Malati and I took a bus on the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau bridge(Hong Kong -Macau by bus on the HZMB) and were dropped at the door step of our hotel – The Legend Palace Hotel .
Macao was a former Portuguese territory and was handed over to China in 1999. It is now formally nown as the Macao Special Administrative Region of China or simply Macao SAR. Macao is about 60 km west of Hong Kong on the Pearl River Estuary .It borders the town of Zhuhai in the Guiangdong province of China . Macao can be broadly divided into the peninsula of Macao , Taipa , Coloane and the reclaimed land of Cotai . In fact Macao has grown in size by three times over the last century due to reclamation of land from the sea. It caught my interest that the people of Macao are called Macanese and their currency is called the Pataca.The Pataca is artificially pegged at the same rate as the Hong Kong dollar and the HKD is easily accepted across all establishments – but change is given in the local currency .
Macao has two ferry terminals which was the only way of reaching from Hong Kong though there is an airport connecting Macao to many Asian cities.The two terminals are known as the Outer harbour Ferry Terminal located on the peninsula and the TAIPA terminal both of whch are well connected to Hong Kong by a regular ferry service. However the direct link to the SKY Pier at HK airport is only from the Outer Harbour Ferry terminal .
Since we had only a day in Macao it was quite a challenge to find the right location of the hotel to meet our trip requirements of a Casino , some tourist spots and reach the Sky Pier at HKIA to board our flight.We learnt that there are about 45 casinos in Macao and every hotel has access to one. The largest and most well known is however the casino at the Venetian hotel which we were told is the second largest casino in the world. So the obvious choice to stay in Macao was the Venetian which is located on the Island in the reclaimed area of Cotai. Room rates are very reasonable and there are regular free shuttles to the Outer harbour ferry terminal. Since we arrived late afternoon there was very little sight seeing to be done that day and we kept our sight seeing for the next morning. Our places of interess were the Ama Temple , the Senada square , Ruins of St Paul and the Macao tower all of which were on the peninsula of Macao.
Thus while the Venetian was accessible by ferry from Hong Kong at the Taipa Pier our exit to the SkyPier at HK airport had to be from the Outer Harbour Terminal . And so we chose to stay on the peninsula and return to the hotel after visiting the Venetian at night.In this way we were able to keep the next morning free for our trip to the Senada Square and the delights around it . Had we stayed at the Venetian we would have backtracked to the hotel or carry our luggage with us during the day. We used the same selection process that I have been advocating in my earlier posts Choosing the Right Hotel – Location First. Have a look at the map alongside and you will be able to understand the mechanics of selecting the right location better.And so our search lead us to the Legend Palace hotel just off the Outer harbour Ferry terminal ( or simply the Macau Terminal) and it lived up to its name – It was a palace and a legend rolled into one just adjacent to the Fishermans Wharf , a prominent tourist spot in Macao. The rates were far lower than that at Hong Kong and we were booked into the most amazing suite I have ever lived anywhere so far.
As always a sea view room adds to the charm and beauty of any hotel room and the hotel matched up on all counts. Free shuttle buses ply you from the ferry terminals to hotels. I inferred that low hotel rates and shuttle buses are small freebies enticing the tourist to the gaming tables at the casinos! We took a free shuttle from the harbour terminal to the Venetian hotel and were simply overawed by the size of the hotel. Largest casino apart the Venetian is a huge mall, galleria and sports zone as well. A well spent evening and we head back to the hotel to sample the delights of the Legend palace . The spa, restaurants and the shoppping gallery.
The next morning a short cab ride through modern Macao and its imposing sky scrapers brought us to the Senada square or the Senate square.
The square is paved with black and white tiles and is always a hub of activity. The square is surrounded by old Portuguese era buildings and streets still retain their Portugese names. We walked through the square and the narrow alleys around it to the Ruins of St Paul church.This church was built in the 17th century and was one of the largest churches in Asia. It housed a seminary also in ruins nearby. Today only its facade and its approach of about 70 steps is all that remains.
The rest was burnt down by a fire in the 19th century. We stoppped by at the some of the amazing street food joints selling crackling pork and headed back to the hotel. Macao is also well known for its bakeries. Do stop by at one of the shops around the square and have a custard tart or a muffin. A walk through the area was all that we could manage given that we had only a day in Macao. We traced our way back to the hotel via the Light House, a UNESCO heritage site in time for the ferry to the Sky Pier at Hong Kong International Airport.
I was particularly interested in the ferry service from Macao direct to the Sky Pier at the Hong Kong International airport . While I have experienced airline check -in at a railway station this was the first time I have come across check in at the ferry terminal . One has to check in at the ferry terminal at Macao and thereafter pass through Macao immigration and then onto the ferry to the Sky pier at Hong Kong . Baggage is checked in at Macao through to the final destination – In our case it was Bangkok – One cannot leave the terminal at HKIA . In essence you are a transit passenger at HKIA on a journey from Macao to Bangkok where the first leg of your journey was by a ferry! However there are some conditions laid down which are meant to limit the transit in Hong kong to the minimum .
Check in at the ferry terminal was very smooth and after a short while in the lounge we made our way to the ferry.We travelled by the superior class which gave us a great view from the upper deck. An hour’s ferry ride to HKIA and we disembarked at the Sky Pier to continue our onward journey by plane . It took us two train rides to get the departure terminal lounge of the Thai Airways which was conveniently located just off the boarding gates for our next destination – Bangkok