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krisek Macau - A travel report by Krys
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Macau,  China - flag China -  Guangdong
6410 readers

krisek's travel reports

A delightful and unusual mix of things. Macau.

  11 votes
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Macau was not on my itinerary when I hopped to Hong Kong, however I got very bored in Hong Kong. I took a fast ferry on the way out and a helicopter on the way back. Portuguese churches, narrow alleys, Chinese temples, hyper-modern casinos. All in one!


St Paul's Cathedral's facade, Macau's most famous sight.
St Paul's Cathedral's facade, Macau's most famous sight.
It took just under an hour to cross over to Macau. The immigration at the terminal was efficient and friendly. They did not ask any questions and stamped a permit for three months in my passport. I liked that a tourism office was right after you stepped out from immigration. They had free maps and information about walking tours around the UNESCO listed sites. I grabbed a map and one of the leaflets and located the helicopter office. I booked a flight back to Hong Kong at 2:30 in the afternoon.

I was not sure what to do about the money. Would the Hong Kong dollars work in Macau or not, I was wondering. I checked the cash dispensers and all of them gave out Hong Kong dollars only. Then, I saw a little notice on one of them stating that if I wanted some Macau patacas, I had to go downstairs, where the actual arrival hall was. I did and took 200 without having an idea how much that was, speculating that I would always be able to change it to some other currency. Actually, I used it all.

The taxi touts who hovered around the arrival hall bothered me a little. They did not know who they were against, though. I listened almost patiently to what they had to say, and then blew them off. I did not even let them tell me how much they wanted for their motorised tours around Macau.

I thought to myself: “you better get your feet moving, it is time to do some exercise, you fat pig.” And I had to do it quickly if I wanted to avoid paying 200 Hong Kong dollars for changing my helicopter ticket. I searched for a taxi outside the terminal and let it take me to the centre of the old town. Then, I was on my own. The free map was my guide.

Weather was wonderful that day and the air was much clearer than in Hong Kong. I knew that this was going to be a good day. I was very curious and an itinerary was growing in my head. There was in fact plenty to see, and I in the end I had to make a selection. There was no way I could see everything in a day by simply walking everywhere.

Favourite spots:
Portuguese architecture
Portuguese architecture
Following the map, I strolled about the pedestrianised streets. Actually, I did not need the map, as the town was full of elegant signs directing tourists to the main attractions. Some of them were twisted by the wind or vandals and led to rather unattractive side streets or school yards. I kept it cool though, went back to the main road and checked with the map. I also used it to check what I was actually passing by, if there was an attractive building or picturesque square.

I walked and walked. It was a good hike. The town had a nice European feel mixed with tropical ambience in the air. I was so glad that I decided to go there. It was relaxed and the actual pedestrianised zones and pavements at the street level felt so much more natural. The Portuguese elements in the architecture, shops, cafes, and the overall attitude - all mixed with modern Cantonese way of life created an exiting mix. My favourite spot was the small temple by the facade of the former St Paul's cathedral.

What's really great:
A-Ma Temple, at the southwest tip of the Macau Peninsula, built in 1488.
A-Ma Temple, at the southwest tip of the Macau Peninsula, built in 1488.
The facade was one single monument that makes Macau famous. It was built in the sixteenth century and burnt down to the ground in 1835. It is the most photographed and visited place in Macau. Frankly, I am not sure what the whole deal about it is, actually. The facade looks rather ridiculous, and in my opinion, a much better idea would be to rebuilt the entire church. But, hey I this is just my humble opinion.

When I showed this picture to one of my Malay colleagues, he was shocked that there were hardly any people/ tourists visiting the site. I had to tell him that it was still rather early. You can tell from the long shadows.

Apart from a small Chinese temple, there was nothing interesting beyond the ruin. I followed signs to another church. I think it was San Antonio’s. I did not like it, so I turned back.

I passed the Na Tcha Temple, a minute worship place built in 1888, dedicated to Na Tcha twice, and I loved it twice.

Sights:
'World Street' of Macau
'World Street' of Macau
There was one particular place in Macau, which I wanted to see from up close. I passed it as I went on a taxi from the ferry terminal, and it looked very interesting. At least from the lighthouse, which was erected at the top of the Guia Hill, which offered very nice views of the Macau island.

When I got there, I realised that I almost made a mistake of skipping it. The spot, in fact only five minutes walk from the heliport, was great. It had bars, restaurants, shopping and casinos all set in buildings representing the finest examples of world’s architecture. And they all lined up one straight street. The building ranged from the ancient Chinese style to Tibetan, to Egyptian, to Greek, Roman, simple Medieval, Venetian, Dutch and Hanseatic through to French-inspired New Orlean’s (those elaborate balconies of the French Quarter). What a great (if a little tacky) place! I knew that someone would eventually think of something like that.

Accommodations:
A-Ma Temple
A-Ma Temple
I did not stay overnight in Macau, but I heard that it had much better value options than Hong Kong. I was chatting to the travellers on the airplane, who confessed that they enjoyed Macau hotels much better than those of Hong Kong, and reportedly they were half the price. Now, due to hugely rapid development of casinos and places of hazardous gaming, the number of exclusive and top end hotels have been springing up, too. And so it appears that Macau might actually be accommodating all budgets. I also heard that people, who came to Hong Kong for shopping, often chose to stay in Macau and commuted by the inexpensive ferries.

Nightlife:
Macau's version of the Potthaya Palaca
Macau's version of the Potthaya Palaca
Unfortunately I did not stay in Macau for the evening to sample its nightlife. However, from what I saw around the city while strolling everywhere on foot, night owls and partygoers had plenty to choose from. For Macau was a Portuguese colony for several centuries and the hot-blodded southern European late night culture was carefully exported there. Many bars, pubs and clubs catered for their fun-loving clientelle. During the day, it was enough to take care of one's happiness, and I expect night time could only be better.

Then, obviously, there were the brand new, and many of them massive, casinos and gambling houses. Depending on the budget, they offered a myriad of shows, concerts - all advertised on posters and leaflets around town. Every new casino (Wynn, for example - although not so new anymore) tried harder and harder to make better shows than the competition to attract customers. I would be surprised if someone did not know what to do at night in Macau.

Hangouts:
One of the flamboyant casinos
One of the flamboyant casinos
I continued my journey as the map suggested. I passed through a few interesting churches, like St Lawrence’s; St Joseph’s; St Augustine’s; the Cathedral; and some other significant buildings, including the Bishop's palace; Dom Pedro V Theatre; Military Club; the heavily guarded Macau Governor Residence; the Moorish Barracks. All nice and well kept.

Macau also boasted a few little pleasant squares, like the Lilau Square or the St Augustine’s Square. They were shady, complete with benches to sit down and relax. Some also had little pavement cafes.

If these did not do the trick as hangouts, then there was one more spot in the city that certainly did. It was the aforementioned hill with the historic lighthouse. It was surrounded by a very pleasant park, green, with little hiding spots, and of course a perfect view. For the lazy ones, or less able ones, there even was a cable car connecting the top of the hill with one of the streets. When I visited, the park was busy with locals relaxing.

Restaurants:
Senado Square
Senado Square
At the Senado Square, I saw this place with ice-cream. They had some unusual flavours. Some of them I heard before. Some of them I did not. I knew about the green tea flavour, for example, but not about the Chinese wine flavour, or even a regular red wine flavour. Actually I could have asked what grape it was. If it was shiraz, I might have insisted to have one.

I stopped at the cafe right at the square. It was based in sub-basement and looked really nice and popular. It was more of a patisserie but the menu had some savory items listed, too. I had iced mocca coffee, pancake with strawberries, white chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream. It was so lovely.

Little surprise that a few menus I saw in restaurants I passed by, combined Portuguese and Cantonese fare. There were also a few intriguing fusion options but I did not feel strong enough to try any of those. Street vendors, primarily catering for school folk, concentrated on typical Chinese snacks like grilled chicken on skewers.

Other recommendations:
Macau's Governor Residence
Macau's Governor Residence
I eventually regretted that I did not stay longer in Macau. There was plenty to see and do there. A thought ran through my head to wander north of Macau, aiming towards the Guia Fortress. By doing so I passed by the governor residences, a few embassies (or consulates) and the very tall Macau Tower, before ending at the Senado Square, the famous square.

The best time to visit Macau is in the morning. The sun rays are gentle to the skin and kind for the photographers. And the streets are relatively empty allowing for better appreciation of the historic monuments. Plus, the later morning rush is an inetresting sight as well. High noon also sees less people on the streets but the light for taking photos is at its worst.

Published on Wednesday June 18th, 2008


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Thu, Jun 19 2008 - 10:45 AM rating by marianne

What a pleasure to read. Lat year I did the same day trip from Hong Kong. You described it in an excellent way.

Thu, Jun 19 2008 - 06:43 AM rating by rangutan

Excellently described little side step.

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