Macau is a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese culture, cuisine and architecture. Portuguese held the land for 400 years and transformed a fishing village into a major colonial outpost. The recent casino boom of the past 20 years has again transformed the city into the undisputed gambling capital of the world, 4 times larger than that of Las Vegas. Amongst the glitz, glamour and gambling there are still some reasons to visit Macau away from the black jack and roulette tables.
Macau is though a city still in transformation. With Portugal handing back the keys in 1999 all visitors, including Chinese, still need to pass through immigration to visit. Macau still retains its own currency (but widely accepts Hong Kong Dollars). And, until the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and tunnel system is fully operational, you can really only access Macau from Hong Kong via one of two ferries. A visit to Macau may have you scratching or even shaking your head but it will be anything short of dull!
Being a city flooded with casino’s, rooms are plentiful and you can often grab a great deal at a swish hotel if you pick the right time. The Wynn hotel is one such location which is close to the walkable historical centre of Macau. The Wynn Hotel is known mostly for its two side-by-side locations in Las Vegas. The Wynn Hotel also looks towards one of the most gaudy structures you are likely to see. The Grand Lisboa Hotel’s gold coloured glass facade defies gravity as it sprouts some 260 metres from it’s domed base.
Walking Historical Downtown
Outside of the endless casino’s the old city centre is a walkable region where you can get a feel for the city at the time the Portuguese were in residence.
The best place to start your walk through the historical centre is Senado Square. Following the zebra print walkway you have endless choices of food, craft markets and high-end (and low-end) fashion. A popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
Ruins of St Paul’s
A UNESCO World Heritage listed site, the Ruins of St Paul’s is one of the most important historical landmarks in Macau. The remaining facade stands propped up from behind like a movie set. The imposing structure was once a college and church built in 1640 and later all but destroyed by a typhoon in 1835.
Monte do Forte
For a great view of the city, continue up from the ruins of St Paul’s to Monte do Forte a fortification built in 1626 by the Portuguese Jesuits to protect them primarily from pirates. The gardens at the top are lovely and you can get a good perspective of the layout of the city.
A statue of Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci is a key landmark of the fort and was a key figure in developing greater understanding between Chinese and Western cultures during his time in Macau and the first European allowed to visit Beijing.
Portuguese Egg Tarts
The most iconic food to eat in Macau is the Portuguese Egg Tart. One of the best places to sample this local delicacy is Margaret’s located only a few blocks from the Wynn hotel.
Getting to Macau from Hong Kong
Most travellers enter Macau from nearby Hong Kong and frequent ferry services run from both the International airport and from downtown (MRT Central).
Two ferries operate between Hong Kong and Macau. TurboJet and Cotai Water Jet. Each is very similar in terms of time and cost similar also. It just may depend on where you are departing Hong Kong from and where you wish to arrive in Macau.
- Time: 40-60 minutes
- Cost:$150-$200 HKD ($20-25 USD)
Car (Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge)
The new bridge-tunnel system (opening in late 2018) promises a 45 minute crossing time although rumours of delays and traffic congestion mean this is still an unknown quantity. A proposed rail link as part of this project also seems to have not have eventuated.
If you have a spare $3000 HKD (~$400 USD) to burn, a helicopter could have you arriving like a high-roller into central Macau in less than 20 minutes!
Macau is certainly worth a visit so consider it on your next stopover through Asia!