We were up and ready pretty early (by weekend standards), all dressed up and ready for all the excitement ahead. We took a ferry to hongkong and walked quite a bit to reach the ferry station for Macau. I was aware of Macau as the gambling capital of Asia, if not of the world - but had not really given a thought as to more details. Found that Macau is actually an independent country with immigration process carried out at the entry and exit points. It is an island with a portuguese origin similar to goa, with predominantly chinese population.
The ride was sophisticated and very fast, cutting through the choppy waves of sea. I as usual, was not too comfortable - a little nauseated, and preferred to close my eyes and sleep through the around-an-hour long journey rather than enjoy the views !!! The formalities over, we walked out to be greeted by a bevy of travel agents advertising their services. We spoke to one, and negotiated what looked to us to be a decent deal. Of course, N had done all the research work previously and had a fair idea of what should be good. We had a car to us, which would take us to a few tourist spots in Macau and finally drop us at the grand venetian for a taste of the "real thing"!! The first stop was at Indian restaurant, which was nice and crowd free. It was good to have a light Indian meal.
The first stop in our city tour was the Cathedral - one of the few remnants of the Portuguese past of the island. Lot of photos, with some generous support from fellow tourists for group photos, later, we were off to a walk through the macau square. There was just too much of crowd around - had to almost jostle for a walk around. This place has a very european look & a mecca for shopping. We could see equally enthusiastic tourists and locals enjoying an afternoon out.
The next stop was A-ma temple, which is said to be the earliest surviving temple in Macau, dating back to pre-portuguese days. This is dedicated to the mother goddess, revered by the local fishermen. I could relate it well to the Indian heritage - the tradition of worship of mother goddess which has continued to this day in the same form. There were two interesting things that definitely merit a mention. One was the wishing tree - where you can tie your wishes and hang them. You may ask - whats so special about this - don't we tie strings in many of our temples and dargahs with our wishes? Only thing different was you don't keep your wish in your mind while tying the strings, but you actually write it down in a paper attached to the string. And others can actually go and read others wishes !!! Isn't a little more privacy required between god and us :-)
The second one was a bowl of water, which when rubbed strategically on both sides with wet hands generated some kind of vibration in the water. It was interesting to watch though the significance was not clear as it was not written and neither anyone was around who could explain this in English.
The next stop was Macau tower - we went up some 60+ stories to reach the top. The view from all sides was amazing....I had the opportunity to visit few of such towers before - the Eiffel tower, the Sydney tower etc, and all of them were amazing experiences...This was also another of those, and the amazing skyline of macau made this extra special. But there was something else that I never realised I would be affected by - a fear of heights....The viewing deck has a part made of glass, through which, when we look down, we can see the ground. There were enthusiastic groups of tourists, capturing the great view. But for me, things were pretty different. Once I looked down, I started feeling extremely uncomfortable, and the dizziness continued all the way till the end of the evening. Lesson learnt - never ever try to look down from these kind of heights again, however tempting the view may be.
There were other exciting activities on on the tower including sky walk and bungee jumping. Going by my experience with heights a little while ago, I am sure the farthest I can actually go is to cheer the people who have courage and adventurous spirit to attempt these activities. We had some great photo sessions near the base of the tower, with the setting sun in the backdrop.
The final destination of the day was Venetian, the biggest casino hotel in Macau. By the time we set off towards this place, the lights were on in the city. The great hotels and casinos were decked up in all their finery. It was as magical as a view from a fairy tale....
Venetian is a huge and highly imposing structure from outside. We walked in soon, and after some coffee in starbucks later, we walked into the casino. I have seen casinos before in Johannesburg, but this one was particularly huge and dazzling. So many games, and so many people, blowing away so much money in each instant!!! You need to see it to believe it. We spent some time around the tables trying to understand each of the games, and once we did, it was fun watching. We also thought of having some and invested HKD 50 each, and we lasted for a total of around 2 minutes !!!
After casino, we decided to have a walk around the hotel, and discovered the beautiful shopping arcade, with all the world's designer brands. Venice has been re-created here, along with the trademark canals, where one can even enjoy a gondola ride!!!
Another exciting session of photography later, we were all ready to call it a day. Venetian buses run every minute to the ferry, and we got into one of them. And then it was back to Hongkong on the ferry...
End of a exciting but memorable day!!!