Macau – the Las Vegas of Asia; a hub of extraordinary hotels, out-of-this-world performances, and perpetual casino buzz. But it’s not just that. Beyond its resemblance to its Western counterpart, Macau is home to a rich hotpot of Portuguese and Chinese culture and it shows in its world-class population, architectural heritage, and scrumptious fusion of flavors.
On a recent trip to Hong Kong, my friend and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. So we took a day trip to see to another side of China. And boy, we were pleasantly surprised. See what we saw, did, and ate here – and maybe try the trip yourselves.
Getting to Macau
Macau is only an hour away from Hong Kong via ferry. You have two options: TurboJet and CotaiJet; choosing between the two depends on where you’re headed. If you want to visit some local hubs and tourist spots, take the TurboJet to downtown Macau, which docks at Macau’s Outer Harbor Ferry Terminal. It is near must-see places such as Senado Square and St. Paul’s Ruins. If you would rather have a Las Vegas of Asia experience, take the CotaiJet to the Cotai Strip, home to the city’s most popular hotels and casinos. You can purchase ferry tickets at the terminals up to 30 minutes before your trip. However, during rush hours and holidays, this is risky. Opt to buy your tickets on the ferry operators’ website or other online channels, such as Klook. One-way tickets are around US$21 (165 HKD) on weekdays and US$23 (175 HKD) on weekends. Round-trip tickets are about US$40 (308 HKD) on weekdays, US$43 (336 HKD) on weekends.
We took the TurboJet. It was smooth sailing; the ferry travels so fast that we barely felt that we were treading water. The seats were spacious, plus, you have your own tray table. The best part? There’s wifi on board! Although once you get midway between Hong Kong and Macau it slows down a bit.
Going Around Macau
Once you get to Macau, it’s easy to get to where you’re going – just take a free shuttle bus to any of the hotels and casinos, whichever is closest to where you’re going. If you have to go around, there are buses available for a cheap commute. Or you can take a cab. Ubers are also available if you have access to the app. If you want to score a free shuttle bus ride back to the terminal from a hotel, ask if they offer this service. Some do, while some require that you either pay, buy something, or are a guest.
The Venetian Macau
Upon arriving in Macau, we took the free shuttle bus to The Venetian. It was beautiful! The magnificent ceilings, column-lined hallways, and indoor gondola channels brought Venice to this part of Asia. The bright gold features throughout the place made the whole experience so grand. The place was big and there were shops and restaurants, aside from just the hotel and the casino.
The reason we actually went to The Venetian was that it was the closest to where we really wanted to go – Taipa Village, a quiet, bright, and culturally rich destination that’s a great alternative to Macau’s hustle and bustle.
Taipa Village is a short walk from The Venetian. It will take you around 10-15 minutes. Exit through the West Lobby and walk towards the direction of Galaxy Macau. Near the street-crossing, you will see an overpass that will take you to a pedestrian walkway that will lead you straight to Taipa Village.
Along the path, you will see a park to your right. It’s worth the detour! It’s a beautiful garden full of color and life. There’s a playground for kids to run around. And there’s a nice forest-like path that’s cool and quiet – perfect for a peaceful stroll. There are also cute animal-shaped bushes.
When we got to Taipa Village, we were famished. Luckily, there were loads of food options, from sit-down restaurants offering the usual Macanese fares to take-out counters for quick bites. We Googled recommended eats and they all pointed us to pork chop buns – marinated pork chops stuffed in Portuguese buns. We scoured the different alleys and found Tai Lei Loi Kei, a traditional local cafe. We learned that the place is actually famous for its pork chop buns.
For dessert, I ran to the Turkish ice cream vendor. I’ve always seen videos of these tricksters playing catch-up with their customers and I wanted to experience it. It turns out that I didn’t even have to go to Turkey to do so! The vendor was super nice and funny; he even sang a part of a song to me. Visit him if you find yourself in the area and give him some love!
After eating, we passed by Our Lady of Carmo Church. It is a beautiful three-story Catholic Church, with a vibrant yellow facade. We then visited the Taipa Houses Museum, which features five different houses that showcase Portuguese architecture throughout the years. It offers a nice look at the Macanese culture. Plus, it’s free!
We took an Uber to Macau Tower, which was around 20 minutes from Taipa Village. At the lower levels of the tower, there was a mall; it had a few shops, restaurants, and cinemas.
Of course, we went up to the Observation Lounge which offered absolutely amazing views of Macau. You could see everything! It was pretty overwhelming but in a good way. There were glass floors so you could see right below you. You also have the option to go even higher to the Adventure Deck, which is also home to the World’s Highest Bungy Jump – 233 meters (764 feet) high! You can see them jumping off the deck here. You can also observe the brave souls doing the Skywalk, where they walk around the outside perimeter of the building on a 1.8-meter-wide platform.We were pretty tired by this time so it was just perfect to have Afternoon High Tea at 360 Cafe, a revolving restaurant on the 60th floor. They offered a few savory finger food, lots of pastries, and unlimited tea. By the time you finish, you would have gone around the whole 360 degrees of the place. We played a few rounds of “I Spy.” It was a great pit stop before carrying on with our adventure.
We took a bus to Casino Lisboa, which was the closest drop-off point to Senado Square. Shoutout to the nice Filipino maître d’ in Macau Tower who taught us the bus routes! From the bus terminal, it’s still about a 10-minute walk. Just follow the signs and traverse through the sea of fast-walking businesspeople.
During the Portuguese era, Senado Square was used during troops’ inaugurations. Now, it is a paved public square adorned with fashion stores, restaurants, and souvenir shops. A lot of the surrounding buildings were preserved by authorities so they still reflect the look and feel of Portuguese architecture.
While you’re here, fill up on some famous Macanese delicacies. You can find them in almost every store. It would be a sin to leave without trying the Portuguese egg tarts! You won’t be able to stop at one, believe me.
Ruins of St. Paul’s
As you continue walking through Senado Square, you will eventually find yourself beholding the Ruins of St. Paul’s. Once the biggest Catholic Church in Asia, it endured three fires and a violent typhoon, leaving only the facade intact as a reminder of its glory. The steps leading up to it is a great spot for people watching (and eating your Macanese treats!).
It is adjacent to Monte Fort and Macau Museum. Check it out if you still have time to spare!
A Few Things…
- Sometimes, flights to Macau are cheaper so you can land here, go around, and then take a ferry to Hong Kong.
- You don’t need a separate visa to travel from Hong Kong to Macau and vice versa. You just need your passport, so remember to bring it. Plus, you have to fill up the Visitor Cards at the ferry terminals.
- If you already have HKD on-hand, you don’t have to convert it to MOP because Macau’s establishments accept HKD. They give HKD as change, as well but there are some places that only give back MOP. Make sure you spend all your MOP in Macau because they won’t be accepted in Hong Kong.
- Check the schedules of some tourist sites to make sure that they are open when you go (e.g. Taipa Houses Museum is closed on Mondays).
- If you are taking buses, make sure to know which ones to take. You pay the exact amount (they don’t have change!) as soon as you enter so make sure your coins are ready.
- Manage your time well, especially if you are only doing a day trip. Know traffic situations, how long it will get from Point A to Point B, etc.
Macau has so much more to offer. If you have more time, go out and see all that you can! If you’re feeling adventurous, take the roads less traveled and lose yourself – you might just find yourself in a nice quaint spot in the city.