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June 4, 2008

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 HKG to Macau

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OK, everyone. Last week, I dropped a couple of clues about this week's destination. I told you I'd be checking out the new gambling capital of the world and that I'd be touring the MGM Grand, the Wynn and the Venetian hotels and casinos. How many of you guessed Vegas? If you did, then you, my friend, were wrong! Not to mention, almost 8,000 miles off the correct answer. This week, I'm in Macau, China and if you're not familiar with this gambling Mecca, you soon will be. In short, it's 40 miles from Hong Kong and is giving Vegas a run for its money. The world's largest hotel and casino (10.5 million square feet) was just built there and it has something that Las Vegas just doesn't have (and probably never will ... ) -- culture. To get a flavor for this former Portuguese colony, sit back and relax while we explore this up and coming destination. Plus, this week our newest writer Vivien Devlin does some island hopping in the Indian Ocean, visiting tropical islands I've always wanted to visit myself. Join her as she cruises through the Seychelles.

Last week when we left off, I was in the Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) after a 14+-hour flight from Los Angeles. We arrived right on time at 7:25am and instead of going through customs there, I followed the transit signs to the boat transfer deck so I could pick up my ticket to Macau (HK$180 = $23USD). From the airport, the first boat to Macau doesn't leave until 10:50am. I could have jumped on the 30-minute long Airport Express Train to Central Hong Kong (HK$100 = $12.81USD) as ferries from there depart every 15 minutes and practically 24 hours a day. I would have saved a bit of time but it wasn't worth schlepping my bags or spending the extra cash. Besides, I was really excited that I had time to explore the HKG airport as I'd heard it's one of the nicest in the world. FYI: If you check your bags to HKG, just give the ferry agents your baggage tickets and they will arrange to have them transferred. You will pick them up when you arrive in Macau. It's that easy.

Instead of wandering around the transit area once you get your ferry ticket, go through security because the line to the main terminal gets longer later in the day and there is so much more to see and do in there. It's also where you will be departing from as a bus whisks Macau-bound passengers for a seven- to 10-minute ride to the dock. The Hong Kong Airport is indeed incredible. It's not only beautifully designed with lots of light and open spaces but it's clean and you'll find everything you need every kind of store and eatery it's like being in a mall but better because there's plane spotting and free WiFi. I walked right past Popeye's Chicken (not interested), Starbucks (not interested, though they do sell tasty watermelon juice) and other American chains in search of some authentic BBQ pork buns, which of course I eventually found (HK$30 = $3.84USD). From what I could tell, the only thing the airport lacked was electrical outlets. I found only one underneath a table so I was stoked that I had brought a power strip surge protector with me. I plugged it in and I suddenly became the most popular person in the airport. Strangers began asking if they could plug into it and I debated charging them a fee! NOTE: Adapters for Hong Kong are the same as those used in the U.K.

Here's something interesting: Every person arriving into Hong Kong goes through an infrared temperature check. Most passengers don't even realize they are being monitored for high fevers to prevent the spread of S.A.R.S. and other illnesses, but there is a crew out in the open watching incoming travelers.

Whenever I enter a new country, the first thing I do is hit the ATM and get some local moola. I never use currency exchanges because they rip you off. The Hong Kong Airport has plenty of ATMs so it won't be a problem finding one. What's interesting is that in Macau, the official currency is the pataca but the casinos don't even accept them (except a few tables at Ponte 16). Hong Kong dollars is what they want and the exchange rate between the two is basically the same. At the time of press, $1USD = HK$7.80. I used Hong Kong dollars and my credit card my entire trip and the only time I had patacas in my pocket was when I received change.

The TurboJet high-speed ferry holds up to 300 passengers and takes 45 minutes from the airport (55 minutes from Hong Kong). The ride was smooth but I was pretty bummed that it was raining out. Drinks and snacks are sold onboard and there are flat screen TVs with promotional tourism information playing. Most people slept or simply gazed out the window into the dense, hazy, cloud-covered sky. Upon arrival it was a mad rush to get off. I guess all the passengers knew what was waiting for us; a long customs line (about 20 minutes) that everyone has to go through, no matter where you're from.

To give you a better idea of Macau (also spelled Macao) here's some general information: The territory of Macau is comprised of a peninsula and two islands in the Pearl River delta of Guangdong Province. It's situated on the southeastern coast of China and is 60 kilometers (38 miles) northeast of Hong Kong and 145 km (90 miles) from the city of Guangzhou. The total area is 29.2 square kilometers (11 square miles). Macau has a long history but here's a quick overview: The Portuguese arrived here in the 1550s. The Dutch and British followed and began taking over their trade. However, the Chinese chose to do business through the Portuguese in Macau. In 1583, the Portuguese residents created their own assembly to enforce autonomous rule without the permission of the Chinese government. The 422 years of Portuguese rule ended on December 20, 1999. Now Macau, like Hong Kong, is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China. Its principle is "one country, two systems". Today the total population is about 543,000. 94% are ethnic Chinese and the remaining 6% includes Portuguese and people from other regions. Chinese (Cantonese) and Portuguese are the official languages but English is widely spoken. Here's a link to help you learn Chinese in five minutes. My favorites are: Ai Bang Mai Fu Kin Ni, which translates to "I bumped into a coffee table" or Sum Ting Wong, which means "That's not right". Sorry! Couldn't resist! Here's the current and historical weather forecast for Macau. Related Links: Transfer of the Sovereignty of Macau and Macau History

I tend to get seasick on boats if I go down below or into the bathroom so when I made it to Macau and through customs, you know the first place I hit. The bathroom was empty but as a pee-shy guy, I opted for the farthest urinal (there were five altogether). Just as I started releasing what felt like the South China Sea, this little kid, about five-year-old, ran into the bathroom and chose the urinal right next to me. The whole time, he's staring at my crotch. Finally, I said, "Yo kid! Give the little man some privacy. It's not nice to stare." He didn't stop, so I was left with no choice. I pretended to turn into a monster and made a scary face and noise. It worked like a charm. He ran out of there faster than he'd come in and didn't even stop to wash his hands.

Sorry! No video this week but we'll have a great one for you next week. As always, all of the Johnny Jet videos ever made are available on YouTube.

Next week we'll explore Macau to see how past and present collide here and enjoy the diversity of the food, culture and customs.

Copyright 2008 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Cathay FAs

Cathay Plane From LAX




Temperature Check


Hong Kong Dollars


Ticket To Macau


Kids' Playground


Airport Shops


Ferry To Macau


Bathroom In Macau


Next Week


  • Thanks for all the great info! Not only will I be using it but, as it happens, a friend of mine is leaving for Hong Kong next Thursday and is very grateful, too... S.F. - Boston

  • I laughed out loud about you hallucinating that you saw Spider Man. NB - Canada

  • Great pics from Memorial Day in Rowayton - it is one of the best days of the year. Fred H - Boston, MA

  • One way to solve your water problem is to take an empty water bottle through security and fill it up by the gate at a water fountain. Your pilot may have been Canadian. My friend that I grew up with flies with them and his route is usually HK to Vancouver. We grew up in the middle of British Columbia. He says that a number of their pilots do live in British Columbia and once they arrive in Vancouver catch a smaller plane to their town. Dana Stark B.C., Canada

  • I just read your travel report that was posted on the Frommer's website. You mentioned having crazy dreams one night when you were there. Did you get a lot of sand fly bites that day? That is what happened to me, both of my calves were covered with sand fly bites. For the 2 nights after I had crazy dreams. I think it was the toxins from the bites. If you were in San Ignacio for the boat race, that is the exact same time we were there. Regards, Barb K - Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada

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