I had a chance to travel to Macau when I went to Hong Kong and I must say it is a place that I want to go back to and explore some more. I only had a full day trip there but I and my companion, Olive, had done so much. Macau has an old-world Sino-European architecture and culture as well as the opulence of the new world mainly because of the prevalence of the gambling industry. The Portuguese heritage is really apparent in establishments and street signs alike. I am not going to talk about gambling here because I did not lose or win a dime when I went there. I am just going to talk about some other things you can probably do except that.
We started our day early from Hong Kong. From Nathan Road, we took a taxi to catch the first ferry from the China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui and paid HKD151. The ferry was not full and immigration was not that strict. After passing through immigration, we immediately boarded and departed at 7AM (on time). The ferry arrived in Macau Ferry Terminal around 810AM. It was a smooth sail (I did not even feel seasick). As soon as we alighted at MFT and after going through necessary immigration procedures, we went out to the shuttle terminal.
And so my Top 10 list starts here...
1. Free Hotel Shuttles - If you plan to take the services of free hotel shuttles, I suggest not to take the first ferry trip from TST to Macau. All buses start to leave at 9AM. If you are travelling on a budget then this is the best option for you to hop from one hotel/casino to another. However, if you came prepared, you may opt to travel using other public transportation such as commercial buses and taxis. You should be aware that the traffic in Macau moves on the left hand side of the road. We chose to ride the Wynn bus from the ferry terminal to the city center. From Wynn, we walked around and when we were ready to move to another hotel, we boarded the Galaxy bus. I tell you, there is no shortage of buses here. It's a very convenient mode of transportation. Some hotels like Grand Lisboa Hotel require membership before you can avail of the free shuttle, so ensure that you have a valid ID with you so they can sign you up. You may also check out the Hard Rock Hotel, MGM Macau, The Venetian Macau Resort Hotel among others.
2. Try Some Portuguese Egg Tarts - It is also called pasteis de nata in Portuguese. This snack has been synonymous to Macau already and almost all tourists don't leave without a box or two in tow. An egg tart is a flaky and crisp pastry with a crust that held together a warm baked egg custard that was lightly caramelized.
3. Visit Largo do Senado - It's reminiscent of Vigan cobblestone streets in the Philippines. The cobblestones are traditionally Portuguese in style. The square is enclosed by the buildings of the Leal Senado, the General Post Office, and St. Dominic’s Church. It is also the place to get some of the best food in Macau. Just a little warning, shop owners and attendants don't speak English so you must master the art of pointing to something you want. There are shops everywhere near the square (Sasa, McDonalds, Starbucks, and a lot more). The square branches into two (the left branch takes you to the Ruins of St Paul's while the right branch leads to the Cathedral and Lou Kau Mansion). Largo do Senado was one of the places in the Historic Centre of Macau inscribed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in 2005, making Macau the 31st site in China to be accorded that recognition.
4. The Ruins of St. Paul - The ruins now consist of the southern stone façade—intricately carved between 1620 and 1627 by Japanese Christians in exile from their homeland and local craftsmen under the direction of Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola—and the crypts of the Jesuits who established and maintained the Cathedral. The façade sits on a small hill, with 66 stone steps leading up to it. The carvings include Jesuit images with Oriental themes, such as a woman stepping on a seven-headed hydra, described by Chinese characters as ' Holy Mother tramples the heads of the dragon'. A few of the other carvings are the founders of the Jesuit Order, the conquest of Death by Jesus, and at the very top, a dove with wings outstretched. -Wikipedia
5. Hotel/Casino Hopping - Going around Macau is not expensive, in fact it can be free if you plan your tour ahead. You need to check out adjacent hotels/casinos and then avail of their shuttle service. Some hotels are even in close proximity to each other. If you plan to cross the bridges then the shuttle will be your best bet. It's a sure win for you.
6. Shopping. - Macau offers an extensive array of shopping choices. All the products/brands you see in Hong Kong, you will see in Macau as well. Currency is MOP (Macau Pataca) but the Hong Kong dollar is accepted anywhere including the taxi. Exchange rate is HKD1=MOP1 so save yourself the hassle and just use your HKD if you are travelling from Hong Kong. If you need to change your money however, there are a few currency traders near Largo do Senado (left side when you enter the square). I am not sure if all hotels offer duty free shopping but the Venetian and Four Seasons do.
7. Eat the flavors of Macau - Different flavors of pork/beef jerky, snacks, pies, seaweed egg crisps, tarts, candies, almond cakes and a lot more can be had in Macau. If you are hungry before going to the Ruins of St. Paul, I am telling you now that you will be full when you reach your destination. Every store generously provides samples to tourists. Now all you need is a bottle of water that costs around HKD12 for every 500ml. Not too bad eh?
8. Explore Museums - We did not get to see some of the museums in Macau but for me the whole area is a museum in itself. You can feel the rich history of the place and the Portuguese influence is really apparent. If you however want to visit the museums, click here. For a traveler with only a short duration of stay in Macau and would like to visit some museums, then he or she should get the Museum Pass. At the cost of MOP$25 for adults and MOP$12 for children under 18 years old and senior over 60 years old, visitors can buy a Museum Pass. The Pass entitles one free entry, within a period of 5 days to each of the following six museums: Grand Prix Museum, Wine Museum, Maritime Museum, Lin Zexu Museum, Museum of Art and Museum of Macau.
9. Fisherman's Wharf - This is a theme park and not a place where you can fish. The park includes different attractions such as Vulcania, Roman Amphitheater, Alladin's Fort, Aqua Romanis, Tang Dynasty Fortress and Vasco da Gama Waterworld. You can see the Vulcania when the ferry approaches the dock.
10. Macau Grand Prix - The Macau Grand Prix is a motor-racing event held annually in Macau, one of China's Special Administrative Regions. It is known for being the only street circuit racing event in which both car and motorcycle races are held. Every year in November hundreds of racing drivers and riders compete in different categories of motor-racing, including single-seaters, touring cars and motorbikes. Read more here.
And remember, these are all in one day so ensure that you wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
I will surely be back in Macau...