Whether going for a day trip or longer, “Aomen” never fails to fascinate.
Macau enjoys the best of two worlds – that of China and Portugal. Try visiting Macau on a Chinese New Year Festival and what you’ll find will surely surprise you. In its famous Senado Square, for example, you’ll find grand displays of Chinese decorations set against the backdrop of European buildings with coloured stones made by Portuguese experts. To prove this fact a notch higher, try invigorating your tastebuds at restaurants in Senado Square and you’ll find yourself stumbling upon authentic delicacies – that of Macanese and Portuguese.
Macau ages charmingly even with the challenges of the past
In the early 16th century just before the Portuguese settlement, Macau was called Haojing, which means Oyster Mirror. How this peninsula got its present name is believed to be derived from A-Ma Temple (Maa Gok Miu), a temple built in 1448 dedicated to the goddess of the seafarers and fishermen. It is said that when the Portuguese sailors landed on the coast just outside the temple and asked the natives for the name of the place, they replied, “Maa Gok”, so the sailors then named the whole peninsula “Macau”. It’s present Chinese name “Ao Men” means inlet gates.
Fast forward to what Macau is now. Its thriving industries of electronic, textiles and toys, and a prominent tourism industry boasting with numerous luxury hotels, casinos, resorts, stadiums and restaurants, all speak of how Macau ages charmingly even with the challenges of the past.
Hotels and casinos
These casinos hold the glitz and glamour of Macau
Gambling is Macau’s biggest revenue generator, making up 50% of the economy. With this sprouted 33 casinos, many of which are opened 24 hours a day. These casinos hold the glitz and glamour of Macau, making it vibrant, colourful and ravishing at night. Besides gambling, Macao hosts plentiful other activities that are sure to keep you excited – Venetian Hotel’s gondola ride, ZAIA, a dazzling 90-minute production by Cirque du Soliel, Fisherman’s Wharf tour for an awesome view of the Macau vicinity, or City of Dreams’ The House of Dancing Water, a spectacular new show by Franco Dragone.
With it being relatively small, you can visit its historical places in less than a day!
When in Macau, visit these places no matter what – Ruins of St. Paul, The Venetian Hotel, Moorish Barracks, Fisherman’s Wharf, The Macau Tower, A-Ma Temple, Sun Yat Sen Memorial, Camoes Garden (or Guia Lighthouse), Wynn Macau together with its nearby areas the Grand Lisboa and Casino Lisboa, Monte Forte, the museums, the bridges (especially at night), and for shopping, inner shops at San Ma Lo. These places echo the essence of this special administrative region of China.
It’s not only because of casinos that this city is glamorous but also because of how it remains beautiful even with the test of time. With it being relatively small, you can visit its historical places in less than a day! A suggested walking tour of these places should start early in the morning from A-Ma Temple located at the south-western tip of the Macau peninsula to its highest hill – Giua Hill – as the endpoint. Ample resources are available at the Tourist Office in the airport, make sure you drop by for your fill of welcome information about this fascinating peninsula.
For a romantic way of experiencing the sweep of the Praia Grande Bay and the old and traditional streets, take the pedicab!
Many travelers worry about transportation, not so in Macau. Take note of AP-1 bus that travels from the airport to the Macau Ferry Terminal, or Bus #3 from Macau Ferry Terminal to San Ma Lo. Cabs are readily available as well, and if you are traveling with 5 people, look for cabs with #5 prominently marked at the left side of the cab, this means that this cab can take as many as five people.
For a romantic way of experiencing the sweep of the Praia Grande Bay and the old and traditional streets, take the pedicab! Yes, a pedicab is slow but it’ll give you enough time to fully take in the beauty of the area. You may catch a pedicab outside the Macau Ferry Terminal or across Lisboa Hotel.
For adventurous travelers, go for the mokes! They are colourful, open-top mini-jeep that is a truly fun way to get around and explore the island of Taipa and Coloane.
If you’re on a budget, a cost-effective way to get to your destination is to take the bus rides that the big hotels provide to/from airport or ferry terminal to their respective hotels. Take the bus that’s going close to your destination and yes, your ride is free!
Macau’s a haven for photographers so don’t miss a moment!
What’s a travel without food splurge? Try Margaret’s Café e Nata’s Portuguese egg tarts and Pasteleria Kei Kou’s beef jerky and tapa. Yum!
Visit these restaurants for other yummy-goodness – Restaurante Fernando and Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane, A Lorcha near A-Ma Temple, and Restaurante Platao in Senado Square.
And lastly, make sure your camera’s working well. Macau’s a haven for photographers so don’t miss a moment!
Published: Tianjin Plus Magazine, March 2011
Photography: Cathy Perez