Macau wasn’t really a place either of us dreamed about visiting, in fact I’m pretty sure Jake had never even heard of it before! Macau was added to our itinerary when I found AirAsia flights that were significantly cheaper to Bangkok and had us arriving at a more desirable time. Note for those planning a similar route: it is difficult to find fights from Hong Kong to Bangkok that get you in at a decent hour! Spending a day in Macau was the perfect amount of time for us to explore this unique place.
Macau is known as the Las Vegas of Asia. We are fans of the real Las Vegas so we thought we could enjoy ourselves for a day and a half in Macau. With heavy backpacks we maneuvered through muggy, crowded Hong Kong and easily got some tickets from the Kowloon ferry terminal.The ferry ride got a little choppy but the seats were comfortable and we were both able to nap on the hour ride.
My expectations for Macau were that it would be similar to Hong Kong, since they are both Special Administrative Regions of China. They weren’t so much the same. Hong Kong was a breeze to navigate; everything was marked clearly and the city was immaculately clean. We had difficulty navigating the Macau terminal and ended up leaving the arrival terminal before we got our bags! They let us backtrack to get our bags though so no harm. This was a reoccurring theme in our time in Macau though; directions were not clear and streets signs were scare making navigating more of a guessing game. English was not as widely spoken as in Hong Kong as well.
Currency is different in Macau, so if you aren’t planning on returning back to Hong Kong try to spend most of your Hong Kong dollars (HKD) before you leave. I say most, not all because some places will take HKD. In fact, our hotel breakfast needed to be paid in HKD and not in the local currency, Macau Patacas (MOP). There was a currency exchange place at the ferry terminal (terrible exchange rate) and an ATM as well.
Unfortunately Macau doesn’t have the same awesome public transportation infrastructure like Hong Kong. We caught a cab from the ferry terminal and had some communication issues with our cab driver who didn’t speak any English. This is why you should have the phone number of your accommodations and preferably the name of it in the local language as well!
There are public buses in Macau that are pretty cheap, but we didn’t use them. We had trouble the next day with transportation again, after check out we found some information online about a free shuttle nearby that would go to the big casinos. We followed the directions and ended up at an empty dock. We wandered until we came across a casino and got a taxi there to take us to The Venetian Macao. There are free shuttles around at bigger sites like the ferry terminals and other casinos that you can use to casino hop.
We stayed at the Ole London Hotel which was in the historic area on the other side of the island. Our hotel room was a DREAM compared to the dump we were staying at in Hong Kong! This place had air conditioner, free in-room WiFi and they provided us with a couple bottles of water for free as well. Also, the beds were considerably more comfortable. This hotel is considered a budget hotel so we would definitely recommend Ole London Hotel if you’re in Macau for a reason other than solely gambling. Breakfast in the morning included western and Chinese food options as well. We paid $78 USD for 1 night.
Other than price, we chose a hotel in the Cotai area so we would be close to The Historic Centre of Macao and see some of the sites that showcase the Portuguese influence. The historic centre is so important and unique that it is actually a UNESCO site as well to help preserve the history of it. We walked for about 15 minutes down windy, unmarked streets that were lined with small businesses and restaurants. This was the first time were we felt like we were in China, everything was in Cantonese and we didn’t see another tourist until we were across the street from Senado Square.
Senado Square (Largo de Senado)
You can definitely feel the Portuguese influence when you get close to Senado Square. The square is part of the UNESCO Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site so the area is maintained really well. I truly felt like we were in Europe for a moment. We didn’t stay here long because it was so crowded! Macau is clearly a very popular travel destination for visitors from Mainland China, as evidenced by the hordes of tourist groups we saw and the hundreds’ of selfie sticks around us. This was the first time that Jake felt a little uncomfortable about being a big man in a country where the people are much smaller. The locals were nice, but a little intrusive, asking to have pictures taken with him and one stranger even asked his weight!
Ruins of St. Paul’s
The Ruins of St. Paul’s are what’s left of a Jesuit church built in the early 1600’s. The site was restored in the 1990’s and there isn’t much left other than the front wall you can see in the picture. The ruins were free to see and it was fun walking around, but you can’t bring a drink “inside” the ruins which was kind of strange to me since the inside felt a lot like the outside. The view from the ruins was interesting as well; you can see a mixture of the tall casinos that Macau is famous for, as well as traditional Chinese looking buildings, scattered with the European style buildings of Senado Square. Equally as weird, there is a Starbucks at the bottom of the steps, as well as the clothing store Forever 21.
We meandered around The Historic Centre of Macau, got some egg tarts, bubble tea and dried meats before returning back to our hotel. I really liked the egg tarts, they aren’t too sweet and the crust was really flaky. Jake really enjoyed the dried meats even though we aren’t entirely sure what meat it was that we were eating!
Gambling at The Venetian
We had heard that The Venetian in Macau was more grand than the one in Vegas and it certainly didn’t disappoint! I played slot machines while Jake tried his hand at blackjack. We budgeted $50 USD and spent it in about 30 minutes. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the beautiful hotel as we well as getting some dinner at the food court. You can find any food here, from traditional Macanese cuisine, Indian food, hamburgers, pizza, etc. We chose The Venetian over other casinos because they had cheap luggage storage and and a free shuttle to the airport.
I wish that we had one more day to see Macau so we could have checked out some of the old forts and the Macau Tower. We would recommend checking out Macau if you’re close by and consider flying out of their little airport instead of Hong Kong International, it may be significantly cheaper as it was for us.
Have you been to Macau before? If so, what did you think?