Well, despite the overarching name of these posts, this is not really a day in Hong Kong, but Macau – the other city in China that has it’s own special designation having only been handed back to China by Portugal in 1999. Visiting Macau is such an interesting experience because of this pretty unique history that leaves many things around the city with three languages being displayed: Chinese, Portuguese and English.
Whilst it is the slightly more expensive method, we got the ferry to and from Macau. Not only is it quicker and more convenient, but given that both of these cities got their start as maritime areas, it only felt apt to do it this way. Also, I didn’t get seasick on either journey – so a small win there.
Instead of getting a taxi or a bus, we decided to walk to the Old City as we’d be able to see more of the surrounding area. Looking around, it became quickly obvious that we had just missed the Macau Grand Prix. They were still taking down the track barriers as we made our way to the Unesco area, which added an extra element of difficulty when it came to finding a place to cross the street.
As we got closer to the old city, we began to get a flavour of some of the more central casinos and the grander hotels. And nothing could be grander, or gaudier, more brilliant or more bizarre than the Grand Lisbon hotel and casino. This is the tallest building in Macau and as such is visible from a very wide radius. I ended up referring to it as the ‘glass onion’ for the rest of the day. Looking at the photos now, I’m not sure why.
We eventually got the Old City where it turns out my sick spell on Sunday was good for one thing, it made us move the trip a day later to Tuesday where all the sites that would have been closed on Monday were actually open. At least it was good for something. This whole area – technically referred to as the Historic Centre of Macau is very much like a cultural theme park. It was odd seeing so many Portuguese style buildings, and Portuguese the language, in what is essentially China.
Before getting the proper exploring in, we had a light breakfast of a few Portuguese egg custard tarts on Senado Square. This whole square and surrounding area is incredibly beautiful. I mean you can see from the photo how high contrast the colours of the buildings are and how lovely the mosaics are on the pavement.
Sadly the church of Saint Domingo was closed for renovations, but that was it for closures. We still saw the treasury, which somewhat amazingly was mostly from Portugal or India. The cathedral was open though and, weirdly, it was the least impressively painted of all the churches we saw today. They were setting up a nativity outside, which I wish I’d seen completed.
Just down the road (and an alley) from the cathedral was Lau Kau mansion. This is a preserved house that shows how a prominent Macanese merchant from the 19th century lived. Inside there are stained glass windows and masses of lovely wood carvings. It’s a pity the second floor wasn’t open though, from the pictures it would have been equally as interesting. Still, this was free so cannot really complain.
Next was my favourite bit of this area, the Ruins of St Paul. There’s no other words really than stunning. Sadly only the front facade is left in tact, but they’ve really made the most of it with the large stairway and the surrounding verdant area. This really is one of the essential places to stop and take a moment when in the old city of Macau.
After coming out of the ruins’ crypt, we trekked to the top of Monte Fort. There is an escalator, but we didn’t see it until the way down. Still though, we got lovely views of St Paul on the way up so it was worth it. From here we saw how much of Macau is… actually quite like Kowloon. Thanks to the well preserved old buildings, you end up being ferried though the more palatable tourist areas. From up here we also got a view of China proper, which was interesting. I wonder if I’ll ever go there.
After popping in and out of Macau Museum (free entry for some reason I’m still unclear of) we made the very long uphill walk to the top of Guia Fortress. This is taller than Monte Fort and technically was meant to be a cable car but we never found it. The views really are better from up here. Plus, it has a lovely whitewashed lighthouse and a chapel with old preserved frescoes.
Having made the long walk back, we got a Macanese pork chop sandwich for lunch. We could have had something more substantial for lunch, but we were very much aware of all the things we wanted to see before leaving the old city. So it was a bit of a standing lunch.
Until we got to Saint Augustine’s Square that is. I insisted that we got a drink and a bit of a rest here for twenty minutes so could rest my bones. Turns out I’m still a bit weak after the end of yesterday. Then we went into the nearby St Augustine’s church, where we saw the first of the beautiful use of contrasting cornflower blue and primrose yellow. This would be repeated in St Laurence’s Church, whose Christmas display outside was bizarre.
Then came the Mandarin House, another preserved house this time of noted reformer Zheng Guanying and his family. More lovely wood carvings. Apparently he would be ferried from the front to the back of the complex, so he wouldn’t have to walk himself.
The final stop in the Old City area was the A-Ma Temple. Continuing with the theme of Taoist temples, there was so much incense burning that it really began to irritate my eyes. My husband was fine though, so maybe I’m just a demon. One thing that I hadn’t seen before from a Taoist temple was the many instances of Chinese characters being carved into the nearby rock faces and painted in red. At some point I need to research more into what that might mean.
Now that we had done the many sites of the Old City, it was time for something completely different and yet probably what Macau is most famous for: casinos. Luckily, there was a bus stop just outside the temple and we were there in a flash.
There are so many casinos in Macau, but the one I wanted to see most was the Venetian. This is the biggest casino in the world and, just overall in terms of floor space, one of the biggest buildings in the world. Even thinking about it, there is such an absurdity to how huge these buildings are.
Inside, everything is just so grand. I mean, I know that the whole schtick is to make you feel special and worthy, thus you’ll gamble, but dear god I felt just in awe of everything here. Especially once I reached the shopping area in the Venetian, which has its own canals, gondoliers and bridges. The sky is painted to the point that the hub was wondering if it was open air. Also, there was a magician performing. I just fell in love with this area and I know that it’s wasted on a non-shopper like me who just wanted to gawk at the Disneyland nature of the whole thing.
As lunch was small, and there wasn’t a chance in hell that we could afford a casino buffet, we decided to have a snack at the Venetian McDonald’s. Our rule is that we have to have something that we cannot get back home, so I went for the chicken and egg burger. This burger needs to come to the UK. Get on it McDonalds!
Now that we’d finished exploring the shopping area, we went to casino floor where we both gambled in a casino for first time. Slot machines only, the equivalent of the nickel slots. It’s cool to say we did it, but it was more annoying than anything to lose money for no real reason. Looking around at the people betting at tables with a £500 minimum, I think I understand this even less than I did before the slot machines.
Our next casino was the Parisian, which is directly connected to the Venetian as they are both owned by the same company. The theme is, obviously Paris, down to there being a roaming mime who we kept encountering. That was odd and a bit creepy, although I admire how he could keep up the pretence after so many people fleeing from him.
The interior shopping areas and some of the restaurants are done like old Parisian streets, which are lovely. But the best thing, being November, was how they decorated their central fountain are with a ginormous upside down Christmas tree. It’s spectacular and I’m not usually one for an inverted tree.
The exterior of the Parisian is dominated by their Eiffel Tower replica, which was all decked out beautifully for Christmas. It’s a bit of a minefield walking around outside because, obviously, this is is a popular place for marriage photos and selfies so there’s a lot of darting around so you don’t end up in people’s cherished memory boxes.
Our final casino of the day was Studio City. The theme was meant to be American film studio, but it felt like a weird mix of things. I mean this is a place that had VR games machines, model dinosaurs, off brand aliens and a replica of a New York subway station entrance. I am not sure how this competes with the neighbouring grand casinos, but it seemed to be doing well enough.
As this was our final stop for the day, this is where we got dinner. For me, that meant Chinese sausage sticky rice, which was absolutely gorgeous to the point where my husband was having some serious food envy. You just cannot get Chinese sausage in the UK without paying a premium, so I knew I wanted to eat some whilst out here. So ended our casino experience and our time in Macau, one day was perfect in the end to do what we wanted and I can really see why this is such a popular day trip.
Well that should be the end, but that wouldn’t be my health for this holiday. The shivers came back and I ended up being a shivering mess for the final hour whilst in the hotel. I managed to recover enough to write up notes of the day so I could expand on them later to a full post later. I have no idea how my husband has been dealing with this, I need to get him something for being such a saint.