Two segregated cultures
While walking down the street, it almost felt like I was constantly bouncing two different worlds back and forth. One world with old Chinese people with their markets, electric equipment stores and outdoor food stalls, and another world with tourists attractions and fancy restaurants. Those two exist at the same place, but dodn’t mix well together. I imagined Macau as similar as Hong Kong; they both have European and Chinese influences and are bilingual countries. However the segregation in Macau was bigger than Hong Kong. It felt more extreme.
Macanese cuisine is not world’s favourite, but you won’t forget the delightful taste once you have it. It is a mixture of Cantonese and Portuguese and they create some pretty good stuff. For starters, custard tart (egg tart) is widely available in every corner of Macau. Portuguese chicken jumped high on my ‘favourite food’ list. Try to taste it from different bakeries. HK$1.5 one was excellent, but the one I paid HK$8 deserved the price. Also they surely know how to make a good quality coffee.
As the nickname ‘Las Vegas of Asia’ indicates, casino is a big part of Macau. There are 23 casinos around the islands, and no need to sit and play if you don’t want to. Casinos are clean, well managed, and actually pleasant. No smoking inside, no loud noise, and the decor was fancy. They even run free shuttles to the border gate and to the airport. It’s free for everyone, so use it if you are around.
Do you know what kind of currency they use in Macau? Neither did I until I arrived here. Patacas, have you ever heard of such name, Patacas? Funny thing is, if you are coming or visiting from Hong Kong, you don’t need to bother exchange money because it considers as the same as patachas. Quite strange, using other country’s currency. But it’s a good change if you collect foreign money, because it is certainly a rare currency for sure.
Location, location, location
Macau is a good place to break your trip from/to Hong Kong or China. It is an interesting place to travel of course, and because of the location between Hong Kong and China, the border crossing to either country is easy. Just an hour of sailing to Macau was a delight. I was with TurboJET, and the boat ride was way beyond what I was expecting. While busy eating complementary breakfast on the leather seat, and drinking coffee with the newspaper, we were already in Macau. I think this was the very first time I wish the boat ride was longer than it was supposed to be.
After two days of exploring, I entered China. I’d never thought of the day I cross the Chinese border by foot but I did. It appeared to be a lot of people are commuting across the border, due to the amount of people at the custom. If you can walk between two countries, I guess it is doable.
I thought about a day trip to Macau when I was in Hong Kong, but I decided cross the Chinese border through Macau since I’m going there anyway, and it looked like Macau deserves more than a day trip, and it was true.
Don’t expect to use English in Macau. All the signs are bilingual but Chinese and Portuguese. It’s easy to think Macau would be similar with Hong Kong due to the geometric and cultural similarity but no. In Hong Kong, lots of people are using English and Cantonese but seem like Macanese use only Cantonese or Portuguese. I survived with my ability to read and guess Chinese letter and few Portuguese I can recognize. Oddly enough, I didn’t meet anyone who speaks Portuguese.