Red Kinoko Tours Presents: Macau

Monday, September 08, 2008

Macau

Macau is one of those cities where the main attraction is the city itself, like Amsterdam, New Orleans, and Vigan. It's what Hong Kong would've been had it been given the inert laziness of Southwest Europeans instead of the crustiness of the Brits. Think of the place as Hong Kong's weird brother who has an excessive gambling problem, but is fun to hang out with anyway. Languages spoken are English, Chinese, Portuguese (which is like Spanish with lots of weird letters you don't find in the standard alphabet).

People here use both Macau money called a Patacos or something (I can't really remember) or MOP. Hong Kong dollars are also accepted in almost all transactions, but the change given will be in MOP or a mixture if sufficient HKD change is not available. Conversion rate is roughly 100HKD = 103MOP.

To get around, there are taxis, shuttles and buses. Taxis are relatively cheap, with an 11 HKD minimum fare and a 1 dollar increment that is charged by the minute of travel time. Free shuttles get you around most casinos, although some require you to gamble a bit first before being able to board these shuttles. Buses are similar to HK buses in terms of fare costs.

Macau is famous for three things: Casinos, funny looking houses, and Russian hookers. The objective of our trip is to cover those three things and whatever else catches our fancy, and we have to be home on the same day.

Transit

We arrived at Central HongKong's Macau Ferry Terminal at around 10:30 and promptly left around 10:40. Immigration will check your passport and immigration slip so it's best if you have those at hand. An economy (read: masa) ferry ticket cost us around 147HKD and the travel time is 1 hour across rather smooth seas. And yes, there is a comfort room located within the ferry.

Macau Proper

After disembarking at around 11:40, we got stuck for almost another hour in the immigration hall because of the sheer number of people coming in on a perfectly fine Saturday morning. I got a bit disappointed since I was seeing far fewer Portuguese than I expected (and none of them were wearing the traditional armor I envisioned them to wear for casuals).

After exiting the terminal, we went to the visitor's information booth and basically took every type of brochure and map in the place. At this point, it's already 1pm and we were hungry. There's no real place in the terminal where you can eat. I already started thinking that maybe people in Macau consume petrol. We decided to go to The Venetian Macao first and start finding food there instead. Fortunately, there are free shuttle buses going to the Venetian which is quite far from the terminal (i.e. across the goddamn country).

Venetian Macau

The Venetian Macau is a hotel/casino and is one of the best attractions of Macau. We arrived after 20 minutes of bus travel and proceeded to the food court. The food court is the only real option you have around this place if you're on a relatively limited budget like me. A meal anywhere else fetches at least 200HKD, while the food court sells good food at around 70HK (I bought seafood rice from the Singaporean kiosk). Cheapskates should be happy to find other food there that costs 30HKD + (drinking) fountain water. The trick is to know which fountains are for drinking and which are for coin throwing/wishing. The food court is decent and not like the ones we have in SM, so don't worry too much about hygiene.

Features we visited that you may want to visit in the Venetian are as follows:

- St. Mark's square, a replica of the plaza of the same name in Venice Italy, only this version doesn't have the turbid water, flooding, and bird poop of the original place. The painted skies are really realistic.

- Gondolas. We didn't really ride these boats manned by Filipino bangkeros singing in Italian since we can get as much service riding a pedicab on a flooded road back in Manila for much less, but hey, they're in costume so a few photo-ops aint so bad.

- Chalk drawings. Pretty amazing stuff. 3D drawings on a 2D floor, the same things you see on the internet. Just wander around near St Mark's and you'll eventually stumble on it.

- Human statue performers. Actors posing as statues are littered across the various well designed alleys of the shopping arcade. You almost think they're real performing gypsies from Rome (minus the European Eu du Putok scent).

- Last place you can go inside here that's not the casinos is the Grand hall, which is a big circular hall that connects all four wings of the casino/arcade area, featuring hand painted frescoes and exquisitely detailed posts and ceiling vaults that you can marvel at from the center area.

- If you think you can walk, the facade outside the venetian is a replica of Venetian buildings. There are designated Photo-op areas on the left side of the main entrance of the hotel. We skipped this, and took pictures of the place instead while on the bus departing from the Venetian. (yeah, yeah, we missed it. make sure you don't)

After a bit of tripping, we boarded a free shuttle bus going to Sands Casino which is located back near the Ferry Terminal. So far, so good.

Sands Casino

Sands isn't as big as The Venetian, and admittedly the only reason we went here is so we can jack a free ride. If you go to the second floor, you can catch Russian hookers/exotic dancers onstage, presumable to stand as a reminder to the girls who are frequenting the tables of what they might end up as if they put a bit too much into the losing bet. It would be interesting to mention now that in most places of a casino, you are NOT allowed to use your phone or your camera or your camera phone.

We spent roughly 20 minutes in this place and then took our leave through the main exit and went across the street to Fisherman's Wharf.

Fisherman's Wharf

The Wharf is basically an amusement park that looks like what Enchanted Kingdom's fancy facades should look like. We went to the arcades beneath the volcano-ish structure called The Underground just to see what stuff they had there and then went on to Aladdin's Fort to the THRONE OF THE PRETENDER (end: obscure Nickelodeon gameshow reference). Littered all over the place are replicas of famous locations around the world, ranging from Trafalgar Square to the Coliseum, to New Orleans to Somalia (complete with downed Black Hawk). This place also offers a nice view of the bay and a strangely shaped bridge across the distance. If you see Abu the security guard (dressed as a Persian dude) say Hi for me.

Towards the other end of the place is a large Chinese/Korean castle, a Zen Garden and a Coy pond. I presume by now you're dead tired from all the walking. There are benches there for you to take a breather. One nice thing about this place is that there are hardly any people even during Saturdays.

After this, we flagged down a taxi (coloured black and white, kinda like police cars) and asked the driver via picture instruction to take us to the Ruins of St. Paul.

Ruins of St. Paul

The fare ride costs us 25HKD, which is about as much as what you'd pay from Manila to Ortigas. The Ruins of St. Paul is the icon of Macau (as mentioned earlier), presumably because placing a casino as your national symbol puts you somewhere near the "Fucked up" zone in the Sodom and Gomorrah scale of lechery. Russian Hookers as a national icon was taken already by Amsterdam so Macau settled for a destroyed church.

To be honest, the only reason you'd go to this place is for the sake of having gone to the place. At the back of the church, there's a crypt filled with real bones and a museum of sacred relics filled with statues of saints with admittedly stubby arms. (maybe that's just how the Portuguese wanted their saints, iunno)

Near the church is the Museo de Macau. There's a 15 HKD entrance fee but I guess you might as well drop by. Lots of Filipino guards inside you can chat with if you get bored with the lightup dioramas. I learned from the Museum that Macau is a place filled with lots of Chinese doing lots of Chinese things.

At the exit of the museum, you'll end up at the top of the hill facing the ruins of St. Paul. There's a snackbar near the exit of the fort. The canons are the real deal here and are good for photo ops. There's also a nice view of Macau's neighborhoods, which kinda looks like a typical Manila neighborhood, minus the street kids, but we'll go back to that bit in a sec.

From the fort, the best way to go is back down the escalator from which you came from. For our case, we used the stairs to go up to the fort instead of taking the escalators and ended up getting tired unnecessarily (I don't mind exercising, just not accidental exercise).

Path to Senado Square

After returning to the ruins of St. Paul, we went down the steps and into what looks like La Huerta, ParaƱaque. (I swear I can almost see Ka Saleng, the old lady who sells every toy imaginable near our school) The souvenir shops downstairs offer magnets, shirts and keychains at reasonable prices. There are signs everywhere that point to Senado Square, another popular landmark of the City. Just follow those, and if you feel you're lost, ask any Filipino there. Along the way, you may find a food shop that sells Portuguese egg tarts for 5$ a piece. Said to be a specialty, I did try one and it tasted like what it's supposed to be - an egg tart. If you see a church that looks like Quiapo Church complete with its own Plaza Miranda, you're near Senado Square.

Senado Square

The place is supposed to be a perfect venue for looking at the traditional Macau architecture which is a combination of Chinese, Portuguese, and neoclassical architecture (translation: the houses have bright colours, lots of posts, and there are Chinese people are playing Mahjong inside) As an added bonus, there are lots of Filipinos around this place even on Saturdays. During our trip, live feeds of the Paralympics were being shown on a huge-ass LCD, and there were midautumn festival lanterns sprawled around. Again, in my opinion the only reason I went there is because everybody who goes to Macau goes there.

Grand Lisboa

By the time you reach Senado Square, you'd have seen a very quaint golden building that looks like a strange simulacrum of male orgasm (i.e. shaped like golden semen shooting out into the sky). That's the Grand Lisboa and you're heading towards it. From Senado Square, head to the main road adjacent to it and then turn left. Keep walking until you start seeing Vegas-style lights. It's a bit far but I'm sure you can tolerate it.

The Grand Lisboa is one of the few casinos that aren't run by corporations coming in from Las Vegas and other parts of the world. Three things you may want to see here are:

- Star of Lisboa, a huge-ass diamond that's larger than your left nut (or right, if you're left-handed). It's located at the 2nd floor, which in Casino layout terms means 4th floor. I know. Fuck floor designers.

- Pianist Filipino. I dunno, any dude who can play the piano and sing is tour worthy in my book. He's at the upper 1st floor (3rd floor).

- More Russian hookers poledancing at the main hall. We can't have enough of those in this tour.

Open Options, Trip Home

At this point, you'd have seen everything that needs to be seen from my point of view. You're probably dead tired like me too. We went around the place a few more times, details of which I won't enumerate anymore. All I can say is this: The Macau Beer is a goddamn lie. There is no Macau Beer in Macau. If ever there is, don't look for it. Let it find you.

Anyway, along the road that you travelled on the way to the Grand Lisboa, there's a bus line that goes the Marina Ferry Terminal which is Bus line 3. Fare is 2.50HKD and the trip should take less than 20 minutes. (Make sure it's going to the Marina, and not on the other direction, heading for the airport).

From the ferry terminal, the departures is on the 2nd floor. Ticket price is 178HKD, a bit more expensive than going to Macau, which is a pretty literal way of making you feel that it's harder to leave Macau than to come to Macau. Travel time is about an hour. For our case, we left Macau at around 9 in the evening and got back to Hong Kong island an hour later.

Note that we did miss one vital location in this trip, the Macau Tower. I'm not sure why we did but we did. If I were really up to it, I'd visit it after the Grand Lisboa so I can get a nice night view of the Macau Skyline and have my dinner there. But I didn't because I was too tired and I think I've had my share of views from tall places here in Hong Kong. It's up to you if you still want to drop by, but I wouldn't really know if it's worth it or not.

Macau is one of those places where the best way to get around with your plan is to not have a plan at all. We winged pretty much everything from our arrival and the trip turned out rather well. So if you're planning to go to Macau, just keep a light goofy attitude and you'll feel right at home.

Well, unless your only there for the hookers.

1 comment:

Hong Kong Attractions said...

Very informative blog indeed!

Thank you so much for sharing.

 

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