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Published: June 14th 2018
Macau was handed over to the Chinese on 20 December 1999, thereby concluding 400 years of Portuguese rule in what had become the last European colony in Asia. The catalyst for the changeover stemmed from the return of Hong Kong by the British two years earlier. Once again I'm curious to visit for the first time since Chinese rule was established, just as I did recently in Hong Kong. It should be noted Macau has a similar arrangement with the Chinese to the one with Hong Kong, where for 50 years post handover the region will operate under the one country, two systems arrangement ceasing in 2049, two years after Hong Kong is fully integrated with China. It's common knowledge that Macau's claim to fame is as the world's premier gambling mecca, with revenue generated from punters around the world contributing to the local economy where the residents enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. Macau is a vibrant and fascinating travel destination, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to visit for a second time.
The journal left off in Hong Kong, at the conclusion of an excellent week in the world famous city. I
couldn't pass up the opportunity to take the ferry to Macau for a day trip, as I did in the late 80's. The Turbo Jet ferry company perform a great service, with the high speed journey running with impressive frequency and efficiency between the two destinations. It's a little tricky finding the correct wharf to Macau, travellers should follow the path above the IFC building for quite a while but the signs guide the way once on the correct path, however the locals will assist as they are friendly and helpful. The ferry trip across the strait takes an hour, before passengers pour out with many having the intention of blowing large wads of cash at the gaming venues. The hostel staff in Hong Kong advised to take care with taxi drivers, who have a notorious reputation for ripping off tourists in Macau. Apparently the problem stems predominantly from an influx of unscrupulous Mainland Chinese, however the government launched a recent crackdown on the industry with the intention of bringing the problem to heel. Regardless I try to avoid taxis whenever possible when travelling, and boarded the tourist bus from the wharf to the city centre for the princely sum
of six Hong Kong dollars. The number 11 runs frequently along the main road, and dollars are readily accepted throughout the city, however you may find your change is in local currency.
Although I'm visiting Macau I don't gamble, therefore was content to spend the day ogling the massive casinos from the exterior. In 1999 after the handover the Chinese government eased travel restrictions, leading to a massive expansion of the gambling industry in Macau, and subsequently vast amounts of revenue flowing to benefit the region's inhabitants. There's been a downturn in revenue in the last years, due to a crackdown on corruption initiated by the Chinese government. Nevertheless, Macau is synonymous with gambling and there are resorts dotted throughout the city. For tourists who come to see the sights as opposed to rolling the dice I recommend heading in to Senado square, one of the most gorgeous central squares anywhere in the world. The different colours of the paved square and the buildings are as pretty as a picture. There's plenty of shopping, fine dining, and cafes that are sure to appeal to tourists who flock to the historic centre of Macau every day, both from Hong Kong
and the Chinese Mainland. I found myself ensconced in a nice restaurant with excellent Wi Fi over lunch, what a place to relax before heading out for the afternoon to further explore the city.
Just off the main square are the Ruins of St. Paul's which were built in 1602, and reconstructed in 1835 after being destroyed by fire. The magnificent stairway up to the ruins is broad and imperious, and swarming with tourists. There's a lovely park off to the side of the ruins, and also a museum that houses artefacts behind the main structure. The tourist hordes are busy snapping portraits and selfies in front of the magnificent structure, so I joined in the fun by snapping away with them. There's something magical about seeing what looks to all intents and purposes like a piece of Europe in Asia, adding considerably to the appeal of visiting Macau. The local people speak Cantonese and Portuguese, and this little island is an intriguing place to visit. Unfortunately there is a dearth of affordable hotel rooms on offer, but I recommend a day trip from Hong Kong to get a taste of magical Macau.
It's been a thrill to
visit Macau again after an absence of 32 years. The region has exerted the same pull it did all those years ago, and keep in mind the ferry service between Macau and Hong Kong is very efficient. I recommend the reader take a punt and visit Macau next time you're in the region, basically all of you should be here now!
"Part of it went on gambling, and part of it went on women. The rest I spent foolishly." George Raft
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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