Thursday, March 1, 2012

Eating Egg Tarts and Gambling Away Money in Macau

Since we had five and a half days in Hong Kong, we decided to spend one of them in the special administrative region of Macau. Once a Portuguese territory, Macau is famous for its gambling as well as its unique cuisine. Like Hong Kong, it is one of the few places tourists can visit without a visa and it was well worth the day trip.
Catie in the streets of Macau

Although we didn't leave as early as we could, we still got out of the hostel by 11 and took a cheap one-hour ferry from Hong Kong Island to Macau. Upon arrival, we assumed we had to change money. In actuality, we could use Hong Kong dollars in any shop, but it was fun to spend the day using the funnily named Macau Pataca. As we exited the terminal we asked one of the hotel agents the way to the center. We wanted to go by foot, but she warned us that it would be a couple hours of walk. She was wrong. An hour later and we are strolling through the central promenades of Macau looking at buildings and houses that were clearly built during Portuguese colonialism. It felt weird to be walking around Asia in such a European style city. Weird yet fun.
Looks like Europe to me
One of the highlights to Macau, and the most recognizable landmark, are the Ruins of St. Paul. Built by the Jesuits in the 16th and 17th century, it was one of the largest cathedrals in Asia at the time. Fortunate while Macau was enjoying its heyday as an important port for European traders, when the trade moved to Hong Kong so did the money and the importance of the church. A typhoon-caused fire destroyed the structure in the early 19th century and today it is solely the south-side of the building; the facade is beautifully carved and excellent for amateur photographers.

After taking the obligatory pictures, we moved on to wandering the various shopping streets of Macau. One of the joys of our trip was the Portuguese egg tarts. Perfectly baked, we all eagerly bought seconds of this delicious snack, which was recently rated as the 16th most delicious food in the world by CNN Go. It earns its reputation. We also stumbled on a very busy cookie shop that sold the most amazing Portuguese style almond cookies. Filled with customers tasting and buying goodies, the shopkeepers must be doing quite well. Although they left your mouth pretty dry, the cookies were also buttery and full flavored and would taste amazing with coffee. I fell in love with them and bought three boxes to bring back home and to share. Sometimes it is the unexpected treats that really make traveling worth it.
The rest of the day was somewhat lazily spent wandering south across the island heading toward the casino after a delicious Chinese dinner. We all had taken out some money to blow at gambling because the casinos on the island are FANCY. I think everyone but Katrina lost, but it was still fun to see us gambling very intently with 30 dollars while some Chinese businessmen had 3000 dollar bets right next to us.

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