Best known globally as the 'Vegas of China', the Macau Special Administrative Region is indeed a mecca of gambling and glitz, but the city is so much more than that. A Portuguese colony for more than 300 years, it is a city of blended cultures. Ancient Chinese temples sit on streets paved with traditional Portuguese tile. The sound of Cantonese fills the air on streets with Portuguese names. You can eat Chinese congee for breakfast, enjoy a Portuguese lunch of caldo verde soup and bacalhau (cod) fritters, and dine on hybrid Macanese fare such as minchi (ground beef or pork, often served over rice).
The Macau Peninsula holds the old city centre, where colonial ruins sit next to arty new boutiques. Further south are the conjoined islands of Taipa, Cotai and Coloane. Taipa has gloriously preserved Macanese architecture, Cotai is home to the new mega-casinos, and Coloane is lined with colonial villages and pretty beaches.
Macau is around 55 min away from Hong Kong and is linked to a number of ports in Mainland China by high-speed ferries. The Hong Kong–Macau Ferry Terminal TurboJet provides ferry services between Hong Kong and Macau; the boats depart approximately every half hour or so. The price of the ferry is quiet affordable, but before you travel to the small island, we highly advise that you book your Hotel in advance and if you plan to spend a weekend in this exquisite location!
We decided to take the early morning ferry. We arrived at the Central Hong Kong station a little bit early, enough time to have our morning fix of caffeine (me) and egg tarts (my fiancée) before boarding our TurboJet to Macau. Just a friendly tip, it is best to book your tickets on Wednesdays and avoid paying the added costs of weekend tickets. We arrived in Macau in less than an hour and took a taxi to our hotel (The Venetian).
Set on Macau's Cotai Strip, this Vegas-style, Venice-themed luxury resort and casino lies 3 km from Taipa island and 8 km from Macau Tower Convention & Entertainment Center. Classic Italian-style suites include sunken living room areas and marble bathrooms with separate tubs and showers. They also feature free Wi-Fi, tea and coffee making amenities, and flat-screen TVs with cable channels and movies on demand. My boyfriend was particularly impressed with the cable tv we had in our bathtub! The staff was incredibly attentive and we got a room upgrade straight upon arrival, free of charge!
Varied dining options include Japanese, Italian, and Indian fine dining, as well as a food court. There's an extensive shopping mall, glitzy live shows, and 4 outdoor pools. Gondola rides through the resort's canals are also available.
The ruin of the Church of St Paul is the most treasured icon in Macau. The towering facade and stairway are all that remain of this early-17th-century Jesuit church. With its statues, portals, engravings that effectively make up a ‘sermon in stone’, and a Biblia pauperum (Bible of the poor), the church was one of the greatest monuments of Christianity in Asia. The church intended to help the illiterate understand the Passion of Christ and the lives of the saints. Next to this beautiful ruin stands the highest point of the peninsula, Guia For! You can admire the panoramic views of the city and see other islands from this marvelous structure when the sky is clear. At the top is the stunning Chapel of Our Lady of Guia. It was built in 1622 and retains almost 100% of its original features, including some of Asia’s most valuable frescoes.
Our biggest regret is that we did not manage to stay longer in glittering Macau. My boyfriend and I both agreed that Hong Kong and this small wonderful nation deserve another visit!