Macau is a region on the southern coast of China in the southern Guangdong province.
Located 60km from Hong Kong and 160km from Guangzhou the capital of Guangdong province.
History Of Macau
In 1887 the city of Macau become Portuguese colony however the first sight of Portugese influence came in 1557 when Macau was leased to Portugal as a trading post in exchange for a annual rent.
Macau stayed in Chinese hands until the 1887 takeover by the Portuguese. In 1999 it was handed back by China and was the last European territory in Asia to be handed back.
Our Day Trip To Macau
Macau is a very interesting place to visit so if it isn’t on your agenda (yet!) for your trip to Hong Kong, I urge you to reconsider. Macau can be easily accessed from Hong Kong and a day trip is sufficient to get a good taste of what it has to offer. Although Macau is part of China, it has different laws and is governed independently. Therefore, gambling is legal in Macau, and as soon as you enter the glitzy main strip of the city, it becomes very apparent why it is nicknamed the ‘Las Vegas of Asia’, or the Cotai Strip after the naming of the Vegas strip.
However, one mustn’t assume that this is all Macau has to offer. There are some incredible places of historical interest and an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Macau which are MUST see locations if you are planning a trip here.
Getting To Macau From Hong Kong
The ferry from Hong Kong to Macau took about an hour. We were advised to get to the ferry terminal early as the ferries can be very busy and become booked out and we were glad we did when we saw how hectic the terminal was. The ferries go between the two areas frequently so there are lots of options of when to travel but if you intend to just do a day trip, make sure you get on a morning ferry (or at least get to the terminal a little earlier than you wish to depart) as you may miss out on the ferry you want.
The ferry we got was very nice. I don’t know what I was expecting but I was pleasantly surprised at the comfort and facilities on-board. The seating was all indoors, there were good toilet facilities and there was the option of ordering food and drinks while we travelled.
Tip: Remember you are travelling to a different country so you MUST take your passport to be allowed entry to Macau and re-entry to Hong Kong.
On our arrival at the terminal in Macau, we decided to avail of a free shuttle service provided by the casinos. The shuttle buses are all lined up at a collection point outside the ferry terminal, each bus clearly decorated with its aligned casino. We had examined a map before our trip and decided on the area we wished to start our day so took the shuttle to the casino that was closest to that point. Before we disembarked the shuttle at the casino, we checked the times for pick up later in the day to ensure we would be back at the terminal in time for our return ferry.
As we were in Hong Kong, as stated above we took the option to travel by ferry. The ferry takes between 45 – 60 minutes weather depending. We used Turbojet and found them excellent.
You can arrive on the day as there are many of companies operating throughout the day. Ferries leave both sides many times a hour and never short of ferry.
The Best Things To Do In Macau
The casinos are a major drawcard for people when visiting Macau and its city of dreams. Even if you are not interested in gambling, the buildings and infrastructure in these amazing creations alone is enough to tempt anyone in! There are many of the same casinos in Macau that you see in Las Vegas; Wynn, Venetian, and MGM to name but a few. We spent hours wandering through the shops, restaurants and bars in the Wynn alone! We were even lucky enough to catch the spectacular water show that takes place in the fountain at the front of the hotel every 15 minutes throughout the day. This is a spectacular performance of music, lights, water and fire to captivate you, running for about 3 minutes each show. Although it is a shorter and smaller version of the show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, this is certainly something to watch out for.
Tip: Try to catch the show after dark to be able fully appreciate the special effects.
Ruins of St. Paul’s
The Ruins of St Paul’s is part of the Historic Centre of Macau which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and certainly should not be missed on a trip to Macau. We decided to walk to this location from where the shuttle bus had dropped us, which took us about an hour of strolling through the city and meandering up and down beautiful streets to reach our destination. This is our favourite way to explore a new city with the possibility of stumbling across some hidden gems along the way!
The approach to the incredible location of St. Paul’s is of beautifully cobbled, narrow laneways which open up to a vast and demanding vision at the top of an immense set of stairs. It was truly breathtaking once we reached the foot of the steps and although it was a busy place, it felt peaceful at the same time.
The structure itself is incredible, in the fact alone that it is still standing. The front wall is all that is left of this once magnificent building! Behind this wall, there is a beautiful and informative lament of the history of St. Paul’s from its initial days to its current state.
The sacred feel this incredible structure contributes to a bustling and modern region of Macau is one not to be missed and certainly added dimension to our overall visit to this part of the world.
Another part of the Historic Centre of Macau is Senado Square. This part of the city is visually striking and would stop you in your tracks simply to appreciate the aesthetic quality it adds to such a busy area. While locals dashed across the waves of mosaic art on the square below them, I couldn’t help but be enveloped by it calming presence.
This picturesque Portuguese paving, today, is for pedestrian traffic only. The square itself is enclosed mainly by buildings of European architecture making it a photographer’s dream. The complimentary colours on the paving alongside the magnificent European constructions, make this the perfect place for an afternoon stroll while exploring all the laneways have to offer.
The Portuguese influence in Macau is not only evident in the architecture of this diverse city but also has a heavy influence on the cuisine of the region. There are some local specialities that you shouldn’t go past on your day in Macau if you want an authentic flavour experience.
The two things that stood out to us while we wandered through the streets of Macau were the Portuguese custard tarts and the almond cookies. Vendors on almost every street corner were singing the praises of their offerings and had free samples to tempt us in. The crumbly, buttery-ness of the almond cookies made it impossible for us to resist purchasing a box and the ‘freshly baked’ smell of the custard tarts meant we overindulged and didn’t need dinner that night (oops!!). The hustle and bustle on the narrow laneways heaving with freshly cooked savoury snacks as well as the waft of baked delights added to the overall experience and excitement of exploring this part of the city.
Earlier in the day we had lunch in one of the Wynn casino’s restaurants. There are so many restaurants to choose from, ranging from casual and café dining to fine dining. We took our time wandering through the casino enjoying the architecture and décor as we explored all the options.
We eventually settled on a casual noodle restaurant. One side of the restaurant specialised in flavours from the North of China and the other on flavours from the South. This was an interesting concept and had lots of menu options that intrigued us. After much deliberation, (don’t leave this decision until you are super hungry as there are LOTS of eateries to choose from!!), we decided on the South’s cuisine and choose a couple of noodle dishes accompanied with delicious sides and toppings. We were really satisfied with our choice as it was a little different from the type of cuisine we had been eating in Hong Kong.
After all that reminiscing, I think I better leave it there or you may need to considering staying the night in Macau! This certainly is a day well spent for anyone considering whether or not to include it in their Hong Kong itinerary. There is such diversity in the activities and points of interest in this city that I feel it would cater to the curiosities of a variety of travellers.
I think next time we would stay in Macau, maybe a night or two and see what the glamour and glitz of the cotai has to offer after dark.
Around 50 – 60 minutes
HK$170 – HK$210 plus extras if luggage is required
You can stay in Macau for up to 6 months visa free. A entering and departing card is necessary when crossing border.