Macau is the gambling Mecca for Asia. It has revenues higher than that of Las Vegas yet is seen to many as a place not worth visiting unless you are done with neighbouring Hong Kong.
I however, adore Macau. The former Portuguese island is only a 30 minute TurboJet ferry from Hong Kong and has enough to do that I’ve been 3 times and will soon make it 4!
I first visited Macau in October 2014 and spent the day wandering around with a friend. I visited again the following month due to visa reasons and got to explore the place alone. I visited for the 3rd time much more recently in September 2015 for birthday celebrations.
Now why do I keep going back? Well let’s see…
Macau is extremely convenient to get to and is extremely different to anything Hong Kong can offer. Instead of former British buildings we get to see the flare of Portuguese architecture surrounded by Chinese traditions.
A magnificent start to Macau means visiting the “old part” where the history is rich and bright yellow buildings and cobbled streets transport you to a European town. Senado Square and the ruins of St Paul are pretty and there is even a free museum that allows you to go beneath the ruins. Its central location is great for visiting the other attractions in Macau.
Fortaleza do Monte is adjacent to the ruins and a few steep steps later positions you on top of a fort with cannons and panoramic views of Macau all without costing a dime.
Whilst in the vicinity try an egg tart. Egg tarts are to Macau what Croissants are to Paris. It is a must thing to try. If that doesn’t take your fancy walk along the streets and grab as many beef jerky free samples as you can muster.
Head towards the water and you will see a statue of Kun Lam, Goddess of Mercy which allows for some beautiful photos. Head to the nearby MGM hotel and Wynn Hotel for your first experience of Las Vegas in Asia.
Cotai Strip (Taipa)
This is the Las Vegas Strip in Macau. It may not be as impressive at first glance but there is plenty to do.
I suggest hotel hopping. The hotels are tourist attractions within their own right and time will fly by without you realising. The Venetian, Galaxy and dozen other hotels will leave your jaw hanging. Gondolas will cruise past you, mermaids will play with you and a gigantic diamond will emerge at any given opportunity. Just explore and have fun.
A must-see is “House of Dancing Water”. An acrobatic show that takes place in a swimming pool as a stage. Sitting in the round you will be left mesmerised as pirate ships emerge from the water and divers twizzle down from the highest beams in the theatre. All the seats in the house are good but I sat at the front and was chuffed with being so close to the action. Be warned, you will get wet sitting at the front but towels and rain coats are provided.
Dare to go where others don’t? Then head even further south to Coloane and experience the best thing about Asia…PANDAS!!! The Panda Pavilion is a short taxi journey from the Cotai Strip and will not cost more than 40MOP. Being able to see the pandas without the crowds as is common in Hong Kong and mainland China is a blessing.
Where to eat:
This is solely a decision based on how big your wallet is.
For cakes I recommend going to the “Pastry Bar” at the MGM Hotel. Sublime service and exquisite cakes for surprisingly reasonable prices. The MGM staff have outshone themselves here, I will be returning for more cake!
For dinner I suggest locating a restaurant in any of the Vegas-esque hotels as the food is top notch, but they do cause a dent in your wallet.
A more suitable option may be exploring the more local places. Opposite the Galaxy hotel (literally, cross the street) and you will be engulfed by cobbled streets and Portuguese cuisine. All of them are a good call for an evening dinner.
Where to stay:
I have only stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel. It is an amazing hotel that has gigantic sized rooms equipped with breakfast bar and cocktail mixers. Live like a rockstar and you wont regret it. They even supplied a complimentary birthday brownie for my friend! If you stay at this hotel I definitely recommend taking a swim as the guitar shaped pool is a great escape…submerge yourself below the water and listen to crystal clear music as the hotel pumps some chilled sounds into the swimming pool.
I will be visiting Macau again on the 24th December and will be staying at the brand new “Studio City” hotel (Batman hotel). I am beyond excited about staying there and will make a post featuring my 4th trip to Macau.
Key Travel Information:
Book a return ferry ticket to avoid the disappointment of not getting back to Hong Kong when you desire. Tickets will sell fast in the evening. If your time slot is full heading back to Hong Kong Island, see the Tsim Sha Tsui kiosk as less people go back to Kowloon side.
You don’t need to spend money on public transport. Macau is super-efficient thanks to the hotel mammoths. Use and abuse all of their free shuttle offerings and you will be zipping around Macau on a coach, free of charge! The best place to access these coaches is outside the ferry terminals but lots of hotels have coaches to other places and other hotels.
Macau holds an annual International Fireworks Competition and it is very impressive.
Hong Kong Dollars are accepted in Macau, but not vice versa.
The Wynn Hotel has a dragon emerging from the ground and a water fountain show (check times before going).
The Galaxy Hotel has a gigantic diamond that magically appears in the lobby (check times)
Cotai Sands currently holds a Dreamworks parade that is a blast!
Visit The Amazing Race destinations:
- Kun Lam Statue
- Macau Tower
- Senado Square
- Praça de Ferreira do Amaral
To anyone who watches TAR Canada, Praça de Ferreira do Amaral was difficult to access as teams had to understand that they had to go underground before gaining access to the roundabout. It’s much easier to get to than you think. Go to the Grand Lisboa Hotel and look for escalators taking you down towards a carpark under the road. Once at the bottom head towards the centre and then take the lift up to the top and you will emerge on to a unique place to see Macau.
All pictures taken by myself. Instagram: Arik_Dane