Imagine Portugal and Las Vegas smashed together into one city, and there you have Macau. For those of you who haven’t been to either place, let me paint a picture for you.
Standing in Cotai Strip, the strip of hotels and casinos that mimics Las Vegas, I look left and right, up and down to see that despite being in Asia, I am overwhelmed with structures that transport me back to Europe. The Eiffel Tower stands above me awaiting it’s opening of The Parisian, an upcoming hotel/casino, and beckoning to all those who arrive. Scattering the sky front are magnificent buildings, varying in architecture, all glistening in the sunlight like tiny jewels in the east corner of Asia. Wandering around more, you’ll wander into a piece of Venice represented by a replica of Doge’s Palace. The gothic architecture impresses and shadows in the dusk light with its smooth salmon and pale colored tiles illuminated by the lanterns. The walkways along the street are also dotted with greenery from the high trees to the shrubs.
Wandering around The Venetian just transports you to another world. With the expansive hallways and high ceilings, it’s easy to get lost within this glorious hotel. Soon the hallways leads to what seems like a painting of the Venice canals. Gondolas float languidly beckoning visitors and shops dot the sidelines with big brand names lighting up the tops. Doors to the buffets let out delectable smells of aisles of international cuisine and sounds of coins and the jingling music of slot machines reverberate through the halls.
That’s just half of Macau. Then over the long white bridge to what they call “old town” is the other half influenced by the Portuguese. It’s a whole other world. Once again, I am transported to the towns I wandered through Portugal many years ago. The buildings are painted in vivid colors of golden yellow, sea blue, and crimson. The windows and shades are splashed with similar colors and against the vivid blue sky, the architecture is a stunning sight to see. The Largo de Senado Square is booming with people enjoying the sun, strolling up to see the famous landmarks such as Church of St. Paul, or piling towards Koi Kei Bakery to enjoy a variety of jerky or a mouth-watering Portuguese egg tart.
Now my family and I basically experienced Macau in less than 24 hours. Probably a little poor planning on our part because to truly experience every part of the city, you have to stay at least 2 full days – perhaps 2 full days is enough. Regardless, here are my travel tips to this city:
-If you are coming from Hong Kong, you can easily buy a ticket on any ferry. There are two ferry lines, but we chose the Cotai Water Jet which got us there in 1 hour. Buy the tickets ahead of time and yes, you can buy online! You do not have to check any baggage in no matter the size. Just wheel it with you through security and onto the ferry! Have your passport on you since you do go through immigration.
-You can use Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) in Macau (widely accepted) – no need to exchange currency.
-If you’re staying at a hotel on Cotai Strip (where all the casinos are), then you can take a shuttle from a hotel or take a taxi to “old town” which is on the other side of the bridge. The “old town” is the Portuguese influenced area. Ask your hotel about free bus shuttles!
-Also if you are staying at a hotel on Cotai Strip – most of them have free arranged buses that transport you from the ferry to the hotel. Just ask your hotel about it.
-If you take a taxi to “old town”, they drop you off at this taxi drop-off line-up place if you tell them
you want to go to Largo de Senado Square. From there you will have to turn right onto the upcoming street and keep walking down until you see a big square on your right.
-Largo de Senado Square contains the famous Koi Kei Bakery – go inside and you can taste many samples of their treats, snacks, and famous jerky. There you can taste the famous Portuguese Egg Tart – an egg custard that is crème-brulee like in a flaky crust. One of my absolute favorite desserts ever since I tried one in Portugal many years ago. I was so happy to be eating it again.
-And at this bakery, I found one of my favorite childhood snacks that seemed to have disappear from Asian grocery stores’ shelves in America: these tiny eggrolls. I couldn’t find them anywhere else when I looked at other grocery store in Hong Kong and Thailand so if anyone knows where I can find this again, please let me know!
-From the square, you can walk up and immediately get to Igreja de Sao Domingos. From there, there are more signs taking you up to Church of St. Paul.
-Other landmarks to see: Guia Fort (highest point that you can see the city from), A-Ma Temple, Taipa Village
Until the next adventure,