First and foremost, you have to know that Macau is a relatively small place divided into 4 major parts: The Macau Peninsula, Taipa, Cotai and Coloane. Majority of tourists cross to nearby Hong Kong after visiting Macau, or vice versa since both places are pretty small and the transfer is quite accessible. You may refer to the map below for a quick look. If you are searching for a place to stay, here’s what each area has:
- Macau Peninsula – If you want to experience the charm of old Macau, then this is the place to be. If you book the right place, it also allows you to do a walking tour of Macau’s tourist spots.
- Taipa (locally known as Tamzai) is a growing residential area and home to various temples in Macau.
- Cotai Strip (reclaimed land between the islands of Taipa and Coloane) which is filled with casinos and luxury hotels. So if you are looking for a night of gambling and entertainment, this place is for you.
- Coloane – I wasn’t able to go down south but they say this is where you get to see the Macanese (Macau-Portuguese) architecture and a true gem for photographers since everything looks picturesque. This is also where the famous Lord Stow’s Bakery is located, home of Macau’s famous egg tarts.
For the history buff that I am, I chose a hotel in Macau Peninsula. I must tell you, hotel rates in Macau are pretty steep so be warned. One of the cheapest ones I saw which had a good location and was pretty decent was Ole Tai Sam Un Hotel. It is located in No 43-45 Rua da Caldeira, Macau City, which is walking distance to the Senado Square. Each night costs roundabout 100USD for a standard double room without breakfast.
Positive: Clean, very good location, helpful staff, comfy bed, free bottled water and WIFI in the rooms.
Negative: Room is quite small, especially the shower. Imagine me saying that despite my Asian size.
Transportation / Going Around the City:
There’s no train in Macau so you may opt to ride the bus or the cabs. However, the buses take a while and like in any foreign place, it’s hard to get the routes right. The cabs, on the other hand, charge quite a premium and the language barrier is also a concern. Hence, the best thing to do is maximize the free shuttle service of hotels. They are everywhere!
To get to Macau City (or to our Hotel), we took the shuttle from The Venetian (located at their West Lobby) bound to Yuet Tung Pier. We alighted a few blocks from our hotel. Yay!
To get to Cotai Strip from our hotel, we walked towards Sofitel and took their shuttle bound for the Macau Ferry Terminal, this is located at the 2F of the hotel and not the one at the main lobby. We almost rode a shuttle going to the China border! At the Macau Ferry Terminal, you may choose which hotel/casino you want to go and ride the hotel’s shuttle there.
The official currency of Macau is the pataca (MOP). Pataca is the Portuguese name for both dollars and pesos. You can use Hong Kong dollar (HKD) while in Macau since the pataca is accepted on an equal 1:1 basis. However, do note that government transactions only accept pataca while casinos only accept HKD.
There are money changers in the airport, ferry terminals, as well as at the vicinity of Senado Square so changing money won’t be a concern. However, note that changing to or from patacas outside of Macau is almost impossible even in Hong Kong, so any patacas should be spent or changed before leaving Macau.
When in Macau:
1. Visit the Senado Square
A visit to Macau is not complete without joining the flock of tourists at Senado Square. This area shows a glimpse of Macau’s historic past as a Portuguese territory until 1999. East certainly meets west with Neo-classical buildings painted in bright pastel colours lining up the Square amidst stalls of bakwa and other Macanese street food. If you are into shopping, right smack at the middle of Senado Square are big stores of Watsons, Bossini and Giordano.
2. Say a little prayer at St. Dominic’s Church
A sunny little facade with green doors and shutters will catch your attention while strolling at the Square. This is St. Dominic’s Church, a Baroque-style church, which up until now holds mass in Portuguese.
*Photo not mine
3. Devour on free samples of Macau’s gastronomical treats
The walk to The Ruins of St. Paul was leisurely with the weather and the food you can see and try along the way. I love bakwa (meat jerky) at any given time so imagine my excitement when I saw bakwa everywhere! Aunties cutting strips of bakwa and giving free taste to passersby was heaven to me. Not only that, you can also see a sea of bakeries selling almond cookies, which of course you can try.
Must try – the spicy beef from Bee Cheng Hiang
Out of all the many that I’ve tried, Koi Kei’s almond cookies stood out for me
4. Take your best shot of The Ruins of St. Paul
Probably the most famous landmark of Macau, The Ruins of St. Paul is officially listed as part of the Historic Centre of Macau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if the stone facade and pillars were the only ones left standing, it somehow gives a glimpse of the glamour it probably once held. You might also want to visit the Museum here which is free of charge.
Ruins of St. Paul’s Church is Macau’s postcard image
5. Know your host country, visit Museum of Macau
When I go to new places, I almost always make a point to visit their local museum. I believe it helps me get to know the place, and eventually appreciate it better. Located in Mount Fortress, which is just adjacent to The Ruins of St. Paul, this was home to the city’s military defence. This is now home to the 3 level museum, which showcases the Genesis of Macau (1st Floor), Popular Arts and Tradition (2nd Floor) and Contemporary Macau (3rd Floor).
Hours of Operation:
10am to 6pm (Ticket booth closes 5:30pm)
Closed on Mondays, Free for public on the 15th of every month, Open on public holidays.
MOP 15 – Adults
MOP 8 – Children aged 5-10; – Students with valid ID; – Seniors aged 60 or above
Free – Children under 5; – Scholastic and associations’fieldtrips; – All visitors on the 15th of every month
Macao ID cardholders and Macao student cardholders can visit the museum for free on Sundays
6. Try your luck
Even for someone who does not like gambling, I had to try my luck in Macau. It probably is the shining lights , the sound of slot machines raking cash, the energy of this strip or maybe, the persistence of a husband who doesn’t want to quit that made me sit in a casino for 4 hours. It’s really not my thing but who knows, maybe lady luck is on your side. Unfortunately, it wasn’t with me but at least there’s free soda and coffee. Lol.
The Venetian Macau *Photo not mine
7. Eat that delicious Chicken Shawarma from the Persian Kebab stall in Rua da Caldeira
Why is it worth the stop? Because it is so damn good. It’s the real deal, cooked by a Persian guy himself who was very nice and didn’t complain as we slathered loads and loads of sauce on our shawarma at every bite.
This is the best chicken shawarma I’ve tried so far
Other things you can do which I wasn’t able to:
1. Must see the A-Ma Temple
One of the oldest and most famous Taoist temples in Macau
2. Lord Stow’s Bakery at Coloane
Even if it’s already here, it’s nice to try the famous egg tart from where it all started.
3. Do the extreme at the Macau Tower
If you are the adventurous type, then a visit to the Macau Tower is in order. Activities like the bunny jump, sky jump, sky walk and tower climb will surely get you on a high, literally and figuratively! You may book from the AJ Hackett Adventure Company to check on available dates as well as the rates.