15.7.14

A day in Macau - part 1

Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China. It was once a Portuguese colony and it is now the Asian capital of gambling, which is why it's called the "Las Vegas of Asia", although it generates more revenue than Las Vegas itself.
Macau is not only gambling and big hotels, after centuries of Portuguese colonization (it was the first and last European colony in Asia), historical, cultural and culinary remains can be seen all over the place.


If you're in Hong Kong you can easily get to Macau by ferry in about an hour (departures from the HK-Macau Terminal in Hong Kong Island -Sheung Wan-, from the Kowloon Terminal or from HK Airport to either the Macau Outer Harbour Terminal or the Cotai Island Terminal), taking one of the two ferry companies Turbojet or Cotaijet.
We picked Turbojet since it had many departure times from the HK-Macau terminal, close to our hotel (99 Bonham). Since we were there on a long-weekend holiday, we decided to book our tickets online through their website (there's a HK$10 fee for non-refundable online booking). We picked an early departure, 9 am, and paid online with credit card. Then when we arrived in HK, we passed by the terminal to pick up our actual tickets at the Turbojet desks with the confirmation e-mail, ID and credit card.
So on the morning of our trip, we arrived about an hour early to take our ferry and since there was space in the 8.30 ride we were told we could board that one.
We had "Superclass" tickets at HK$308 per person, one-way, which entitled us to waiting in the Superclass lounge, complimentary meal and priority disembarkation. There are cheaper Economy tickets and more expensive Premier tickets or VIP cabins. Tickets' prices differ based on time and day of the week. Night departures (after 6pm) and weekends are more expensive.
The one-hour trip across the Pearl river was fast and smooth, we got a tray with breakfast and at arrival we were among the first ones to get off the ship so there were no immigration lines. Having a separate immigration regime than China and HK, you have to go through immigration and customs so you should check with your local embassy/consulate if you need a visa to get in (EU citizens, among others, can stay in Macau visa-free for 90 days, US citizens for 30 days).
After arrival we took bus n.3 outside the terminal which dropped us near the Grand Lisboa hotel and casino. The official currency in Macau is the Pataca, but HK$ are also accepted on a 1:1 exchange rate (just be sure to get rid of all your Patacas beofre leaving Macau, as they are not accepted in HK and you'd have to exchange them in a bank or currency exchange office).
The Grand Lisboa is the tallest building in Macau, it opened in 2007/2008 and hosts about 800 mass gaming tables and 1000 slot machines. It also hosts a 218-carat diamond and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
From there we walked to the main square, called Largo do Senado, the start of the heritage walk of the UNESCO Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site, which includes most of the buildings that remain from the Portuguese colonization period.
Climbing up the streets and alleys we got to the famous Ruins of St. Paul, its façade is the only remains of the 17th century church that burnt down in a fire in 1835.
The arrival of the Portuguese in Macau marks also the arrival of the first Jesuit missions to the continent, making Macau the center of the missionary activity in China.
One of the most important missionaries in Macau was Matteo Ricci (from Macerata, Italy) who arrived in Macau in 1582. During his stay in Macau he started his project of learning Chinese language and customs and became one of the first Western scholars to master Classical Chinese. All this while seeking to establish a permanent Jesuit mission outside Macau. After several travels in China he became the first Westerner invited by the Wanli Emperor to become an adviser to the Imperial court due to his scientific expertise and his predictions of solar eclipses, which were significant events in the Chinese world. He established the the oldest Catholic church in the Beijing, where he died in 1610. There is a statue of Matteo Ricci right next to St. Paul's ruins.

After visiting the ruins, we walked down the hill back to Largo do Senado and from there, passing through the Moorish Barracks, to the A-Ma temple, next to the Inner Ferry teminal and Maritime Museum dedicated to the Goddess of Seafarers, giving the name to the city ('Macao' comes from the Chinese “A-Ma-Gau” meaning “Bay of A-Ma”).

To be continued in the next post...

Turbojet
3/F Shun Tak Centre
200 Connaught Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
http://www.turbojet.com.hk/en/contact-us.aspx

Grand Lisboa Hotel & Casino
Avenida de Lisboa, Macau
Tel. +853 2828 3838
http://www.grandlisboa.com/en/home/index.html