After our adventures in Bangladesh, Kuwait and Iran, it was time to re-group in Hong Kong for three days, where we speak the language, familiar with the excellent transportation system, and have access to any food or services we need or want.
Today we decided to check out the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, newly opened on October 23, 2018. This new crossing to Zhuhai or Macau, is a 55-kilometre bridge and tunnel system consisting of a series of three cable-stayed bridges, an undersea tunnel, and four artificial islands. It is both the longest sea crossing and the longest fixed link on earth.
Prior to this new crossing, the fastest way to Macau involved riding the high speed hydrofoil for about one hour. Furthermore, the port and immigration terminals were often insufficient to handle the heavy traffic, rendering the crossing quite tedious.
Buses are the main option for making the new bridge crossing but there are different options available. One option is to take local buses on either side, while using a dedicated shuttle to cross the bridge and deal with immigration at the newly built port terminals. Second option is to take an intercity bus services to connect downtown Hong Kong directly to Macau / Zhuhai, without the need to change buses. Third option is using existing airport bus routes to get directly from the airport to Macau / Zhuhai quickly and seamlessly on the new bridge.
When the bridge first opened, taxis and private vehicles were not allowed on the bridge. They are now permitted. But we saw very few vehicles other than buses on on the bridge during our crossing.
We decided to make the crossing using the local buses and shuttle bus method since this is not only the cheapest method, but also the most flexible.
From our hotel, we took the Tung Chung (Orange Line) MTR line to the Sunny Bay station ($14 HKD).
Then we got on the B5 bus to the Hong Kong Port ($6 HKD).
At the Hong Kong Port, we purchased a one-way ticket for the shuttle bus to cross the bridge ($65 HKD). The Hong Kong transit Octopus card works for all of these fees so it is a good idea to ensure your Octopus card has sufficient amount to cover the cost.
After purchasing the ticket, we went through the Hong Kong immigration control by scanning our Hong Kong permanent residence ID card. There is a separate line for foreign passports.
The bridge shuttle bus is a brand new comfortable bus. If you are lucky enough to get a front row seat, you can take some good photos during the crossing. You must remain seated during the crossing, and the bus driver will remind you to buckle up your seat belt.
The crossing on the shuttle bus took 35 minutes from the Hong Kong Port to the Macau Port. About five minutes before arriving to the Macau Port, we saw the crossing for going to Zhuhai on the right hand side.
We got off the bus and walked into the brand new Macau Port building. There are vending machines, public washrooms, and ATM machines in the building. We used our HK ID cards for Macau immigration control as well.
For the final step, we took the Macau 101X bus to travel from the Macau Port to central Macau. The cost of the 101X bus was $5.8 Macau dollars. The Macau dollar is approximately 3 percent less than the HKD. We just used our Hong Kong money for our duration in Macau as we did not want to bother withdrawing money from ATM, or exchange Macau dollars for the short visit.
We disembarked from bus 101X and walked a short distance to the Ruins of St. Paul, Macau’s most famous landmark. But of course, Macau is also famous for delicious Portuguese and Chinese fusion food and snacks. So we took a tea break and fortified ourselves with Portuguese egg tarts and hot milk teas.
On the way up to the Ruins of St. Paul, we were met by vendors tempting us with sample of the famous Macau beef and pork jerky, and the heavenly Macau almond cookies.
The ruins of St. Paul area was crowded and busy. We noticed the majority of the tourist appeared to be from mainland China. This is quite a change from our last visit just 9 years ago when mainland China tourist did not outnumber tourists from other countries.
Although the ruins of St. Paul is only the remains of a beautiful old church, it is in fact a key reminder of Macau’s unique roots, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Constructed from 1602 to 1640 by Jesuit priests who traveled to the Far East to spread Catholicism, the site originally included St. Paul’s College and the Church of St. Paul, also known as “Mater Dei”, a Portuguese church dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle. Located at the top of a hill, the structure was the largest church in Asia at the time and was acclaimed as “The Vatican of the Far East”. Its existence was meant to express the triumph of the Roman Catholic Church through the ornate grandeur of the buildings. The original structure was made of wood, which burned down in a fire during a typhoon in 1835, leaving only the beautiful granite facade and a grand staircase of 68 stone steps leading up to it.
Contrary to the tourist crowds at the ruins of St. Paul, the Fortress was very peaceful with few tourists. We strolled around, checked out all the old cannons, and the different views of Macau from this high vantage point. There is also the Macau Museum at the Fortress. As luck would have it, it was open and for some reason, no admission was required. It was a great museum with exhibits on not only the history of Macau, but also a number of exhibits on the history of trades between China and the Western World.
After the museum visit, we walked through a few more historic areas and the modern section of Macau.
After seeing most of central Macau, we boarded the 101X back to the Macau Port for the shuttle bus to cross the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge back to Hong Kong. It is important to note that bus 101X will accept cash but will not give change so try to remember to have small bills and coins for this bus on your return journey. At the Macau Port, you can pay for your shuttle ticket bus ticket for the crossing ($65 Macau dollars) but they will give you change in Macau dollars which you may not need. So once again, try to have the correct change.
After arriving back at the Hong Kong port, there was a booth to entice people to visit Disneyland Hong Kong, which is just a short MTR stop away. It is a good idea to combine a day in Macau and Disneyland Hong Kong, since they are both in Lantau Island.