Dodging Typhoon Merbok in Macau

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June 14th 2017
Published: June 17th 2017
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There have been times on our trip where we have felt that Lady Luck has been working against us, for example our stressful 33 hour delayed exit from Xi'an. And then there's been times it's felt like she has been very much on our side. This was one of those times.

We left Hong Kong on a beautifully sunny Sunday morning, perhaps the most beautiful day so far, and enjoyed the picturesque catamaran journey across to Macau blissfully unaware of Typhoon Merbok. That evening the first level of Hong Kong's 5 stage Typhoon warning was issued in both Hong Kong and Macau and all Hong Kong / Macau ferries were suspended.

We were totally unaware of this until the following morning when Paul stumbled across it on the internet. It was Monday, three days before our flight home, and we were wondering whether we'd have yet another stressful exit from China. There was little we could do about the situation so we carried on regardless with our sight seeing.

Hotel lobbies had Typhoon warning boards showing the current warning level. We left our hotel with it at level 1 and returned a few hours later to find it had been increased to level 3 (the second level for some reason?!). By this point it had been raised to level 8 (the third level) in Hong Kong and all school children and non essential workers were sent home with extra buses and metros running to help with the influx of people travelling. Again we decided there was little we could do and went back to the room to get ready for our evening out.

When we returned back to the hotel at around midnight we found a note under our door explaining that we were currently at level 3 but were predicted to go to level 8 'soon'. This contradicted what we'd read on the storm website - they predicted Merbok would hit Hong Kong at midnight and then head east, away from Macau. Once again we decided to go to bed and keep our fingers crossed that by the morning it would literally have all blown over!

Luckily, that's just what it did. It hit Hong Kong as predicted, causing seven injuries, but totally bypassed Macau. We'd experienced a little strong wind, but to be honest we used to have stronger winds at Fernlea Avenue (nick named Windy Harbour by my dad) where I grew up. Rather selfishly we were counting our blessings that we'd planned our trip with Hong Kong first.

Despite the drama of Merbok we managed to still have an amazing time in Macau. We came here because we'd heard that it was the Las Vegas of the East, and since we both love Las Vegas and Macau is only a one hour boat journey from Hong Kong it was a bit of a no brainer.

Historically Macau, like Hong Kong was not part of China, and still has its own currency and immigration rules. The Portuguese influence is evident everywhere and as we left the ferry terminal we realised we were going to have an unexpected language challenge as signs were in Cantonese and Portuguese!

Like Las Vegas, Macau is a very unique place, but for very different reasons. One minute you're in an over the top, glitzy casino and the next you're wandering down cobbled streets lined with brightly coloured houses and churches. You step out of the casino and into the Mediterranean - it really messes with your mind.

Our hotel was near the historic centre so we spent half of our time seeing the more cultural side of Macau and the other half in the casinos. In Vegas all the impressive, themed hotels can be found on the strip, but in Macau they are a little more spread out. We managed to visit most of the big American ones, and found ourselves underneath the Eiffel Tower and in St Marks square. We even went for a ride on a figure of eight Ferris wheel (mainly because it was free with our show tickets). My favourite casino was MGM purely because of the beautiful, over the top atrium complete with brightly coloured fake butterflies and flowers. We spent a couple of hours here sat in the onion chairs (see pictures), trying not to be impressed with the aquarium (which we fundamentally disagree with yet struggle not to be drawn to!) and grazing on an all you can eat buffet.

We blew the budget once more by going to see a show called House of Dancing Water. Similar to the Cirque shows in Vegas and around the world, it combines acrobatics, dance and crazy diving stunts. It was exhilarating scary at times and a little surreal (think acrobatic motorbikes!) but very, very entertaining. It had a very cheeky side to it that you don't get with Cirque and the reaction from the crowd was fantastic. Definitely a real highlight of Macau and worth every penny.

Our on last night after a wonderful meal we tried our hand at gambling, even learning the rules for a popular dice game called Sic Bo (Big, Small). Unlike in Vegas there are no free drinks whilst you're gambling. Well, there are, but not the kind of drinks we're used to (or interested in!). Mainly frequented by the Chinese, gambling in Macau is taken very seriously, to the point where alcohol is avoided because it impacts on your game. What the??? We soon ran out of money and with no free alcohol on offer decided we were safer in a bar. Our budget had already been stretched to the max, and trying to win it all back was a sure fired receipt for disaster.

All too soon it was time to catch the ferry back to a very overcast Hong Kong for a one night layover before flying home. We managed to cram in one last sightseeing stop, Temple Street market and another lovely meal back at Knutsford Terrace before heading back to our no frills hotels.

I doubt this will come as a surprise, but neither of us are ready to go home. We've had 3.5 weeks of amazingly quiet accommodation so we're not even missing our own bed. Six months sounds like such a long time, but it goes by remarkably quickly. We know we have been so lucky to get the chance to do this again (both for a third time), but the travel bug never goes away. Each time you scratch the itch it just gets bigger.

For Paul it's back to reality, but for me it's a one day pit stop in Nottingham before flying out to meet my parents in Italy for my last two weeks of freedom. That's assuming of course we make it back to the UK as planned and our £200 flight via Moscow with Aeroflot(?) goes smoothly. How does that saying go again? "You get what you pay for!"

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