South-Asian series: Macau

…or some also spell it as Macao. Officially, this autonomous territory is called the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The great advantage of its autonomousness is that we do not need a visa to enter the country (and stay there during next 30 days).

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On the road in Taipa (c) Cedrik Neumann

In 1999, Macau was the last remaining European colony in Asia. This year its sovereignty was transferred back to China. Portuguese influence Asian flair, rich Chinese play in casino. In 2006, Macau was recognized as the world’s largest gambling center.

We took a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau, which takes only 50 minutes to reach it. Basically, you can take a ferry from Hong Kong island (more often departures) as well as from Kowloon area (less often departures). They distinguish between day (177HKD = 22 EUR) and night sailing (200HKD = 25 EUR): night sailing starts from 5 pm. We could not catch the last day sailing route because it was completely booked. Therefore, I would advise you to drop by in advance or order tickets online: https://www.turbojet.com.hk/en/routing-sailing-schedule/hong-kong-macau/sailing-schedule-fares.aspx.

Walking around

Macau is small, one or two days will be probably enough to explore the whole area (if you are not planning to lose yourself at gambling). First, head to the Ruins of St. Paul, preferably in the evening. This formerly 17th century Portuguese church is currently one singe façade, which is lovely lighted at night.

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Ruins of St. Paul

Then stroll to the central square – Senado Square.

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Senado Square (c) Cedrik Neumann

Don’t miss Civic And Municipal Affairs Bureau next to the cobblestoned Senado Square and it’s little cozy inner yard. In winter, it is Christmassy decorated.

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Christmas is all around even in Macau

If you have another day, explore Taipa, a cozy little village on the other island (where the airport is situated). How to get there? There are plenty of options. Check them on the page http://www.taipavillagemacau.com/plan-your-visit/. The shuttle buses are free, a ticket for a public bus can be bought on board. By the way, the transport drives on the left, keep this in mind when crossing a street.

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Say “Hi!” to Taipa

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On the road in Taipa

Gambling

Since 1962, the gambling industry was operating under a government-issued monopoly license. This ended in 2002 and several Las Vegas casino owners entered the market. The Sands Macao was opened in 2004. This casino giant started a new era of gambling. Currently, 16 casinos are welcoming here visitors and gamblers from all over the world making Macau the world’s top casino market, outpacing Las Vegas.

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Greater than Las Vegas (c) Cedrik Neumann

Venetian Macau is now the seventh largest building in the world (it was the second largest when it was built). This impressible complex accommodates a luxury hotel, a huge shopping venue, restaurants offering international cuisines, a game room, a spacious casino and hosts numerous shows and events… When you are inside, take an elevator to the 1st floor and join some mind games. It will be difficult to realize that you are still in Macau and not in Venice, surrounded by bridges, canals and even gondolas.

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Inside Venetian (c) Cedrik Neumann

Okey, I admit, we could not leave Macau without gambling at least a little. We randomly chose the Grand Lisboa and spend inside exactly 20 minutes, which was enough to look around, drive an elevator and check out all floors and spend 100 HKD (somehow, you have to pay in Hong Kong currency). No dress code, by the way, at least at the saloons accessible for the tourists.

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Inside Venetian

Actually, I am glad we decided to spend only a limited amount of money: after we lost, I felt a strange yearning to stay and to play more. Dangerous, huh?

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A view from the Ruins of St. Paul

Fusion of cuisines

Mixture of Chinese and Portuguese cultures has found it realization in Macanese cuisine. In the evening, we grabbed some Macanese street food on the Tv. da Se. This was skewers of fish and beef balls, chicken intestines and internal organs, vegetables, cheese, tofu various unidentified seafood dipped in chili souse. That was pretty spicy and the taste was quite unusual, the consistency was weird, too mucous and sticky. The coco pudding in a tiny coconut from the neighbor shop was quite tasty though.

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Macau street food

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Coconut pudding

For my precious pasteis de nata (Portuguese egg tarts), we went to Margaret’s Café and Nata (玛嘉烈蛋挞, Edif. Kam Loi, Nam Van Area) place. The tarts were quite tasty (of course, not so tasty as in Portugal itself), but the service was not friendly at all, rude and in an absolute hurry. They did not allow us to take a picture inside, so I only have one from the outside. This place’s advantage is its location – it is situated very centrally, next to the St Paul Ruins and Senado Square. Instead, if you have a little bit more time, head directly to the family bakery gone international, the Lord Stow’s Bakery (安德鲁葡挞, 1 Rua da Tassara, Coloane Island, Macau, http://www.lordstow.com/) which is famous for the best egg tarts in Macau. Though it is fairly much more far away from the center, the great references can persuade you to grab a nata and a coffee there.

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Margaret’s Cafe and Nata

For some original dessert, Korean style waffled dessert, visit Aboong (129 Rua dos Mercadores, Macau). Go fishing for a yogurt ice cream in a fish shaped waffle cone called “bungeoppang”.

Everywhere on the streets you will see a) pasteis de nata stands (the glass cases are empty in the evening) and b) showcases full of flat sheets of dried pork from different parts of the pig, prepared with different flavors (you can find other meet too).

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Pasteis de nata paradise

Late at night we were searching for a cocktail bar, or at least for a beer bar but didn’t find one. Probably, we just didn’t know where to search. Instead, we went to a small café and ordered a beer. I was really longing for a tea but we couldn’t order one because of the language barrier (though I tried in four languages at least). A glass of slightly warm water was the best we could negotiate. Afterwards we were asking ourselves – how this is possible that the Chinese who seem to drink green tea all day long did not have it as a casualty (yet the menu included at least 150 different meals)

As we were in Macau less than 24 hours, we did not visit as much local restaurants and food stalls as we would like to, but here is a well-chosen top 10 places every foodie has to go to in Macau: http://www.eatandtravelwithus.com/2014/02/10-places-to-eat-in-macau/

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Macau at night

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