This is the first time I manage to get leave during the Christmas period. Of course, an overseas trip is a must! Decided to go on a solo trip as it has been a whole two years since I last travelled alone. Hong Kong is naturally my first choice, given my familiarity with the country and its much raved about festive ambience and Christmas lights. A side trip to Macau is also on the itinerary to visit my beloved – pork chop bun!
Booked a late night flight to Hong Kong as Cathay Pacific was having a promotion. Turned out to be one of my most enjoyable flight experiences! The plane was only 20% full and the entire journey was really quiet and peaceful.
I love serene flights!
Arrived at Hong Kong International Airport at 5am
The first place I went to after arriving in Hong Kong? Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal! Yes, Macau is the first stop on the itinerary!
Had a quick breakfast at Lan Fong Yuen while waiting for my ferry. I have always loved Hong Kong-styled tea restaurants, better known as cha chen teng (茶餐廳), despite several of my friends commenting that many of the dishes on their menu can easily be re-created in our kitchens. Just find the unpretentious atmosphere very appealing. Of course, the affordable price is another draw factor! In fact, eating in a cha chan teng is recommended by Time Travel as one of the top 10 things to do in Hong Kong.
A typical Hong Kong-style breakfast: egg and ham macaroni with ice milk tea
Several ferry companies run the route between Hong Kong and Macau, with frequent sailings throughout the day and multiple departure points from both Special Administrative Regions (SARs).
Macau is a short one hour ferry ride from Hong Kong.
Macau is geographically divided into three main regions: the Macau Peninsula (where most of the tourist attractions are), Taipa (a major residential area south of the Peninsula) and Coloane (the southernmost island which is considerably less developed than the other two regions). In addition, between Taipa and Coloane, there is a reclaimed stretch of land known as Cotai, home to several new casinos, including The Venetian Macau, currently the largest casino in the world.
The super crowded Taipa Temporary Ferry Terminal
From the ferry terminal, I took a cab (there were plenty just outside the terminal) to Coloane Village, where the famous Lord Stow’s Bakery is located. The bakery is so well-known that the moment I mentioned its name, the cab driver knew where to bring me! This was my first visit to Coloane and I fell in love with the beautifully sleepy town immediately. Definitely to be included in my list of potential retirement places!
Left: Ponte Cais de Coloane, a very quiet pier which used to be the busiest place in the village when boats were the only means of transport to the island. Right: Shop selling dried sea products. Such shops are not uncommon in the village, which was a thriving fishing port in the past.
Traditional houses built on stilts over the water
The street signs in Macau are designed based on azulejos (traditional Portuguese tile paintings) with blue letters on white ceramic wall tiles.
Chapel of Saint Francis Xavier, built in 1928, is an example of beautiful colonial architecture that can be seen in many parts of Macau.
In front of the chapel is Largo da Eduardo Marques, a small, cobblestone-paved piazza named after a previous governor of the colony when it was under Portuguese rule. In the centre of the square is a monument commemorating the 1910 victory of Coloane over pirates, who used to infest the island and pose serious threats to local fishermen and merchants.
Largo da Eduardo Marques
Biblioteca (Portuguese for library) just a few steps away
As mentioned earlier, Coloane Village is home to the famous Lord Stow’s bakery and cafes, which were founded by an English pharmacist, Sir Andrew Stow, in 1989. The signature item on the menu is the egg tart, a definite must-try, unless you are allergic to eggs =P Served piping hot from the oven, the tart consists of an outer light, crispy, flaky crust, filled with crème brûlée-like custard caramelized at the top. Absolutely yummy!
The perfect pairing: freshly baked egg tart and a cup of hot tea!
This heavenly treat concludes my trip to Coloane. Next, Taipa! While Taipa is predominantly a residential area, there are several places of interest that are worth a visit.
Taipa Houses Museum: this consists of five beautiful jade-green colonial houses built in the 1920s, each featuring a different exhibition theme.
Pandas are popular in Macau too!
Pedicabs used to be the primary mode of transport around Macau Peninsula. Today, some are still available for hire on Macau Peninsula, around the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal and Hotel Lisboa.
There was a calla lily exhibition in the area when I was there. These flowers are known by another name, varkoor, which means ‘pig’s ear’ in Afrikaans. Can you see the resemblance?
Our Lady of Carmel Church, built in 1885
Right across from the church is the charming Taipa Library.
The famous food street, Rua do Cunha, is an ever-crowded, narrow pedestrian street in Taipa lined with numerous snack shops and eateries.
Mok Yi Kei is one of the most popular places in Taipa for dessert, offering a wide range of ice cream, jellies and puddings.
Queuing for pork chop bun.
Pork chop buns originated from Macau and are made up of a slice of seasoned pork sandwiched between two halves of a toasted bun. My favourite would be those that are cooked only upon order, with the bun crispy on the outside yet soft in the middle, and served with no condiments. Absolutely divine!
Finally satisfied my craving of two years!
For dessert lovers like me, serradura (“sawdust pudding”) may appeal to your taste buds. This Portuguese dessert consists of alternating layers of powdered biscuit (which gives it the sawdust-like appearance) and sweet, light and airy whipped cream.
Koi Kei is one of the most famous bakeries in Macau. Previously a food cart selling only peanut and ginger candy, it established its first shop on Travessa do Matadouro in 1997. Business expanded rapidly since and today, Koi Kei has 14 branches in Macau and 6 in Hong Kong! I am particularly fond of their phoenix egg rolls, a delightful snack I can never have enough of.
Koi Kei has two branches along Rua do Cunha.
The sugar rush from all the eating, coupled with the effect of an overnight flight, was making me really lethargic. Time for a nap!
My room in Hotel Sintra, a three-star hotel located in the heart of Macau Peninsula.