Our late January trip to China continues…..After a few days in the much less touristy areas of Shenzhen and Zhuhai, we made our way to Macau, otherwise known as the Vegas of China. Seriously. It had glitz, it had glamour and it even had an Eiffel Tower.
But, first, the getting there. Macau was a Portuguese territory until 1999, when it was turned back over to the Chinese, similar to Hong Kong and Great Britain. Since it won’t completely be under Chinese rule until the year 2049, we had to go through customs and show passports all over again, because Macau is considered a “special administrative region”.
Macau was situated right next to it’s much less glamorous neighbor, Zhuhai. (Remember? The “Riviera of China”?)
Crossing the border, was like stepping into another world. We were met with rows of large buses from the casinos, just waiting to shuttle us to their various properties, for free.
This made getting around a breeze!
And the hotel decor was every bit as opulent as any Vegas-style casino!
All checked in, now time to explore!
I had never seen real poinsettias, actually growing in the ground. I only know them as a Christmastime potted plant, and they were gorgeous!
First up was the historic Portuguese part of town, and I fell in love.
Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in 1550, and it quickly became an important port for trade and commerce between Europe and China.
Where were we again? This wasn’t at all how I pictured China to look.
But back to our most pressing issue, finding the original egg tart location. If you’ve followed our Asian travels for long, you’ll know we LOVE egg tarts. I had always thought they were an Asian thing, but it wasn’t until my sister Pam visited Portugal and told me of THEIR tarts, that we put it all together.
Pastéis de nata, as they are know in Portugal, are heavenly little pies filled with custard, which were created in the 18th century by some Catholic monks, and soon became a national favorite.
But it wasn’t until 1989, that Andrew Stow brought the egg tart to Macau, and their popularity quickly exploded all over Asia.
Hence, our favorite “Asian” dessert was born. And, in my opinion, Lord Stow’s tarts were definitely the best- and we’ve tried a few! Warm creamy custard + flaky pastry = perfection.
The Portuguese influence was heavy in the Old Town area.
The next order of business was to find Tai Lei Lok Kei, for their pork chop bun.
Underneath the simple exterior, lied greatness. A superbly seasoned pork chop on a fresh, slightly crusty bun. The only thing that threw us off was the bone-in pork chop. But other than that, wonderful!
English colonial style buildings always have my heart!
A quick walk back to the hotel put us right in the heart of the “strip”.
Venetian, anyone? Yes, the identical sibling to the one in Vegas.
Complete with a falsely painted sky,
and a gondola ride.
There were even legit, Vegas style shows.
though we still felt like the true celebrities, at times.
I had such déjà vu walking around these casinos. I had to keep reminding myself that I was half a world away from Las Vegas. The real one.
(***Side note- I must say that the actual casino gaming here was very odd. Almost the only table games available were roulette and baccarat. There were hardly any slot machines, and blackjack was basically non-existent, as well.)
Ahhh, it was time for one of our favorite vacation activities. Fancy afternoon tea at the hotel,
which did not disappoint.
And the girls were ready for their most requested vacation activity. Any guesses?
The evening brought a stroll along the strip and a trip to Paris (or The Parisian Macau), which is, you guessed it, identical to it’s Vegas counterpart.
Café Mocha to start the day, then down to the waterfront area for more exploring.
Though touted as the new, up-and-coming section of town, we found the waterfront area to be fairly deserted. It was actually kind of creepy.
But we did pass a bunch of friendly rubber ducks,
the King and Queen of Portugal,
random Chinese New Year decorations,
and a miniature Roman Colosseum. Because……China.
Whew, lots of walking called for a rest,
and a front row seat to the fountain show at the Wynn, featuring blasts of billowing fire set to the ’80’s tune, “Holding out for a Hero”. It doesn’t get better than that!
Unless of course, you run across more egg tarts…
These were definitely NOT Lord Stow’s, though.
The pastry was not as flaky and the ratio of custard-to-crust was not high enough. Sigh.
And finally, we made it to Senado Square, the former center of town,
which was another area of heavy Portuguese influence.
St. Domingo’s cathedral was as beautiful inside as it was outside. Where were we again?
Moving right along, up the hill,
was the ruins of St. Paul.
Built in 1602 by Spanish Jesuits, (with the stone carved by Japanese Christians in exile), St. Paul’s was originally one of the largest Christian churches in Asia.
A fire destroyed the body of the church in the 1800’s, leaving only the stone facade.
And adjacent to the church,
sat Monte Fort, to protect the Jesuits from pirates. Sounds like a movie, doesn’t it?
The view was worth the hike up!
(***After several months of an Alaskan winter, I realized how the sight of a flower is something I had previously taken for granted.
I was almost mesmerized by their color and brilliance and beauty. A special gift from above.)
The streets were narrow and bustling, and many vendors were offering food samples.
Bakkwa, was basically some type of meat-leather, and seemed to be a popular go-to with locals and tourists alike.
Egg tarts? Don’t mind if we do.
We were now connoisseurs, after all. But Lord Stow’s still held the crown.
After all that history (and quite possibly, a few too many egg tarts), we spent our last night in Macau in the Vegas-y section, and took in the free fountain show at the Wynn.
In addition to watching the show from the sidewalk, there was a gondola ride available, for a birds-eye view.
The show from above was spectacular!
The gondola ride ended at the entrance to the casino….clever.
And the floral displays were AMAZING!!! When money is no object, the sky’s the limit!
All in all, I loved Macau! It offered rich history with a little splash of the glitz and glamour (and oddities) of Las Vegas.
I would say that Macau was Vegas without the smut, scantily-clad cocktail waitresses, and yard-long souvenir margarita’s. (Sorry to disappoint so many of you!) It was definitely a more family-friendly option.
And with that, it was back to the ferry station- Hong Kong bound.
Up next….one of my favorite cities in the world, and the final stop on our Chinese tour, the forever exotic, Hong Kong.