Last Sunday I decided against just walking around aimlessly in Hong Kong (which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea) and decided to take the ferry out to Macau. Macau is technically a separate “special administrative region of China,” meaning that I’d need to bring my passport to go through customs. That worked for me, since my Passport is filling up fast and I want to get some new pages added soon anyway.
After taking the hotel’s free shuttle to the general vicinity of the China Ferry pier, I still ended up wandering for about 45 minutes trying to find the right pier. I asked someone and their answer was “go to the shiny gold building,” which made me think I was actually trapped in some kind of weird video game. Anyway after a detour through a pretty nice mall and eating Chinese-style curry for lunch, I arrived at the golden pier and hopped a boat to Macau. The guy I asked was apparently not lying. The ferry only takes about an hour, and the ride was really nice. I think I slept most of the way.
Of course the gold building is the boat to casino island.
Arriving in Macau doesn’t feel like you’re in a different country from Hong Kong at all. It looks pretty much the same, but they have their own currency. However this currency is pretty useless if you’re only going to the casinos like I did, since all the games are played in Hong Kong dollars. Macau is a really old Portugese colony and has a lot of historical sights and stuff, but I spent most of my afternoon at the Sands Casino, which is yet another huge shiny gold building. The inside was pretty similar to what I remember from Las Vegas, only without the cigar smoke and free alcohol. Also 90% of the people were Chinese/Asian, and 90% of those people were senior citizens. I put a limit on myself for the day’s gambling from the get-go, and was actually doing pretty good at one point playing roulette and $100 HKD a hand blackjack. And of course I lost most of that by the evening.
The games were pretty much what I expected, but baccarat seemed to be predominant. Also sic-bo and some dice game that I have no idea about. There was also War, as in the card game played by kids who can’t play real card games. Except in the casino the minimum bet is $100. There were also dancers on the bar most of the time (wearing clothes of course), but during breaks they were playing a BoA DVD. It felt weird to be sitting in China listening to a Korean girl sing in Japanese. Quick note: the McDonald’s inside Sands sells Egg McMuffins at any time of day, which is amazing. The HK ones do too, but this was where I made the discovery initially.
I started and ended my Macau trip at Sands, but in between I also walked around the Fisherman’s Wharf area there, which was mostly tourist traps but with some cool buildings. There was an old-style Chinese castle, a volcano, some funky stone gates, and a bunch of Babylonian architecture that was part of another casino. The volcano had an arcade in the basement that was dirt cheap so I played some Street Fighter there in the wrong aspect ratio. I felt like I was in high school through since you have to buy tokens to use any of the arcade machines. (Exhilarama in Crestwood Mall was pretty cool the first few years.) I also went over to the Golden Dragon casino, which is super local with almost no English signs or instructions anywhere, and almost exclusively baccarat. Also I’m pretty sure that everything in the building above the 5th floor was some form of brothel. Karaoke in China (KTV) is not the same as karaoke in Japan.
After getting the 9:30PM boat back to Hong Kong, I checked into my second hotel (cheaper and more stuff in the area). It was pretty late so I just went to Temple Street and got some awesome food at a street restaurant. Beef chow fun (乾炒牛河) might be one of my favorite noodle dishes ever. Also this whole big plate cost me like USD $3.