Note : This post is based on the places I visited in Macao. I have missed out quite a few that I intend to visit the next time.
Almost two months ago on the 29th of April 2017, I visited Macau for the first time. Despite being just a stone’s throw away from Hong Kong, in the past 8 months of my stay in Hong Kong until last April, I never went to Macao.
I neither had any intention to visit the place nor was fascinated by this island which is just about an hour’s ferry ride from Hong Kong.
Reason was Simple.
I’m not fascinated by tall buildings and busy places. And I had an assumption or an image set up in my mind about the place.
That, however, changed ever since I got to know that the highest commercial bungee jump site is in Macau.
So, with a visit to the Macau Tower in mind with some adventurous activities and adrenaline rush, I headed off to the island on a one and half hour ferry ride from Hong Kong.
My first impression of the island as I took a quick glance just outside the ferry terminal? – so much like Hong Kong.
There were buses lined up everywhere in front of the ferry terminal. I asked a few people around and they seemed very nice and friendly to show me the places or even lead me there.
In the next 30-45 minutes, I got to know pretty much everything about places to see and the commute within Macao. So with a Macao tourist map in hand, I set off to find my hotel.
And let me tell you that though the image that I had in mind about this gambling haven, the Las Vegas of the East was somewhat true, I realized that there’s so much to Macau than just casinos and skyscrapers.
For someone like me who is a die hard foodie and who loves taking pictures, there is a lot to do or see in Macau.
I was there for for two days and came back late at midnight on my second day and I felt there was so much more that I missed out on.
Not really the way I prefer to travel( I like to take it slow and soak in the beauty of a place) but Macau demanded of me to be touristy so there I was for two days being touristy in Macao.
And I must confess that though I didn’t quite get to do or see everthing I planned to, I already love the place.
And from what I saw in two days, I can clearly say that this Vegas of the East is a lot under appreciated for it’s architectural beauty and amalgam of Chinese and Portuguese culture and influences.
You’ll get the significance of this sentence as you walk though old Taipa Village streets or dwell around Senado Square or get lost in the early morning freshness at the Fishermen’s wharf.
I mention early morning because I believe the time of the day has a lot to do with how it makes or breaks your day. Sometimes, I was almost reminded of Goa – beautiful Portugueuse buildings sans the beaches or the beautiful French colony of Pondicherry except the fact that it was much more peaceful in Pondicherry.
The sense of peace amidst the chaos was kind of missing in Macao but my early morning and late night walks totally made up for the day time chaos.
And I concluded from my last visit to Macao that the place deserves a visit more than just once.
Well, I intend to take the highest commercial bungee jump plunge from the Macao tower sometime in the coming months so you should definitely expect an adventurous Macao post or a lot more detailed post in the future.
For now, let me just take you through a quick travel guide of “things to do on a day or two day trip to Macao” based on my experience.
And here’s topping the list, though I’m not much of a Casino or gambling fan, this has to top right since the place is famous for it’s casinos sprouting like mushrooms everywhere.
1. Casino hopping
When I was in Macao, there was nothing close to gambling in my mind and I had very little interest in casinos. Having said that, what was the point to visit the Las Vegas of the East if I wasn’t going to check out the Casinos? I made it a point to check a few and for the casino lovers, you’re gonna absolutely love the ones listed below.
- The Venetian Macao – This casino is not just a mere imitation of the Venetian Las Vegas.
This is the world’s largest casino with a staggering 51,000 square meters. It’s also the seventh largest building in the world in terms of floor area. The casino has no less than 3400 gaming machines and 800 gaming tables. Be it the the 15,000-seat CotaiArena, where all kinds of events from boxing, basketball, and tennis matches, to concerts and award shows are held, or the largest indoor shopping mall in Macau – the Grand Canal Shoppes on the third floor or the Gondola rides through the pretty Venice like canals or the myriads of eating options, this building has it all to woo you and leave you in amazement. I see no reason why this shouldn’t top the list given that entry is free and you’re over 18 years old Get lost in the biggest casino in the world.
- The City of Dreams –
Macao boasts of a number of big casino buildings. This one comes next to the Venetian Macau in terms of the biggest casinos and is located just opposite to the Venetian. The massive complex of City of Dreams houses a mega-casino, a hotel, a luxury retail space featuring over 200 shops and entertainment and dining facilities. The 420,000 square feet casino features 450 gaming tables and 1,514 slot machines and other electronic gaming machines. I just saw it from a distance and didn’t really take a tour of the casino so maybe I can do so on one of my next visits in Macao.
- The Grand Lisboa –
The Grand Lisboa is the tallest building in Macau and the most distinctive part of its skyline. The casino is the first in Macau to offer Texas hold ’em poker ring games. It was also the first to offer craps, though several other casinos in Macau now offer the game. I didn’t see the insides of this indeed grand casino but it definitely looks grand and unique from the outside so I’m keeping this for the next visit.
I also visited the SANDS Cotai and the Babylon casino beside the Fishermen’s Wharf, as they both happened to be near my hotel and though the SANDS looks staggering and comes under the 10 biggest casinos in the world, the Babylon seemed like just another casino like everywhere else in Macao. I hope to see the GALAXY Macao too on my next visit.
Getting Around in Macao :
How to get to these casinos? The best thing in Macao is that Shuttle services are free and are provided by almost each and every hotel in Macao to the ferry terminal and back to the hotels though a minimum waiting time has to be dealt with. From the ferry terminal, you could board the free shuttle services to these Casinos. There is a great public bus transport system which charges only about 3.20 MOP for most rides to all those locations you might want to travel to in Macao. You could also hire a taxi and the rates are quite reasonable.
2. Take a walk down the picturesque cobble stoned pavements with wave – patterned mosaic tiling amid pretty pastel-colored buildings in the Senado Square at San Ma lo.
“MUST SEE PLACE”
“If you haven’t been to Senado Square, you have definitely not been to Macao”. The Senado Square, or Senate Square is a paved town square in Macao. It is the heart or the metaphorical center of Macao much like the New York’s Times Square. Ever since I got to know that this is the UNESCO Historic Centre of Macao World Heritage Site, this square had been on the top of my “MUST SEE PLACES in MACAO” and the place didn’t disappoint me. Famous for its cobble stone streets, alley marketplaces and Portuguese colonial architecture, this place had me in awe as I stood near the water fountain housed at the center of the square and marvelled at the soft pastel colored buildings on both sides of the pavement.
There are a number of designer label stores as you take a walk along the cobble stoned streets, but despite those shops, a wet market selling fishes and wafer-thin slices of marinated dried meat, fresh egg tarts and other local snacks with flower shops in the nook and corner, gives this place a residential feeling despite hundreds and thousands of tourists hoarding to this site the entire day.
TOP TIP : Go early in the morning to get those tourist free shots for your instagram and to have the whole of the square to yourself and head off for a breakfast of dimsum in the nearby restaurants. This will save you from the constant selfie clicking tourists and you will thank yourself later for having visited the site in peace. I went during the daytime and though it was a nightmare getting a decent picture, I still took quite a few on self timers with my gopro hero 5 Black and was glad to have visited the place. The next time though, I shall aim to follow my own tip here.
TIPS for getting that perfect picture of Senado Square : Right across the square, there is the Leal Senado Building, just opposite of the Senado Square. Get inside the building and get to one of the windows of the first floor, you’ll find your Senado Square picture perfect view spot.
Things to remember : Please keep in mind that the building remains closed on Mondays and unfortunately, I hadn’t marked this down before visiting the place and had to be satisfied with pictures from the square. The Leal Senado Building also has a pretty little courtyard inside where you can sit and relax for a while.
Bus routes nearby : 3, 3X, 4, 6A, 8A, 18A, 19, 26A, 33, N1A
3. Visit the churches near Senado Square – the carved facade, which dominates the skyline of old Macau at the Ruins of St Paul’s Church and the 16th-century Baroque-style St. Dominic’s church
The Ruins of St Paul’s Church was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005, Can be a must-see in Macau if you are interested in taking pictures. Located just a 10 minutes walk from Senado Square, the Ruins of St Paul is a 17th-century Jesuit church that was destroyed by fire in 1835. All that remains now is just a facade for people to use as a backdrop while taking pictures.
It is one of the most visited and prominent landmarks in Macao. There are a number of steps leading up to the church and locals and tourists alike can be seen relaxing and taking pictures on them.
Again, if you can visit Senado Square early in the morning, you can combine the visit with a visit to this church as well as St. Dominic’s Church, noted for its mixture of European and local Macanese features in its design.
This can be seen in the church’s use of Chinese-style roof tiles and doors made of teak. The church’s high altar features a statue of the Madonna and Child as the centrepiece and is flanked by wood and ivory-carved statues of several saints. St. Dominic’s Church is the oldest church in Macau.
There are two man made lakes nearby the square too if you keep walking along the road. I met an English speaking local woman who was kind enough to show me the the way to the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church and she showed me the lake, though you need to take some diversion and a fair bit of walking around to get to the lake. Nothing much there but it could give you some peaceful time away from the busy streets of Macao.
4. Take a gondola ride amidst pretty canals in the replica of the “Venice of Italy” at the Venetian Macao and get wooed by the painted sky over the canals at St Marks Square.
The thousands of gambling machines may take away some charm of this place but go to the second floor of the Venetian Macao and your jaws will drop as you stand watching the setting of the Grand Canal Shoppes at St. Marks Square. What was most amazing? The painted sky over the Venetian Macao’s canals. It looked so real that I was tricked into believing it was real as I hadn’t read much in detail about it being an artificial setting or didn’t quite figure out from pictures that I had seen on the net or instagram 😛
I enjoyed a rather peaceful Gondola ride with two other Chinese locals for a price of 128 MOP. It’s a little too much for a 20 minutes ride but the handsome and pretty gondoliers entertain you by singing some really good orchestral tunes as you cruise through the canals.
You’ll be made to share the ride with 3-4 people depending on the number of visitors.
5. For people with big money, shop till you drop at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
It is believed that the purpose of the artifical blue sky is to ‘trick’ visitors that the time is still early, hoping that they will stay longer to shop in the biggest indoor mall in Macao which is about twice the size of the Las Vegas one. The Grand Canal Shoppes is said to have about 350 retail shops catering to each and every whim of an avid shopper. A number of luxury shops with big brands are crammed into a single space here in this mall.
6. For the adventurous junkies, behold you have the Macau Tower for Bungy Jumping and sky walk.
This was the main reason why I wanted to go to Macao but unfortunately i was pressed for time and i thought better to keep this for the next visit. So for the people who enjoy that adrenaline rush, this is why you should go to Macao. At 233 meters, the Macau Tower’s tethered “skyjump”and Bungee jump by AJ HACKETT from the tower’s outer rim, is the highest commercial skyjump in the world (233 meters) and the second highest commercial decelerator descent facility in the world after Vegas’ Stratosphere skyjump at 252 meters. There is an observation deck with panoramic views, restaurants, theaters, shopping malls and the Skywalk X, a thrilling walking tour around the outer rim. I was quite late when I got there and they didn’t have a slot for me during daytime and was told i could do it only at night so maybe sometime in the coming months I’ll be jumping off this tower.
Prices : Bungy jump 3988 HKD ( includes e-certificate, Membership card, Exclusive Card, Exclusive Tshirt and tower ticket)
Photos in USB : 399 HKD
For more info visit this link Macao tower
7. For the foodie in you just like me, eat to your heart’s content at one of the best places to get a variety of food.
I loved Macau for the food that I had there. You can go on a food hunting spree while in Macau. There is so much variety and everything I had there was so soo good. From Portuguese egg tarts to almond cookies to Pork Chop buns to dim sums to green tea flavored ice-creams to beef and fish balls, Macau will definitely leave your taste buds longing for more.
MUST TRY :
The hot hot Portuguese egg tarts that have been just taken out from the oven. They taste heavenly and are different from the ones I find in Hong Kong. You must have them.
And the famous almond cookies. One of the famous places to buy almond cookies is Koi Kei Bakery. These are handmade and freshly baked right in front of you.
Also do try the pork chop buns.
8. Get lost in time in Taipa Village
Taipa Village is one of the few places in Macau where you can go back in time and enjoy quiet strolls along bougainvillea lined streets and hidden lanes and enjoy discovering cosy cafes and eateries. I didn’t have much time and will definitely return back to the village to explore more. It reminded me of French colony and goa back home in India.
9. Enjoy a touch of Rome in Macao at the Fishermen’s Wharf.
Haven’t been to Rome yet? Good Maybe this place will make you feel like you have been transported to Rome. This was at a two minute’s walking distance from my hotel so i ended up going there twice and my early morning visit on the second day was such a delight. Located just at a walking distance of 5 minutes from the ferry terminal, this is the largest leisure and themed entertainment complex in Macau Peninsulla.
With an area approximately 133,000 square meters, the European-themed architectures feature Babylon Casino, Flamingo Casino, a convention and exhibition center, the Legend Palace Hotel, the Harbourview Hotel, the Rocks Hotel, a marina, and dining, shopping and entertainment facilities, creating unique and multicultural experience to visitors from around the world.
There are also quite a few famous night clubs for people into partying. The Pacha, Macao is the largest one in town so maybe you can check that out. I wasn’t into it so didn’t pay a visit even when i couLd have at night.
ACCOMODATION in MACAU: Accomodation can be quite high here since it is visited by people all throughout the year but if booked in advance, the same can be at a reasonable price. I went on a long weekend and ended up paying almost twice of what i would pay.
Where I stayed at : Golden Dragon Hotel. They ask for a deposit of 500 HKD for checkin. The rooms were decent and the staff was very helpful. The bell boys there marked down all the bus numbers on the Macao Tourist map when i showed them my places to visit list. But the price was too high. paid almost 1500 HKD for a single night.
I booked here since all the hotels at the Venetian or City of Dreams were booked out due to the extended weekend. So plan ahead for hotels.
VISA INFORMATION –
Indian passport holders and 65 other countries enjoy a Visa – free entry to Macau. For Indians, the stay limit is 30 days. However, most people combine a visit to Macau with a visit to Hong Kong. Starting this 23rd January 2017, a pre – arrival registration letter, which is free of charge, is required for entry into Hong Kong for Indian nationals. For pre-arrival registration, check the Pre-arrival Registration for Indian Nationals platform at the GovHK website www.gov.hk/en/apps/immdindianparreg.htm
Indians can enjoy a maximum stay of 14 days starting from the date when you make an entry to Hong Kong. If you happen to visit Macau and come back to Hong Kong within the 14 days, your stay will be extended for another 14 days starting from the you made your re entry from Macau to Hong Kong provided you have your air return ticket proof to India within the earlier 14 days which you initially got approved before heading to Macau.
For more information visit http://www.immd.gov.hk/eng/press/press-releases/20161212.html
The Portuguese controlled Macao for almost 450 years and though decades have passed by, the Portuguese heritage and legacy still lives on faithfully in Macao. And the Chinese have openly embraced that aspect of Macao. For me, the Portuguese touch, the cuisine there and the unique Mecanese feel with a cultural mix of Chinese and Portuguese is what will make me pay this place a second visit. The next time you visit Macao, look a little closer and feel the beautiful cultural influence and let me know if I’m wrong.
Clearly, i missed out on a Taipa Village extensive exploration, the grand prix stadium and museum and some other Interesting trails and temples in Taipa and ofcourse the bungy jump so I’ll be going back sometime soon. But for anyone else, I believe two days are enough to explore Macao.
Expect an adventurous post on Macao in the coning months. 🙂
PS. All pictures unless otherwise mentioned were captured in my gopro hero 5 black