Before I left Hong Kong, I took a day trip over to Macau, the gambling centre of South-East Asia, with Deborah, Jerry, Eleanor and Joseph, Macau is a short hour-long ferry ride from Hong Kong‟s Tsim Sha Tsui terminal and borders Guangdong province. Macau was colonised by the Portuguese back in the day when Portugal was a world power in the 16th Century. Macau was handed back to China just two years after Hong Kong‟s sovereignty was transferred and on similar terms. Macau has a similar political structure to Hong Kong in that it‟s largely autonomous but ultimately part of the wider China. Macau and Hong Kong, are the two Special Administrative Regions of China, operating under the same “One Country; Two Systems” principle.
Macau is one of the richest cities in the world due in large part to its massive gambling industry (reputedly bigger than Las Vegas) and its manufacturing interests. I‟m not really a gambling man (if I do gamble, it‟s only really on myself in games), so I didn’t play in the casinos but I did visit the newest on the island, the Venetian (reportedly the largest casino in the world – for now at least): an enormous hotel/casino complex with malls and indoor reconstructions of Venice (seriously…!); so you can see a fairly faithful reconstruction of the Piazza San Marco and the odd canal with obligatory gondolas and singing gondoliers.
Afterwards, we headed to the old quarter where vestiges of Macau‟s past as a colony of Portugal can be seen. Here, we enjoyed the delicious Portuguese-style egg custard tarts with a caramelised top; it‟s easy to guzzle half a dozen in one go. There‟s a winding, cobbled street full of bakeries and dried meats vendors where people vie to give you a taste of their wares. The Old Quarter of Macau is a world away from Hong Kong with ancient colonial buildings and squares with unmistakeable European architecture, and bendy streets crowned with the incredible Ruins of St Paul‟s, the remains of the old Cathedral of St Paul; only the four storey front façade remains and is completely free-standing. It’s more mindboggling than the Tower of Pisa; you just can‟t work out how the thing doesn’t topple over!