A Singaporean passport is a valuable commodity these days especially when no visas are required to get in and out of China. Which is why when you are next in Hong Kong, besides exploring and eating your way through the fragrant harbour, we recommend a 3 day sojourn from Hong Kong into Macao and then across the Chinese border into Zhu Hai. Wandering on a whim from Macao into Zhu Hai, we were pleasantly surprised at what there was to see.
Zhu Hai is no small-time border town. Bursting with colourful nightlife from night clubs, KTVS and massage parlours to cheap shopping and good eats, getting there is hassle free. Jump on a bus from the main Macao train station and you are there within minutes, across the Chinese border into Zhu Hai or if you have decided to stay in Macao for a few days then the easiest way to get to Zhu Hai is to hop on a free bus from the Venetian Hotel (just enquire at their Concierge) to the border crossing from Macao. You don’t have to be staying at the Venetian Hotel to use the bus service!
Once there, we recommend three places not to miss, especially if entertaining the kids is one of your objectives:
THE NEW YUAN MING PALACE
If you have ever wondered how to Emperor and his family and court used to spend their time, then a visit to the New Yuan Ming Palace (free entry) is a must.
This Palace built in 1997 comprises an amusement park of 1.39 km², including an 80,000 m² lake and surrounding grounds was recreated as a replica to the old Summer Palace (not to be confused with the new Summer Palace gardens and grounds in Beijing). The old Summer Palace built in 1709 was a palace ground with an imperial garden with 40 splendid scenic spots. Unfortunately, the garden was robbed and burned down by foreign invaders 140 years ago, leaving a scene of devastation.
The Yuan Ming Palace lies at the foot of the Stone Forest Mountain in Zhu Hai and is quite a delight to wander around as it replicates 18 scenic spots of the original Summer Palace in the same size and dimensions. Wandering around the courtyards, you get a glimpse of certain areas of the Emperor’s private quarters including his court, living quarters, throne room, school and class rooms for his children complete with costumes.
You can pose for photographs in some of the costumes for hire, take photos for a small fee with the resident actors, cruise the lake on the Emperors barge whilst being entertained by his court eunuchs and concubines or watch the theatrical performances which range from the Emperor choosing concubines to the Emperor holding court.
Boat rides and theatricals are ticketed. There are souvenirs for sale on the shopping street, which was modeled after the shopping street in Old Summer Palace, where the emperors tasted the daily life of common people with handicrafts on sale. The website is in Chinese here but if you want more detail in English, see here.
THE OCEAN SPRING RESORT
If you like hotsprings (man-made rather than natural occurring) then this lovely resort by the ocean called the Zhuhai Ocean Spring has 69 hot spring pools over an area of 40,000 square metres. There is probably no other spa made quite like this in terms of sheer size and proportions so truly seeing is believing. There are a few hotels within the area that offer entrance packages etc so you might consider an overnight stay so that after a day of hot spring dipping you can collapse happily back into the convenience of a nearby hotel room.
The resort has two regions, indoor and outdoor. It is largely modelled after a Moroccon hot spring although each area has its own theme from Asian to European. The spring waters come from the depths of the ocean and contain mineral contents and trace elements that are reputedly good for health. From different flavoured hot springs that are fragranced with herbs and various perfumes and aromatics that have health benefits, expect also pools with salt water, chrysanthemum, mint, tangerine peel, ginseng and other herbs to pools with green tea and even milk, coffee and red wine that you can soak into. Definitely a nice retreat when the weather starts to cool. Check out the Trip Advisor comments here if you are planning a visit.
CHIMELONG OCEAN KINGDOM
The place we probably thoroughly enjoyed in Zhu Hai and where you would want to spend at least one full day is the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. Comparable to and newer than Singapore’s Universal Studios and way better than Hong Kong’s tired Ocean Park, the Ocean Kingdom has all the song and dance of a Disneyland entourage of performances, parades and shows plus roller coaster fun and water rides.
Connected to this attraction are 3 hotels that also sell packages for entry and within the same compound of hotel and theme park, is another attraction called the Chimelong International Circus City which has an award winning circus act. We had no time to explore this one but will definitely save it for a next visit.
The park features one of the world’s largest aquariums with whale sharks, beluga whales, polar bears, penguins and arctic wolves and has been pegged as a world class destination that I would say rivals most of Asia’s theme parks (including the one we have in Singapore)
There are 8 themed zones within the park – Ocean Avenue, Dolphin Cove, Amazing Amazon, Ocean Beauty, Polar Horizon, Fun Zone, Mount Walrus and the Hengqin Ocean. With each there are theatrical performances, animal performances and rides. Also food and souvenir stores. Basic tickets start at RMB350. Download the park map here.
Must do ride – try the Amazing Amazon that features one of the world’s longest roller coasters with a 1,300-metre track reaching as high as 20 storeys, the roller coaster is really a thrill seeker’s dream especially if you enjoy being looped in and out upside down!