Okay okay, so maybe I lied a little in that title — there were no planes, and we took a ferry to Macau instead of a train, but we certainly did see some VERY fast automobiles last weekend.
Macau is a small island (well, technically two) in southern China that is an easy 1-hour ferry ride from Hong Kong. Since it is also a Special Administrative Region of China (just like Hong Kong), we don’t even need visas to go — nor did we need to change money into Macau pesos!
Macau was a Portuguese colony for 442 years and was the last European colony in Asia until it was returned to China in 1999. It is especially famous for being a gambling destination, since gambling is illegal in Hong Kong, so it is home to an endless variety of very tacky casinos.
It is also home to the annual Macau Grand Prix, which is apparently the only street race in the world that has both cars and motorbikes (but not at the same time!). A friend had two front row tickets for the final day of the race and was kind enough to invite me, and even though I am not a racing fan, I figured, why the heck not?
It turned out to be an amazing event — our seats in the Lisboa Stand were fantastic, and positioned at one of the corners of the race track. That meant that we were in the thick of action, where cars collided and bumped each other barely driving an inch apart. The sound of the engines soaring by was exhilarating, and the crowd all gasped in unison when a car got into an accident and cheered when they recovered. It wasn’t boring for a second.
When the race was done, we grabbed our street maps and went out to see the historic area of Macau. Within 15 minutes the garish casinos disappeared behind us, and we found ourselves walking on black and white cobble stoned streets — the quintessential Potuguese style — with buildings covered with blue, white and yellow tiles. It was so quaint, the pretty little European styles, the lattice work balconies, the buildings painted in pinks, yellows and blues. It truly was like a mini-Lisbon… but full of Chinese people!
Macau is an interesting little place. But, it’s LITTLE. You can see everything pretty much in one day. The Portuguese section is very pretty but small. There are some nice restaurants in the square, and the Cathedral is a short walk away. But I would recommend only doing Macau as a day trip, not as an overnight, unless you are going to see a show at one of the casinos.