Back From a Great Weekend in Macau

I’m back in Shanghai after an uneventful flight on Air Macau from MFM to PVG. The airline, Air Macau, was quite impressive. While they only fly a few routes, all via MFM airport, their planes are clean and new-ish, they were on time both flights and served dinner (gasp!) in both directions. As I mentioned before at the checkin desk for Air Macau there seemed to be quite a bit of confusion regarding my passport. I handed it over to check in and it took two people and some bit of explanation as to how I’d be allowed back in China. With most flights that connect to the mainland the airline will check to see if you have the appropriate visa to enter. They do it in Tokyo as well. I should mention a bit about the airport as well. It’s built on a man-made island off of one of the Macau islands and the runway is a water-on-three-sides jetty that comes off from the island. On both take off and landing it felt that I was moving on water. Not unlike San Francisco airport, but way more intense.

Saturday was spent walking around Macau, the morning and afternoon in the ‘Penha’ area, which is the southern part of the island. I made way to the Penha Church at the top of the temple which has great views of Macau Tower and is cute on in its own right. The walk up the hill that it’s on is quite intense and you pass by a lot of beautiful looking Portuguese homes all painted in primary colors.

Back down the hill, the A-Ma Temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple built in to the hill with steps that criss-cross the hillside to allow you to talk to various places of worship. As most Buddhist temples I’ve seen in China, the devout outnumber the tourists by an order of magnitude. While incense is a welcome part of any temple, one peculiar thing about the temples I saw here were the cylindrical incense columns that are hung from the ceiling. They have a pyramidal shape and burn from the bottom of the spiral up and they’re hung all over the place. 

Later in the afternoon on Saturday, I visited the iconic landmark of Macau, the ruins of Saint Paulo. They do indeed make for a beautiful sight, on top of the hill that they claim. The walk from the Largo do Senado to the ruins is also quite nice, it’s all pedestrian and full of shops selling different types of meat jerkeys and almond cookies (I bought a ton of the latter). Off to the side of the ruins is Fort Monte, which is now host to the Macau Museum. Since it had started raining, I didn’t get much time around the Fort so I planned a return trip for the next day.

After dinner in the evening, I went to the Sands Casino, operated by the Galaxy Casino Company (or something like that) from Las Vegas. It’s much newer and more comfortable from the perspective of someone who learned to gable in Las Vegas. It’s more spacious and the layout is much easier to comprehend. It lacks the old-time charm of the Lisboa, but I still managed to lose about four hours in its bowels. I spent most of the time in the “Pearl Room”, which is on the first floor and offers smoke free (gasp!) gamling. Oh, right. The gambling. The tables only play HKD, no MOP, so I went in on a roulette table with 1000 HKD and played for a while. At my best I was up to 4000-ish HKD but left the casino with a whole 150 HKD in my pocket. For more on the gambling growth read on.

Sunday got off to a lazy and slow start. I checked out the Guia Lighthouse and the Guia Public Park. The park itself is well manicured and well laid out. The lighthouse, like most sights here, was on top of a hill and nice walk up. And also like most sights here, it’s beautifully washed in pastel colors. In fact, while walking around the lighthouse it doesn’t look unlike pictures I’ve of seen of Santorini. The church that’s adjacent to the light house houses a wonderful set of frescos from who-knows-when.

The Kun An Temple came next, which was a brief 25 minute walk from the lighthouse (all downhill). It’s much like the A-Ma Temple that I wrote about earlier but laid out much differently, in to three columns with three ‘rooms’ in each. The center column contains a different style Buddha in each, with a laughing Buddha in the middle (I can’t recall the other two). After the Temple, it was off to the Macau Museum which is also quite well done and new. It hosts an interesting set of comparative cultural information from the European and Chinese heritage of the SAR. After that, it was off to the airport and now I’m back in Shanghai.

Overall, I really enjoyed Macau. I’m glad I made it to the SAR before it’s become (more) overrun by tourists and gamblers. The amount of hyper-development that’s in progress will transform this place in the next ten years. The island and peninsula of Macau are growing, physically, to meet the demands that will be placed by the developing tourist economy. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend a visit, even for the non- or passive gambler.