When the opportunity to take a trip to Hong Kong came about recently, I was initially reluctant to say yes. Until I remembered that Macau was close by.
Ever since watching an episode on Macau, on a certain TV personality’s travel and food show, I’ve been fascinated. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the Portuguese have had such a strong influence on it’s culture, or the fact that the gambling industry brings in much more money than Las Vegas. Either way, it has been on the top of my list for a while now, so I jumped on the first chance to go.
Getting there from Hong Kong was a breeze. We simply went down to the port terminal, purchased our tickets for the Turbo Jet, and off we went for an hour-long ride to what would be the highlight of my trip.
I haven’t been on many ferries in my life. The last ferry I took was on a trip to Istanbul, which had bench style seats, and you could sit on the outside of the main cabin and the let the breeze from the Bosphorus cool you off during a hot day. The Turbo Jet, however, was a completely different experience. It was bigger and more yacht-like. There was no seating on the outside of the cabin, which makes sense considering how fast it moved. The seats were like those in an airplane. And to be honest, they were more comfortable than some airliner seats I’ve sat in. There was even a safety video that played as we floated away from the dock.
After finally departing, we zoomed off quickly across the Zhujiang River Estuary, passing various little islands on the way. And a short hour later, we arrived! I could hear and feel the ferry reduce its speed as I gazed out the window at the winding road that jutted so high out of the water. I couldn’t tell where this road led to, but it was quite a stretch. The excitement was building up as we pulled into the port and I could feel myself wanting to burst through the doors and explore.
It was decided before we arrived, that we would take one of the many free casino shuttle busses toward the town center, which seemed to be the norm. We boarded the Wynn Hotel’s shuttle, and shortly thereafter arrived at our destination, which left us at a 15-minute walk to St. Augustine Square.
The streets were as bustling with people as much as the air was humid. There was probably more of a crowd due to the holiday weekend. As we got off the shuttle, the iconic Gran Lisboa towered over us, sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the backdrop of smaller residential and business buildings. And like Hong Kong, the streets were lined with store upon store, selling almost everything you could imagine. There was also a good amount of western stores to be seen. But what really caught my attention was the signage. Written in both Chinese characters and Portuguese, it took me a second to process what I was seeing. I was well aware of the lengthy Portuguese colonization here, but seeing the evidence is quite amazing.
And the architecture. A mixture of styles from colonial Europe, to modern high-rise structures, to enormous casinos, and everything in between. It was everything that I’ve seen on TV and read about, yet I still found myself intrigued by this wonderland of glimmering lights filled with culture and history. And while I’ve heard many people say that Macau was nothing else to them but a gambling city, a depressing void, and a waste of time to see, I refused to let that stop me. I wanted to see it all. But the time constraints unfortunately slighted us. But we still got a lot done in the six or seven hours there.
My friends and I went to the infamous Ruins of St. Paul, stopped and had a greasy, yet ever-so-tasty egg tart, did some shopping and just enjoyed the scenery. And before leaving, I was determined to drop at least a few Macanese Patacas in the casino. But alas, it was dinnertime and we needed a plan. Portuguese food sounded appropriate, and to be quite honest, it was time to take a break from Chinese cuisine.
After quickly deciding what to do, we forged ahead, in search of a certain, well-known Portuguese restaurant. Little did I know that this search would take us on that mysterious elevated road that I saw upon arriving, which connected to Taipa. Unfortunately for us when we reached our destination, it was closed. That didn’t get us down. Surely there had to be another place to eat. The area we were in was lively, and we spotted what looked like restaurants, scattered around the area down lit alleyways. They were so enchanting and mysterious looking under the streetlights.
It was at that moment that I looked around and realized how much the layout of the roads and buildings really are reminiscent of Europe. The little squares. The winding walkways throughout the neighborhood. And of course many charming European style edifices, some turned into restaurants and pubs. One of which, turned out to be a gem of a place that we stumbled upon where we relished in delicious Portuguese food, and probably had one of the best meals of our trip. It is called Antonio Restaurant, and is a must if you’re ever in Macau.
The time had finally come for us to head back to Hong Kong. After our delicious dinner, we took a stroll to the Venetian. We decided to look around first, before getting onto the shuttle back to the port. This gave me the opportunity to get some quick gambling in. But it wasn’t too long before I realized how exhausted I was, and so it was time to say goodbye.
Ferries don’t leave as frequently after midnight, and the ferry back to Kowloon was already done for the day, which meant we had to go to Hong Kong Island. So after waiting for about 45 minutes at the port, we boarded the ferry, I passed out, and woke up an hour later from what seemed like a dream.
Maybe it was the ferry ride, whisking us away at high speeds to this mysterious place and back, making it feel as if we were being transported to a distant, imaginary land. Or maybe it was because Macau is so different from the places I had seen so far on this trip, that I was still trying to let it all sink in and process. Either way, it was a dream of mine that had finally come true, and everything about it was perfect.