During the middle of last week I took a quick trip to Macau. While we were away in the Philippines Braden received word that my Work Visa had finally come through. I am on a Dependant Visa, which means I am under Braden’s Work Visa. In order to start the application process he actually had to be in Hong Kong, so things didn’t get moving until early February. Soon after that it was Chinese New Year and everything shuts down for a week. A couple weeks later it was Easter. As a result, my application took around 7 weeks and we were starting to feel nervous about the timing. Luckily everything worked out. For the Visa to become active, however, I needed to enter the country with it, which meant leaving Hong Kong. The closest journey to another country is Macau, so I took a day trip there.
Before going to Macau I did some online research and reading to understand a bit more about where I was going. I found wikitravel to be a helpful resource and would use it for future trips and new locations. I learned that Macau, much like Hong Kong, is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. It was formerly a Portuguese colony and sovereignty only transferred back to China in 1999. It is one of the world’s riches cities and has been the world’s largest gambling centre for about the last 10 years. Having been to LAs Vegas before and exploring The Strip, I had a hard time comparing Macau to Vegas. To me, Macau felt much smaller but I’m sure I barely saw any of it. It also felt much less like a party destination – these folks are serious about their gambling.
To get to Macau I took the MTR from Wan Chai station to Sheun Wan station then followed the signs to Macau. I found my way to the ferry ticket counter and purchased a one-way ticket on the Turbo Jet. Luckily I had read ahead and knew a ticket should cost around $135HKD. When I got to the ticket machine the default setting was Premier Class and the translation was unclear but I knew enough to question the cost. I asked for help and got it sorted out; there was no need to pay three times as much to sit on the upper deck of the ferry.
Macau is approximately 65km from Hong Kong and the journey took right around an hour. I had a window seat but there wasn’t much to see throughout the journey. There was free wifi, though, so that kept me occupied.
When I arrived in Macau Braden had suggested to take a hotel shuttle to the casino area rather than paying for a taxi. I found my way to the buses and hopped on the first one I saw. The hotels just want to make it as easy as possible to get to their casinos. And even though I wasn’t there to gamble I decided that as long as I was in Macau I may as well explore a bit before heading back to Hong Kong.
When I got to the MGM I went in to the casino and figured I may as well gamble a little bit (their plan worked!) I had 20MOP, which is essentially on par with the HKD, but was surprised when the slot machine wouldn’t accept it. When I looked closer I saw that the machines only accept HKD – strange! It seems the Macau currency and Hong Kong currency are interchangeable there.
I had no idea or strategy for gambling, so I found a 50 cent slot with some Buddha graphics and selected it as much lucky machine. Fortunately, slot machine play is reasonably universal and I figured it out quickly. On my fourth spin I hit some sort of (minor) jackpot and launched myself into the game’s bonus spin stratosphere. Eight lucky spins later I was up 303HKD (approx. $45CAD) and decided to walk away. So that was fun! I cashed out, but was left with a game slip for $3, which I took back to the machine and lost immediately. Then, stupidly, I concluded that my luck wasn’t up and returned to my lucky Buddha machine with one of the $100 bills I had won. Of course that disappeared quickly, and I was only up $200HKD for the day. Oh well!
I wandered through the MGM and Wynn casinos, as well as the the high end shops attached to each casino. Just like Vegas, Macau is a spectacle of gold, crystals, marble, bright colours and anything expensive or expensive-looking. I found my way to the Casino Grand Lisboa and found a spot on a balcony overlooking the casino floor to eat lunch and watch the activity below.
If we go back to Macau (which I think is unlikely), I would arrive a bit better prepared to do a walking tour or two and experience the Portuguese history of the area. I found some great walking tour resources on the Macau Tourism website, and had downloaded them to my phone, but didn’t feel ambitious about walking in the heat or figuring out where the tours actually started and finding my way there.
Seeing anything was a bonus, as the purpose of the trip was just to get my Work Visa. Everything went smoothly and I am now authorized to work in Hong Kong for the next year (we will renew on the one year anniversary of Braden receiving his Work Visa). Good thing, because I start my new job on Tuesday!