With a one-way fare as low as $9.68 USD, how could you possibly resist flying to Macau? Clark-Macau route just happened to be one of the cheapest flight deals from Tiger Airways that time and it's just too good for me and my pocket. So, I headed straight to Macau on the nose!
I'm feeling much confident backpacking alone by now since I did my first Singapore-Malaysia adventure. Needless to say, Filipinos do not need a visa to Macau (for up to 30 days, actually) so I could worry less about the brunt of tit-for-tat of immigration. I'm planning to see three places at one go — Macau, Hong Kong and mainland China. I'll be staying at the Auguster's Lodge (the former Sweet House of Macau) located at 24, Rua Do Dr. Pedro Jose Lobo, Floor 3J, Block 4, Edf. Kamloi. I booked myself a bed and paid HK$60 per night in their dormitory-type room. Good stuff!
Here's the plan. From Macau, I'll be crossing borders by ferry (TurboJet) to reach Hong Kong and then take the train from Hong Kong to enter mainland China via Shenzhen. Then, Cebu Pacific Air (for the first time) will take me back home from Hong Kong International Airport to Clark, Pampanga. Wrapping up, that's 2 days in Macau, 2 days in Hong Kong and a day in mainland China (Shenzhen). But I reckon that even the best plans change on the fly...
I arrived at Macau International Airport at 03:10 PM (a 2-hour trip from Clark). Macau is booming, albeit land area is relatively small. At a glance, it's notable that the island is undergoing intensive land reclamation projects with its muddy-colored surrounding waters. The airport is in Taipa island linked to Macau Peninsula (along with Cologne island) through causeways and bridges. My hostel is located in the heart of the Macau Peninsula so I had to take the bus (MT1 or MT2) to cross the other side.
First impressions. Roads are relatively narrow but traffic is efficient. What's good about Macau (in my case) is that Filipinos have become such a common sight. I could spot one or two almost every corner. In fact, one place in Macau is touted as the favorite hang out for Filipinos — Leal De Senado Square (also known as San Malo). Well, I met a bunch just right from the bus. "Pinoy ka ba?" which means "Are you a Filipino?" They just kept asking what the hell am I doing there all alone. Well, what can I say? I came all the way to Macau just for the mere pleasure of backpacking!
Nothing personal, but I find it hard to communicate with the locals, especially with the old folks. Either they speak Cantonese (or Macanese) when I ask something in English, or just make signs (that's the signal for me to just leave). Macau's official languages are Portuguese and Cantonese Chinese. English is only spoken as a first language by 1.5% of its population. It's nice to know though that I can trust my grubby map for directions. As always.
Apart from the MT1 bus that took me from the airport to the hostel, I managed to explore Macau by foot — an unparalleled experience. I first went to see the famous Ruins of St. Paul and then strolled down to Senado Square.
I'm very much fascinated with their cobbled pavements boasting with its distinctive tiled patterns. The streets are carefully paved with cobblestones in traditional Portuguese pattern surrounded with colonial style buildings. It's indeed evident that this small place in Asia was once colonized by the Portuguese.
Later that night, I checked in at Auguster's Lodge. The hostel is owned by the very friendly Richard (an Indian man) and his Filipina wife Precy. It's already late that time so I called Richard to assist me on how to locate the hostel. I was surprised that he decided to just fetch me (it's near the hostel anyway) and then accompanied me all the way to my room — what a service!
I just couldn't sleep that night so I went to the reception and started a short conversation with the Indian man. I told him about my first backpacking experience and crossing borders from Singapore to Malaysia. All my grand adventures so far while enjoying a cup of noodles. I also mentioned about my plans crossing borders again. According to him, Macau is really cheap but once you get to Hong Kong or China, it would be all too expensive.
And by the way, I got 50% discount for a night at the hostel. I paid full but Richard handed me a mark down later that night. Not really sure about the catch but he's quite sincere and very accommodating despite the fact that I'm bugging him a lot of questions about the place. Or, has he been amazed about my backpacking stories? Perhaps. Well, he gave me back the money off with his kind words stuck in my memory saying, "Here you go lad, you might want to buy yourself extra noodles when you get to Hong Kong!"
After that nice conversation, I finally went back to my room. One of my roommates is an Aussie. He is four years younger than me but boy, he's got a lot to say about backpacking. He's taken me aback when he said that he spends one whole year in Australia working and then spends half a year out in the world backpacking! Cool isn't it? I really learned a lot from this fellow.
Early morning, I took a walk around the peninsula to see the historic fortresses, churches and temples, some of the famous landmarks, fisherman's wharf, and the famed Tower. Later in the afternoon, I headed to Taipa Island to see the Venetian Macao — the largest single structure hotel building in Asia!
Venetian Macao had to be the most awe-inspiring hotel I have ever seen in Macau. Its European-style architecture along with the accompaniment of Italian opera music creates a very distinctive mood around the place.
The grand entrance, the lights, the ceiling of blue skies, the shops, the replica of the Grand Canal in Venice, St. Mark's Square, the Rialto Bridge and the Gondola rides, the casino — it's simply a breathtaking experience you don't want to miss!
Later that evening is laid back. Well, I just went out to see the Las Vegas of the East — Macau at night with the glitz of the world-class casinos. This is something in Macau that's unique from other Asian countries. There's Grand Casino Lisboa, Wynn Macau, Sands Casino, Babylon Casino, MGM, Crown Macau and Emperor Palace to name a few.
One of the Filipinos I met there told me that you could try your lady luck and have that special privilege to play in the casinos for free. Yes, you can try the slot machines which will cost you zilch. How? The casinos offer free membership and you just have to show your passport and sign up — exclusively for tourists.
Uhm... Grand Casino Lisboa is my best pick among the rest. I'm not into gambling though so I just reveled with the fantastic Las Vegas-type show on the upper deck of the casino. Marvelous show! Oh, two-thumbs up for the dancing girls!
Time to cross borders from Macau to Hong Kong by ferry — yet another backpacking experience!