The most conveniant way to get to Macau is to take the ferry from Hong Kong. Many operators provide regular ferry service (every 15-30 minutes) from the Hong Kong Ferry Terminal located in the north-western part of Hong Kong island (subway Sheung Wan).
TIckets can be bought in the terminal before the departure or online. In the latter case they need to be collected at the ticket counter anyway. The return ticket costs some 30-40 euro and the journey takes 40 minutes.
Several low cost airlines offer direct regular flights from Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and some Chinese cities. Due to the fact that the airport is small, there are no intercontinental flights to Macau.
Macau has the same administrative status as Hong Kong. It formally constitutes part of China, however, it benefits from special political and economic status. It means that citizens of most European countries do not need visa to enter Macau.
Macau has its own currency, pataca. 1 pataca equals 0.9 HK dollar. HK dollar is widely accepted for payments at the exchange rate of 1:1.
Pretty little colonial treasure in the Far East
Macau is an ideal place to be explored within one day. However, its mix of Mediterranean peaceful atmosphere and Chinese culture could make it an interesting holiday destination for few days.
We have been to Macau twice, each time for one day only but we would like to be back for longer stay. It is so different from Hong Kong and its business profile. First of all Macau is much smaller and compact which allows for its slow exploration on own feet. Mediterranean architecture in the city centre neighbors typical Chinese residential districts. There are not so many Europeans or Americans to be met in the streets and the most visitors come from mainland China.
Last but not least, Macau has its Old Town with narrow, picturesque streets. However, its reputation in the region is driven by its relaxed regulations for gambling which make the place Las Vegas of Far East. Actually, Las Vegas looks like the lottery stand when compared to Macau because casinos in the latter place generate 6 times more annual revenues than the dessert place in Nevada. This figure gives some idea about the level of wealth in China, although unequally spread throughout the population. We went to Grand Lisboa Casino just to see how it looks like. The place was overcrowded like the supermarket just before Christmas and it actually was a gamblers’ supermarket were the visitors from mainland China love to do what they can’t do home.
Most casinos and luxury hotels are located on Taipa Island belonging to Macau and they do not adversely affect the Mediterranean character of the mainland Macau.
What and how to see in Macau
During both our visits to Macau we were offered a guided trip already in the arrival hall of Macau Ferry Terminal. For some 70 euro including the tickets to the TV tower we got the full day service of the English speaking guide/ driver.
Except of unforgettable views, the TV tower offers bungee jumping from 230 meters and an opportunity to take a pic outside of the observation deck.
From the tower we were taken to the Chapel of Our Lady of Penha which is located on top of the hill with amazing views on Macau. Next stop was the A Ma Temple built in 15th century on the slope of a hill to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu.
We spent the rest of the day to explore the Old Town and the city centre including the ruins of St. Paul’s cathedral which was destroyed by fire in 19th century, except of its facade. When hungry we recommend to taste the local delicacy – dried pork or beef with herbs and spices which is sold in numerous food stores in the Old Town. It is delicious.
Last but not least, Macau focuses on and attracts mainly Chinese tourists. Therefore, communication in English does not always work. Knowledge of Portuguese is close to zero although all public information and announcements are always bilingual (Chinese and Portuguese).