Once I have been in Macau 20 years ago. It was at the time when I lived in Hong Kong and it was just a weekend trip together with a friend. Now I came back and, of course, I planned again a visit to the former Portuguese colony. My memories were different from that what I saw now. Especially what made me laugh were the endless chain of buyers who explored the shops and malls with suitcases. Yes, no shopping bags but suitcases.
Macau, a tiny region on the southern coast of China, was one of the first Asian settlements to be forced into the yoke of European colonization and the last to shed it, achieving independence from Portugal in 1999, 2 years after the same happened to Hong Kong from Great Britain. As with Hong Kong, Macau is a special administrative region of China now and enjoys a certain laissez-faire and capitalist-friendly approach. The Turbo ferry ride from Hong Kong across the Pearl River was reasonably quick and comfortable. Ferries leave from various spots in Hong Kong regularly.
I wanted to see as much as I could and went on the Hop on/Hop off Sightseeing Bus which I left for various stops. Macau is divided into 3 sections: the Peninsula and the islands of Coloane and Taipa. First what I saw was the prestigious Venetian Macau made out of steel and glass. Opened in 2007, it is home to one of the largest casinos on earth. By the way, in 2014 eight of the 10 biggest casinos in the world have been in Macau.
Owing to its colonial past, Macau with its cobblestone streets, old Catholic churches and narrow alleyways, has an almost European feel, along with an interesting local cuisine that dominates Portuguese and Chinese flavors.
Concerning currency: The Macanese Pataca and the Hong Kong Dollar are separate currencies. Change will sometimes come in Patacas, sometimes in Hong Kong Dollars. A Dollar has a bit more value than a Pataca.
In the old town I walked down to Senado Square with beautiful old yellow and pink pastel buildings. The historic square is paved with small tiles. And I enjoyed some egg tarts, the typical sweets of Macau. It reminds me of the Portuguese Pastel de Nata, creamy custard with a pleasantly caramelized top on it.
Catholic influence is still very much present: For example at St. Dominic’s Church, a beautifully restored custard-colored 16th-century building. Or the Ruins of St. Paul, a stone façade with lots of steps to walk up that is one of the few remaining pieces of a centuries-old complex. Macau was fun. You can easily do it as a day trip from Hong Kong. But think about to get up early enough to stroll around in Macau enjoying the special atmosphere. For sure, you will be very tired in the evening!