Setting Sail for Macau

Ruins of St. Paul’s in central Macau (facade).

After kicking off the New Year on a junk boat in Hong Kong, my crew and I decided to sail to Macau and spend the first day of 2018 in an incredible new place we had never been before.  Macau is a unique country because it has a mix of Chinese and Portuguese culture, and the island has both fancy gold casinos and traditional temples attracting a lot of different travelers.  It truly feels like an adventure when you ride past a concrete capitalist jungle resembling the Vegas Strip and into the heart of the city where historic ruins lay waiting to be discovered.

Traveling to Macau from Hong Kong is very easy, all you need to do is get off at Shueng Wan Station and catch a ferry that runs every 15 minutes for $25.  The boat ride is only an hour long and is very pleasant.  There is also an international airport on the island.  When we arrived, we decided to hire a taxi for 4 hours and split the price between the three of us rather than use a bus.  I can’t remember the exact price as I was a new traveler, but I remember it wasn’t that expensive and was overall worth it for the convenience.

The two images above demonstrate the stark contrast of architecture in Macau.  From gold-tiled casinos to traditional temples, there is no shortage of exciting things to see here.  We first stopped at the Colosseum at the Fisherman’s Wharf, which is very similar to hotels in Las Vegas!  You can walk through the Colosseum and also go to the nearby casinos if you are interested.  This is an obvious tourist trap, but I was on one of my first international trips so I’ll admit that I was impressed.

Next we drove to the Ruins of St. Paul’s, which is actually a replica of the real church but looks completely real!  Next we wandered to the nearby Monte Fort and hiked to the very top.  You can see a beautiful view of Macau’s skyline and also take pictures of the canons that were used to protect it.  After that we were in the mood for food so we walked down to the market and I ordered some really interesting ramen noodles with fish balls.  They were surprisingly sweet and delicious!

You can walk from this area to Portuguese Street and spend hours seeing the shops and parks nearby!  We did a mix of activities including lighting incense at a temple, trying free samples at the food stalls, then looping around this area until dusk because there was so much to see.  On our last stop, we went to Macau Tower where you can go bungee jumping and skywalking!  This tower holds the Guinness World Record for “Highest Commercial Bungy Jump” in the world.  Unfortunately since it was New Year’s Day there was a long wait for bungee jumping, so we did skywalking instead (Luke would be proud).

Skywalking at Macau Tower is actually quite the thrill.

Though it wasn’t bungee jumping, it was actually quite the thrill!  Our guide spoke perfect English and made sure everyone was comfortable before we started walking the perimeter of the tower.  She would instruct us to try different movements and took photos of us while we enjoyed the beautiful skyline and the sensation of being 731.6 ft in the air.  Though it was only for a few minutes, it felt like forever and was a really neat experience.

By the time we finished, it was night time so we decided to head back to Hong Kong from the port!  You can see Macau in a day if you make use of the buses or a taxi, but I recommend staying for a few days if you can.  I had a lot more fun here than in Vegas in comparison, and my money went a long way.

Seeing Fireworks on a Junk Boat for New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong

New Year’s Eve on Victoria Harbor from a Junk Boat in Hong Kong (2018).

I never thought I’d be sailing through the Kowloon district of Hong Kong at midnight on a rickety junk boat with my former housemate and his girlfriend, but this was yet another exotic adventure I had somehow stumbled into!  At this time in my life, I had lived in Japan for 2 years and intended to stay there forever.  I had seen most of the major islands and cities in Japan, so my good friend Li Bai, who I originally met in a Tokyo sharehouse, invited my to come to Hong Kong for something new.  He had lived in Tokyo for 3 months and China for about a year, and said Hong Kong was one of the craziest places he had ever been to.  I took his word, but I still was a little nervous back then!

Now I would leap at an opportunity to go to a new country, but initially I had mixed feelings about traveling outside of Japan.  This was mainly because I was so comfortable with my daily life in Tokyo and didn’t want to leave, plus I wasn’t sure if I could navigate in another foreign country without knowing its native tongue.  It actually took a lot of convincing on Li Bai’s end, but he assured me if I loved Tokyo I would enjoy Hong Kong and all it had to offer.  After some time I decided this would be the best opportunity to see Hong Kong since both of my friends spoke Chinese and could guide me get around.  It was also the chance to see a whole new country and learn about its culture with people I was close with, so in retrospect I’m quite glad I took the opportunity.

I stayed in Hong Kong for a total of 4 days in a cheap hostel in Kowloon called Rainbow Lodge HK.  Li Bai recommend staying in Kowloon Town because it has a lot of history, and it is cheaper than the newer luxurious parts of the city.  Formerly called “The City of Anarchy”, Kowloon was known as walled city that was home to many imperial soldiers during the Sung Dynasty.  The city had a culture of its own as it refused to be colonized and was once one of the most densely populated areas of the world.  Though it was infamous for crime back in the day, now it is fully safe and historic.

Like Tokyo, Hong Kong is a bright and vivid city with a lot of neon lights, street vendors, and shopping.  The train system is very cohesive and you can get around the island with ease.  The biggest difference I noticed was Hong Kong was a lot more westernized; English was widely spoken and manners were a lot looser.  At the night markets you could barter to get lower prices which I did with the help of my Chinese-speaking friends.  This is concept is actually common in Asian countries, but not in Japan.  I also really enjoyed the warm weather.  Tokyo and Korea are much colder in the winter, so I felt like I was in the tropics the whole time I was here.

One interesting point I noticed is that people often lay down cardboard boxes in the street and have little picnics in them!  I think it’s a very clever idea because it easily brings people together:


The streets of Hong Kong are really fun to wander because they are super condensed and beautiful murals are everywhere to be found.  I arrived before my friends, so I took to opportunity to explore the city on foot.  I saw a lot of unique murals and architecture, as well as graffiti.  My favorite was a green Slime from Dragon Quest was some kind of insignia on its forehead, not to mention the mysterious door with eyes.  The polar bear butt sculpture near my hostel was extremely charming too.

My friends from China arrived around 8pm and that’s when the party finally started!  It felt so good to catch up with them because it had been over a year since we last had seen one another.  We first barhopped around Kowloon and found a Mexican place with giant mixed drinks and tequila which we feasted on after the long flight.  We also bought a bottle of wine and drank on the streets while walking to the Victoria harbor.  Honestly, we got along so well like no time had passed at all!

Around 11pm we boarded a traditional Chinese ship with a vivid sail called a junkboat.  Junkboats resemble pirate ships and were used to transport cargo back in the day (not actual junk).  We booked the NYE fireworks tour through Aqua Luna online, and it included an all you can eat buffet and an hour of smooth sailing around the harbor.  Though it was somewhat of a tourist activity, it was extremely fun!  This was honestly one of the most enjoyable NYEs of my life because I had made it all the way here to Hong Kong, a place I never thought I’d travel to in my life.  I’ll never forget the incredible neon hue the sky turned once the clock stuck midnight!

Midnight on Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong (2017-2018).

At the end of the little sailing expedition, we were all tired so we decided to turn in for the night.  But this was just the first day!  The next day we decided to sail to another exciting place!  Look forward to the next blog of my Hong Kong series: Setting Sail for Macau.

The Best Desserts in Hong Kong: Egg Waffles, Coconut Jelly, and Hello Kitty Secret Garden

Hong Kong is one of the most bustling island countries of the world attracting a lot of international business, tourism, and backpackers like me.  For that purpose, it’s bound to have have some amazing desserts, and in large quantities too!

Right in the center of the city is Oddies Foodies where you can order delicious ice cream and egg waffle parfaits.  Egg waffles are a huge dessert meme in Hong Kong, and are gradually spreading to other parts of Asia.  They are softer and have more of a milky taste compared to regular waffles.  I ordered the cookie dough flavor and was very impressed with how mouthwatering it was!  The chocolate syrup they drizzled over it made it taste even better.  The best part is, you could eat egg waffles for breakfast and dessert!

While I was exploring the night market near Jordan Station, I found a small food stall that was selling coconut jelly out of a real coconut.  I can’t remember the exact name of the stall, but you can find these all over the country if you walk along the streets of the markets.  Compared to jello found in America, this coconut jello was a lot creamier and tasted more like pudding.  In Hong Kong-styled cooking eggs are often used but the taste is never overpowering.  I thought all of the street food I tried was extremely delicious (yet sadly caloric).

My last meal in Hong Kong was a lunch set at Hello Kitty Secret Garden.  I ordered toast, strawberry ice cream waffles, and a cute milk latte:

This was another caloric meal, but it was extremely satisfying.  All of the portion sizes in Hong Kong are much larger than in Japan!  The food is a bit more expensive, but you really can’t go wrong with it because it’s all delicious.  If you are on a budget, I would check the street stalls because they have a lot of variety as well.