Gambling sounds fun, but I would hate to lose. Spending money at a blackjack table sounds bizarre to me, but since I been in Macau I have learned that Macau was the largest game center in the world, and so I wanted to visit it. Largest you say??, that’s correct. Currently, there is more money flowing into Macao gambling than to Las Vegas! Blame the wealthy Chinese 😉
To tell the truth, I wanted to visit Macao since a long time ago, but knowing Macau facts hyped me even more. Last month, on my way home from the United States, I stopped in Macau. When you hear that a place is the game capital of the world, you think of the lights, the ostentation, the glamour, and the casinos. Instead, I found a small city like any other, with some side streets, parks, interesting and decent markets, and only a few semi-ostentatious casinos. I was disappointed a little.
Cities are cities after all, and while they are generally not up to the image we have of them in our minds, they can still offer a lot of charm, character and interesting activities. But I’ll be honest: I did not get along well with the charm and character of Macao. We did not have a big fight, commercial insults, or anything. And it’s not even because Macao took all my money, it’s just that our personalities did not mix. There is nothing wrong with Macau, and I enjoyed parts of that. But it just did not surprise me. I was not even surprised.
What to do in Macau?
My first ever stay in Macau was a mere afternoon trip from Hongkong. I stayed there for four nights. And although I generally feel that four days in any city is too short, after two days in Macau, I was ready to leave. I had seen it all. There was nothing that pushed me to stay.
Most travelers make Macau a day or night trip from nearby Hong Kong (one-hour ferry ride, 125 Hong Kong dollars). Many people with whom I have spoken seem to feel the same: more than two days is too much. That does not mean that Macao does not offer many worthwhile activities. I liked to do these:
Visit the São Paulo Cathedral: this cathedral is actually the facade of the old building since the rest was destroyed a long time ago. But this facade is one of the main attractions of the city and a perfect place to glimpse the ancient Portuguese influence in the city.
Enjoy Portuguese architecture. Speaking of which, Macau used to be a territory of Portugal, and there is a great Portuguese influence in the architecture of the island. Half the time you feel as if you have entered historic Portugal with the design of the houses. Many of the Portuguese sites in Macao are also world heritage sites, and the tourist map of the area presents a walking tour so you can see them all.
Visit the Taipa museums: there are two museums on the island of Taipa (Macau is formed by four connected islands): the Taipa and Coloane History Museum and the Taipa Houses Museum. The history museum contains detailed and informative samples of the culture of Macao, and the museum of houses is formed by a row of colonial houses of the early twentieth century. They have been restored to show the lifestyle of the original owners. A view from the guide of the fortress of Macao.
Walk in the Fortress: the fortress and chapel here were built between 1622 and 1638 to warn residents about the impending attacks. It is the highest point in Macau and the best place to enjoy panoramic views of the city on a clear day.
Eat dried meat: Wherever I went I saw shops selling huge pieces of dried meat of all kinds of animals. The providers will cut you a free sample if you want to try it. At first, I was a bit nervous (what am I eating?!) But after doing it, I enjoyed it a lot. It tastes like dried meat, so if you like it, you’ll like this. The meat is actually delicious.
Eat an egg pie: Macao is famous for its traditional Portuguese egg tarts. They are delicious, but they have not left it to me. On the other hand, I do not like desert type meals so I might not be the best judge of what a good dessert is.
Try the noodles: Macao, like Hong Kong, has many small noodle shops hidden in alleys. You smell them before you see them, and the aroma of noodles and soup always distract me from my walks. Employees in most places do not speak English, but their menus do include images, so you can only indicate what you want to order.
Go hiking: if you have more time in Macao, the island of Coloane has some beaches, golf courses, and hiking trails. It is the best way to enjoy the outdoors here. Macao at night
Walk and explore-Macao is not that big, so it makes an intriguing city miss. I enjoyed losing myself in the twists and turns of the alleys, stumbling over temples, parks and noodle shops. I discovered that getting lost on the island of Macao is more interesting than the island of Taipa, simply because of the great abundance of zigzag streets and small alleys. If you lose too much, the casinos hovering over the horizon are good benchmarks, allowing you to easily find your way back. And, of course, there’s the game. The casinos are not as luxurious as they are in Las Vegas, but the Venetian and the Galaxy deserve at least a walk. In the Galaxy, there is a five-minute crystal chandelier show that features very melodic music and a colorful light show.
If you are in Hong Kong, visit Macao for a day or a night trip. The parks, architecture, and food are wonderful, and the slow-paced feeling of the city can be a good contrast to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. (Besides, has the ferry already passed? Beautiful!) But don’t do what I did, fly and stay four days. I don’t think there’s enough for so long.
There’s really nothing wrong with Macao. I am happy to have gone there, just as I am always happy to go to a new place. But you know, sometimes places are just meh. They are not bad, but they do not destroy you. Macao was fun; Had some interesting views, sounds, and food. And, while there’s nothing I can point out with my finger to say “I don’t like this “, there’s nothing I can say that captivated me. Finally, I was glad to visit Macao, but I doubt he will come back soon.
To Stay, best hotels in Macau =
1 ) Splurge: The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel 5*
At roughly 160$ per night, this hotel doesn’t come cheap. But hey, if you gonna splurge the Venetian is the place to be. Expensive, yes, but it won’t destroy your bank account.
The facilities are something else, a dedicated lake, a basketball court with a stadium (!), a golf course (!!!), a pool worthy of kings, a Venetian artificial channel, hence the name. The place it’s a hotel, but it truly resembles a theme park.
You can hit the casinos while staying here, plus after all the noise this hotel comes with a bed too! 🙂 go figure.
–> Book your room here.
2 ) Decent place, bang for the buck: Riviera Hotel 3 *
I paid about 75$ per night, for a total of 2. And it was a convenient and clean stay to explore the city. Good for those who don’t want to stay in hostels and for those who don’t want to pay too much.
The greenery around this place is quite good too.
–> Book your beds here.
3) Cheap alternative: Ole London Hotel 3*
Managed to book a night here for 60 bucks. The place is a bit more basic, but it fairly decent and I liked the location.
–> Book here.
Even cheaper?? Hard. There’s little under the 50 range, but you can check the full Macau hotel list here.
I also wrote plenty about Hong kong. You guys can check my articles about awesome Hong Kong.