelles my family makes. That is a flavor that I was really surprised to find in Chinese territory.

Even the derelict buildings here were charming.

We strolled all the way to the Lisboa. The building looked really cool on the outside and more or less looked like a nice but typical casino on the inside. The casinos in Macau were pretty serious about no pictures happening where betting was taking place. Unfortunate, because I would've like a shot or two of me whomping the house at dai siu.

By this time we were ready for a real meal. We took a bus to the south side of the territory and began the search for a place that served local food. We stopped at a restaurant that had a few interesting dishes on the sign out front. As this would be my only real meal in Macau, I stretched my dinner out into a few courses.

For an appetizer I chose Portuguese olives. They had a little sauce on them. They didn't have a strong pickled taste like most olives. Very light and nice. HK$18

Next was the smoke duck breast salad. I'm bad at describing food, but this had a really herbal dressing on it. HK$48

I chose a Macanese roasted sea bass for the main course. The preparation on this one took some time. Clarence was pretty much finished with his meal by the time I could taste mine. It was worth the wait though. HK$88

Couple of these at HK$15

I didn't need dessert, but my guide book made a special mention of serradura, which is cream and condensed milk pudding topped with crumbled cookies. I figured I should get involved. HK$16

It was a bit of a splurge at around US$26(today 1USD is worth about 7.75 Hong Kong dollars), but I was happy I could make a little dent in the food culture. Plus hey, I was on vacation.

The last thing that I wanted to see before going back to the boat was The Venetian Macau. These things change so fast that its hard to tell, but I've seen a few different titles thrown around. The guide book says it is the largest casino in the world and three times the size of the Venetian in Las Vegas, and wikipedia thinks its the third largest building in the world by area. Long story short: its rather spacious.

Why build a giant casino in such a small place, with several more casinos being planned? A U.S.News article sums it up. "The only place in Asia with full-fledged legalized gambling sits within a five-hour flight of 3 billion people--nearly half the world's population. Vegas, by contrast, is the same distance from only 450 million people." Simple as that.

I can't remember every detail of the one in Las Vegas, but this Venetian was all the fake Venice a person could need.

Fake singing is so romantic.

Then it was time to go.

And that's the story of how China's smaller special administrative region got rocked like a hurricane.


  1. Anonymous5:15 PM

    How were you able to communicate
    with the people in Macau?
    Were there a lot of English speakers?

  2. Honestly, on a touristy day trip like this one, I didn't do a whole lot of communicating with the locals. The people that I did speak with were for the large part people working in the tourism industry, which I assume speak more English on average.

    The English level in Macau was definitely lower than that in Hong Kong though.

    One instance that sticks out in my mind was at the Grand Lisboa casino. I threw a large chip on the table and asked for change. The dealer didn't understand what I had said, and acted as if I had simply made a big bet. I had to do some frantic miming to get my change back.

    I think an unintended benefit gained from my time here in Japan is the ability to communicate well with people that have a low English proficiency. It takes a lot of patience to speak slowly and simply for long periods.