Macau (Day 1)
While the US (and certainly China) doesn’t consider Macau a separate country just as it doesn’t consider Hong Kong a separate country, these two special administrative regions are autonomous in every way except when it comes to having their own army. They have separate currency, immigration policies, postal services, police, etc. and they speak Cantonese rather than Mandarin. The only real thing not “separate” aside from the aforementioned army is the “country” they belong to i.e. the People’s Republic of China. So no Macau is not country 72 for me even though it feels like it as I pass through immigration and excitedly hope for my Macau passport stamp which I unfortunately did not receive.
So how do you get to the most densely populated “country” in the world? Well from the China Ferry Terminal in HK I took the Turbojet round trip for a day trip for $330HK (like $33USD) and off to country number 71.5 I went 😉
I met a new friend, Ling from Shanghai, on the boat who taught me many things and provided me with an itinerary for mainland China not to mention the fact that I acquired a lunch date upon my arrival to Shanghai. From the Macau Ferry Terminal, I picked up some MOP (Macau Pataca) and then jumped aboard the free shuttle to the Grand Lisboa Casino. What? A casino? You heard me right! Macau is the Las Vegas of China.
In 1997 for Hong Kong and 1999 for Macau, the pragmatism of China’s then ruler reared its not so ugly head. HK and Macau wanted to remain capitalist countries but China wanted to call them their own so “One Country, Two Systems” came into play and the result: a non-communist, let’s go get our gamble on Macau, China was formed.
So let’s go get our gamble on first! Why the Grand Lisboa? Well it’s closest to historic downtown Macau which I really want to see and it’s a free shuttle ride. Moreover, it’s called the Grand Lisboa. What’s so interesting about this you might ask? Well not too long ago, Macau was a Portuguese territory. This is fascinating to me. Here in Macau you get Portuguese architecture with Cantonese on the buildings, Portuguese on the signs, the St. Paul Ruins, and you can eat my favorite desert so far from around the world – NATAS from, you guessed it, Portugal! And all of this after doubling my money at a casino in a Chinese territory with a Portuguese name.
There is enough uniqueness in that alone to warrant a visit to this incredible little island. Furthermore, if you have time, you can bungee jump from the top of the 11th tallest building in the world – the Macau Tower. I’m not sure whether I’m grateful that I don’t have the time or not given that is so something I would do and it is so something that scares the you know what out of me!
That’s all for now from country 71.5 – the Vegas of China – Macau.