Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day Trip to Macau

I took a day trip via ferry to the island of Macau (about 65 km each way and US$40 round trip) Macau is a former Portugese colony that served for a couple of centuries as the main trading outpost between the West and China until a couple of hundred years ago when Hong Kong assumed that role. After that, Macau gradually became less and less important.

Since I had to take the ferry from Hong Kong to Macau in the morning and head back in the early evening, I had to explore the island during the middle of the day when it was HOT and there really is no way to avoid a lot of walking on such a day trip. For the locals, motorscooters are the way to go and they are everywhere.

Macau is the Las Vegas of Asia and it is growing incredibly fast. Land is being reclaimed from the sea to build more casinos and expand existing ones. Gambling on this scale is not legal in Hong Kong or China, and so tens of thousands come every weekend to gamble by ferry and plane. The ferry passengers were at least 60% male since men are the primary gamblers. New casinos are going up all over the waterfront.

One of Several New Casinos Going Up

I splurged on an excellent multi-course traditional Portugese dinner mid-afternoon (US$22). The menu was written in Cantonese, Portugese and English, as are many things on the island (Portugese is also an official language here).

St. Paul's Church

Macau was an early outpost of Christianity in Asia. A group of Japanese Christians suffered persecution in Nagasaki when Christianity was banned from Japan near the start of the 16th century. They came here and established St. Paul's church which is now a major tourist attraction. The church is mostly in ruins now, but the front facade still stands and inside there is a mausoleum containing the bones of the original martyrs.

Above is a painting of the original martyrdom in Japan that led to the emigration of the Japanese Christians to Macau to establish the church there.

One of the Many Beautiful Streets in Macau

Macau is a beautiful city. Notice the Portugese-type tile design underlying the street above. It is a great place just to walk around and I really enjoyed the scenery and vibe of the island.

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