Asia travel diary: Macau, China

After a flight delay in Bangkok, we finally made it into Macau. The former Portuguese colony city is one of the world’s richest with the economy dependent on gambling and tourism, an Asian version of Las Vegas. We were well and truly past half way through our holiday so we were looking forward to check in to The Venetian Macao to rest up, freshen up and explore the city. Unfortunately, when we arrived, our suite wasn’t ready and we had to wait 1-2 hours for it to be cleaned, but in turn they gave us a late check out time. The Venetian was chaotic and incredibly busy with long queues of people and tourists everywhere; we dropped off our bags at the storage desk and explored the building to kill some time.

macau, the venetian
Golden Globe in the foyer, foyer, ceiling

The Venetian Macao, a large replica of the original Venetian in Vegas was… to put it simply, freaking massive! The building was grand and opulent with faux Renaissance paintings adorning the ceiling as well as the sky painting above throughout the Shoppes area, three canals running through the complex complete with gondola rides, faux Venice apartment facades with balconies and windows, bridges, overpasses and large stone columns. It was Venice housed under a roof. But in Macau.

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Inside the Shoppes, gondola

We came across a small queue at Lord Stow’s Bakery as people were lining up for the famous and popular Portuguese tarts.

We had to try some!

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Lord Stow’s Bakery & Cafe

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Portuguese egg tart; $9MOP/$1.20AUD

These were fresh and piping hot, the tart case was crusty, light, delicate and so flaky with a sweet wobbly egg custard centre and a slightly toasted top. So much yum!! We smashed a few down within minutes and made sure we dusted off our faces to still look proper and presentable.

After circling the entire building and keeping notes of which shop was where (hehe!), we headed back to the foyer and was able to check in to our room.

Check out the massive hotel suite, complete with 2 levels: a lounge sitting area, massive bed, his and her bathroom vanity and even a ‘powder’ area for the ladies. The separate toilet was huge too! Almost the size of our Singapore accomodation at Big Hotel… haha.

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Venetian Macau hotel suite

We quickly explored the facilities offered by the hotel before heading back to get ready and head out for dinner.

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Pool

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Court yard

Prior to the trip, I had done my research and had a few places in mind on where we should eat with the aim to try Portuguese cuisine in Macau. We chose one restaurant mainly due to the proximity of where we were staying and headed out to the taxi rank out the front of the hotel. Oh boy was the weaving line long or what!!

We eventually made it to the front of the queue and got an old taxi driver. We tried telling him where we wanted to go, complete with restaurant name and address but he couldn’t understand nor read the information citing that he had poor eyesight! My bad, I had it in English, I should’ve had it in Chinese as well! (Note to self for next time, have information in both English and [insert country’s language here]). We tried getting the staff member who was on duty at the taxi rank to help him direct or translate to the driver as to where we wanted to go but that proved difficult too. The dude didn’t know English and quickly shooed us and the driver away! Frustration quickly set in so we told our driver to take us somewhere to ‘eat’ with hand gestures. Sigh. For a major tourist spot and city, you’d think that they’d know some basic English!

Our driver dropped us off at a bus stop/taxi rank next to a few handful of shops with brightly lit neon signs. We had no idea where we were and attempted to flag down another taxi driver hoping that he would know where to take us. Every driver that we approached didn’t understand English and/or didn’t know the destination and shooed us away. We were stranded and helpless. Then the stranger spotted a caucasian man in the distance! We approached him and luckily for us, he spoke English (he could’ve been European and not known a bit of English at all, but he wasn’t – what a relief)! We asked for directions to the restaurant in question and surprisingly, it was only a few hundred metres from where we were! Either our original driver knew where we wanted to go, or it was pure coincidence that he dropped us off in a place where we could ‘eat’. I’m pretty sure it was the latter, but either way, we got there!

O Santos

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O Santos signage

We entered the old and run down looking restaurant and was left standing in the front entrance for a good few minutes as the owner and staff blatantly ignored us and went along their merry way attending to customers and whatnot. Whilst ‘waiting’, we looked around; the Portugal flag was proudly displayed on the wall with Portuguese memorabilia and framed sport jerseys and photos littered around the restaurant. The restaurant was packed that evening. We were eventually led through the restaurant, to the back and up a flight of stairs to the second level.

The restaurant was very basic – it resembled more like your local ‘dingy’ go-to spot.

We started off with a few beverages before flicking through the picture menu and decided on our food.

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Sagres – Portuguese beer, Sumol – Portuguese pineapple soda; $18MOP/$2.41AUD* and $15MOP/$2.00AUD*

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Complimentary bread and butter

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Cod fish ball; $9MOP/$1.20AUD* each

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I referred to Tripadvisor for recommendations on what to order and settled on the popular baked duck rice.

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Baked duck rice; $148MOP/$19.81AUD*

What a let down!

A hot bowl of yellow tinged pressed rice with duck pieces buried beneath was presented topped with a slice of sausage. The serving size was huge but we barely made a dent through it as we weren’t particularly fond of the rice and the overly dry pieces of duck meat – unless that was how it was supposed to be cooked and we just didn’t like it.

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Fried beef with mushrooms with French fries; $168MOP/$22.49AUD*

The stranger ordered the steak with mushrooms, sunny side up egg and a side of fries. Contrary to what it looked like, it was pretty tasty… must have been all that butter that it was basted in! The fries were hand cut and crispy, just like the good ones you get at your local take away shop.

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French fries

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Milk cream; $33MOP/$4.42AUD*

A dessert to end off the meal; very similar to a creme caramel with the torched toffee top but the ‘custard’ was more milkier and thicker.

We left the restaurant and explored the streets… eventually finding our own way back to our hotel. It wasn’t too difficult as we just followed the direction of the bright lights, hotels and casino buildings in the distance.

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Back alley way

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Just following locals.. haha

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Cobbled streets

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Galaxy Macau

The following morning, we did some last minute shopping in The Venetian and had a pork chop bun for breakfast – something that I saw Anthony Bourdain eat, so we had to give it a go.

Tai Lei Loi Kei

macau, the venetian, Tai Lei Loi Kei
Tai Lei Loi Kei

macau, the venetian, Tai Lei Loi Kei, pork chop bun
Pork chop bun; $55MOP/$7.36AUD*

Verdict? Is was ok and wasn’t as mind blowingly good as we were hoping. To be honest, we thought it was all a bit too dry. The bread was dry, the meat was dry, dry, dry, dry.

One last stop before we headed off to our next destination? Lord Stow’s Bakery & Cafe for a snack for the road!

macau, the venetian
Portuguese egg tarts galore

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to venture onto the main island of Macau to explore the Portuguese and European architectural sites. Such a shame cause I was really looking forward to see the European architecture but we did see influences of it on the island through the cobbled street paths.

We boarded a free shuttle bus from The Venetian which took us to the ferry dock on the main island where we purchased one way ferry tickets ($148HKD/$21.14AUD*) to Hong Kong. The ferry ride took approximately 1 hour; the ride itself was rather rocky as the weather was a bit stormy that day. Luckily for us, we both slept through the ride which was a relief for me as I don’t do too well with motion sickness!

-d

Lord Stow’s Bakery & Cafe
Shop 870, Mask Street
The Grand Canal Shoppes Venetian
Taipa Island Macau
P +853 2886 6889
Opening hours
Sun-Thu 10am-11pm
Fri-Sat 10am-12am

“O Santos” Comida Portuguesa Taipa
Rua de Cunha No. 20
Taipa Island Macau
P +853 882 5594

Tai Lei Loi Kei
Estrada da Baia de Nossa Senhora da Esperanca
Macau

*exchange rate at time of travel $1AUD=$7.47MOP  |  $1AUD=$7.00HKD

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