Island Hopping…Islay to Macau.

With torrential rain and wild gales ferries and planes were cancelled as stormy weather arrived last week. Guests were stranded on and off the island and the farmhouse kitchen became a haven as Archie Bread and a few of the other drivers took refuge, much to the Happy Farmer’s delight. Youngest and I headed out with dogs in tow, in the eye of the storm, for a wild and woolly walk through the woods. The Loch had burst its banks and the path had become one long deep puddle, much to the dogs’ delight, as we waded our way along the track.

Then as quickly as the storm had arrived, it was gone, and on Friday we awoke to the most beautiful sunrise, and not a breath of wind. Summer had returned, allowing for the customary ‘coffee on the bench’ with the Happy Farmer, sitting for a moment in front of the farmhouse, soaking up the views across the sea, a mug of freshly ground coffee in hand, between the morning’s jobs. Islay’s answer to Starbucks in the city.

Hamishina, one of the Persabus cats, happily found her way home too, having gone AWOL for nearly a week. Eldest was home and had been out on the hillside calling to her sheep, and as they came running along, they were joined by one very happy little cat running alongside them. Eldest scooped her up and brought her back home to the farmhouse where she has remained ever since, sprawled out, sleeping off her week of adventuring and hunting out on the hill.

Today we made tracks out across the headland at Bunnahabhain. Walking along the track before scrambling through the bracken and heather, across the burn, and down to the pebble beach to see the seals on the rocks and enjoy a last bit of ‘Islay time’ before youngest heads back to university for another term.

In another world across the seas our son has been island hopping. I found myself escaping the stormy Islay weather last week when I read the article he had written for the charity he is working with…and couldn’t resist sharing his travels on the Persabus blog…he isn’t around to object after all. So sit tight and read on to enjoy his island experiences, Hong Kong to Macau.

Having been in Hong Kong for nearly two weeks, the day finally came when I had the opportunity to visit Macau. My first two weeks in Hong Kong had been an exciting, crazy, wacky (and very humid) adventure, and I had no idea what to expect from Macau. Only first hearing about it when I moved to Hong Kong, everyone that I’d spoken to had labelled it the “Las Vegas of Asia”. A former Portuguese colony, the main languages there were now Cantonese and Mandarin, and although they accept Hong Kong Dollars (HKD), they also have their own currency called Macanese Pataca (which you will receive back in change, so don’t bring $500 HKD notes with you!).

The first part of the journey involved an hour-long boat ride from Hong Kong island. Mist hung in the air that morning, and many of the undoubtedly beautiful views were hidden behind its curtain. Seeing the feint pillars of Hong Kong island and the green of some of the surrounding islands through the mist did have its own magic to it though (and I suppose the boat’s Wi-Fi and cinema-esque chairs helped as well).

The Vegas charm of Macau was evident the moment the land came into view; a grand casino sat near the water’s edge, almost welcoming us to its shores. Having never been a gambler before, I couldn’t wait to see inside a casino.

Casino-visiting, however, wasn’t the first thing on the list! Climbing aboard a local bus, we took a ride into the centre of the Macau’s old town and began our exploration. The Portuguese roots of the area were evident from the start. Getting off the bus, we were quickly surrounded by a jungle of winding, narrow roads and European-styled houses packed tightly together. The streets were bustling with people, and to say that we walked around would be a stretch, shuffling would probably be a better word to use. People crammed the pavements, whilst cars and motorbikes tried to squeeze through the narrow, single-track roads; it was a beautiful chaos.

We waded our way up the streets, finally reaching the ‘Ruins of St Paul’s’: a beautiful remnant of an old Portuguese church. It sat on a hill which gave us a beautiful view of the old town and also some of the casinos in the distance: Old and new combining into one view.

We then went to a local restaurant nearby and had food. Being in Macau, I felt compelled to have the ‘Macau pork chop bun’. I don’t think it would class as one of your 5-a-day, but it was a lovely treat!

Afterward, we waded through the crowds again, heading down the hill. On our way, we stopped by some of the shops that enticed us with smoothies and special teas (and of course, air-conditioning). One particular shop had all kinds of biscuits for us to try (I think I must have eaten 8 different biscuits, so it was a good thing that I hadn’t ordered desert in the restaurant!). Afterward, we continued to walk through Macau’s old town; admiring the architecture and walking down endless narrow streets for around an hour. Tourist obligations also led us to trying the Portuguese egg tarts, which I can only recommend!

Finally, we walked to the ‘Grand Lisboa Macau’ casino. The walk to the casino showcased to us the more modern part of Macau: winding narrow single-track roads were replaced with large city roads and old European-styled houses were replaced with awesome skyscrapers. It was interesting to see both sides of the region.

Seeing the ‘Grand Lisboa Macau’ building from afar was incredible, but the magic didn’t stop outside. Before we even reached the casino, we were all treated to a museum-like experience inside the building, with the grand golden rooms filled with all kinds of statues, water fountains, and other beautiful forms of art and architecture. Finally, we went upstairs and saw the building’s casino. It felt like it was a part of ‘Casino Royale’: An endless sea of green gambling tables, slot machines, and of course, a bar and stage where dancers performed. It was great to see, though I didn’t gamble myself! If you do decide to dabble in some gambling, though, just make sure you don’t gamble your flat deposit away!

Afterward, it was time to return home. We got the bus back to the ferry terminal and set sail for Hong Kong! I would definitely recommend visiting Macau to anyone (I will certainly be returning at some point!). Just remember to take plenty of HKDs in cash, but not in large notes unless you want plenty of Macanese Pataca in change!

Islay or Macau?

Until next time….

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