We skipped breakfast and mother made coffee in the room with her French press. We took our last lap past the lounge to exit the ship.
Around 8:15 am we took our bags down in a delightfully empty elevator to the gangway. Seapass card inserted and "bing!" we were now unencumbered from this quagmire of 14 days on and off the Millennium.
We asked one of the port staff if we could bypass the mall with all our luggage and go straight down to the taxi area. We had 2 rollerboards plus 2 smaller bags each. At first we were told "no" but after pleading and a little whining "but we were told we could do this yesterday" (which was true) he and another worker graciously escorted us in the elevator directly down to the area to wait for a taxi. I think it helped when we said this was all the luggage we had. We were very happy we did not have to traipse through the mall again and this time have to maneuver down escalators with our baggage.
The taxi line was very long and consisted of about 8 twisting and turning barricade lanes. We got in line with everyone else who were either going to hotels or to the airport. We spied a man with a large bag from Chinese Arts & Crafts. My mother said, "that is a very nice store". He smiled and said, "where are you from"? Perhaps he was worried we were coming to his home to relieve him of his new merchandise? He was Chinese and going home to California.
As we approached the front of the line we were entertained by the interesting method of loading the bags into the sedans. Most of the trunks were popped open with the luggage hanging out as the cars drove away. Many people had a lot of luggage! One couple had two taxis, one for them and the other for the luggage. A young family of 5 had the husband go in one taxi with the bags and the mother and the three little kids were in a separate car. Finally it was our turn and we easily fit the rollerboards in the trunk in addition to our 3 small bags. I kept one of the other bags with me and mother also was holding a small tote. Our destination is the airport where will checkin the hardsided luggage and store the smaller bags for the day while we visit Macau.
|On our way to the Hong Kong Airport
Prior to finalizing this plan we debated the possibilities as we researched what to do with the luggage for the day. There were lots of options including a locker at the Macau ferry terminal in Kowloon or Central or even booking a hotel room. The airport made the most sense since we could leave the bags there and not have to make a special stop to pick them up on the return. The fact that there are not a lot of lockers and that they are various sizes made the decision easy. The drive to the airport took about 45 minutes.
|Drive to the airport
Instead of the saran wrap style of Siba in Europe, in Hong Kong they put a thick plastic bag over the carryon and then fasten it with heavy straps.
|My bag getting wrapped
The finished product is very secure and nicely done.
|Very impressed with the service
Although we already checked in we received new boarding passes. Each bag was weighed and the service was great.
Our next destination was to walk to Terminal 1 to store our other bags at the Left Luggage counter. It was a bit of walk but I had a cart (with wheels that seemed to be stuck in the opposite direction) for the 4 smaller bags. This area was very busy and we noticed other Millennium passengers including some of our bus mates from the Hoi An tour in Vietnam. They tagged each bag and gave us a printed receipt with a location number. I decided to hold onto the receipt instead of mother having to forage for it later.. It cost 100 HKD for each bag for 9 hours. You pay when you return to pickup the bags.
Now "bag free" except for a small Tumi tote with the iPad and some maps we were on our way. We walked back toward Terminal 2 to take the Airport Express to Central and then change to the Island Line to get to the ferry for Macau.
We purchased a roundtrip Airport Express ticket as that was less expensive than buying two separate one-ways. The fare was $100 HKD.
|Airport Express Ticket
The Airport Express was very nice. Much better than the Maglev in Shanghai in my opinion. The ride is about 26 minutes to go to Hong Kong station.
|Diagram of stops
We exited the train at Hong Kong Station and then changed to the Island Line to get to the Ferry Terminal. The Macau Ferry departs from Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the airport. However we could not depart from the airport as that is only for people in transit.
We arrived at Shun Tak Centre which is located in Sheung Wan. There were so many people! Looks like going to Macau right before Christmas is not such a good idea. The monitors list the ferry departure times and then you go to the line showing that time lit up in the window. We decided to travel in Super Class as it is nicer than the regular seats and it was also leaving sooner. However, we forgot we need to go through passport control when departing Hong Kong.
|Walking to the ferry
|Super Class Lounge
We were told the next ferry would leave at 1:30 pm which seemed too long. I went up to look at the monitor and saw another ferry was leaving in 7 minutes. The gate number said #9 which was far from where we were seated. We ran to the gate and they waved us through!
|Running to the TurboJet
The travel time from Central to Macau is about 55 minutes. The ride was very smooth. They served a snack shortly after departing. The lunch came covered and when I removed it I was disappointed the meal was not Chinese.
|Spanish Beef with Pasta
The seats don't seem that "super" but there is more room in this area and you get a snack.
|Lots of people dozing after their meal
They are currently building a bridge between Macau and Hong Kong. It is called the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. When finished it will consist of a series of tunnels and bridges connecting Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai. The longest bridge section will be 14.2 miles. Construction began on December 15, 2009 and is expected to be completed in 2015 with the bridge officially opening in 2016. I think this will make the trip much easier and faster. I read the trip will only take 30 minutes.
|Bridge linking Hong Kong and Macau
|View from the window
As we approached Macau the water became much browner.
|Brown water near Macau
We arrived at the Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal. The boat was tied up and we quickly disembarked but had to go through Passport control in Macau.
|TurboJet arrived in Macau
|Arriving in Macau
Then we spotted the line for senior citizens and the disabled. This line was much shorter and therefore faster. People with children were also using this line.
|Sign in Chinese, Portuguese and English
While we were in the lobby I was approached by a woman who was offering a tour of the major sights. She showed me a map and described the itinerary. It sounded expensive so we declined. However once we realized how crowded the main streets were and that my mother was not going to like doing so much walking the tour would have been a good idea.
We jumped in a taxi and departed the Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal for the city center.
|Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal
Macau is 37 miles southwest from Hong Kong and 90 miles from Guangzhou, China. The territory comprises a peninsula and two islands, Taipa and Coloane.
Macau is now better known for its glitzy hotels and as a gambling mecca than a faded historic relic. The Cotai Strip has 17 luxury casino hotels and is the worlds biggest gambling hub. Las Vegas king pins Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson have built up very successful businesses in Macau. In fact Adelson's Sands China has 9.210 hotel rooms in Macau which accounts for 40% of the overall supply. In 2012 Macau total casino revenue climbed 14% to a record $38 billion USD. The profits from Adelson's Macau properties have countered sluggish results from his Las Vegas operations.
While the glittering casinos (and tackiness) attracts the Chinese high rollers, we are more interested in appreciating the historical nature of the area.
This former Portuguese colony has a population of 542,000. The size of the island is only 11.39 square miles. The settlement of the city began in 1535 when the Portuguese won rights to anchor their ships offshore. In 1557 Macau became a Portuguese administered trading post and in 1887 a Portuguese colony. On December 20, 1999 the territory was given back to China and is now a Special Administrative Region (SAR).
We soon arrived in the city center with the European designed buildings.
|Macau City Center
Passing the ornate and colorful Lisboa Casino
Macau has an interesting mixture of old and new buildings.
The taxi dropped us near Largo de Senado which is in the heart of the historic area. This location is known as Senate Square and is accented by an assortment of baroque buildings surrounding the beautiful black and white mosaic pavers.
The area more closely resembles Europe than Asia. It was very festive with the Christmas decorations. It must look very pretty at night.
|Senado Square with Leal Senado and Santa Casa da Misericordia
Across the square is the Santa Casa de Misericordia (Holy House of Mercy) or as my mother referred to it, the "house of misery". Her translation was a bit off! This mission was established by the first Bishop in Macau in 1569. It was modeled after one of the oldest and most prominent charitable organizations in Portugal. It is responsible for Macau's first western style medical clinic and several other social welfare organizations still in existence.
One of the original roles of the House of Mercy was to provide support for orphans and widows of sailors who died at sea. The majestic white facade represents a simple elegance and sense of tranquility.
Continuing on our walk we next approached the Igreja de Sao Domingos otherwise known as St. Dominic's Church.
St. Dominic's Church
This 18th century building is said to be one of Macau's best preserved colonial baroque structures.
St. Dominic's Church was founded in 1587 by three Spanish Dominican priests who originally came from Acapulco, Mexico. It was here that the first Portuguese newspaper was printed on Chinese soil, A Abelha da China, the Chinese Bee on September 12, 1822.
|Lots of tourists in front of St. Dominic's Church
The Chinese roof tiles, timber and large shuttered windows provide an understated charm. Intricate white plastered ornaments and mouldings on the church facade contrast with the yellow walls.
The interior of the church is impressive with carved stucco and a stone altar. There were services going on during our visit.
We continued our walk down the crowded streets of the Rua de San Antonio. This is a very busy shopping street! It was challenging to walk leisurely together and not get crushed. It was unbelievable!
|Very crowded streets
We continued down the street with wall to wall people.
The throng of tourists is walking toward St. Paul's Church.
Macau has no shortage of bakeries selling the yummy Portuguese tarts. This is the Choi Heong Yuen Bakery. I had read about the Lord Stowe Bakery but this one was new to me.
|Portuguese Tart Bakery
Ruins of St. Paul's Church
The Ruins of St. Paul include the original church built from 1602 - 1640 and the college next to it.
At Rua de Sao Paulo is the base of Macau's most well known historic monument, the facade of St. Paul's Church. It was destroyed by fire in 1601 and again in 1835. The classical baroque facade was crafted by Japanese Christians from Nagasaki.
The view of the ruins was spectacular. My mother decided to wait at the bottom of the steps and did not venture up. Once at the top I could go to the museum and the Fortaleza de Monte. This fort was constructed in the 17th century and houses the Macau Museum. I had to pass on this as I didn't think she would be that patient if I was gone more than 20 minutes.
Although it is just a facade, it was very impressive.
On the other side is the museum and fortress. You can also see the excavations of the ruins.
This is the view of the city facing back down from the church.
This lady on the step was carrying her dog as if it was a baby!
I diverted my attention back to the church. The sculptured motifs of the building include biblical images, mythological representations, Chinese characters. Japanese chrysanthemums, a Portuguese ship, several nautical motifs, Chinese lions, bronze statues with images of the founding Jesuit saints and other influences from Europe, China and other parts or Asia.
It was now time to come back down
Once at the base and reunited with my mother, we were approached by some school girls to answer a short questionnaire about visiting Macau. This was so they could practice their English. The girl on the left asked all the questions and her English was pretty good. They did have the ubiquitous "do you think "Macau" is funny, instead of fun. I crossed out the last three letters and explained what the word should be.
They also took photos of us as documentation that they met us and completed their assignment.
|Optically challenged Macanese school girls
My mother refused to go back along the street the way we came with the wall-to-wall tourists so we went in the opposite direction. I had no idea where we were headed or would end up but it was a lot less crowded.
We met this couple and their dog as they came up the stairs. The dog is very cute! I am amazed how many dogs get carried around Asia.
There was some more shopping as we continued down the street. This fish shop is called Tai O Fish Maw Shop. Doesn't make me too hungry! If your thing is dried fish, then you would be in luck!
|Tai O Fish Maw Shop
We also passed a pharmacy selling traditional Chinese medicine. I was thinking about going inside and asking what I should take for my cold but was worried I might be given Flying Squirrel Dung or some other weird concoction.
I looked up this medicine later and it is very popular for treating strokes. I also read that it contains arsenic and mercury. Yikes! Good thing I did not buy any.
More Chinese medicine in the window. Wonder if they just sell a normal decongestant?
We came to this interesting alley with this nicely restored pink building. They were also working on the one next door.
|Interesting Macau Alley
The interior of the shop was very interesting. The merchandise was displayed along the sides.
We then wandered down the street not knowing at all where we were headed. This building was interesting with all the laundry hanging and apartments above the shops.
This little coffee shop looked intriguing. It was very small but popular.
The next restaurant, the Puffin Cafe was absolutely adorable. We had plans to eat elsewhere in Macau but we should have stayed here instead. The menu was posted outside and had some interesting selections, like pumpkin soup. As far as I could tell, they did not sell Puffin!
Eventually we arrived at St. Anthony's Church.
St. Anthony's Church
St. Anthony's was the site of Macau's first chapel and was built in 1558 of bamboo and wood. However, the current structure dates to 1940. The church is a two story building with a simple neo-classical facade.
|St. Anthony's Church
By now we were looking for a taxi and an exit from this residential area. However, we saw absolutely no taxis. Even worse, looking at the map I had no idea where we were or what direction we should walk.
|Interesting apartment building
We went inside a pet store and besides seeing the very cute dogs she was grooming, did not make much progress on getting a taxi. The owner told us to walk down the street in the direction we were already headed toward the hospital. We did that but still did not see any.
We went inside this building which is the Firehouse Museum to get assistance. There were two people working inside. They told us that a bus would be a better option and told us #8 should be coming by in 15 minutes.
We stood at the corner looking for the bus but also hoping for a taxi.
We decided to wait for another bus. Just a few moments later I saw a taxi that looked available! I signaled for it and it pulled over and we got in! We were very happy. I asked the driver to take us to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel where we would have something to eat.
On the way, the Wynn hotel car passed by.
|Wynn Hotel Car
|Wynn Casino Macau
We also asked about taking the ferry directly from Macau back to the airport. However, the manager explained that this is prohibited for passengers going to the US. We also would not be allowed to leave the secured area to get our bags in the left luggage. Glad he explained it to us.
The manager was so nice and I think he felt sorry for us. He offered to have their hotel car take us back to the ferry terminal so we could return to Hong Kong. It was now past 4:00 pm and that seemed like the sensible thing to do.
I was disappointed I did not get to see some of the other sights in Macau but I wasn't really up for it. There was no charge for the ride to the ferry which was very nice. We drove down Avenida Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and passed some more iconic buildings along the way.
This is the Kun Iam statue in front of the Macau Lan Kwai Fong. The bronze statue combines western and Chinese styles. Kun Iam is the goddess of mercy in Chinese Buddhism. The building behind the statue is the Kun Iam Ecumenical Centre. Inside is literature about Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
|Kun Iam Statue
Further along the street was this bar and restaurant area.
|Bars and Restaurants
We eventually arrived at the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal.
|Macau Ferry Terminal
|On ferry returning to Hong Kong
|I am hungry but not THAT hungry!
|Rough ride on the return to Hong Kong
We talked about just returning to the airport or going somewhere to have dinner in Central. Our flight will not depart until after midnight.
|Back in Hong Kong
I had read about the Clipper Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and decided we should head there for either tea or a snack. Obviously I was tired and my cold was getting the better of me. I insisted we walk from the MTR station down the street to get to the hotel. I had studied the map before and knew it was directly down Connaught Road. However, the walk was about 20 minutes and it was getting cold.
Mother was not so thrilled but we continued on our way. I asked directions a few times to make sure we were heading in the correct direction. At one point I wondered if we should cross the street and walk in the enclosed walkway but decided to just keep going.
|Near the mid level escalators
Just adjacent to the Mandarin is the Jardine House office tower which was formerly known as Connaught Centre. The building is located at 1 Connaught Place. When it was completed in 1972 it was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia.
Jardine House is situated in front of the General Post Office.
We were rewarded from our walk with the gleaming exterior of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
|Exterior of Mandarin Oriental Hotel
We were very hungry so asked for a table without even checking out the buffet in advance. We needn't have worried though.
|Looking down at the Mandarin Oriental Lobby
It was certainly a popular venue! There were lots of tables of not surprisingly young Chinese.
|Wonderful choices on the dinner buffet
I went up for a second plate of seafood. I particularly loved the seared salmon which tasted more like eel. Everything was so good!!!
|Yummy seafood. The Salmon tasting eel is on the left side of the plate.
|The sushi looked so fresh and tasted that way too!
We both loved the dinner buffet and look forward to coming back again. I would definitely stay at the Mandarin in Central. There is much more to do on Hong Kong Island. Kowloon is okay but we much preferred it over here.
Now satiated we departed the hotel and walked to the station to take the Airport Express to the airport. The Airport Express station was very close and it was quite convenient.
We soon arrived back at the airport which was quite striking at night.
|Hong Kong International Airport
|Part of the huge Cathay Pacific Lounge
Fook Ming Tong
Fook Ming Tong is a very nice tea shop that not only sells nice tea sets but have a good selection of loose leaf tea. My sister described her tea set as "blue and white" but gave no other details. I took a few photos hoping that once home, she could order what she wanted from the photos. The company has a website but no photos of their merchandise. Doesn't make any sense to me!
|Fook Ming Tong Tea sets
|Another tea set
|Cathay Pacific dumplings
We went into a room where there were just about 10 seats and it was very relaxing. There were already a few people there. We soon found out that 4 of them had just completed a cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager to India, Indonesia and East Asia. They were all past Regent cruisers and had a great time. I had to admit that we just completed a cruise on Celebrity which was disappointing. Coming from Regent they didn't seem surprised.
Both couples were "older" and probably in their late 70's to early 80's. One was flying on our flight to San Francisco and the other was on the earlier flight to Los Angeles.
We very much enjoyed our conversation with them and learned a little bit about Regent.
It was not much of a struggle to stay awake until the flight. The couple going to LA departed and soon it was also time for us to head to the gate.
I was the first person in line for the business section. Very impressed they have separate areas for boarding First, Business and Economy classes.
My mother is in seat 17A and I am directly behind her in 18A. I very much like the configuration of the business class seats along the windows. There is lots of privacy and the area is a good size.
I especially liked the large windows, huge LCD screen and the controls near my seat. I don't think I disliked anything!
|The size of the screen is quite impressive
The hand control near the seat also showed the flight duration and how much time had elapsed and the amount of time remaining. It was very useful.
|Very comfortable seat and great setup
The large windows were great!
We departed right on time. Our flight time is supposed to be 11.5 hours
|Getting ready to depart
The images on the screen were clear and easy to see.
|Hong Kong Takeoff
The dinner service was started soon after taking off.
Cheese and fruit were very good and not too big a serving.
I had the grilled shrimp which were good but paled in comparison to our items just a few hours earlier at the Mandarin Oriental.
The seats have lots of privacy.
We had a strong tail wind and made excellent progress! I watched 3 movies and used the rest room about 8 times! That is a record for me. With all the beverages I am consuming plus my cold I have lots of excess fluids!
Dim Sum snack
The flight went by quickly and we were soon approaching San Francisco.
|Approaching San Francisco
We landed an hour early! I loved the flight and cannot wait to fly Cathay Pacific again! We cleared customs quickly, grabbed our bags and went to find transportation to our SFO airport hotel. The SFO airport felt like we had not left China. The information person at the ground transportation desk was "very" Chinese and the person monitoring the taxis was also oriental. Being San Francisco I guess that should not be surprising but in some ways it felt like we were still in Hong Kong.
We took a taxi to the Hilton Bayfront Hotel where we will spend the night. We will depart tomorrow morning for Atlanta and then Florida.