We stayed in Macau for two nights, at Galaxy Hotel Macau. Initially, we thought that two days will be a little short to see the entire city, but after two days in Macau, we felt that we had seen everything. There was nothing much to do or see except to gamble all day, eat and drink. To be frank, I was disappointed.
Macau is best known globally as the "Las Vegas of Asia". Majority of the visitors are from Mainland China and Hong Kong, who visited Macau just to gamble and nothing else. Most people would visit Macau as a day or overnight trip from nearby Hong Kong or Mainland China. So when I told the people around me that I would be visiting Macau for 5 days 4 nights, they were surprised. Most of them told me that 2 days will be enough to see Macau, and more than two days is just too many. It is a small city that does not offer much interesting activities to do.
Eventually, we changed our plans and decided to allocate two days of our trip to Hong Kong and another two days to Macau. The reason behind our decision was due to the ridiculously high hotel rates in Macau during the weekend. Hotel rates generally doubled during the weekend and we had difficulty finding a nice room that was within our budget. So Hong Kong was the best choice we had.
How To Get Around Macau
Most hotel-casino in Macau offer free shuttle bus services, so it was very easy to get to get around the city. Simply hop on and off the complimentary shuttle buses operated by the casinos to get to most of the major casinos and into town.
We also used the taxi twice during our stay in Macau and I must say that we had bad experience on both occasions. The first experience was taking the taxi from Macau International Airport to Taipa Outer Ferry Terminal. The interior of the car was very filthy and the seats were ripped and worn. The driver drove rather recklessly and pull a long black face throughout the ride.
The second experience was taking the taxi from our hotel to the airport. It was too early and there was no shuttle bus to the airport, so we have no choice but to take the taxi.
We approached one of the taxi driver and he asked us our destination. He refused to drive us when we told him we wanted to go to the airport. We did not expected that at all.
Another driver agreed to take us but asked for HKD 50 when the trip only costed HKD 25 by the meter. Even so, we still paid because we were rushing for our flight.
Giant Rubber Duck
We were 'lucky' to see the world famous giant rubber duck, which just so happened to be sailing in Macau from 29th April to 27th May 2016
We did not expected that, so we were very surprised and excited when the adorable yellow duck suddenly appeared in front of our eyes!
Kun Lam Statue
Standing at a height of 20 metres and made up of 50 bronze castings, the Kun Lam Statue is one of the most recognized landmark in Macau.
Located next to Macau waterfront, the statue is dedicated to Kun Lam, the goddess of mercy in Chinese Buddhism, and at its base is a lotus-shaped dome that houses the Kun Lam Ecumenical Center. Visitors can visit the Kun Lam Ecumenical Center for a small exhibition and learn some educational literature about Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
Standing at an impressive height of 338 meters, the Macau Tower is an iconic landmark of Macau.
The Outdoor Observation Deck located on level 61, at the height of 223 meters, offers a panoramic view of the city. It is one of the best place in Macau to watch the sunrise in the morning or the spectacular night view of Macau after dark.
One of the popular activity to do at Macau Tower is bungee jumping. At the height of 233 meters, the bungee jump is the highest commercial sky jump in the world, and the second highest commercial decelerator descent facility in the world.
We did not try bungee jumping at Macau Tower because we did not have time for that. But even if we had, my husband probably would not want to. Hopefully, I can convince him to do it with me some day.
Gambling tourism is Macau's biggest source of revenue, making up about 50% of the economy. There are thirty three casinos in Macau, of which, the biggest is "The Venetian Macau". Most of the casinos in Macau accept Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) and Macau Pataca (MOP), but HKD are normally preferred. There is a minimum age requirement of 18 for foreign visitors and 21 for all locals in all casinos.
A trip to Macau is never complete without visiting a few of its famous casinos. During our two days stay in Macau, we managed to visit three of them - Galaxy Macau, City of Dreams and The Venetian.
After showering and eating, we headed downstairs to the casino floor of Galaxy Macau. The casino was massive, with over 600 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines and other electronic gaming machines. Walking down the casino, we realized that table minimums are ridiculously high, starting in the range of HKD 300 (about RM 150). In the main floors of the big casinos, minimums can rise as high as HKD 3,000 (about RM 1,500) per bet. Slot and electronic machines are similarly expensive, starting at HKD 50 (about RM 25) per bet or even higher. Although there were a few HKD 200 minimum tables, they can be hard to find. Most of the bigger casinos offer very few low stake tables, so people with small budgets may find they cannot spend much time playing in the casinos.
Most of the casinos across the city offer similar games as Galaxy Macau, with Baccarat being the most popular game. Just simply walk through any casino in Macau and you will find the vast majority of the tables will be Baccarat. Occasionally, you will find one or two big crowds gathered around a 'lucky table'.
On our first night, we encountered a lady who was on a winning streak. She was having 15 straight player wins at the Baccarat table, which drew a huge crowds. Before we realized it, there were over 20 people gathering around the table when there was probably only six before, and more were trying to squeeze themselves in. Everyone around us was pushing through the masses, fighting to lay their bets for the next round. The atmosphere around that table instantly became electric.
If you stand long enough to watch the many Chinese gamblers who have played at the Baccarat table, you will notice that most of the players tend to squeeze the cards tightly between their fingers, slowly peeked at the cards before throwing them back to the dealers. Some players will even blow at the cards, hoping to 'blow' away the bad numbers. But of course, that would not happen. I actually find these actions very annoying, but it seems that the casinos do not mind at all even when the cards are creased till they were unusable anymore.
We did not bet on that lady that night. If we had bet on her, we might have won thousands. But we hesitated because we were intimidated by the high minimums. We actually felt poor as other people walk around us with huge stashes of cash in their hands. Furthermore, my husband and I are not gamblers and it is not always a MUST for us to bet when we visit a casino. So we did not have a huge budget to gamble because we did not expect the minimums to be so high.
As word spreads, more and more people began to gather at the table and eventually, we did not even have a place to stand. So we left, feeling extremely stupid for not joining in.
We visited the Galaxy Macau casino on the next night again and decided to try our luck this time. Instead of table games, we played at electronic Baccarat machines because the minimums are lower. It was HKD 50 per bet, which was still considered expensive if you compared to the Genting Highlands casino in Malaysia. Playing at the electronic Baccarat machines does not higher our chance to win. We lost about HKD 600 in just a few hours.
City of Dreams
Besides Galaxy Macau casino, we also visited the casino at City of Dreams.
We did not initially intended to visit the City of Dreams. The shuttle bus to City of Dreams just happen to arrive at the bus station while we were waiting for the shuttle bus to the Venetian Macau. Since the bus arrived, we decided to visit City of Dreams and take a look at the casino.
Located just beside the casino, mesmerizing mermaids will appear out of nowhere to perform a water dance and to wish visitors good luck before vanishing again. Some people told us that you actually have to lucky in order to see the mermaid because it do not appear all the time. But we got to see the mermaid twice while we were there. Can we consider ourselves lucky?
Located directly opposite the Venetian Macau, the massive complex of City of Dreams house a mega-casino, a hotel, a luxury retail space featuring over 200 shops and entertainment and dining facilities. The 420,000 square feet casino features 450 gaming tables and 1,514 slot machines and other electronic gaming machines.
We did not stay long at the casino, because as I said, we did not intend to visit City of Dreams in the first place.
Galaxy Macau. Featuring 540,000 square feet of gaming space with more than 500 gaming tables and over 2,000 slot machines and electronic gaming machines, the Venetian Macau is known to be the largest casino in the world.
Our first priority was the Grand Canal Shoppes so we did not spend much time in the casino. To get to the Grand Canal Shoppes, take the escalator to the third floor. Twice the size of Las Vegas Canal Shoppes, the Grand Canal Shoppes in Venetian Macau is the largest indoor shopping mall in Macau with more than 350 retail stores.
While the shopping areas are empty, the casinos are constantly crowded with people. This is also why I said that most people visit Macau just to gamble. Most of them only shop after they have won some money from the casinos as to reward themselves.
I did not managed to take any photos in the casinos because I am not allowed to. Photography is strictly prohibited in all Macau casinos. Smoking is also not allowed in the mass gambling floors of all casinos. This is due to a partial smoking ban introduced by the Government of Macau in 2013, which is a good news for non smokers. But smokers can still smoke while they are in the casinos. Most of the casinos have separate smoking areas or physical partitions on the gaming floors for smokers to take a puff.
Most of the casinos also provide free bottled mineral water, coffee, tea and even juice. There are casino attendants walking around with the refreshment trolley. Do not hesitant to take as many as you want if you see them.
San Ma Lo
From Galaxy Macau, we took advantage of the free shuttle bus service to San Ma Lo, an older district of Macau. The queue was very long and we waited for about 45 minutes to board the shuttle bus.
As the shuttle bus drove into San Ma Lo, you will get to see a completely different side of Macau. It is here that you will to see and experience the true Macau. Occasionally, you will see older men playing chess or taking a leisurely walk in parks. Busy streets with cars honking and locals rushing to and from work.
The shuttle bus stopped right in front of Metropole Hotel, which was located just a 5 minutes walk away from Largo Do Senado (Senado Square). From afar, we caught a glimpse of the tower of Grand Lisboa, one of the famous landmark in Macau.
Standing at 47 floor, 261 metres tall, the Grand Lisboa is the tallest building in Macau. The exterior of the building is very attractive and eye-catching, where the reflective gold tower sits atop a dome-shaped structure. While we were walking to Senado Square, I told my husband that if we had a chance to visit Macau again, I would like to stay in Grand Lisboa. The thought of staying in one of its room excites me very much.
It was a hot and humid day, so it was not really a pleasant walk. The streets are narrow and crowded with people. After a 5 minutes walk, we finally arrived at Senado Square.
Macau was previously a Portuguese settlement and many of the buildings around the Senado Square were deeply influenced by the Portuguese style. There is a saying that goes "If you have not been to Senado Square, you have not been to Macau". That was also why we have put Senado Square on our must visit list.
Senado Square is an elongated triangular shaped town square and is part of UNESCO Historic Center of Macau. The long street starts from Leal Senado Building and ends at Ruins of St Paul Cathedral, another famous landmark of Macau.
In the center of the square is a fountain. This is also where a statue of a Portuguese soldier named Mesquita originally stands. He was known to be responsible for the death of many Chinese soldiers during the hostilities with Qing Dynasty. The statue was destroyed and replaced by the fountain after Macau was returned to China in late 1999.
We walked across the wave patterned mosaic floor of Senado Square. The streets around Senado Square is full of historical colonial building with Portuguese influences, housing small boutiques and shops selling local snacks and souvenirs.
Located in the heart of Senado Square, you will find the St. Domingo's Church, a 16th century Baroque-style church established by three Spanish Dominican priests, who arrived from Acapulco, Mexico. Built in 1587, the church was listed one of the 29 sites that form the UNESCO Historic Center of Macau World Heritage.
The church is opened to the public with a sacred museum featuring treasured religious relics, church regalia and sculptures. We did not enter the church because we do not have any interest in history.
Ruins of St Paul's Cathedral
At the end of the street, we reached the Ruins of St Paul's Cathedral.
Declared as an UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005, Ruins of St Paul Cathedral is a must-see in Macau. Located just a 10 minutes walk from Senado Square, the Ruins of St Paul is worth a visit to get a picture if you are in the area.
St Paul's Cathedral was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835 and only the front wall, facade and granite stairs of the church remains.
Being one of the major tourist attraction in Macau, the Ruins of St Paul is undoubtedly a must-visit. However, I have a feeling that we were visiting just for the sake of visiting a famous landmark in Macau. It was not really an interesting place.
Koi Kei Bakery
We visited one of the Koi Kei branches nearby the Ruins of St Paul. Koi Kei Bakery is one of the most popular place to buy traditional Macau and Chinese style snacks in Macau and bring them home as souvenirs. It is almost 'mandatory' for any visitors to visit Koi Kei Bakery every time they visit Macau.
Koi Kei Bakery offers samples of almost everything in the store for tasting. Visitors will get to sample every of their offerings before purchase.
Portuguese Egg Tarts
The Portuguese egg tarts is one of the famous local specialties to try when you are visiting Macau.
Macau egg tarts are different from the Cantonese egg tarts. You can easily find these egg tarts everywhere in Macau. I bought one from Koi Kei Bakery for HKD 9 to try. Portuguese egg tart has a buttery flaky pastry shell, rich custard filling and creme brulee top. It was incredibly delicious. I recommend eating the egg tart right out of the oven when they are still piping hot. A define must-try!
Almond cookies is another popular local snack to try in Macau. The streets leading to Ruins of St Paul is lined with dozens of stores selling different flavor of almond biscuits. Most of the stores provide free samples of their almond cookies so that you can try before buying.
One of the famous places to buy almond cookies is Koi Kei Bakery. Their almond cookies are handmade in small batches and freshly baked on the premises to ensure its freshness. I happen to witness how the cookies are made when I visited one of its stores located around the Ruins of St Paul.
Koi Kei's almond cookies are made from a mixture of flour, sugar, mung bean and grounded almonds. The mixture are pressed into a long wooden mold and slapped upside down to release the individual cookies.
Curry Fish Balls & Beef Offal
Walking into a small side alley near the Ruins of St Paul, we stopped by Jia Hua Snack for a quick bite.
Jia Hua Snack is famous for its curry fish balls and beef offal. The fish balls and beef offal are cooked and served in curry sauce.
We bought a small bowl of fish balls and beef offal and started munching away. It was very tasty, filling and cheap. The fish balls are covered in so much sauce that we could not tell what it was supposed to be.
Pork Chop Bun
The Pork Chop Bun is another well-known specialties of Macau.
A traditional pork chop bun only consists a piece of pork chop and a bun without additional ingredients like lettuce or cucumber.
We tried the pork chop bun from one of the restaurant in Galaxy Macau.The bun was extremely crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Pork chop is well-marinated and fried to a golden brown. But unlike the traditional pork chop bun, this one comes with lettuce. It was delicious.
Of course, we are always happy to visit some place new. But sometimes, some places just unimpressive. Macau is not bad, but it was not awesome either. Will I visit Macau again? Well, probably, but purely for the luxury hotel experience we have enjoyed in the city. We might 'lock' ourselves in our hotel room the next time if we have the chance to visit Macau again.
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