"Macau" Macao by SWFC_Fan
Macao Travel Guide: 117 reviews and 586 photos
The tiny former Portuguese colony of Macau is located on the southern coast of China, just 65km to the west of Hong Kong.
Macau enjoys a similar status to Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China.
Macau consists of Macau Peninsula (which borders mainland China) and the islands of Taipa and Coloane which are located to the south of the peninsula and are connected to the mainland by road bridge.
How to get there?
Macau has an international airport located on the island of Taipa, with flights connecting Macau to other major cities in the surrounding region. Another method of ariving by air is in a helicopter - the journey takes just 16 minutes from Hong Kong or 20 minutes from the Chinese city of Shenzhen.
By road it is possible to enter Macau from China. Buses connect Macau with the nearby Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
By sea: There are many ferries connecting Macau with both Shenzhen and Hong Kong. I arrived in Macau on a fast ferry from Hong Kong which was operated by New World First Ferry Company. The journey between Hong Kong and Macau takes just 1 hour and ferries leave from both Central and Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) in Hong Kong.
Ferries operate from early in the morning to late at night with departures approximately every 30 minutes. On weekends and public holidays, ferries run throughout the night, with hourly crossings. The cost is approximately 140 HKD each way - with night time crossings a little more expensive than day time crossings.
Prices correct at January 2006: (1 GBP = 13.7 HKD = 14 MOP$)
A few recommendations of things to see and do based on my 1 day in the country:
Ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral
Although most of the cathedral was destroyed by a fire in 1835, the façade (and the steps leading up to it) that remains today is a very impressive sight and provides my overriding memory of Macau. Hundreds of tourists gather on the steps to photograph the impressive remains, while artists view it as an ideal subject for their drawings and paintings. It is possible to climb a platform behind the structure for panoramic views of the “Company of Jesus Square” which lies at the foot of the steps.
Leal Senado and Largo Senado
The grand Leal Senado building (which houses government offices) stands at one end of the impressive Portuguese-style Largo Senado (Senado Square). The square has been tiled with black and white cobblestones, laid in such a way as to present a wave effect, and contains a large fountain in its centre. This part of the city certainly feels more like Portugal than China! During my visit much of the square had been taken over by market stalls and a number of brightly coloured decorations had been put in place in readiness for the impending Chinese New Year celebrations.
Monte Fort stands on a hill overlooking the city of Macau and across to mainland China. The walls of the fortress and the cannons which once (in the 17th century) fired on a Dutch warship remain largely in tact. Visit the fortress for outstanding views over Macau, including a panoramic (but somewhat obscured by trees) view of the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral. There is a museum on site, but I was in a rush to see the rest of the city so I can’t tell you whether its contents are of much interest.
There are a great many churches in Macau, including; St Dominic’s Church (a bright yellow church with a pretty square out front at the end of Largo Senado); Penha Church (a church standing at the top of a very high hill with outstanding views of Macau Tower and the Sai Van Bridge); St Lawrence’s Church (originally built from wood in the 16th century, but subsequently rebuilt in stone); St Augustine’s Church (a late 19th century church standing behind Leal Senado); St Anthony’s Church (one of the oldest churches in Macau, and decked out in Chinese New Year decorations when I passed by in January 2006).
A large Chinese temple from which Macau originally took its name. The Portuguese called the temple A-Ma-Gao which, over time, became Macau. The 17th century temple consists of a handful of shrines and was busy with both worshippers (lighting incense sticks) and tourists during my visit.
Fisherman’s Wharf Convention Centre
Very much a work in progress during my visit to Macau. This convention centre close to the ferry terminal consists of a number of attractions including a replica volcano, a replica Roman ampitheater with ruins, Portuguese-style architecture, a Venetian-style fisherman’s pier backed by tall Amsterdam-style buildings (housing upmarket cafes and restaurants) and numerous boutique shops. Construction work was still ongoing, many shops and restaurants were not yet open for business and the site was crawling with security staff. Looks like it will be impressive once it is complete!
Macau has a reputation as a gambling Mecca, attracting large numbers of Chinese and Hong Kong visitors to its multitude of grand casinos. If gambling is your thing, there are more than enough places to try your luck on the roulette wheel!
Grand Prix Museum
Macau plays host to Formula 3 motor racing on the circuit that runs through the city’s streets. A Grand Prix museum (in the same building as a wine museum) houses an impressive selection of racing cars and photographs from decades gone by.
A few observations from my 1 day in Macau:
In Macau you can use either the local currency, the Macau Pataca (MOP$) or alternatively the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). The exchange rate between the two currencies is almost 1 for 1, with only narrow fluctuations occuring over time. It is common to pay in one currency and to receive change in the other currency or even a mix of the two currencies. Therefore, if you are visiting as a daytrip from Hong Kong there is no need to change your Hong Kong Dollars into Patacas. I withdrew cash from an ATM in Macau and was presented with the option of receiving money in either of the two currencies.
Gambling is big business in Macau, and this small nation is to China what Monaco is to France. Huge casinos forming part of hotel and leisure complexes are located all over the city and you will see their large neon signs on most streets. People from China and Hong Kong flock to Macau in their droves in order to gamble legally and the country has suffered gambling related problems in the past. In the late 1990s a number of gang wars and killings related to gambling debts seriously dented the country's tourist industry - but unless you get involved in gambling in a big way there is no need for the average tourist to feel threatened here.
Macau was under Portuguese rule until 20th December 1999 and the legacy of the former rulers lives on today. Various parts of the city could be mistaken for Lisbon or the Algarve, with bright Mediterranean style architecture, blue and white wall tiles and black and white cobblestone pavements. There are plenty of places serving Portuguese food, too and Portuguese remains an official language of Macau. Most street names are Portuguese, with names such as Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, Rua de Francisco Xavier Pereira and Rua do Praia Grande.
As well as the abundance of casinos, another reason to compare Macau with Monaco is the fact that it has a Grand Prix circuit running through the streets of its city. Macau plays host to Formula 3 Grand Prix motor racing, the Motorcycle Grand Prix and World Touring Car Championship racing. Many of the world famous drivers who have made their names in Formula 1 motor racing began their careers racing in Macau’s Grand Prix. The Grand Prix Museum in the city contains an impressive exhibition of racing cars from the 1950s through to the present day.
- Pros:Interesting sights, laid back atmosphere, interesting mix of cultures.
- Cons:Gambling related gang killings have caused problems in the past.
- In a nutshell:China meets Portugal meets Monte Carlo!
There are many ferries connecting Macau with both Shenzhen (China) and Hong Kong. I arrived in Macau on a fast ferry... more travel advice
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