March 16, 2010

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Travel to Macau: My first day

Let me show you Macau through my eyes

View of the Macau Tower.

The day before my trip to Macau was a long Saturday for me. Somehow I always pack last minute and I (again) underestimated the complications of packing. In the end I went to bed at 4am. But I always have a hard time falling asleep the day before any departure, but especially when I fly. I had things on my mind like: Will I be fine? Will I forget anything? Will I safely reach Macau? Will I find my way? This and many more were making it hard for me to sleep. I only slept 5 hours that night.

The next day I met up with my girlfriend at the Banqiao railstation. We took the highspeed train to Taoyuan and then a bus to the nearby airport. We spent some time together, ate and talked and I felt a bit emotional. Even, if I had to leave her for only 3 days, it was like a reminder, that I may need to leave her next month and fly back to Europe. I hope that doesn't happen, but when I passed the Taiwanese immigration and waved bye bye to her, I almost teared up. The image of her through that glass wall was so strange to me. She looked so lovely and sweet, but so far... An image that will remain in my mind for a long time.

So there I was again: flying. I flew with Transasia Airways. There's not much to say, except the flight was smooth and the food was tasty (chicken and rice). We flew about 2h and time literally flew, those two hours passed like in a blink of an eye.

Flight from Taipei to Macau.

And then we landed on what seemed like an island. Macau used to be an island city (but it's now on a peninsula) and the landing strip of the airport is also located on a small island. It was foggy outside, so I couldn't see much. It wasn't cold, but not warm either, somewhere in between.


Macau's airport is small, but modern and neat.

I changed money here, to Macau's own currency: Patacas. They have same value as HK$.

So there I was, facing my first challenge: How to come to my hostel? The aiport is not located near Macau City, but on another big island called Taipa. So you need to take a cab or a bus to Macau City from the airport. Walking is impossible (seriously).

My girlfriend told me which buy to take, it was number 26. Buses are cheap here, I thought with my one big backpack, I will pay 7.2 Petacas (0.72€), but I guess I was totally wrong. Waiting for the bus took me like over 20min and when it finally arrived, the bus driver didn't let me in O_0. There was a Chinese uncle and I wanting to enter. He tried to go in first, but the bus driver said something to him and the uncle didn't go in. So I tried my luck. I wanted to enter, held the coins in my hand wanting to pay... but no, the uncle said something in Cantonese and showed with his hand, that I can't enter. That was a really wtf moment! Why did he stop the bus then? O_0 It shall remain a mystery to me.

Airport building from the outside.

After some pondering, I decided to take a cab. I knew it will be expensive, but what the heck. At least I know, I will arrive at the right place (Ponte 16). So there I go, off to the cabs. A few men, who stood there, sent me to the first cab in line. I showed the driver my map of Macau and pointed to Ponte 16, the significant building near my hostel. And I asked him: Can you tell me around how much will it cost to Ponte 16? Of course he didn't understand a thing and kept talking in Cantonese. I took out some coins and asked again How much, cost? and pointed to the money. He pointed at the taximeter. Suddenly there were other cab drivers gathering around his car discussing my map, laughing and asking me questions - in Cantonese. Then I said: Ok, bring me to Ponte 16, I will take this cab. It took a while, before they ended talking. Finally we drove off and I saw that the taximeter started at 13 Patacas (1.3€), that was already 2 times more than the bus would cost me. The ride was smooth, though. And I realized how long the distance is between the airport and Macau's old city center. We drove like 15min and I had to pay 62 Patacas (6.2€). The price would be about same in Slovenia, I guess, if not more. So that was still ok. But sure, I felt I failed a bit. Cabs are always my last options.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL COLLISION? How can I be careful, I don't drive! And there was no seat belts O_o

Ponte 16, a big hotel with casinos.

I walked from Ponte 16 to the area (historic center), where my hostel was located. The first thing, that surprised me in Macau was how run-down were some buildings. The old city center is a mix of traditional Chinese buildings, which are usually old and not very clean (something like what I've seen in Xinzhuang, Taiwan) and well maintained Portuguese buildings, that really stand out from all the other surrounding Chinese ones. It's really an amazing city, a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese elements. All the sign boards and street names are in Portuguese and Chinese.

Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, the main avenue in the old center.

Another thing you notice quickly: Macau is very crowded! Not only it's one of the most densely populated cities in the world, it's also a huge tourist destination. You can see people from all over the world, but most of them are from Chinese Mainland and Portugual and Brazil. There was also many Filipinos. But I don't know, if all of them are tourists, some may live or work here. The tourists are usually the ones with the cameras taking tons of pics (like me). ;-)

After 15 min of walking, I finally arrived at the most famous spot in Macau: Senado Square. After seeing this place on tons of pics, I finally saw it in real. And it's impressive! But there are tons of people, it's so hard to take a photo. There will always be someone passing by or posing for his own photo. But I was fine with it, I wasn't really shy to take photos of people, although one girl, who walked straight into my lense, smiled at me and I apologized and smiled back. Well, if you start to mind people, you just can't take any pics in this city.

My first photo of the Senado Square. Looks like a Portuguese city, right?

Another famous building in the area: St. Dominic's church.

I walked further up in the square and saw streets full of people, it was amazing. I felt as if I was in a crowded Taiwanese night market, because I was literally squashed between people at one point.

Masses of people, fancy shops on every side, usually branded sunnies and watches.

Even more people! This street is full of food vendors, but nothing special IMHO.

These are the busiest streets, because they lead up to another famous sight in Macau: The Ruins of St. Paul's. It's truly an amazing structure and as you can see, there's also a lot of people, same as on the Senado Square. I took few pics and then started to look for my hostel.

People from Chinese mainland love this place.

And that turned out to be a real ordeal. My map was not so acurate, because it didn't show the tiny little streets you see everywhere in Macau's historic center. My backpack started to become very heavy, I sweated and became a little pissed off. Where's the hostel? It should be here near by, I even had a small photo, but I just couldn't spot it. All streets and buildings looked same to me. And unlike Taipei City, which looks like a chess board, Macau is like a maze! The streets are so random. I walked in circles and I just couldn't figure out, how to find my hostel. I went back to the Senado square, sat down and took a breather. I nearly wasted 2h and my mood was at the lowest point. But then I noticed the maps they have all around the city. I took a photo of one and zoomed it. And I slowly started to go into the right direction. And after 10min I finally found my hostel! At last, hooray!! But guess what? I was so stupid, I passed by there twice before, but I haven't noticed it (facepalm). OMG, I was so stupid. But well... It's my first time in Macau, please cut me some slack. I guess stuff like that is part of every trip ;-)

The hostel, named Welcome 51 A, is great! I have a big room with a bed for two on the 3rd floor. It would be such a fun, if my girlfriend could be here with me, but what to do, she couldn't get leave. She told me to have fun and take many pics. And so I did! After unpacking, I took a shower and left out to walk around a bit. I went back to the Ruins of St. Paul's and Senado square and snapped many pics.

The lights at Senado square at night are beautiful.

Something funny happened at St. Paul's: There was a lot of turists taking photos and I was doing the same. But suddenly a Chinese girl came to me and asked in English: Would you take photo with me? I said ok and had to chuckle inside. Why do people want to take photos with me? I've seen tons of other White men in Macau, but never seen anyone asking them to take photo together. Is it my freckles? The tone of my blond hair? My big nose? Do I look strange, weird, unusual or maybe... handsome? (And that's the last thing I'd assume.) I don't know, does anyone have any ideas?

Soon after that I headed back to the hostel. It was an eventful day. More about my Macau adventure next time. You can look forward to many pics of the most famous spots. Hope you'll like it.

[My MACAU page][All photos by MKL, 2010]

35 comments:

  1. wow it looks really clean there, and the archetecture definitely has a portuguese style to it. The streets are prob random cuz they didn't get a city planner to plan it and just built it from old trails!

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  2. wowww the weather is so gloomy and it's still so crowded! maybe that girl reads your blog lolll :)

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  3. @Julie: That part is clean. But some parts are dirty. And then you have the parts with high-rise buildings and casinos, those are the cleanest and neatest. Yeah, there wasn't any planning in the old days.

    @Manju: It seems to be crowded all the time here, so many tourists. Well, I'm one of them :) She probably doesn't read. But I wonder on which blog or FB album will I appear (and star) as "The White guy she took a photo with, hence she's the coolest girl ever!" :P

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  4. ponte 16?? i stayed there last yr =p with my friends.. very nice view of the city :) oh.. i wanna eat portuguese egg tart :p

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  5. @fufu: That place looks awesome :) I'm staying in a hostel in the middle of the historic center. Not bad either :) I tell you, those Macauan egg tarts are addictive :P

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  6. Smashing tour...the pics are really fascinating. There are so many Central European influences in the architectural styles. As you say, the lights are beautiful.

    The packed crowds reminded me of two places I have been. Some streets and squares in Central London UK, the metro in London at most times, and the Old Souk in Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa and lanes around it, in particular.

    Have a great journey. :)

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  7. @ZACL: Thanks a lot :) Glad to see that you can relate to Macau. My trip is slowly ending, though. But it was really fun :)

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  8. whoaaahhh... I loved this post. So interesting! I'm still laughing at "Careful collision. Have a nice trip". Have a NICE TRIP??? :-DDD
    ok... I'd better go to bed... feeling really tired!

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  9. @Daisy: Glad you enjoyed it, hehe. You take care, k. :)

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  10. Look really beautiful! How lucky are you to get to visit! I hope you'll find a way to stay in Asia.

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  11. Awww looks like you had fun, but yeah, it would have been even more fun if your girlfriend could have come along. Be careful with the cabs there, they tend to rip off foreigners, some actually can speak and understand bits and pieces of english but just pretend not to understand a thing.
    Those pictures looks great. You are right, Macau is densely populated. If you try going in to some of the restaurants, you will notice that it is soooooooooo noisy, it's what i call noise pollution.
    And know why girls are taking pictures with you? Because you're such a cutie!

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  12. A chicken and duck situation between u and the cabbies.

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  13. @Mel: Wow, you really know the city well. Yea, I got ripped off few times, but what to do. Next time I'll be smarter. It's really noisy here and some parts are not very clean. But I had a great time and saw many things, snapped tons of pics. It's really an awesome city. I'm not sure about your last theory :) But thanks anyway, you're too kind :)

    @Lizzy: Chicken and duck situations are plenty here. But now I'm not too sure, if really, since Mel says they can also pretend not to speak English... Well... it is what it is :)

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  14. I'm going to Macau too in the next two weeks. Wheeeeeee~~~~

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  15. wow i nearly had a whole virtual trip of macau, want to know about more of your exploits.

    are you going to the casino?

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  16. Thank you for the beautiful photos and vivid descriptions Nino! It is indeed kinda sad that your girlfriend was not able to go with you, but I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip! :)

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  17. Wow, these pics are awesome, you do have talented on photography!
    You have your own way of composition, and that makes your pic special and vivid!!
    And glad you have the good Pentax K-X camera, I'm happy that it can help you to get good pics on your lonely but amazing trip.

    I also still can't understand why that No.26 bus stopped but didn't pick you up? No clue...if I were there, maybe I can understand why.
    A mystery of your Macau trip makes it become funny and unforgettable. :-P

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  18. For a short ride, the taxi sure is costly.

    I loved Macau, only managed to go on a day trip, to the prominent portugese architecture places, and tried their famous munchies.

    I wanted to go to this lighthouse on the hill, but didn't due to time constraint. Show me some photos if you do pop by there. ^_^

    On a side note, I'm still planning the Taiwan itinery. Was hoping that you would have gone up Alishan, Sun Moon Lake and Hualien by then, wanna see what are your reviews. Haha.

    Enjoy your Macau stay, bro.

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  19. I looked at Macao for the first time.
    Thank you for introducing it.

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  20. I heard Macau is one of those countries were people live really, really long. Is it?

    And what an awesome post you made right there. Look at how many comments it got already!
    Personally, I love that note on the warning in the cab. Can feel with you on the experience about walking past that hotel two times and finally realising some easy solution. I just moved to a new host family in a less planned area in Xinpu this Friday and have been walking a lot too plus making a fool of myself for asking directions in a seveneleven just 50m from my destination.

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  21. Thanks to you i'm getting to know other Asian countries little by little. Macau looks great. Only there was no j-beauties. I guess i was misinformed.

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  22. Babe the pictures are absolutely amazing!!!!!! ever knew you had such a great eye!!!!! Gorgeous gorgeous! I always associated Macau solely with gambling but now i can't wait to go for the scenery as well!

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  23. Maybe because you look friendly? I think most people would be more willing to approach someone if they look nice enough than if they seem cold or haughty. So maybe that girl just thought you looked like a nice guy and thought it wouldn't hurt to ask for a photo with you, lol.

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  24. Senado Square is exactly the place where I got out of the taxi, when I visited Macao. I told the driver to bring me where all the tourists are.

    Did you try putonghua or English? They mostly understand putonghua.

    Macao seems to be very small. I walked all over the island, including the lighthouse, in one day. But then we Germans are all professional hikers, it's our national sport ;)

    Are you planning to hit the casinos?

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  25. Senado square looks very beautiful at night :) Very romantic from what I can see! Gosh but it does seem really busy in the night market for sure. I can't really stand crowds for too long at any given time. Stresses me out LOL. I admire you for travelling alone and exploring new places. I wish I had the balls to do that.
    Oh and I tagged you on my blog here :)
    http://karen-is-here.blogspot.com/2010/03/tag-10-honest-things-about-me.html

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  26. I love the first pic of the post. That one has come out really well. The place looks really great :).

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  27. @Jerine: Good for you. You'll have fun.

    @Amogh: No casino, I seldom gamble.

    @Krissy: Yea, was sad that she couldn't make it, but it's ok. It was fun.

    @Lily: Thanks for the compliments :) And the camera was great, all photos were saved, unlike in Taiwan, when the card had some problems. Thanks a lot. Yes, Macau will be unforgettable for me, hehe.

    @Shingo: I'll post many pics, yeah. Nearly took 1000 pics during my three days, but I haven't seen all of the places, but most of them, I have :) I'll ask Lily about those places like Alishan, I may go one day, sure. Need to plan well. She's always so busy, but I need her as a guide. I can find my way in cities, but outside them I am lost :)

    @Ruma: You're welcome.

    @Sander: No idea about people in Macau living long. I know they do in Okinawa, Japan. But Macau, not sure.
    I guess it's always hard in the beginning, when you're in a new place here. But then you get used to some buildings and streets and you find your way easier. Ah, you're near Xinpu, that's great. It's not a bad place, just needs some time to get used to it :) But it's quite a big area.

    @Saša: There was some Japanese tourists in groups, but far less than the Chinese Mainlanders. I guess I'd need to be longer in Macau to find out where are most of Japanese tourists located. I'm glad you like my posts :)

    @Saby: Thanks. Macau is not only gambling. It's so much more, you need to see it one day, hehe. Any plans?

    @Van: You have a point. But I will never know, hehe. I should google "I took a photo of a white guy near Ruins of St. Paul's", hehe. But I need to do it in Chinese, maybe I will find a photo of me :P

    @Junjie: Well, I spoke in English first and a bit of Mandarin, but I also heard that they pretend not to understand. Well, anyway, I'll never know. Macau is not big, true. I also walked around half of the city in one day, but I haven't seen everything. Maybe next time, if I have more time. What I saw, was more than enough for one short trip. And no, I didn't went to a casino to gamble, although I walked around the Venetian.

    @Karen: I'm also stressed by crowds -_- But well, it was ok here, not too bad. And Senado square is really romantic, true. It's very beautiful. Thanks for tagging me. I did this post some time ago, though :)

    @Harini: Thanks. I think so, too :)

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  28. i'm quite surprised actually to see those photos. i didn't expect to see macau to look so beautifully urm, european-ish??? ahahahah.

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  29. Hi again. I'm right about a lot of things,and I am definitely right about my last theory. hehehe. Will you take a picture with me cutie? hehehe

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  30. Wow their English is very the good ah! hahahah at least Malaysian English wasnt sucked up like that!

    I can feel how stressful you are finding the hostel.

    I have no idea how Macau look like until... I saw your photo...

    I guess I have to bring tripod to capture night scene .... but too heavy :(

    thanks for sharing

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  31. @Ejann: Well, some parts of Macau are really like southern Europe. Clean and neat. But there's other parts as well, hehe. Plus the new areas with huge casinos. It's a mix of all kinds, hehe :-)

    @Mel: Yes, you were right. Thanks a lot, hehe. I'd take a photo with you any time and anywhere ;)

    @Netster: It's easy for a foreigner in Malaysia, because even simple aunties at the hawker understand and speak a bit English, but that's totally different in Macau and Taiwan. It's really great, if you can have a good cam with you, you'll make awesome photos. And hope you'll share on FB or blog :)

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  32. Hi, Last year been to Macau & Zhuhai. Will be going again this March 2012. Just try to refresh my memory and see what I missed out during my fist trip by reading few blogs, like yours.
    You show us everthing, but never show us your hostel? Thanks....JOHN

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  33. @JOHNLOVIS: In the post above I have linked to my hostel three times! If you'd really read my post, you'd notice it.

    In addition, it seems that the hostel doesn't operate anymore, but I'm not sure. Please check for yourself. Thanks.

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  34. Hi, MKL! I came here for information, knowing you have been in Macau and HK. I;ll go there on January, staying 8 days in HK and 3 days in Macau. What you wrote here will help me for sure, as it did what you wrote about Seoul:) By the way, I'm going to Seoul too, the second time, on May:) Have a nice day!

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