Traversing the Hong Kong / Macau / Zhuhai Bridge
One bridge, three cities, one day. All is possible with the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge’s recent opening, offering the longest sea crossing in the world. For the travelers, the thrill of the ride is just being on the bridge itself.
Words: Nawa Acosta Wright
Photos: Thewin Chanyawong & Shutterstock
Anticipation builds up as the Fah Thai team geared up for travel on the longest bridge and tunnel sea crossing in the world amidst much hype. We are part of the hundreds of curiosity seekers, which meant the strategy has to be a weekday trip from energetic Hong Kong island, the starting point where the bridge connects Lantau Island with Macau and then Zhuhai in Guangdong province. Also, the chance to be in three places in one day was equal to the thrill of experiencing three culturally diverse cities.
When it opened late last year, eager tour groups in large numbers hurried over from the cities around the Pearl River Delta in mainland China to take the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB). A name nearly as long as the bridge itself, the HZMB links three cities, thereby shortening travel times significantly. Running the length from Hong Kong to Macau’s port and then Zhuhai’s port, the HZMB stretches for 42km, making it the longest bridge-and-tunnel sea crossing in the world. When you add the Zhuhai Link Road, the HZMB’s length totals 55km, which is said to be 20 times longer than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Debuting in late 2018, thousands of people made the crossing in a single day, with chaos ensuring and consternation from the locals in places like Tung Chung in Hong Kong whose lives experienced ‘bridgus interruptus.’ To avoid that, we started in Hong Kong to get the bus ticket. Many authorised agencies issue tickets and in our case, we zigzagged through the colourful trams and double-deckers on Queen’s Road to Shueng Wan in the Central district. It’s a straight forward process at the China Merchants Building, the same building agents sell tickets for the Macau ferry.
We made the trip on the HZMB shuttle bus, where it waiting at the Transborder Office in Tsim Tsa Tsui on the Kowloon side. The first leg of the journey feels like a commuter journey, going past lively scenes on Mongkok street. As the familiar views of the Ngong Ping cable car loomed, the initial bridge adventure felt more like heading to the airport.
But there are different sections to the HZMB, and we reach the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities, which is the Hong Kong Port itself. The bridge connects the three cities in Greater Bay Area (Hong Kong, Macau and cities in Guangdong province), and here at the Port, the modern building and cavernous ceiling is photo-worthy in its design of undulating waves but there’s not much time to appreciate this as the lines form to get on the shutter bus to Zhuhai.
On the bus, the blue water views extend past the horizon on both sides of the bridge. There are few structural interruptions, just signboards on the bridge but you’ll notice busy shipping lanes, and some artificial islands on which parts of the bridge sit. The bridge curves along the water on a smooth and tranquil ride with its gentle twists until the mainland port of Zhuhai. At the seemingly orderly Immigration area, officials in fatigue colours or regulation brown remind you that indeed, you have arrived in the mainland.
Most people come to Zhuhai for business in this largely economic zone, so for a night’s rest, accommodations are plentiful, with international and Chinese hotel chains scattered about. Meal recommendations always point to the restaurant strips of Wanzai and Nanping, offering the freshest seafood in open crates for you to pick and choose. Be warned that the lively shrimps wriggle their legs in freshness or crabs stare pleadingly with their eyes before they get prepared in the Cantonese style of simplicity, focusing on the quality of the ingredients. One pleasing point of Zhuhai is that China’s eight regional cuisines are nicely represented in the smattering of restaurants ensuring that you get to eat well indeed.
One of Zhuhai’s main attraction is that of the Fisher Girl Statue, but go a little further along the atmospheric graceful opera house with its giant clam-like structures rise above the land in a design meant to represent the clams in Boticelli’s “Venus.”
At the New Yuanmingyuan Garden, you can play dress up an dbe an empress or emperor for the hour complete with a manservant to hold up the elaborate layers of clothing and makeup artists to guarantee authenticity to your total look.
Adding to the hip component is the Beishan Art District, a heritage area with the traditional feel of a mainland China with its alleyways, temples, ancestral halls, coffee shops, complete with heritage inns, an old theatre converted into a cultural space, a vegetarian restaurant and a jazz academy. One can easily get comfortable browsing in a café, watching people engage in discourse while sipping the latest pu‘er tea.
Meanwhile, Macau is a mere 10-minute walk though an underground mall at Dongbei port, home of cheap or fake goods. Here’s where you emerge from the retail shops to the border crossing. We join the many folks who seem to be crossing over for a day, bringing with them grocery bags of food and vegetables and other utilitarian things. Cheaper prices and variety, perhaps?
Present day Macau has dramatic remnants of its Portuguese colonial past, evident in the architecture of the ruins of Saint Paul’s church, including the streets and alleyways, alongside the Macanese glitz shining from the casinos and complexes showcasing major sporting events and shows. We aim for the church but get side-tracked by a local teahouse, a cha chaan teng. Already home to several notable and Michelin-starred restaurants, these affordable teahouses meanwhile offer pastries equally as delicious.
Still hoping to see the HMZB from this side, we head to Macau Tower, 338 metres in height. From its observation deck, impressive panoramic views all over Macao and much of the Pearl River Delta can be seen. And there it is, in the distance – forming that link where three diverse cultures can be experienced because the bridge unites them.
Varying bus services across the bridge from Hong Kong by cross-border transport operators who offer pickups from major points in the city to Zhuhai city centre. It takes about 45 minutes and costs around HK$80 each way. The HZMB shuttle buses run along the length of the bridge only, so you need to find your own way to and from the bridge entry or exit points.
One Bus Hong Kong Macau – onebus.hk/en
TIL Chinalink – trans-island.com.hk
Ferries run about once every two hours from the Macau ferry terminal in Sheung Wan and the China ferry terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. They are more expensive, at HK$195 each way, and take 55 minutes. Details at cksp.com.hk