In lieu of a lecture on Friday, our class took a field trip to Macau. We were asked to be at the ferry station at 6:45am, so I woke very early that morning to pack an overnight bag and catch the tram to the Macau Ferry Terminal. I’d never taken a ferry before, but I thought we’d be riding on a slow-moving, open-air type of boat carrying cargo and vehicles in addition to human passengers. Perhaps most ferries are like the one I imagined; however, our ferry was much, much different.
Aptly named “TurboJET,” our transportation to the western side of the Pearl River Delta was like a massive speedboat/yacht hybrid. They’re manufactured by Boeing and propelled by twin Rolls Royce Allison 501 KF turbines that can reach speeds of up to 52 knots, or nearly 60mph. That’s incredibly fast for a boat capable of carrying over 300 passengers! When we reached full speed, it felt like we were in an airplane gliding on the water.
The ride to Macau was only about an hour, but a ferry attendant offered us a menu with different types of ramen and soft drinks. I didn’t have a chance to eat breakfast before boarding the ferry (and I don’t like passing up an opportunity to eat), so I ordered a bowl of the instant noodles. I filled out my immigration card and squeezed in a short nap before we docked in Macau around 8:30am.
Our program directors arranged a spacious tour bus to pick us up from the station and take us sightseeing. Our first stop was a quick photo op at the iconic, 65-foot tall Kun Iam statue located on the outer harbor waterfront. In Chinese Buddhism, Kun Iam is the goddess of mercy and is believed to bring wealth and plays a role in protecting children.
Our next stop was a 30-minute visit to the A-Ma temple. Built in 1488, the temple is dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen.
Asking a group of college students to be anywhere at 6:45am is not a very good idea. After our visit to the temple, we took an hour-long sightseeing drive through Macau; but all 12 of us were asleep, leaving only the professor and our guides to enjoy the tour. I awoke as the bus pulled over to let us out at the Ruins of St. Paul’s. The cathedral was built between 1620 and 1627 by Japanese Christians in exile from their homeland, but was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835. All that’s left is the impressive stone façade and crypts of the Jesuits who maintained the cathedral.
The guided tour ended with a nice Portuguese lunch. Our “cultural excursion” was over and it was officially the weekend. Instead of returning back to Hong Kong, we reserved rooms at the Sheraton on Cotai Strip (Macau’s equivalent of Las Vegas Boulevard). The combination of wanting to save money AND stay in a nice place resulted in 6 girls sharing one suite. It was a little crowded, but we ordered some roll-away beds and made it work!
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy the thrill of gambling and was very excited to check out the casinos in the “Monte Carlo of the Orient.” I was especially looking forward to going to the Venetian (even though it’s modeled after the Venetian in Vegas), because it’s the largest casino in the world. If you know me well, you shouldn’t be surprised to read that my one night in Macau involved eating a huge dinner at the Sheraton buffet and going to bed by 10:30pm. Lame, yes, but I had a game plan: enjoy a good night’s rest and wake up early to spend the day in the Venetian. That’s precisely what I did.
I had around 6 hours to explore the Venetian before I needed to be at the ferry station to catch the TurboJET back to Hong Kong. The 10,500,000-square-foot building is beautifully decorated with a special attention to detail, and 6 hours is simply not enough time to see everything. I spent the first two hours walking around with a couple of classmates before venturing off on my own to enjoy the Venetian buffet for lunch. Even though my waitress made fun of me, I enjoyed one of everything and stayed there until the lunch buffet closed.
Happy and full, I was ready to do a little gambling. I couldn’t find any Texas Hold’em tables in the sea of baccarat tables, so I decided to play a little roulette. I keep it simple and like to only bet on the colors in roulette, but I have somewhat of a system in doing so: I find a couple of tables right next to each other and patiently watch the monitors of the previous numbers. When one color hits more than 4 times in a row, I usually step in and bet on the other color. The minimum bet at the table for red or black was $200HKD (~$25USD), so that’s what I bet. I alternated between the 2 tables, watching the monitors for nearly an hour and only betting 3 times. I won the 3 bets I placed, doubling my money each time. The hardest part of gambling is walking away, but I needed to meet up with the group to catch the ferry. I cashed out my $600HKD winnings and felt content with my one night in Macau.