Macau is a small city and special autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, and the most densely populated place in the world. With a long history of Portuguese colonial rule mixed with Chinese culture, it is an interesting mix of east and west, with a unique cuisine and history. What is there to do when you only have two days in this urban paradise?
After this pandemic is over of course.
The name Macau comes from the Sea Goddess Mazu. When Portuguese first came to the area, they asked for the name of the place, but the local Han Chinese fisherman though they were asking about the name of the nearby Mazu temple "Ma Kok 媽閣"
Macau had human settlements beginning six thousand years ago, and was part of China since 221 BC, but it was not really built as an established settlement until the Portuguese colonized it in 1557, via lease agreement with China.
I999, Portugal agreed to return Macau to China with the provision that it would retain its economic and political system for 50 years. After that time, Macau relied on the casino industry for growth, and now is one of the richest places in the world per capita.
How to get there:
By Plane: Daily flights are available from Macau International Airport.
Routes from China: You can reach Macau by Ferry or Bus from Zhuhai or Hong Kong.
How to get around:
Bus: There are plenty of buses that go all over this small island.
Bikes: The area is small enough that you can get around by renting a bike.
Walking: You can walk around the most of Macau in a day, but it might get tiring.
Please see below:
Please note Macao also extends to the south island with the airport.
Our Two Day Journey:
On this trip we visited the following places:
Let's get started!
So what brought me to Macau like many Taiwan expats was a visa run. I had just started working at a cram school temporarily while I looked for other jobs, but the cram school was really slow and inexperienced at applying for ARCs, so I had to leave the country before my 90 day visa exemption expired. Macau was the cheapest destination out of the country from Kaohsiung, so we decided to spend a weekend there.
We ended up at a cheap hotel that was actually expensive compared to Taiwan. We had trouble riding the bus from the airport to our hotel, but we eventually found it somehow.
It is kind of hard to navigate in Macau because most things are either in Chinese or Portuguese, there is not much English around in comparison.
Senado Square 議事亭前地
Our first stop was Senado Square. It's like an outdoor mall, and so we spent most of the day here.
There are tons of shops here in the alleyways that spread out, and many international clothing shops and restaurant chains.
Ruins of St. Paul's 大三巴牌坊 (Ruínas de São Paulo)
Next we checked out the ruins of St. Paul. Senado Square links up with the ruins of St. Paul's, so it is hard to miss.
St. Paul's was once the largest church in Asia when it was built in1640, but was destroyed by a fire and Typhoon in 1835. Now only the front wall remains, and it just may be the most iconic part of Macau.
View of the side toward the sun.
Closer view to the ruins.
Statue of Matteo Ricci, one of the first Jesuit missionaries to visit China and the first Westerner to catalouge the Chinese language and invent Chinese Romanization, which is the basis of the romanization systems we use today like Hanyu Pinyin. He is an interesting guy.
Museum of Macau 澳門博物館 (Museu de Macau)
Right next to the St. Paul Ruins is the Museum of Macao. This was one of the highlights of our trip and I highly recommend visiting.
Writings of Confucius in display,
A representation of pre-historic peoples in Macau,
Chinese character printing press.
Fancy mural on a room divider.
Early Portuguese settlement on Macau.
Typical historic Macau living room.
Traditional Chinese bed. There were many many more artifacts in here, so if you are interested in seeing more, go check it our for yourself!
Mount Fortress 大砲台 (Fortaleza do Monte)
On top of the museum (or one could say that the museum was built into it) is the Mount Fortress, which was built in 1617 to protect the Jesuits living in Macau from pirates.
The space here was converted into the Museum on Macau in 1998.
View of the old Macau neighborhoods with huge high rises in China across the river.
Another view from the top of the fort. Up here you can really get your bearings and understand how big Macau is.
Another view looking across the river.
One of the canons on display pointing at the Grand Libosa Tower and Casino.
After looking at the museum, we explored more of the ruins of St. Paul from behind.
Historical District 歷史城市區
The historical district of Macau is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is a pedestrian zone with many historical landmarks and buildings. There is lots here to explore.
We also had lots of great street food in the historical district, but I don't have any photos of that. The historical district has lots of food stalls and clothing stores, much as you would expect from a Taiwanese night market, except Macau has the added bonus of having traditional historical European architecture in an East Asian context, creating an Asian fusion kind of feel.
Above is a statue of Bernardino De Senna Fernandes, a famous writer of mixed descent that captured the aura of his time in the early 1900s in Macau.
Many tourists walking through the streets of the historical district.
Saint Dominic's Church 板樟堂 (Igreja de São Domingos)
With its distinct yellow exterior, one of the most iconic buildings in the old district is the Saint Dominic's Church. This was built by Mexican priests in 1587 using baroque style, when Portugal and Spain were joined. Recently it has been renovated and there is a museum next to it.
View of the main altar inside.
View of the main chapel.
Sé Cathedral 澳門主敎座堂 (Sé Catedral da Natividade de Nossa Senhora)
The Se Cathedral, also known as the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady, was originally built as a wooden chapel in 1623. In 1937, it was rebuilt with concrete.
Casino Tour 賭場旅行
Coming to Macau, I wanted to check out the cansios, even though I had no intention to gamble. First I checked out the Grand Libosa Tower and Casino seen above. It is 261 stories tall and 200 meters tall.
In the lobby area of the casino are a ton of gold intricate sculptures, that were given as gifts of good luck and fortune when the building was built.
Giant gold dragon boat on display.
What looks like an intricate wood carving of a traditional Chinese scene,.
Looking up at the Grand Libosa.
Casino Libosa across the street.
The libosa hotel with different lights, as well as other casinos.
Gold clock in another casino nearby.
After all that fun, we walked back to our hotel. The streets of Macau have their own charm.
Near our hotel we tried the local food, and I had the best plate of fried rice I have ever tasted. It was fish fried rice, but I can't remember what type of fish. I am guessing Spanish Mackerel.
Also we had some delicious curry and noodles.
Again, we also had lots of great street food in the historical district, but I don't have any photos of that.
After that it was time to pack up and leave. Not understanding Portuguese, we took the wrong bus and did not end up at the airport. We ended up walking about 2KM from the bus stop to the airport. We didn't take a taxi because we were literally out of cash. Luckily Macau is small.
Things we missed:
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.