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Cant honestly tell you much about this interesting place because we spent a total of about 2 hours there as a staging area for our trip into China during our 25th anniversary round the world adventure. You pronounce Macau like this: ma-cow with a short a.
Macau is a Portuguese colony that has reverted back to Chinese rule just like Hong Kong. While there, we REALLY felt fear from the people about what the Chinese takeover might bring.
Macau is about an hours jet ferry ride from Hong Kong. Many people who work in Hong Kong actually live in Macau and commute despite the hassle of customs and immigration every single day. They do this because housing is much, much more affordable in Macau. Ditto with meals, groceries and just about everything else.
These descriptions came prior to the Chinese takeover...but here we go.
Macau used to sit right on the border with China and as you crossed into China at the border control station, it reminded me of Check Point Charlie in the days of the wall in Berlin.
Prior to reverting to China, here's what the drill involved. You approached the border in your tour van and then everybody had to get out. You entered a nice building on the Macau side and then walked through a no mans land barbed wire secure area outside---a distance of probably a quarter of a block. You then entered the Chinese border station. A bunch of army officers stood around in drab green uniforms. None of them would smile. Cindy started to shoot some video of the border station and got a stern warning in Chinese to turn it off and pronto. They didn't speak English but they didn't have to, if you get my drift. Very stern pointing to the video cam!
Once your passports and visas were examined VERY CLOSELY you re-emerged outside and you were in China. Then you waited for your mini-van to return. It was being checked from hood to tailpipe by Chinese inspectors to make sure you weren't trying to bring something illegal into the country. Then the mini-bus showed back up and you were off on your exploration of China complete with a Chinese government guide.
Again I must stress the above mentioned paragraph occurred before the transfer to China.
Back to Macau, though. Its a pretty drab looking place. All the buildings seem drab and as in Hong Kong, people wash their clothes and then hang them out to dry all over the side of high rise apartment buildings.
We visited the ruins of a church called St. Paul's. Very impressive and the people of Macau were worried sick that under the Chinese take over, they might bulldoze the remains because the Chinese do not believe in God or anything religious that is linked to Him.
One HUGE attraction in Macau is casino gaming. Gambling is not allowed in Hong Kong and people flock to Macau to blow their dough!!!!
Thats about it for my impression of Macau. Not bad for just two hours there, though, ay?
Currency in Macau is the Portuguese Pataca. Driving is on the left, as I recall. Passport is needed but no visa is necessary. Macau is an SAR (Special Administrative Region) of China.