Highlights of Macau
So where do I start with Macau…. how can I summarise 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 adventure I craved and the opportunity to jump on a 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 in to a ferry and in under an hour we were arriving into Macau. The Las Vegas of the East… oh and by the way I hate casinos!
I managed to find out that despite its size Macau often ranks among the top 10 destinations to visit in China. A fusion of East and West in lifestyles, architecture and food and known for its huge casinos as well as some popular attractions to visit.
Macau is divided into 5 main areas – Old Macau, Macau Peninsular, Cotai, Coloane and Taipa.
Over the next couple of days I had experienced a part of the world that would never have made it into my bucket list. Isn’t that what travel is all about, those random detours that become the memories to savour.
A Mix of Old and New...
Arriving into Macau port we 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 collecting money for a local charity. They loved a small donation from a curious if somewhat weird tourist such as me.
The skyline of Macau 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 litter Macau. 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.
I still hate Casinos...
Macau really is a city of two halves. The gawdy, the brash, the over the top strip of hotels and casinos. Then in contrast, the charming if a little odd old town with history to burn. I enjoyed my random little trip to Macau however I still hate casinos!
Time Difference: Local UK Time + 8 Hours
Currency: Macau Pataca
15 hours London (indirect)
No for British Nationals
Language: Chinese & Portugese
Top Sights & Attractions
The Macau Peninsula is main where you will find the most densely populated parts of the city.
Cotai is a great place to stay for nightlife. Cotai is a small strip of reclaimed land that connects the Taipa and Coloane islands.
landscapes and mountainous terrain.
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 marvellous and they were so friendly too.
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.
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.
Macau does have an international airport which is mainly a transfer point for those traveling between Macau and Taiwan aswell as a passenger hub for destinations in mainland China and South East Asia.
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 mins away.
The nightime taxi experience was shocking with our driver drunk, possibly high on drugs and before we knew it he was driving at 100mph along the strip to take us to a hotel in the casino district.
A scary moment which of course could be a one off but I would urge you pay more attention than we did before getting on board.
Cities & Districts
As mentioned, Macau is a city of two halves.
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 of Macau – 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 Kareoke.
At night this area became a street market full of souvenirs and childrens 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. This really was not for me but 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 – its rich and poor, its wild and its laid back, it is for me and then again it is not. Confused? You will be in Macau!
is a style of Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on a small plate.
Pastel de nata
The famous portugese egg tart
The Pork Chop Bun
This is quite simply a pork chop served in a bun – random !
Fresh new white wine from Portugal
An essential accompaniment to the popular dish Dim Sum
A strong white spirit
The major sport here in Macau appears to be motor racing with a museum to visit with artefacts belonging to the likes of Ayrton Senna and a long line of Formula 1 icons.
The Macau Grand Prix is a street race for automobiles and motorcycles held annually every November in Macau. It is the only street circuit
racing event in which both cars and motorcycles participate. The first Macau Grand Prix event was held in 1954 and to this day attracts large crowds.
Despite gardens, Macau is not very rich in vegetation due to increased urbanisation. As a result this does mean that animal life is pretty limited and not very diverse. Mainly you will discover birds, lizards, snakes, some wildcats and the water surrounding the city is home to crocodiles.
Two giant pandas were recently brought in to breed in the new panda pavilion at Seac Pai Van Park in Macau’s Coloane district.
There is evidence that Macau’s casino hub has seen an increase in the import of wildlife trade and in particular that of shark fin. Naturally this is disappointing and my hopes are that the Macau authorities address this issue and align to current laws.
Ensure the Taxi drivers are not stoned or drunk.
Discover the back streets of the old town during the day and also the night markets which are full of fun and life.
Unless you like Casinos and have cash to burn don’t head over to the strip – it will only disappoint.