Beyond its massive casinos, there’s the Portuguese charm that seems so genuine here. After all, Macau was colonized by Portugal for 442 years. Since its historic handover back to China in December 1999, Macau still retains its soul.
Exploring Macau in a day is really simple, as it can be done straight from Hong Kong. From Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan, I took around one-hour ferry ride to Macau.
A trip to Macau isn’t complete without the casinos. Once arrived, you may hop on one of the casino shuttles parked outside the ferry terminal. Each shuttle bus takes the passengers right to the casino they represent, and I managed to secure a seat at the Galaxy Macau bus.
After spending few hours at the casino, I proceeded to Senado Square that can actually be reached by getting a ride from the Galaxy shuttle. But for its long queue, I eventually opted for a taxi because of time constraint.
Senado Square should be on your to-do-list in Macau. Pastel colors and neo-classical buildings from the Portuguese era are abundant in this centuries-old urban square. Local authorities hired the experts to create Portuguese-styled traditional tiles back in 1990s. These colored stones certainly add up the charm.
Senado’s beauty doesn’t end there. Take a look at Santa Casa Da Misericordia. Also known as Holy House of Mercy, this historic building was founded in 1569, before the local government in Macau was even set up. It currently has most of its members from Roman Catholic and Macau-born Portuguese communities.
You might also want to check out the St Dominic’s Church as well. In 1587, three Spanish Dominican priests established the church. This is where the first Portuguese newspaper, A Abelha da China, was published in China.
Senado Square is considered the most popular for public celebrations and events. When I went there at end of February, I spotted red lanterns that were hanged above the grounds. I wonder how many people turned here during Chinese New Year’s peak festival.
Locals and visitors often frequent this square. During my visit, I also jostled with many people. I assumed they were heading to Ruins of St Paul’s on foot like I did. Ruins of St Paul’s is widely regarded as the icon of Macau. It is advised to follow the directions from signboards written in Mandarin, Portuguese and English to get to the ruins.
While you’re at Senado Square, make sure you don’t miss out on the Portuguese egg tarts, especially the ones from Pastelaria Koi Kei. With 21 chains around Macau, the quality of these tarts speaks for themselves. Their freshly baked egg tart is seriously good, with its crispy crust and soft egg yolk filling. Each tart costs HKD 9.
I eventually arrived at Ruins of St. Paul’s that looks impressive from afar. Constructed within the year of 1602 to 1640, the ruins were once the complex of Church of Mater Dei and St Paul’s College. Today only the front façade and stone stairs stay still, where hordes of tourists would stroke a pose for photos.
Climb the stairs, and then get closer with the façade. Standing high at 25.5 meters, the façade itself has five tiers that incorporate both biblical and mythological images. You’ll witness baroque ornaments, including Portuguese ships and bronze statues of the Jesuit saints. You can see the figures of Holy Trinity through the upper three tiers. Chinese elements such as the Chinese characters and lions are also present. I know you won’t dare to skip this essentially Macau experience!
Turbojet is one reliable ferry operator that serves regular ferries from Hong Kong to Macau and vice versa. The classes are divided into Economy, Super and Premier VIP Cabin. For fare information, visit www.turbojet.com.hk/en and click “Routing & Sailing Schedule” on Ticketing tab.
- Ferry Terminal
When booking for the ferry ticket, mind the ferry terminal you depart from and arrive at. Hong Kong has Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal (Sheung Wan), China Ferry Terminal (Kowloon) and Tuen Mun Ferry Terminal (New Territories). Meanwhile, Macau has Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal and Taipa Ferry Terminal.
Both Macau and Hong Kong have different immigration points. Bring your passport to get through the immigration clearance at Hong Kong and Macau’s ferry terminals.
Macau’s official currency is Macanese Pataca (MOP), but you can use your Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) there at approximately similar rate with MOP. Unfortunately, MOP doesn’t work the same in Hong Kong.
Photos by RANDY MULYANTO