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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

How to see Macau in 5 hours, Amazing Race style

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Macao's famous St Paul's ruins

I am sure many of you would have watched the popular program called "Amazing Race" rite?  And you know the basic rule for all contestants in the show rite? ie to travel to all the specified locations (and complete all the tasks) in the fastest time possible using the least amount of money possible.

And that's more or less what we did for Macao. 



During our Hong Kong trip in January this year, we decided foolishly and ambitiously to do a day trip to Macao, without doing much research on what to see, how to get there, what to eat etc etc.  I had a rough itinerary of seeing St. Paul's ruins, eat some of their famous Portugese egg tarts and my neighbour said we must eat the crab porridge in Taipa.

Ok, that sounds just about right for a relaxed day trip.

...And so the race begins...

Firstly, we woke up late on that day, so by the time we reached the ferry terminal, got our tickets and boarded the jet ferry, it was 10am.  It takes one hour to reach Macao.  That means 11am. 

Almost noon. 

And then we realised in order to get back early enough to beat the crazy crowds and eat the famous claypot rice on Temple St, we'd need to take the return 5pm ferry.  That means we have less than 5 whole hours to see Macao.

So we boarded this massive, alien space ship looking thing.  This is NOT like the Pangkor ferry that I imagined (*smack forehead*).  It's like a massive aircraft cabin, with plush seats, individual viewing console, and overhead luggage storage bins. 







Looks more like a alien-like warship to me!



Told you it's massive.  And there's an upper deck too.




It was a comfortable hour-long journey.

Docking at Macao Ferry Terminal

At the ferry terminal, we were just about to wonder what public transportation to take, when hubby saw signs that says "Casino coaches", so we followed those signs and found this:


Entire fleet of coaches by the various casinos

An entire stretch of rows and rows of luxurious looking coaches operated by the various casinos to take anybody - serious, anybody - to the various casinos.  And it's free. You simply hop onto any casino coach of your choice; they depart every 10 or 15 min on the dot.

How convenient! And a brilliant marketing/PR strategy.


Most of the major casinos are on Taipa, so we hopped onto the coach
that will take us to the biggest casino in town.



Spanking brand new coach
 

The ride took about 10 min, and it's a good opportunity to see some sights.
Going across the bridge to Taipa.  Very Penang bridge like.
It was a rather hazy day in Macao.
 
 
 
 

This is the Grand Lisboa casino.



MGM casino (I think)


The Venetian


Initially we thought we'd just take the coaches to the casinos and walked around the casino, then hailed a taxi to the surrounding tourist spots. But then we discovered they also have a fleet of regular shuttle vans to take you to various tourist locations. Again, it is free to anybody - not just casino/hotel guests, and it departs every 10 - 15 min. Perfect!


Shuttle buses to various major tourist spots in town

I must say the entire transportation system is extremely well planned.  We love the fact that they do not begrudge between guests and public tourists.  It says alot about a bigger picture perspective, working for the betterment of the entire tourism industry on the island.

So we finally figured out that we could actually get around the entire Macao island on FREE public transportation - all using the network of clockwork-timed, perfectly coordinated system of casino coaches and shuttle vans.  Without needing to take any paid transportation at all.


First stop - Old Taipa village.  A must see in Taipa, with several must-eats.

The old Taipa village (the touristy spot anyway) is a quaint strip of pedestrian-only street, lined with equally quaint shops and eateries. 


The famous pastry-snacks chain 




Seng Cheong is arguably the most famous crab porridge restaurant in Macao,
right in the middle of the Old Taipa village.
 

 





Nope, who says it's cheap to eat in a touristy restaurant?


Of course the crab did not actually crawl out of the porridge :P  Hubby arranged it so that I could take a few sequential photos heehee.  They served it as in the first picture. 

So how was the most famous crab porridge in Macao taste like?

Very watery.  A nice and subtle crab flavour, with some sprinking of crab roe.  The crab wasn't particularly fleshy - I'd say it's a "skinny" crab.  Overall, nothing impressive. 

The group that was sitting at the adjacent table - apparently ex-HongKongers who migrated to Canada and were back for a holiday - commented that they could easily get fresh juicy crabs or a nice salmon head in Canada and make homemade porridge that would win hands-down tastewise. 




Our order of the day - small portion of crab porridge (which was quite a big portion actually, but watery), a small serving of their famous fried fish fishball, and fried yee mein.


These fish balls were nice, especially with the vinegar dip.   The yee mein was delicious too, bouncy egg noodles and full of wok-hei and a smoky oyster sauce gravy. 




Total damage - Macao $255.  About RM120 (roughly half in conversion rates).  




We saw heaps of shops selling the famous Portugese egg tarts in large toasters like these, but I resisted the temptation coz we were very full from lunch.  Best decision I've ever made.  You'll see why later.





We saw lotsa people crowding outside this shop - must be popular then.  Everyone seems to be asking for their durian icecream, so we got some too.


 

Verdict - not bad.  Could be much more durian-ny, in my opinion (I love durians).






And then we saw these babies....right at a little innocuous looking street-side stall a few steps down from Mok Yi Kei. 

The guy was just taking out from the oven the tray of freshly baked tarts.  The smell was amazing.







It was piping hot, and steam was still escaping from the top fluffly layer.   Now there is no way I would choose deflated tarts that have been warmed for hours in the toaster over these freshly baked babies.

We bought two and after 5 agonizing minutes, I chomped into one and almost wept. 

It was divinely SO GOOD.  I won't even try to describe that combination of smoky caramelised top, creamy melt in your mouth custard and buttery flaky pastry, bursting with that freshly baked aroma.  You aint tasted a real Portugese tart until you have had one of these.  I kid you not.  Just an ordinary portugese egg tart??  No way Jose!




We also got a pipingly hot, fresh off the grill pork chop bun.  Pretty good too, albeit rather ordinary I must say. 




By now it's 2pm.  We have exactly 2 hours to race to Senado Square (San Ma Lo in Cantonese) to see the famous St Paul's ruins, and have some leeway time to board our 5pm return ferry. 

Plenty of time?  Not if you calculate the amount of time you need to catch and change interconnected shuttles, the insane number of people crowding the Square, and trudge up the hilly cobblestoned steps leading to the ruins. 


Senado Square



We just had to take some shots of this legal firm - hubby had some cross border work that involved their partnership


 

The place is a maze of hilly walkways, lined with retail and souvenier
shops and eateris and snack bars.  It can be quite a challenge manouvering
amongst the crowd especially when you are racing against the clock and looking for directions. 
It is quite a distance to the ruins and all uphill walk.



Finally!





 

 




It is quite majestic upfront, but sadly, only the frontage was standing. 
There was no actual building.
 

There is a basement area that displays some ancient Catholic artifacts
- the piped music in the background and hushed ambience gives the place
quite a mysthical atmosphere


One last look, at the top of the stairs,
before we dash back for our return ferry.
 

Throughout the entire whirlwind day, my 5 year old super energetic son kept up the pace with us.  In fact, i could just imagine him having one of those tour-leader little flag in his hand, waving and cheering the troop onwards.  It was both hilarious and fun, and kept our enthusiasm up, especially when Mummy was running low on sugar level ! :P 

At times like these, hubby and I are so glad that we've exposed our son to many different places and a variety of travel itinerary, so that he learns to develop a spirit of adventure, an open mind to different environment, and will not throw a fuss when we need to rough it out in a less-than-luxurious hotel or eat on crowded sidewalk stalls or rushing for public buses instead of catching a cab.  Oh, and did I say he loves to eat - a big bonus as a travel companion ;)

Admittedly, there are plenty of nice spots we have missed; I would have loved to see Coloane, especially the beautiful beaches and hiking trails, but I guess that will have to be another trip then.    

12 comments:

  1. Good morning to you! I really enjoyed reading this amazing race in Macau. Very detailed and interesting information, love it! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Ann, it was a fun but frantic day haha.

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  2. Hi Esther, reading your story brought back memories, i once did the same thing with my son (around 10 yrs at that time) when we tagged along with my hubs on his business trip to HK. Although transportation wise it's quite convenient in Macao, it was not easy trying to cover everything in a day, there was just too much to cover and to eat, and it was summer time when we were there! Oh my, those tarts look really good, look at those layers!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Adeline, yea its impossible to cover many things in one day, even though the sights are relatively nearby one another, but to navigate the transport and crowd and find directions was tough especially with kids around, no matter how agile they are. Oh those tarts were absolutely divine!

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  3. Hi Esther! This is truly amazing! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Esther, that was no fuss free tour! Sounds exciting and I can imagine how tired I would be if I had done the same. You were so lucky to catch those freshly baked egg tarts. I think this warrants another trip, albeit a more relaxing one, eh?

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    1. Totally worth another trip just for those tarts, PH :) there are many more things to see and food to eat, nex trip here will definitely be a R&R one, no race whatsoever!

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  5. Esther,
    Wow! This is a really amazing family having a Amazing Race.
    I enjoy reading and looking at very bits of your posts.
    Especially the fresh from the oven Protuguese Tarts...I love these tarts..:p
    Thanks for sharing ^^
    mui

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    Replies
    1. Hi Doreen, i was never a big fan of portugese tarts until these!! But now my standards are freshly baked ones or none, very hard to find la, unless i make my own haha.

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  6. Esther you didn't tapao some Portugese egg tarts back? They really look good!

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  7. The trip looks worth it for those Portuguese egg tarts alone!

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