Hong Kong/Macau, 2018

We went to Hong Kong and Macau immediately after a quiet Chinese New Year in Ipoh and what a contrast it was. Of course the period following Chinese New Year is also very much a slow season for the casinos and for Hong Kong tourism but slow is definitely a relative term and there were swarms of folks bustling about everywhere we went.

Our agenda was probably a little rushed. We flew from Kuala Lumpur to Macau airport along with Susan's sister Anna, her husband Chee and their son Jeremy with his new(ish) wife Jinny. After landing we broke the trip into two segments. The first part was a two night stay in Macau at one of the grandest of the grand casinos, the Venetian, on the new "Cotai Strip", a reclaimed land area which is home to a crop of mega-casinos. Personally, I probably wouldn't choose to stay in Cotai again, I much prefer wandering around the old city but it was worth a visit just for the experience. After two nights in Macau, Susan and I went solo and took a fast ferry to Hong Kong for a three night stay in the Causeway Bay area. A nice hotel with a great view of the Hong Kong skyline and Kowloon across the water. Homeward bound we took the ferry back to Macau for our return flight to Malaysia.

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Macau. How can I describe it to someone who hasn’t been there? Oversize. Over the top. Overboard. All of these certainly fit the Cotai side where we stayed and the Venetian Macau is king of the hill in the land of mega casinos. How about an indoor canal with singing gondoliers taking visitors on boat rides? How about a light show that covers the entire side of the building (at a guess, about 300 metres)? How about five floors of corridors lined with shops selling everything from luxury goods to snack food: so many corridors that I went out for a bite and got lost. Think Vegas and then multiply by a factor of five.

To escape all this excess we did make an excursion over to Macau’s old city which is quite the opposite of Cotai. Narrow laneways, little noodle shops, old colonial buildings with a Portuguese flair, alleys that are long, climbing stairways lined with shops and little houses or tall, tall tenement buildings consisting of row on row of balconies festooned with laundry and greenery. It’s the kind of place where you hope to get lost and just wander soaking in the sights.

After our two days in Macau filled with a fair amount of casino time and our explorations in the old city, Susan and I were off to Hong Kong, so we said our goodbyes and hopped on a fast ferry. It was a misty, rainy morning so there wasn’t much in the way of sightseeing but an hour or so brought us to the Hong Kong ferry terminal and our first encounter with the notorious Hong Kong crowds. If the casinos of Cotai are over the top, the crowds in Hong Kong are equally astounding: swarms of people everywhere and everyone bustling to get somewhere else. Unfortunately, during our time in Macau I had been developing a cold and by the time we hit Hong Kong it was in full attack mode so some details of the time we spent there are a bit blurry. I do remember that Susan had to put up with a lot of coughing and wheezing on my part plus a hotel room which rapidly filled with boxes of pills, packs of lozenges and bottles of potions which I emptied as fast as I could buy them.

The Metropark hotel was nice. We had taken a high floor suite for the view which was worth the extra cost and this also provided us access to a lounge on the floor above with snacks and goodies which was convenient as well as a rooftop pool and viewing deck which was spectacular. It was far too cold to swim but the panoramas of the city were outstanding. We explored around the Causeway Bay area a few times, very nice parks, an athletic centre and small shops and restaurants everywhere: a good mixture of old and new. We also went into the downtown core a couple of times and checked out a morning market, some narrow streets climbing up and down the hills and the amazing Mid-Levels Escalator System. This is a ramshackle collection of 18-20 covered escalators which climb up the hill from the Central District through a collection of shops, eateries, bars and houses. One of our other favourites was taking the "Ding Ding" tram system, tall, thin, double decker streetcars that cost only a couple of Hong Kong dollars to ride and provide an amazing view of the streets and the street life of the city. After a twenty-dollar Uber ride downtown on our first day we switched entirely to riding this tram system, a lot cheaper and a lot more fun!

As a final note, the weather was rather cool for us after Ipoh, albeit nothing compared to Toronto in January. Jeans, shoes, socks and even a jacket at times. Imagine, it was in the mid teens and barely cracked 20C for our entire trip!

About Hong Kong and Macau

I don't really think there's much I can add in this 'about' section. Hong Kong and Macau are so well known that I won't be able to contribute much of anything to the body of knowledge in a hundred words or thereabouts so I'll just talk briefly about what else, the food.

No doubt about it, we ate well. Everything from 'pork spare parts' from a shop the size of a small closet to grand chinese dinners at the casinos in Macau to roast goose and roast chestnuts in Hong Kong. The roast goose was one of the highlights, after all we made a pilgrimage to one of the best-known restaurants in Hong Kong for that but some of the fried noodles and soup noodles from little roadside shops were really, really first rate. As for the casino food, we had one very fine feast as a group and unfortunately, with my aversion to casinos, I managed to miss what Susan described as the best meal of the trip in The Wynn casino of all places! By the way, the Portuguese egg tarts in Macau are so good I could have subsisted on them to the exclusion of everything else.