We’ve made our way to Thailand (where we are sunbathing at the pool and don’t expect to have much to write about), which means it is time for final thoughts on Hong Kong and Macau. Here goes.
If Singapore is Asia 101, Hong Kong is Asia 102 and Macau is Asia 103. Neither city is particularly challenging. We found both cities to be clean, easy to navigate with plenty of fluent English speakers and very few “what in the world did I just see/eat” moments. Although the conversation in Hong Kong where the street food vendor tried to remember the word for intestines was interesting to say the least. We passed on the intestines, just fyi.
The residents of Hong Kong are absolutely insane when it comes to their cell phones. We have never seen so many people absolutely glued to their phones. We saw people conducting video calls while walking down the street, people playing video games while walking through the subway, and people texting everywhere. But our absolute favorite moment was watching some guy take a serious tumble because he was so engrossed in his phone he didn’t even realize the escalator was coming to an end. Yep, we didn’t feel at all bad that he scrapped his knee and was likely going to have quite the bruise…
Good food makes all the difference. We really didn’t like Hong Kong until we had a good meal of soup dumplings (and then grew to really like Hong Kong). We immediately liked Macau because of all the amazing street food including egg tarts and meat jerky (although, admittedly, the love diminished as we spent more time there). Bottom line, we probably could never live in a place with bad food.
Both Hong Kong and Macau seem to be one big shopping mall. It felt like we could walk for miles in Hong Kong without ever stepping outside, just going from one shopping mall to another. And, in Macau, the casinos have huge shopping malls (way bigger than Vegas). Unfortunately, however, everything is the same. We lost count of the number of Swatch stores and Tiffany jewelry stores and McDonald’s and Burger Kings. And, things we think of as “local” to the U.S. were all over as well. For example, who knew you could get Garrett’s popcorn in Hong Kong? Or See’s chocolates in Macau? We miss the days when international trips meant an entirely new shopping experience….(although I am pretty excited that Uniqlo is now in Chicago…).
Although both Hong Kong and Macau are like big shopping malls, they are actually very, very different. Hong Kong was full of Western faces; Macau, not so much. Hong Kong has an amazing public transportation system; Macau is pretty much limited to buses as far as we could tell (although the free shuttle buses were a nice touch — the only time we paid for transport was taking a cab to the airport). In Hong Kong, English was the predominant language we heard spoken on the streets (no doubt because of the large number of ex pats and we are quite confident that there are neighborhoods where that wouldn’t be the case); in Macau it was Cantonese. Hong Kong has very modern architecture; everything in Macau looked like bad 60’s architecture. But they both do seem to like their grilled meat on a stick and grilled fish balls!
In Hong Kong, you have to go into the buildings and/or look up to find anything. Our favorite restaurant was on the sixth floor of building with a shopping mall on the first four floors (and there were numerous other restaurants above the mall). Indeed, the vast majority of restaurants seemed to be tucked inside buildings (or the subway stations). Kind of strange, given we don’t normally think of shopping malls as places with good food.
The gambling scene in Macau is surreal. We have never been in a casino as quiet as the casinos in Macau. And, everyone looked so serious. Not our cup of tea. We walked through a couple of casinos and quickly walked back out. By the end of the stay, we were actively avoiding the casino in our hotel.
We found bars incredibly hard to find in Macau. I’m sure there is a scene somewhere, but if you just want a nice glass of wine before dinner, places like that were few and far between. And, believe it or not, many of the casino bars don’t even open until the evening. (Don’t worry, we found a bar or two, but we had to seriously search for them).
I forgot how much I like a nice cup of tea until arriving in Hong Kong. In fact, I would venture a guess that I drank more tea in ten days in Hong Kong and Macau than in the previous ten months. Mainly green tea and jasmine tea. And at all times of the day and night. I must remember that I like tea…
After loving the soup dumplings at Paradise Dynasty, we decided to eat at Din Tai Fung in Macau just to see if it was as good as we remembered from our time in Singapore. Sad news. It was not…. But, then again, nearly any soup dumplings are better than no soup dumplings.