Dubbed the ‘Las Vegas of China’, Macau is undoubtedly one of the strangest places I have been ever been. Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (just as Hong Kong is) and belonged to Portugal until 1999. Exploring the winding and cobbled streets of Macau’s Old Town left me with a bizarre sense of déjà vu; the architecture looked like any other traditional Portuguese town with countless stalls selling Portuguese egg custard tarts.
The main tourist attraction in the Old Town are the ruins of the 17th century St Paul’s Cathedral. Impressive in its own right, its position next to the temple of Na Tcha Temple is certainly an odd sight! A few streets away from the ruins are a number of churches and cathedrals which are worth poking your head in, including St. Anthony’s Church and St Lazarus’ Church.
Macau, of course, is also famous for its super-sized, cavernous casinos, of which there are 33 in total. We spent an afternoon ‘casino-hopping’, continuously being stunned by each one. Most offer a free shuttle bus to other casinos, which I recommend taking where possible as even walking from one end of of a casino to another is no mean feat!
The most opulent and impressive casinos are The Venetian, Macau’s largest casino and The Parisian, which is complete with its very own Eiffel Tower and French street impersonators. Others worth checking out include the Wynn Casino, which has its own cable car (it doesn’t go far, just around the outside of the building over a huge water feature) and The Galaxy, whose gold, metallic exterior would not look out of place in Dubai. We stayed in the extremely plush J.W. Marriott; the bathroom alone was as big as our entire flat in Hong Kong! If you upgrade to use the Executive Floor, breakfast, afternoon tea, cocktail hour and a buffet-style dinner (the food and drink selection was pretty good), is included.
Everything to do with Macau’s casinos are epic; the sheer number of people gambling, the unbelievable size of the buildings and each one’s unique grandeur. Don’t expect the wild, hedonistic atmosphere of Las Vegas, you certainly won’t be reenacting The Hangover here but you will be amazed by Macau and you never know, you might even get lucky!
Getting to Macau is quick and easy. It takes an hour on the ferry, which you can get either from the Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island, or from the Kowloon China Ferry Terminal. Ferries are frequent and tickets cost around 150HKD one way for an economy ticket (they are more expensive at weekends and public holidays). If you are feeling flush, you can also take a 15 minute helicopter ride.
A trip to Macau is a bizarre and interesting experience; there is no place quite like it. That being said, I am not sure I would necessarily recommend it as a destination to visit. Save your pennies for the real Las Vegas!