Situated across the bay from the other former colony of Hong Kong, Macau is a city that was returned to the nominal control of the People’s Republic of China, although it still retains much of its autonomy. The culture in Macau is surprisingly different to its prestigious neighbor, and displays much of the Portuguese heritage that comes with the colonial influence, and one benefit is that the residents of Macau enjoy the second highest life expectancy in the world. The city is one which is largely based on tourism and gambling, which also helps to make it very different destination to mainland China.
Travel to Macau is considered to be very safe, and while the US Government does warn people to use their common sense and be vigilant about petty crime, it generally enjoys a very low crime rate.
Sights To See
The Ruins Of St Paul’s – One of the first buildings built by colonists in Macau, today only the grand frontage of this former cathedral and college complex remains, but the carving on this Jesuit building is still hugely impressive.
Macau Tower – The tower dominates the skyline of Macau’s city center, and is home to a range of entertainment and sightseeing facilities, including the excellent Skydeck and also has a controlled bungee jump along the side of the tower dropping 233m.
A-Ma Temple – At the southern end of the peninsula lies this beautiful temple complex which dates from the end of the fifteenth century, before the colonial period and is a stunning example of a Taoist temple.
The Statue Of Guangin – A fascinating blend of modern and traditional sculptural styles, this statue depicts the goddess Guanyin, and is located in a great position overlooking the seaside area of the city.
Macau’s Historic Center – Incorporating several of the most important religious buildings in the city and much of the city’s fortifications, this area of Macau is well worth visiting and provides an interesting counterpoint to the modern parts of the city.
The Grand Prix Museum – While Macau is famous for its street circuit which hosts a Formula 3 race every year, this museum traces the history of racing in the city and also displays exhibits from around the world.
The Guia Fortress – Located on a forested hill in the center of Macau, this fortress also incorporates a lighthouse and a chapel, and is a peaceful escape from the bustling city center.
Penha Hill – This small wooded peninsula stretching out into the lagoon is a lovely place where there are a good selection of hotels to use, and is a slightly more refined part of the city to visit.
Venetian Casino – The sixth largest building in the world incorporating the world’s largest casino, no visit to Macau is complete without exploring this opulent building which includes an indoor canal along with a venue that has been used for sports such as boxing, basketball and music concerts.
Coloane Island’s Beaches – At the southern end of Macau lies this attractive island which is home to the best beaches in Macau, and also offers a golf course and some beautiful historic settlements.
Where To Stay In Macau
Lisboa Hotel – One of the largest hotels in the main city of Macau, the Lisboa offers luxurious and attractively designed rooms in a hotel which incorporates its own casino, and has a tremendous restaurant boasting a Michelin star for the quality of its food.
Holiday Hotel – Just a few hundred yards from the ruins of St Paul’s and the historic sights of Macau, this hotel offers competitively priced rooms with all of the features most visitors would need in what can be an expensive part of the city.
Sands Macao Hotel – The distinctive gold reflective material that covers much of the hotel makes it one of the most recognized buildings in the area, and offers truly luxurious accommodation with a swimming pool, three noted restaurants and a great bar with live entertainment.
The Venetian Macao Resort – One of the most impressive buildings in Macau, visitors to the hotel enjoy opulent spacious rooms and can take advantage of the wealth of features such as a mini golf course, delightful swimming pool area and an outstanding gym area.
Conrad Macao Hotel – This large hotel enjoys its own shuttle bus, which is a boon for those flying into the city, while the rooms are well appointed with beautiful marble bathrooms, and the addition of a children’s pool along with the adults swimming pool is a good feature for families.
Best Western Taipa – While it may lack the luxurious surroundings of some of its neighbors, this large hotel is conveniently located for the airport and has competitively priced rooms with useful facilities such as wi-fi internet and a swimming pool in an attractive location.
The Westin Resort – Close to one of the nicest beaches in Macau, this hotel enjoys an excellent series of swimming pools and beautiful maintained gardens, while also having spacious rooms, many of which enjoy excellent views out over the coast.
Pousada De Coloane Beach Hotel – This small boutique hotel has a good location above an attractive beach, and offers peaceful, well furnished rooms that are perfect for a relaxing getaway, with some rooms enjoying a superb balcony area too.
One of the biggest influences that can be seen in Macanese cuisine comes from the Portuguese colonists, which is combined with the Chinese food that is found in the rest of the region. One dish which is typical of the area is Bacalhau, which takes the Portuguese staple of salted cod and usually serves it in the style of a fish cake, with olives, potato and a blend of local herbs and spices. Galinha a Portuguesa is a blend of chicken and potatoes that is cooked in a mild curry sauce and is typical of the blend of cultures in Macanese cuisine
Currency and Visa
Because Macau is largely an autonomous state within China, the visa rules for visitors are quite different, and American tourists can visit Macau for up to thirty days without having to arrange a visa in advance. The currency there is the Pataca, which is pegged in rate to the Hong Kong Dollar, and has recently been trading for around eight Patacas per dollar. It is also worth noting that Hong Kong Dollars are widely used in Macau too, and it is not unusual for visitors to get their change from a purchase in a mix of Patacas and Hong Kong Dollars.