On this cool cloudy day, we decide to take the TurboJet ferry over to Macau. On our way to the China Ferry Terminal in Kowloon, we walked through the Kowloon Park from the hotel, and straight into a comic character statuary! Below are some of our favorites, especially Travel Penguin! (We have no idea what his real name is, but he’s super cute!)
Macau is roughly 40 miles from Hong Kong, and takes us just over an hour on the ferry. Some of the ferry boats go so fast that they hydrofoil above the water. We arrive in Macau around noon, and the air is cool but thick and hazy. As soon as you step out of the ferry terminal, you are accosted by taxi drivers offering you tours and rides, amid a flurry of free shuttles to the many casinos on the island. The taxi drivers in particular are extremely persistent, and we finally escape to find the walkway towards town.
Overall, Macau is full of surprises. It is another special administrative region of China, and we learn later that it is a city with one of the highest GDP per capita in the world and the world’s largest gambling center. It returned to the Chinese government in December 1999 from Portugal, but will retain autonomy until 2049.
The area near the ferry is not particularly picturesque. They are in the process of renovating the entire Fisherman’s Wharf area (more bamboo scaffolding everywhere!), and it is reminiscent of Vegas, with a faux Colosseum and faux European waterfront buildings amid large older casino hotels. We wander down the southern edge of the northern island (there are two major islands composing Macau, connected by several bridges), passing by this Kun Iam statue on a lotus bud (left). As you walk west from the ferry, the area suddenly becomes nicer, until you are suddenly engulfed by huge modern casinos, including an MGM and Wynn (right). In the distance, the 1109 foot tall Macau tower can be seen to the left of the casinos.
Northwest of the new casinos, we enter the older part of Macau, where the Portugese architectural influence is very strong. The Portuguese and Cantonese buildings are quite close together, and you can walk straight from a block that looks like this (left two) to this (right two).
Incidentally, the street food in Macau is also amazing. We found Taiwanese pepper meat balls (left upper and right top), which were spicy and delicious, as well as the famed Portuguese egg tart (right second and third). These are much flakier and richer than the traditional Chinese egg tart, and delicious (though it’s hard to imagine how one could eat more than one at a time.) We also passed numerous stores selling this barbeque meat product (left lower) and had a lemoncello and guava gelato at Lemon Cello (right bottom). Both the Taiwanese buns and the Lemon Cello were Michelin street food mentions.
We also saw an old fortress at the top of a hill overlooking the Senado Square area. The cannons at the top of the fort point only towards the sea, and there are no cannons directed northward towards the Chinese border.
Even more impressive is the very shiny Hotel Lisboa (left upper). It towers over the old part of the city, and can be seen from nearly vantage point. It looks just like an old Vegas casino on the outside, but is filled with priceless pieces of art in the lobby, and has both of the 3-star Michelin restaurants in Macau, as well as another 1-star Michelin restaurant. The very impressive art in the lobby includes a massive landscape carved from a single mammoth tusk (it is pieced together in the back, but carved from one piece with the ends just visible at the corners), a second tusk carved to depict the Journey to the West story (one of my favorite childhood stories), a gold dragon boat (the case is taller than me), 2000 pound jade buddha, and an enourmous gold landscape.
We walked through the Wynn Hotel and Casino on our way back through Macau, and happened to catch their animatronix Dragon Show. Click here to see our video of the 2.5 minute show – lots of smoke and roaring. 🙂 The ceiling above is actually a very impressive 3D gold piece depicting the 12 zodiac animals.
After our afternoon in Macau, we take the ferry back to Kowloon, and stop for dinner at the Taiwan Beef Noodle Restaurant. Yes, that’s what we had for our final dinner in HK 🙂 Yum.
On a side note, we saw some fun signs in Macau. Here are some of our favorites: