I visited Macau last week. The purpose of my visit was to leave the country of Hong Kong, visit another country, Macau, and re-enter Hong Kong so as to validate my visa in order to apply for a Hong Kong identification card. I don't understand the process and it doesn't really matter, because it worked and I will have my i.d. card in a matter of weeks.
Macau is west of Hong Kong, and like Hong Kong, is just a snippet of an island off the large mainland of China. Taken over by Portugal in the 16th century, Macau is similar to Hong Kong in that everything is written in two languages, in this case: Chinese and Portuguese. Unlike Hong Kong, Macau has recently become the "Las Vegas of Asia." In fact, the Sands Hotel is the first recognizable casino resort one sees as they approach the island by ferry.
Oddly, when I left my apartment on this "errand," I really just considered it a little sightseeing trip and didn't consider money, going through Customs, etc. I somehow pictured a small ferry chugging across a small bit of the China Sea and arriving at a quaint little port where people milled about before getting back on the ferry and going through Customs to re-enter Hong Kong. Upon boarding TurboJet(!) and perusing my handy guidebook, I understood that I had underestimated the size and scope of my errand.
Once through Customs and inside the Ferry Terminal I found the ATM and then the Visitor Center. Map in hand and bus number in head, I walked out the door to a group of men at the ready with their bicycle-driven rickshaws to give one a picturesque ride through the city. In the 90 degree weather, I couldn't imagine asking another human to peddle me around the city and continued towards the buses.
My bus arrived and thankfully, HK money is accepted in Macau. In Hong Kong, every stop (on the MTR, at least) is announced in Cantonese and English. In Macau, every stop is announced in something other than English. I can't tell you if its Cantonese, Mandarin and nothing sounded like Portuguese. Mark and I always joke that this adventure of living in HK is our version of "Amazing Race." In this case my "Amazing Race" skills were in full force, and I was able to follow the bus route on my map and found the Public Square recommended by my Frommer's guide book. I was tempted to sprint from the bus and yell, "C'mon! Hurry up!" ala Amazing Race, but being alone and in a skirt, well, the timing wasn't quite right.
The buildings in the Public Square date back hundreds of years, when they were built and occupied by the Portuguese. With brightly colored facades on winding streets (where cars and scooters are not allowed), this old area has maintained much of its ancient look while housing 21st century stores such as Starbucks and McDonalds.
The real activity is simply walking up and down the streets of this little village area and enjoying the sites. There are a few places to visit and I will post about one place in particular in my next entry. I had lunch in a little out of the way Portuguese restaurant. I ordered tuna salad with black eye beans and baked eggplant with tomatoes and mozarella cheese. The tuna salad was tuna in oil over lettuce with fresh tomatoes, red onion and cucumber, and of course the black eyed beans. It was very refreshing! The baked eggplant was delicious and huge. I asked the server, using hand gestures, about the size of the eggplant (she made it look like enough for one person). When it arrived, the eggplant was so long it hung over the side of the plate, so I quickly ate 1/2 of it so it would fit nicely on the plate. After lunch and a chapter of my book (Julia Child, My Life in France) I set back out to complete my afternoon of sightseeing. And that's when I saw what will surely be my favorite tourist spot for some time to come: the ruins of St. Paul's. I will write separately about that topic in my next post. After visiting St. Paul's, it took a bit of walking up and down the street, on the wrong side of the street, to find the correct bus stop to catch the correct bus back to the Ferry Terminal.
Just so you know, I never saw one rickshaw anywhere in that city besides outside the Ferry Terminal.