Macau is a popular side trip destination for tourist visiting Hong Kong. It boast to be the Las Vegas of Asia because of the large casino complex. It also hosts one of UNESCO World Heritage Site - The Ruins of St. Paul and its surroundings. I think Macau is more than just a side trip, its a destination itself. Allow yourself to spend two or three days in Macau and roam around large Casinos, historical districts and old Cantonese Towns.
Let me share to you the places of interest and activities which you cannot miss once in Macau. I will also share our experiences and narratives in this tiny territory.
1. Ruins of St. Paul
No one can miss the Ruins of St. Paul. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most popular landmark in Macau.
Located in Central Macau, most the tourist are flocking in the Ruins of St. Paul if not in big Casino Complex. During peak hours you'll have a hard time looking for spot to take your picture. People are literally everywhere, in every spot! I doubt if you can pick your coin or bill when you drop them in front of Ruins of St. Paul.
I always see this landmark whenever friends are visiting Macau. Seeing it with my own eye, my inner ear orchestrated a Mozart while I feel the history of the place. I would have wanted to have a local guide or friend that could tell me something about each stones and step in the Ruins of St. Paul. But nah... I don't think people are longing for a guide, some people hate history lessons when traveling. Some are just after selfie and hundred likes in social media. Peace!!!
The Ruins is formerly called Church of St. Paul or Mater Dei before it was destroyed by a fire during the 1830's. The church was run by the Jesuits dedicated to Apostle Paul. In 2005 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Grand Lisboa Casino
Today the Ruins of St. Paul stand as one of the world best landmark. It stands in the middle of Macau bustling Casino Complex. Its nice to see the contrast of old Macau and the modern casino complex in close proximity. At the Ruins of St. Paul, you will have a great vantage point of casino complex especially the golden Chinese inspired building of Grand Lisboa.
2. Senado Square
10 minutes walk from the Ruins of St. Paul you will reach the equally historic Largo Do Senado or more commonly known as the Senado Square.
While walking down to Senado Square you will came across vast array of shops catering to tourist including souvenir shops, restaurants, boutiques, delis shops, bookstores and a lot more. We were there on a Sunday thus like in the Ruins of St. Paul, people were everywhere. Folks with different language and skin colors were there either hanging out, eating over priced durian ice cream, eating free beef jerky or just walking fast going to Senado Square.
The former street was converted into a pedestrian only street due to the number of tourist visiting. Its like a stream of people where in people are almost going the same way to the Senado Square.
The streets along Senado Square are paved with Portuguese tiles. I have read somewhere that the black and white tiles were shipped directly from Portugal. The tiles from Portugal adds to the hype to the tourist to walk on this historic area. The aesthetics is superbly nice and every body wants a piece of it through their selfies and signature poses including us ;)
At the end of your walk you will reach a large area where tourist are craving for a selfie. And why not, in every spot, there are Old European buildings that makes the place historical appealing.
At the end of the Senado Square is the Leal Senado Building. The Chinese and Portugese officials would meet there to talk about the affairs of Macau. It is the seat of the Portugese government in Macau. When Macau was handed over to China in 1999, it became the headquarters of the Institute of Civic and Municipal
3. Streets of Central Macau
Macau is full of hustle and bustle at least in Central where the historic center and colonial architecture is located. It is noisy and full of folks wanting to have a piece of this tiny territory in China.
Afternoon of our last day in Macau, we decided to stroll around Central Macau. Without riding any motorized and non-motorizes vehicle, I wanted to see more of Macau and have something to bring back home. Lana wants to buy a book in Mandarin for her growing collection of books. Though she can't read the Mandarin book she still wants it for memorabilia.
We are actually looking for Livraria Seng Kwong Limited, a bookstore that Lana saw online. Our only basis in finding the bookstore is GoogleMaps. Luckily we did and my girl friend bought a Mandarin Version of the Little Prince.
After that I think we were lost but that was okay for me. As long as I have time, it does not matter where I am. The most beautiful places and experience are sometimes found in the most unexpected way.
4. Macau Tower
If you wanna see Macau skyline point your feet at Macau Tower!
Officially known as Macau Tower Convention & Entertainment Center, this 338 meters tower is the best place to see the whole territory of Macau from day until night. It is home to variety of shops including restaurants, boutiques, cinemas, observation deck and the world famous sky jump and Skywalk.
I bought our ticket to Macau tower via klook.com thus we avoided the hassle of lining up to buy our passes.
Watch the video below to see the observation deck of the Macau tower.
We stayed in Macau tower until sunset to see Macau's skyline glowing in white and neon colors.
Spending our afternoon in Macau Tower was definetly worth our time and effort. Seeing the city in a great vantage point and in a macro perspective gives a refreshing chance to dream and to chase dream.
5. Casino Hopping
One of the great thing about Macau is that all major tourism spots is very well connected. They do not have trains yet but all casinos have free shuttle buses going around. You can literally do casino hopping in Macau. Most of the casinos are in Taipa.
From Macau Tower we took the City of Dreams Macau shuttle bus going to Taipa. If you did not read it, its free!!!
Our goal really is to go to Venetian Macau. Well they have the world famous replica of the canals of Venice, Italy. So from City of Dreams we cross the street and whoala there is Venetian Macau!
But before we actually see the canals and gondolas in the Venecian Macau, we decided to stroll around the City of Dreams.
Aside from the casino, City of Dreams has a lot of luxurious botiques and restaurants.
The Venetian Macau is so grand. You can smell luxury when you enter their big and heavy doors. You will be greeted by the lobby centerpiece where everybody is taking a picture of themselves.
We wanted to have dinner and see the Venetian Canal, thats the reason we went to Venetian Macau. There are a lot of things you can do in Venetian Macau, also in other casino, aside from gambling. There are shops ranging from luxury to mid level shops. There are also restaurant where you can dine.
But most people wants to see the Venetian canal. Going there and have a picture where your background are the gondolas would be very mainstream, I thought. But seeing it is a different story. It gives me a chill seeing the masterpiece they made inside the Venetian Macau. Its very magnanimously luxurious!
Its so huge! There are a lot of alleys that makes it confusing when you stroll around. Venetian Macau is like an indoor city with all the things that you need to live.
At the back of the Venetian Macau is the equally huge casino complex - the Galaxy Macau. We did not spend a lot of time in the Galaxy Macau. We just wanted to see the hotels and the casino. What more I can say, Macau maybe has a surplus of cash flow that is why they have all these casino complex!
Back at Macau Island walking distance from Senado Square is the Grand Lisboa.
6. Macau at Night
To see the beauty of the place in a different perspective try to roam around at night. The lights and darkness gives the city a mood that ignites creativity and romantic vibe.
After we had our dinner at the Venetian Macau, we headed back to SanVa Hotel in Central Macau to cap off the night. But the night was still young and my body though tired, my senses longs for more of Macau. I asked Lana, if we could stroll around to see Macau at night. She said that she's tired and wants to rest. So due to my longing I went ahead and stroll by myself.
I went back to the Ruins of St. Paul to capture it at night. Ruins of St. Paul is so gorgeous at night. The lights made the century old ruins more dramatic. The light hypnotized me to climb the stairs and come closer to the ruins.
I noticed that there were group people sitting in darkness on the stairs. They have a bottle of liquors and some food with them while talking using a language that is very common to me. They were speaking in my native tongue.
They are Filipinos! ... and they were drinking Red Horse. Did they smuggled it there?
I do not know if they are tourist. But my guts told me that they are OFWs or Filipinos working in Macau because I overheard some of them talking about life and life challenges. Maybe I am right, there are tons of Filipino workers in Macau. I saw them at the ferry station, Shuttle bus, casinos, restaurants and wherever.
What's nice is that we would know if you are a Filipino with by hearing your English. When you asked for a direction its common that you will speak in English. But when we Filipinos asked our countrymen working in Macau in English, for sure they will speak to us in Filipino or in our national language.
Going back, after I saw the beauty of Ruins of St, Paul I turned right and proceed to Fortaleza do Monte or Monte Fort or the Big Fortress.
The 400 years old fortress was built originally to protect the properties of the Jesuits in Macau. After the fortress was used by many Portuguese and Macau authorities, the fortress now hosts the Museum of Macau. Too bad I went there at night, I did not had the chance to see the museum
7. Coloane Village
Aside from the Ruins of St. Paul and the big casinos, I wanted to visit some villages in Macau. Coloane Village is less than an hour by public transportation from Central Macau.
There is nothing in Coloane aside from old village structures like churches, temples and houses; and a river promenade overlooking Guangdong, China.
8. A-Ma Cultural Village
A-Ma Cultural Village is not a popular destination among tourist. Not to my knowledge and experience. A-Ma Cultural Village is home to the tallest statue of goddess A-Ma.
From Coloagne Village we hopped a 21A bus to get to A-Ma Cultural Village. The travel time should be less than 10 minutes. But due to the unfamiliarity of the place we missed the bus stop were we are supposed to get off. SEAC Pai Van Park bus stop is supposed to be at the edge of the arch going to A-Ma Cultural Village. Instead, we went off the bus at the Koi Nga Building Bus Stop where towering apartment buildings are located.
We were lost souls in the concrete jungle of Macau. Good thing, there was a kind hearten policeman who went out of his office just to point us the way to A-Ma.
Finally we arrived at the A-Ma Cultural Village jump off after riding another bus. There is a free shuttle going up the Cultural Village at the entrance. You won’t miss it because its just in front. It’s the only way up to A-Ma Cultural Village otherwise hire a taxi.
The bus will stop in front of Tin Hau Palace. My Chinese action film setting comes alive when I saw the gates of the Palace. Its magnanimously beautiful. The exteriors are very fine and detailed. I am very sure that building this was very precise and accurate other wise it would not achieve that symmetrical beauty of the palace.
I am not an expert when it comes to Chinese architecture or architecture at all, but I am very sure all the elements in the palace exterior and interiors has a meaning. The dragons carved in front, the number of roof layers, the colors and all the elements makes this palace a meaningful palace. Well it would be better if there are guides that could tell us about the palace and its history.
Further up the mountain is the statue of goddess A-Ma.
A-Ma, the goddess of seafarers was believed to protect the fisherman and merchants who sails to Macau. They put a statue of her in Barra Hill, Coloane highest point to worship her. The Portuguese gave the name "Macau" which means "the port of A-Ma"
A-Ma Cultural Village is open from 8:00AM to 6:00PM
9. Panadas at Seac Pai Van Park
Just beside the A-Ma Cultural Village entrance is a park dedicated to pandas. There are pandas in Macau. You can see these cute but wild creatures for just 10MOP. That's very cheap actually.
This was an unexpected visit thus we did not saw any panda. According to some park authority the pandas are breeding thus they prohibit visitors to see then during our unexpected visit. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed our short stay at the Seac Pai Van Park. We roam around and took pictures at panda sculptures.
There is also a souvenir shop where we bought present for our love once back home. The price is not cheap but affordable with very good quality compared to those you can buy at the streets. There are stuffed toys, school supplies, mugs and almost anything that is panda inspired.
When you visit Macau try to see the pandas at Panadas at Seac Pai Van Park. Don't forget to research first to see if they are allowing tourist to see pandas.
The park is closed during Mondays and is open from 10:00AM－1:00PM and 2:00PM－5:00PM from Tuesdays to Sundays
10. Buy and Eat Beef Jerky on Your Way to St. Paul Ruins
This is a bonus must do or shall I say must eat in Macau. Going to the Ruins of St. Paul, there is a narrow street full of folks from all over the world slowly walking. There are local folks giving away free taste of some of Macau's delicacy. Here you can have your lunch for free. I mean that. With a lot of beef jerky and almond cookies you don't need a lunch!
Anyway I bought a lot of almond cookies and beef jerky in this narrow road that leads to the Ruins of St. Paul.
So there you have it my list of things to do and must see in Macau, China.