So where do I start with Macau? How can I explain a 30 square kilometre territory of China that is as charming as it is nuts?
I had not planned to visit Macau but with a sporting event cancelled in Japan due to typhoon weather conditions, I had a couple of days to waste. Having “done” Hong Kong it was an adventure I craved and the opportunity to jump on a short ferry from Kowloon harbour in Hong Kong across to Macau was too good to resist!
Had I ever known anyone who had visited I would certainly have called upon them for advice. However, before I knew it, we were strapped into a ferry and in under an hour we were arriving in Macau – the Las Vegas of the East… oh and by the way I hate casinos!
|Chinese & Portuguese
|Macao Government Tourist Office
A Mix Of Old & New
Arriving at the port I soon discovered that the people were incredibly welcoming if a little robotic. Being told precisely where to stand in line for the shuttle to our hotel was a snapshot of what was to come. The many young school kids in the old town were so well turned out and some were collecting money for a local charity. They loved a small donation from a curious, if somewhat weird tourist such as me.
Macau’s skyline is dominated by the hideously gorgeous Grand Lisboa Hotel which is supposed to represent a golden lotus flower. In my world, it resembles a toy robot I had from the seventies. I loved my robot and I love this! Other incredible buildings are everywhere. A gentle afternoon stroll will bring you to various amazing sites such as the MGM, the Wynne, the bridge across to Hong Kong, the Macau Tower, and the Morpheus.
Macau is a city of two halves. The gaudy, the brash, the over-the-top strip of hotels and casinos. Then, in contrast, the charming if a little odd old town with a history to burn.
Macau does have an international airport which is mainly a transfer point for those travelling between Macau and Taiwan as well as a passenger hub for destinations in mainland China and South East Asia.
It is really handy to know that there is a ferry company called Turbojet that took us from Macau directly to Hong Kong airport with international air links to the UK or in our case onwards to Japan. The ferry operates about 14 times a week and is an hour however do check in advance for the latest timetable. The one-hour service from Hong Kong to Macau on the Cotai Water Jet ferry service goes 32 times a day and costs about £15 one way. Sadly there is no outside decking area on these ships so we were herded downstairs, told to strap in, and away we went for a journey into the unknown. The Bus system we did not use however from what we saw of the network they were many stops around town and well used by the locals. Rickshaws are available for hire but always get a price in advance before setting off.
Our Taxi experience was mixed. We were greeted on our daytime arrival at the ferry terminal by taxis who were on hand to whisk us off to our hotel in central Macau at a reasonable cost just 20 minutes away.
Places To Stay in Macau
The Macau Peninsula is the main where you will find the most densely populated parts of the city.
Cotai is a great place to stay for the nightlife. Cotai is a small strip of reclaimed land that connects the Taipa and Coloane islands.
Coloane is the southernmost island in Macau. It offers lush landscapes and mountainous terrain. The Taipa District is located between the Macau Peninsula and Cotai and is largely a residential neighborhood At short notice, I managed to get a room at the beautifully appointed Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16 Hotel in Old Macauwhere you’ll find a whole host of heritage attractions and iconic landmarks.
On arrival at Macau port, we headed across the walkway bridge to a shuttle bus pick-up area hosted by a team of ladies in what can only be described as “Thunderbirds” style hostess outfits. Simply marvelous and they were so friendly too.
The staff at the Sofitel throughout the stay were excellent and always keen to help. Not the cheapest hotel but with great food, staff, and location I think it was worth the expense considering we were arriving into the unknown given our last-minute plan to visit!
Macau By Day
In the Historic Centre, you will find the ruins of the Church of St. Paul. Built-in 1580, the building has suffered many fires throughout the centuries and today, you can only see the front of the church together with the 66 stone steps that lead up to it.
Senado Square is also in the historical centre – a picturesque area with colourful Victorian architectural facades reminiscent of a European city. Here the city is teaming with people out duty-free shopping, buying street food or taking selfies.
The back streets around the Church of St Paul are fascinating and full of character, life and unlimited opportunities for photographers to capture the real Macau. I particularly liked witnessing an elderly gentleman sitting alone in his front room singing Karaoke.
Macau At Night
At night this area became a street market full of souvenirs and children’s fete-type stalls like apple bobbing. In the main square was a display by traditional sword dancers.
Then there were the bright lights of Macau’s Casino strip. An ugly or a beautiful area of glitzy hotels with vast floors packed with people gambling 24/7. Bars and restaurants in this area were modern yet lacking in character and soul. Whilst not for me, it seemed that for many, this was their life, praying on the turn of a card.
The Macau Tower was an interesting excursion, worth it alone for the incredible views. To add to the enjoyment there were numerous restaurants, shops, and stalls selling everything from bling to custard tarts!
Macau is different – but I like that!
Pre Bookable Excursions in Macau
The Macao Government Tourist Office provides a wide choice of useful information including places to go, things to do and what you can expect from the weather.