I have never felt as seasick as I did on the ferry to Macau. Rosanna felt the same way. It was called the “turbojet” and it makes the trip from Hong Kong in 50 minutes. They were 50 long minutes believe me. Still, when we staggered off the ferry and on to land again we were determined to enjoy the 5 hours we’d have before catching the same ferry back. The prospect of the nauseating boat ride home loomed over us the entire duration of our visit unfortunately.
Putting that to one side, arriving by sea into Macau is pretty impressive – the huge casinos that it’s famous for tower above the smaller, more traditional buildings. More money is spent on ‘gaming’ (what you or I would call gambling) in Macau than any other city on earth, including Las Vegas. Because of its Special Administrative Region status, Macau is the gambling location of choice for the 1.3 billion citizens of China. This has given it the worlds highest GDP per capita. The golden “leaves” of the Grand Lisboa casino are very distinct from the typical concrete expanse of most impressive buildings in mainland China.
Macau is often mentioned in the same breath as Hong Kong, their geographical proximity and shared SAR status probably contribute to that, but Macau is actually a much older settlement. The Portuguese had been operating out of Macau for 300 years by the time the Hong Kong was ceded to the British. This means that the buildings of Macau’s old centre have a much more classical feel like the famous facade of the Church of St Paul. After the familiarity of Hong Kong with its UK road signs and modern buildings, Macau did feel very european. Cobbled streets wind their way up to a hill fortress (complete with disused cannons) and from that vantage point you could look out over the city and see the small courtyards and squares where streets intersect.
Macau has some very interesting culinary traditions, the fusion of Portuguese dishes and Cantonese flavours (as well as some African influence from the slaves of the Portuguese) is truly unique… I am told. Unfortunately we didn’t feel up to eating much after the voyage over so in the end we went for something that seemed a little more familiar. Egg tarts are popular here and there is a wonderful bakery called Nam Peng Cafe which sells them fresh at local prices. You aren’t penalised for being a tourist and the delicately spiced egg custard is the best I’ve ever tasted.
In the end 5 hours passed very quickly. We’ve become used to having at least 3 full days to experience a city so we didn’t pack in as much as we could have. Still, I liked what I saw of Macau and would recommend it, just not the boat ride over. They’re building a road bridge to join Macau and Hong Kong – if that ever gets completed then I’d take it instead.
Full pictures from our trip to Macau can be found here:
P.S. I wanted to call this blog post “Patacas Bravas” but Ros wouldn’t let me, something about it being completely irrelevant and potentially culturally insensitive to the Portuguese. Fair enough.