It sounds unbelievable, but Macau is known to rake in more moolah than Las Vegas, thanks to its flourishing gambling scene that started mid 19th century. The former Portuguese colony is the only part of China that seems a bit loosened up to the outer world. No wonder, travellers come in swarms to make a quick buck and even end up discovering that Macau is so much more than just glitzy casinos and a gambler’s den – including a UNESCO declared, World Heritage Site. A long weekend in Macau is ample time to get a flavour of its many hues. Hearing fluent Cantonese in Portuguese named streets is just one of them.
Here are some of the top things to experience over a break of 3-4 days.
The 15th century temple is the oldest in Macau. In fact, the city was christened after the Chinese Sea Goddess, Mazu, who is commemorated in the temple. Away from the world of big bucks of the casinos, the temple is a low-key addition to the itinerary. It has six parts; a pavilion, a memorial arch, the prayer hall, the Hall of Benevolence, the Hall of Guanyin and Zhengjiao Chanlin – the Buddhist Pavilion.
Museum of Macau
Located on the hill of the Fortaleza do Monte in Santo António, the Macau Museum is mandatory early on in your trip for a quick orientation to the city. Expect glimpses of the historical city and its Portuguese occupation. The three-tiered museum takes you through a journey of the territory’s early history, religions, local dialects, a recreated firecracker factory and finally the march of urban development.
Image Credit: Dennis Wong
If superlatives catch your fancy, then the Venetian should be on the list. This is one of the 10th largest buildings of the world. The surreal interiors are a smørrebrød of visuals and facilities. Think 980,000 sq metres of 3000 hotel suites, a sprawling gaming floor, plastic surgery clinics, a mall, operas on a boat gliding on a canal and other outright, bizarre spectacles. The only soothing part is the Venetian-style facades, which help to zone out of the carnival-esque vibe of the place.
Ruins of the Church of St. Paul
A treasured icon of the city, the remains of an early-17th-century Jesuit church portrays the lives of the saints in rich engravings. Though weathered, it is still makes for a worthy walk through. The church is more than 400 years old and has the creative imprint of an Italian Jesuit, Japanese Christians and Chinese craftsmen.
EAT & DRINK
Lavish interiors, authentic Chinese fare and the razzmatazz of Macau, make The Eight one of the essential dining experiences of the city, especially, if you are in the mood to dig into dimsums. The restaurant is also accredited by Michelin stars, though only two.
Authentic Portuguese Food
A contrast to the Michelin star studded food scene of Macau, the authentic flavours of Portuguese are best tasted in the old part of town in Taipa and along the beach strip of Coloane. The home-style fare is made from recipes that have been handed down since generations. Amongst the many hole-in-the-wall options, try Fat Siu Lau and Vencedora that were both set up in early 1900s.
Rua do Cunha
A narrow street, named after the Portuguese explorer, Tristão da Cunha, wander here with an empty stomach, so you can dig into almond cakes, phoenix egg rolls, coconut flakes, cherikoff and peanut candy. The slim lane is packed to the rafters with old shops and restaurants, and is pleasant respite from the haute cuisine served in swanky hotels.
Macallan Whisky Bar & Lounge
If whisky is your poison, head to the Scottish themed bar with over 400 whiskies on offer. The wood paneling and herringbone-patterned parquet floor give it a tinge of elegance. It is an ideal place to unwind after a hard day of sightseeing.
THINGS TO DO
Adrenalin junkies should not miss the opportunity to try the 233m (764ft high) bungee jump from the AJ Hackett Macau – a Guinness World Record for the Highest Commercial Bungee Jump in the world. The tower is the highest point in the city and the ideal spot to take in the sea of lights in the evening. There is also a skywalk and tower climb for extra thrills.
House of Dancing Water
The world’s largest water-based stage production promise to leave one wide-eyed. Written and directed by Franco Dragone, the show is a staple on the entertainment itinerary of Macau, dazzling more than 2 million viewers. More than 80 gymnasts, circus artists, dancers, divers, actors and motorcyclists are featured in the show. Book ahead to bag a discount on tickets.
Walk around Taipa Village
Street food apart, Taipa Village holds the old world charm of the once colonised Macau. This includes Taipa Houses Museum, Rua Do Cunha, Our Lady of Carmel Church, and Carmel Garden. The slim streets are ideal for a laid-back vibe. Who knows you might even chance upon a traditional Chinese dragon dance performance.
Multiple carriers like Sri Lankan Airlines, Thai Airways and Malindo Air have hopping flights to Macau from major cities in India. If you happen to be in Hong Kong, you’re only a ferry away; Catamarans operated by turbojet.com. hk leave the airport every hour for Macau’s ferry port. It is a 50 minutes ride for approx HK$215 one way. Most hotels offer a free mini-bus transfer from the ferry point.
Deal driven hotel rooms that plump up the package with round the clock casino gaming thrown in, is the way things work in Macau. For this, choose from a host of hotels. Here are our picks:
- Parsian macao; parisianmacao.com; dbl starting MOP 1150 per night
- Studio City; studiocity-macau.com; dbl starting MOP 950 per night
- Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16; sofitel.com; dbl starting from MOP 875 per night
Top Tip: The local currency in Macau is Macanese pataca (MOP) but the Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is widely used – not the other way round though.
We would love to hear from you. Have you been to Macau? Do you have tips or suggestions you would like to share with us?