Macau is probably best known globally as the ‘Vegas of China’ and this is exactly my first thoughts when I landed. Macau has become a mecca of casinos, luxury ‘Vegas style’ hotels and bright lights. Located 35 miles from Hong Kong, Macau has been a Portuguese colony for a couple hundred years.
Walking around this region you will soon discover a blend of ancient Chinese temples sit on streets paved with traditional Portuguese tiles. The sound of Cantonese fills the air on streets with Portuguese names. The Macau Peninsula holds the old city centre, where colonial ruins sit next to new boutiques. Macau is becoming more and more known over the years due to media platforms. You may recognise the name from the 2016 film ‘Now You See Me 2’.
ℹ Currency: Macanese pataca (MOP).
You can still use Hong Kong Dollars in Macau but you will be charged almost 3% more for doing so. Most hotels, tourist areas and restaurants will accept the Hong Kong Dollar. Smaller local venues will struggle. I did buy a bottle of water with some HK$ but change was given back in MOP.
LANDING IN MACAU
My arrival into Macau came courtesy of ‘Turbojet ferries’; a 1 hour ferry trip from Hong Kong’s China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui (near the Harbour City Mall). The Ferry is extremely swift and comfortable with a small cafe on-board serving light refreshments. As Macau is ‘Special Administrative Region’ (like Hong Kong) it has its own border controls. Remember to take your passport. Tourists will need to complete a departure card and pass through immigration on both the Hong Kong side and the Macau side upon return. The whole set-up is very similar to an airport terminal with security checks and boarding passes.
The fare is not exactly cheap but neither expensive. A return fare Hong Kong- Macau (Outer terminal) – Hong Kong will cost around HK$300 (GB£29) that can be purchased from the China Ferry terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. There are other ferry services to Macau if you are staying on Hong Kong island itself. Make your way towards the IFC Towers in the Shun Tak Center on Hong Kong Island. The official currency in Macau is the ‘Macanese Pataca’, however, the Hong Kong Dollar is widely used.
My trip to Macau was only a day. I caught the lunchtime ferry from Hong Kong and returned on the last ferry back to Hong Kong at 9.20pm. There is a lot to pack into a few hours. I think I literally walked the soles off my walking shoes!
From the ferry terminal in Macau I followed the promenade along the harbour front that was lined with exercise equipment dodging the numerous joggers along the way. The walk passed the base of the Portuguese settlement of Monte Fortress into the city where the harbour waters are traded for bright lights of casinos and shops.
WHAT CAN MACAU OFFER?
was built between 1617 and 1626 on the 170 foot tall Mount Hill. At the top of the fort lends the most wonderful views of the Casino Lisboa in the city. Monte Fort is now a UNESO World Heritage Site and has become the premier historical attraction.
There are few ways to ascend Mount Hill to get to the fort. The most physical is to walk up the 170 feet of pathways. The view from the top is worth the efforts. At the base of the hill before entering the gates to the site are a few newsagents that offer bottles of water. The other option (and the option I chose) is to pay the MOP2 (HK$2/ GB30p) and use the Guia cable car. Its a comfortable way to ascend Mount Hill that offers wonderful views of Macau mainland.
sits in a small park atop the old fort. An integral part of the fort is the government supported Macau Museum that is the official museum about Macau’s history and present development. Three floors of exhibits that are divided by time periods afford a place that both adults and children can enjoy for about an hour or so. It sits in the grassy park on top of the fort. There is an escalator that can take you to the museum. You’ll see it as you walk the path up.
The whole avenue is roughly a mile long but most of the action is around the Senado Square. The triangle shaped Senado Plaza has a black and white wavy tile pattern. From San Ma Lo Avenue, when you are facing the apex, behind you is the the Leal Senado (1784) government building and to the right is the white 3-story Post Office. At the apex of the plaza is the yellow St. Dominic’s Church (1587). It was built by Dominicans and is the oldest church building in Macau, but you can’t see it from the road. It is open for visitors daily.
CASINO LISBOA, THE WYNN HOTEL and THE SANDS
These are three of the largest casino hotels in Macau and offers everything as expected from any major city casino. The Casino Grand Lisboa is a stunning building both inside and out – its most attractive feature is its architecture.
The Wynn Macau casino is a replica of that on the Las Vegas Strip.
The Sands casino is located at Fisherman’s Wharf near the Outer Ferry Terminal. If you have time why not dine at the many restaurants in Casino Grand Lisboa before carrying onto Fisherman’s Wharf.
Macau Fisherman’s Wharf: is located at Macau’s outer harbour, within 5 minutes walk from the Macau Ferry Terminal and Heliport. Fisherman’s Wharf is the largest leisure and themed entertainment complex in Macau.
The European themed architectures feature Babylon Casino, Flamingo Casino, a convention and exhibition centre, Legend Boulevard – a complex of retail, hotels, dining and a casino themed on coastal towns including Miami, Cape Town, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Spain, Lisbon, Rome and the Italian Riviera, Plus, a marina, dining/shopping and entertainment facilities, creating unique experience to visitors. The venue also boasts a huge Roman Amphitheatre, an outdoor Colosseum equipped with 2,000 seats, designed as a venue for concerts and other performances.
Thoughts on Macau
I think if you have made time for Hong Kong then Macau is pretty much a ‘must do’ whilst there. Macau is not as lavish as its neighbour but holds its own charm. I spent roughly 6 hours here and found that was more than sufficient to gain those photographs and experience what this ‘Special Administrative Region’ of China has to offer.
You can certainly see that there are numerous projects ongoing to improve its ‘attractiveness’ to the world. Its offers the old Portuguese colonial feel amongst the ‘new China’. I just hope it does not become the new ‘Vegas’.