Macau. When I was a little kid that name sounds strange and exotic. A place where people gamble and triads run the business. But today Macau is no longer a strange place since a lot of my friends have made their way to the former Portuguese main port in the Far East, usually along with their trip to Hong Kong. Macau is indeed easily reached from Hong Kong because several ferry companies run scheduled trips between the two cities. Also by ferry it was how I went to Macau from Hong Kong. However, finding the port of the ferries which go to Macau in Hong Kong Island was somewhat a little challenging due to lack of signs which lead to the port. However, finally I managed to find it and secured a seat in one of the ferries bound for Macau.
Nevertheless, the one-hour trip turned out to be quite unpleasant for two reasons. First, there was a man sitting next to me who kept talking in Cantonese to me (even though I do not speak the language but I can tell the difference when people speak Cantonese, Mandarin or Hokkian). I always tried to tell him that I do not understand him and I only speak English. But that never stops him from talking to me. He also wrote some words with Kanji which apparently something that I cannot read. Then it came to a moment when I heard he said ‘Singapore’ and pointed his finger to me while laughing. I just nodded and let him come into conclusion that I am a Singaporean because if I say that I am an Indonesian I am afraid that would only keep him talking even more. This whole lost in translation situation ended up quite funnily, though.
But the real reason why the trip was an uncomfortable one is because it was quite windy at that time, I guess, so that the boat swayed in some ways which made me feel a really terrible seasick. I did try to stay calm, close my eyes and relax my mind. But none of them worked. Until I reached a point when I could not take it anymore and rushed myself right away to the washroom. A very unpleasant way to start my day in Macau, indeed.
When I finally saw Macau’s skyline, I came to an instant relief for knowing that the ride is coming to an end very soon. As soon as the boat docked and the gangplank was lowered, I walked very fast towards the port building to get through the immigration as soon as possible in order to breathe fresh air outside the building. A few minutes later I have already found myself standing outside the port and inhaling deeply the fresh and chilly air. Such a luxury for someone who has just got a terrible seasick.
At first I wanted to take a walk to the city center because judging from the city map and its scale, it should not be that far from the port. But then I looked around and read again the printed information about Macau which I had been carrying all along and it says that almost all casinos provide free shuttle buses. I was interested and looked again to the map to point out which casino is the closest to the old city center. Then I chose Grand Lisboa because at the map it looks just a few blocks away from the place where I wanted to visit.
After a short ride from the port, I arrived at the casino. Getting out of that place turned out quite challenging (I guess they want people to find it hard to get out from the casino so that they choose to play instead. Read my tips at the end of this post for getting out of Grand Lisboa). After some wrong turns and lucky guesses, eventually I managed to get out of the casino only to find out the sheer size of the gargantuan Grand Lisboa. After taking some photographs, I started walking around to get some sense of direction and orientation of the city.
Macau itself is really not that big because it only took me a few minutes to get to Senado Square (where many old Portuguese colonial buildings are located) from Grand Lisboa. One thing that I like from Macau is the fact that almost every sign (street, information, direction, etc) is written in at least Portuguese and Cantonese, some in English as well. Regardless how minuscule Portuguese-speaking population of Macau is, it does give the city a sense of Portugal (even though I have never been to the country yet).
As the center of Macau’s tourism industry, Senado Square is packed with beautiful colonial buildings and, of course, tourists. The first building that caught my attention was the IACM (Instituto para os Assuntos Cívicos e Municipais) building which dates back to the 16th century when it was once used for senatorial meetings in Macau. That is how the square in front of it got its name (Senado = Senate). The building itself has so many beautiful ornaments, such as the distinctively Portuguese azulejos, stone carvings, old lamps and many more.
After strolling around the building, I continued walking towards the cobblestone streets around Senado Square which eventually lead to the famous landmark of Macau: Ruins of St. Paul’s. Even though what is left from the cathedral is merely its façade, yet it still is stunning. But I guess the stairway which leads to the ruins helps the whole structure look more dramatic.
After snapping some photographs, I went to Museum of Macau which is located on Fortaleza do Monte, an old fortress on a hill right next to the Ruins of St. Paul’s. The reason why I went to the museum was because I expected to find a lot of information about Macau’s history but I ended up finding too much information about Portugal and China. However, it has some interesting displays which caught my attention, especially a particular table full of Portuguese-infused delicacies which look so mouth-watering. That was the spot where I spent the most of my time in the museum. Outside the main building, there is a small garden with some old cannons where people can see Macau’s skyline (with Grand Lisboa building dominating the skyline).
Back in Indonesia when I was planning for a day-trip to Macau, I made a promise to myself to try Macanese egg tart when I am in Macau. So, there I was in Macau, walking towards Senado Square to eventually find my way to the ferry port again. At first, I was hesitant whether or not to try the egg tart considering my seasickness earlier that morning. After a deliberate consideration finally I did try one, at the very last shop along the way back to the casino. I am glad that I took that decision because when I bit that warm egg tart, it was like heaven in my mouth! Thin layers of puff pastry and the smooth custard in it really make a great combination.
Finding my way back to the casino and to the shuttle bus platform was much easier because I have already known the way. But in order to get on the bus, you need to ask the staff at the center game table for a free shuttle bus ticket. A bit tricky, but still easy, and free. Fortunately on my way back to Hong Kong the ride was much smoother than earlier that day and I did not get a seasick at all so that egg tart could rest peacefully in my stomach. Not a bad way to end a not-started-too-well day.
Tips: When you get off from the shuttle bus at the basement parking area of Grand Lisboa, enter the casino, take two escalators which bring you to the first level. Then find a lift around the second escalator to bring you down to the lobby. Find the exit door and voilà! You are outside the building.