Macau is featured in nearly every guide on Hong Kong. It’s described by Lonely Planet as ‘far more about history than blackjack’, but after taking a day trip to the ‘Vegas of the East’ I find myself wondering, was it worth the effort?
There are some interesting parts to the region. Firstly, it’s pleasantly strange to see the blend of Asian and Portuguese, but after continuously anticipating turning the corner to find an abundance of Portuguese cafes (and never doing so), I was surprised at how subtle the region’s recent dual-nationality actually was. It took hunting down free Wi-fi outside of a shopping centre to be able to search for a Portuguese cafe on TripAdvisor (out of principle I didn’t want to eat anything but Portuguese-Asian cuisine!). Our third attempt (the first was closed and the second pretty pricey) led us to a great bar/tavern/restaurant called Cathedral Cafe, which I’d definitely recommend if you’re planning on visiting.
Some of the buildings are charmingly Portuguese in style and colouring, and the plentiful bakeries selling pasteis de nata brought back fond memories of my trip to the Azores. Some of the streets have a certain charm to them, but others outside of the area around St Paul’s ruins are concrete jungles. But even so, a couple of nice streets isn’t enough to justify the trek there and back (keep reading for details).
So why is Macau so popular amongst visitors to Hong Kong? Well it clearly gets the crowds due to the sprawling casinos that line the city – as demonstrated by the many free hotel shuttle buses that are ready to take you to and from their casinos. And for gamblers, it’s a haven; we visited the Grand Lisboa but had intended to visit the Venetian too. But if you’re not going just to gamble, is it really worth the effort? If I had to sum up my visit, I’d say it’s nothing special. It’s a nice day trip from Hong Kong but with an hour ferry ride there and back, plus time for passport control, at approx 170HKD (currently £16) each way, it’s not a cheap day out.
My advice to those who aren’t going just for the casinos would be to leave it till the end of your trip to Hong Kong, and only then if you’ve ran out of things to do. If you do go, make sure you have a plan for the day. It’s easy enough to aimlessly wander the main streets around the ruins but you might need to get a taxi there from the ferry.
Ferry: we took the TurboJet ferry from Sheung Wan on HK Island to Macau outer ferry terminal which seemed the best option, as they run as frequently as every 15 minutes.