Should I visit Macau?
January 26, 2017
A few weeks ago Christopher and I were in Hong Kong and we decided to roll the dice, (see what I did there?) and take a trip to Macau. I won’t lie, I didn’t know much about Macau, and it seemed like very few of my friends did either. When I asked around, some friends said, “Don’t go! It’s all gambling. You’ll hate it!” Others said, “Go! It’s so fun! Eat the dim sum at StarWorld!” Needless to say, I was intrigued. So, Christopher and I hopped on the ferry from Hong Kong and set sail to Macau for the weekend. Today’s post is about our time in Macau and will answer all of the questions I had going into this trip.
What should I know about Macau?
Na Tcha Temple
I think the most interesting thing about Macau is that it was the first, and last, European colony of Asia. The Portuguese ruled Macau for 442 years from 1557-1999. When you walk the streets of Macau today you can still feel the mix of Chinese and Portuguese culture. Currently, Macau is considered a “special administration region of China.” So it’s part of China technically but it’s governed under its own system. For instance, Macau is the only place in China where gambling is allowed. This has led to millions of people visiting its casinos a year. In fact, Macau has the highest population density in the world. It was actually hard to even walk through certain parts of the city!
They call Macau the “Vegas of the East.” Is it really like Vegas?
I had the same question when I visited and the short answer is no, but there are some similarities. Lets talk about the similarities first. The hotels in Macau are very similar to their Las Vegas counterparts. We stayed at The Venetian and when I walked in I felt like I was in Las Vegas! (If you look at the photos of above you will see what I mean.)
The only difference in Venetian Macau and the Venetian Las Vegas is the one in Macau much larger. The Venetian Macau is actually the largest Casino in the world. We actually got lost…
Now onto the differences…
When I go to Las Vegas, I go for more than just gambling. I go for amazing pool parties and to dance at some of the best nightclubs in the world. While you can find bars in Macau they aren’t like the bars in Las Vegas, and from my experience they aren’t much of a party.
While there are beautiful pools in Macau, there aren’t pool parties! (Check out the pics above.) The people that come to Macau to gamble aren’t casual gamblers; they take it seriously and view it as an investment. You aren’t going to see tables of people drinking in the casinos either. In fact, there is no drinking at the casinos in Macau! I was told the Chinese consider it bad luck. One other major difference I noticed were the table minimums in Macau. While you may find $3 table minimums in Vegas, the cheapest I saw in Macau was $36USD! Macau’s annual gambling revenue is actually five times more than Las Vegas. With statistics like these it is no surprise that 20% of the population work in a casino.
Is there anything else to do but gamble?
Yes! While gambling is a major attraction in Macau there are many other things to do. (Thank goodness or our trip would have been ruined since we aren’t gamblers!) Here are some of my favorite sights.
At 1109 feet tall, Macau Tower has become one of the most well known attractions in Macau since it was opened in 2001 for many reasons. Macau Tower is home to the highest commercial bungee jump in the world, which is 764 feet high. It is also home to Skywalk X, which is where guests can walk around the tower’s outer rim while they are tethered to the structure. I have no pictures of this because I AM WAY TOO scared of heights to try it! There’s no handrails!!!
That being said, even if you aren’t a daredevil the tower is a fun place to visit. There is an observation deck with panoramic views of Macau, many restaurants, shops and a movie theatre.
Senado Square is a great place to get dropped off in a taxi to explore this part of Macau. Named after Leal Senado, this square was a meeting place for the Chinese and Portuguese in the 16th to 18th centuries. If you’ve ever been to Portugal you may recognize the tile design in the square. The square holds flea markets, events and festival celebrations. Be prepared it can be VERY crowded.
Ruins of St. Paul’s
In my opinion the Ruins of St. Paul’s are the most beautiful site in Macau and a must see! The ruins are the facade of what was originally called the Church of Mater Dei and St. Paul’s College, which were destroyed by a fire in 1835. The ruins sit at the top of a small hill, very close to Senado Square and are free to visit. UNESCO declared the Ruins of St Paul’s a World Heritage Site in 2005. If you want to enter the ruins know you cannot bring any food or beverages.
Fortaleza do Monte (Monte Fort)
Adjacent to the Ruins of St. Paul’s, you can visit the famous Monte Fort. Built in 1616, Monte Fort is the oldest fort in Macau and was originally used to protect St. Paul’s Church from pirates. After this, Monte Fort became a military fort. The view of the city from this fort is incredible so don’t miss it! Monte Fort is also right by the Macau Museum if you want to check it out!
Guia Hill is one of the greenest, most picturesque hills in Macau and home to a few different sites such as the Flora Garden, the Guia Fortress and the Guia Lighthouse. Flora Garden used to be the property of an upper class Portuguese family and is now a small European-style garden that is quite beautiful and free to visit! On the other side of the hill you will find the Guia Fortress, which was built in the 1600’s to protect the city from Naval attacks. Next to the fortress, is the Guia Lighthouse, which was built in between 1864-1865 and was the first western style lighthouse on the China Coast. It’s fun to stroll through Guia Hill and much less crowded than the Ruins of St. Paul’s.
Macau Fisherman’s Wharf
The Macau Fisherman’s Wharf is an area with over 150 shops, restaurants, hotels, and a theme park. While this wasn’t my favorite attraction in Macau I am putting it on the list because I think kids may enjoy it. Macau isn’t very family friendly so the wharf is worth visiting if you are traveling with children.
Is Macau worth visiting?
Lai Heen at the Ritz in Macau (Delicious!)
If you want our honest opinion we’re unsure. If you want a Vegas experience then no, you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re in Asia and can take a cheap flight to Macau, or, jump on the ferry from Hong Kong for the weekend, then yes, check it out! Overall, our weekend in Macau was fun and I am glad we visited to see the old parts of the city. Maybe next time I’ll try my luck in the casino.