Macau is a formerly Western colony that is now an independent territory in China. Quite like Hong Kong. It is also the “new gambling resort capital of the world with 5 of the world’s 10 largest casino resorts” according to China Highlights.
The casinos and the famous Venetian Hotel that I wrote about last week are located in the Taipa region. On the other side of the bridge, north of the modern buildings and casinos, is the historic center. The city is a fascinating blend of European architecture and Chinese decorations. This is a result of being a Portuguese colony for 300 years until 1999!
The facade of St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of Macau’s main attractions, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It looms over the city atop an impressive stairway reminiscent of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Wandering through the historic center you will be assaulted by the smells of Portuguese egg rolls, Chinese meat sheets and various other multicultural street foods.
Visiting Macau can be the perfect day trip from Hong Kong and you can either get there by ferry or helicopter. The ferry takes 50 minutes and it’s definitely not what you would expect. You get a seat in airplane-style seats that you are expected to stay in throughout the journey while you order drinks and snacks from the crew. It’s no different than being on a plane and the boat engines even sound the same!
Economy class tickets for the ferry cost anywhere between 132 and 172 HKD for a one way trip. The price is higher in the evenings, on weekends and during holidays. It’s best to book in advance, but if you’re willing to wait you can just show up at the ferry terminal in the Shun Tak Center and get in line. Going by helicopter takes 15 minutes and costs 4,300 HKD. I haven’t tried it yet but I’ll tell you all about it once I do!
No matter how you go there, remember that you are going to a different country. This means that you need to get to the terminal early, bring your passport and fill out the necessary immigration forms (Hong Kong departure form, etc.) Nationals from 66 countries are exempt from needing a visa. This includes EU citizens and Americans. Chinese passport holders do need to get visa in advance unfortunately.
If you are a passport stamp collector, don’t get overly excited. Neither Macau nor Hong Kong will stamp your passport no matter how much you beg them to. Instead you get a slip of paper with your entry date and the amount of time you are allowed to stay. You won’t need to show this paper to immigration when you depart, but you should keep it close by just in case.
From my experience, foreigners are not randomly stopped by the police in China, Hong Kong or Macau. Despite the strict image that China has, visitors have much more freedom than you can imagine. You can drink alcohol in public, you can go wherever you want (for example the rooftops of random buildings) and the only time the bus I was on got stopped in Shanghai, the police refused to even touch our passports and only checked the locals. But hey, better safe than sorry!