The day trip from Hong Kong to Macau is already one of the classic tours for anyone visiting this former British colony. For us Brazilians, visiting Macau is even more special, because just like us, they were also a Portuguese colony. And the Portuguese references are in several parts, in addition to practically everything being written in Mandarin and Portuguese. I made this script with what to do in Macau for a day trip, but if you have the time, it’s worth spending a night on the town.
Getting to Macau is also easy and fast, I wrote a very detailed post where I explain everything. I highly recommend reading. There are some important immigration details you need to know.
A little bit of Macau history
But first, let’s talk a little about the history of Macau, so you can put yourself in the historical context and understand why Macau is the way it is, ok? Centuries ago, the Portuguese were looking for a point in Asia to support trade between East and West, especially as a bridge between Japan, China and Europe.
That’s when they arrived in a small community of Chinese fishermen at the mouth of the Pearl River in 1557, they thought that place was ideal and they stayed. Like that visitor who arrives at your house and never leaves!?
But the visitors invested in the small territory. They built houses, buildings, a hospital, churches and colleges. Practically a little piece of Lisbon on the Chinese coast and the Chinese turned a blind eye. It was not until 1887 that China recognized Macau as a Portuguese territory through the Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Friendship and Commerce.
Everything was going very well until the British arrived in Hong Kong, transforming the neighbor into a great center of commerce in the east, which caused Macau to go into decline and lose its importance.
After the Second World War and with the creation of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese began to worry about the European capitalist presence in their toe. It was there that both England and Portugal negotiated the return of these territories, but as a special administrative region. What happened in 1997 in Hong Kong and 1999 in Macau.
As they are autonomous regions, despite belonging to China, they have their own administration, currency, rules and laws. For those visiting these territories, it becomes clearer upon arrival, with independent immigration and customs processes.
And walking around Macau, the Lusitanian heritage is in many places. I thought it was only on the street signs that had names in Portuguese, but no, we find the language everywhere, in stores, buses, boat terminals, airport. Even on the sticker inside the taxi. Even if no one speaks Portuguese in Macau, the language is the second official language and by law, it needs to be included in any piece of communication. Here’s the explanation for situations like this:
If for us and for much of the world, Macau is known for being a former Portuguese colony, in Asia the city is famous for its casinos. This is what attracts a battalion of people to Macau every day, gambling! And in Macau we find branches of famous casinos such as MGM, The Venetian, Hard Rock… That’s why, in Asia, Macau is known as the Las Vegas of the East.
What to do in Macau
I would divide the script into two parts, first the historical part and then a visit to the casinos. Even if you don’t play or go to Macau for that reason, it’s nice to visit these places.
Most people start their tours in Macau by heading straight to Largo do Senado, which was the heart of this “mini Lisbon”. But as I wanted to see the building of the grand lisbon up close – what I consider the most exotic and extravagant building in the world – I went straight there.
The Grand Lisboa Tower was inaugurated in 2008, in the midst of the explosion of Americanized casinos that were installed in the territory in the 2000s. Macau wanted a project that was original, that was different from American design. In their words, not a “clad box”.
Then came the surprise! The Hong Kong architectural firm that designed the project was inspired by a head arrangement of a Rio carnival costume they saw on television. They added some contours that referred to the lotus flower, one of the symbols of Macau, and the project was approved.
The first time I saw this building I thought it was a flower, or a banana tree, but knowing the concept behind its design, it makes perfect sense. I don’t think the Grand Lisboa is a beautiful building, I think it’s interesting because it deviates a lot from the standards we’re used to and as I said, it’s very extravagant. Like carnival, isn’t it?
Inside, it’s nothing less flashy, by the way, we can go in quietly, but we can’t take pictures. Don’t even try or you might get kicked out.
In front of the Grand Lisboa is the Lisbon Casino, the most traditional in Macau. It’s worth going back at night to see the lights, it’s pretty cool.
from there to the Senate Square I went on foot, the distance is short and it’s not even worth taking a taxi. Largo do Senado was where the Portuguese settled and began to develop the territory.
Attention to the mixed feelings! It’s just that an ambiguous feeling takes over us, because if on the one hand we have so many Lusitanian references, which refer to Portugal and Brazil, on the other hand we have oriental decoration, bunches of Chinese and street vendors and more street vendors. Going further, Largo do Senado seemed more like the center of Rio than Lisbon, maybe that’s why this feeling of teleportation. The heat of almost 40 degrees also helped me to feel in the capital of Rio de Janeiro.
Around the square are some of the oldest buildings, such as the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau, the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Macau Museum, a few more historic buildings and, close by, the Sé Cathedral.
Largo do Senado is the way to get to the Ruins of Sao Paulo, is the most popular tourist spot in Macau. And the fame of the place is confirmed by the crowd of people following the narrow streets. Surrounded by small buildings and Chinese townhouses with a decadent facade, the street trade offers visitors some atrocities, such as the sweet pastel with cod filling. or the version made in China from Pastel de Belém, this one you can eat is worth it.
At the end of the pilgrimage we arrive at the huge staircase that leads to the facade of the Cathedral of São Paulo, and that’s all that remains after a fire in 1835. Behind the facade there are only a few foundations and nothing else. Even so, it is one of the most photographed images of the city.
I left there and went back to Largo do Senado, where I took a taxi to the Macau Tower. The imposing tower, 338 meters high, is the perfect place to see the city from above, but be careful: only go there if the day is clear and the sky is clear. Otherwise you won’t have a nice experience and it won’t be worth the investment.
The ticket costs 145 HKD, about 75 reais. It’s not cheap, but it’s a nice ride. Whoever is braver can jump from bungee jumpis the tallest in the world from a tower.
After the tower you can start your tour of the casinos, and here is some wonderful information! There are free buses that connect the tower to the casinos and the river terminal where boats arrive and depart for Hong Kong. That is, from now on you will not spend anything on taxis! There are signs on the tower and casinos’ doors with the bus routes, just get in line and board.
It is worth visiting the Venetian, Galaxy it’s the hard rock, which also has some pretty cool shows. At night, I recommend going back to the grand lisbon to see the casino lights and the fountain light show Wynnalmost opposite Casino Lisboa.
And when it’s time to return to Hong Kong, free buses depart from the door of the Grand Lisboa to the Outer Harbor ferry terminal.
Visiting Macau is nice, for me, since I’ve been away from Brazil for a while, it was interesting and it warmed my heart to see so many things written in Portuguese. And it was also a sense of accomplishment. It’s just that last year I was in Hong Kong, but the aftershocks of a typhoon that passed close to the region left the rainy weather and the crossing between the two territories interrupted.
And if you go to Hong Kong, I recommend taking the ferry and going to visit our cousins far away.
Planning your trip
When to go
At any time of year. Summers are hot and rainy, sometimes typhoons can happen. In winter, the temperature is around 15 degrees, and the climate is drier, but it is the most pleasant time to visit Macau.
How to get
There are no direct flights from Brazil to there. The best options are via Dubai with Emirates or Doha with Qatar to Hong Kong. There are flights from São Paulo to Beijing with a stopover and Madrid with Air China. Then just take a ferry to Macau (click here).
Immigration in Macau and Hong Kong
Everything you need to know to get to Hong Kong: Visa, immigration, and airport transfers to your hotel (click here). In Macau, it is necessary to do immigration again (Click here).
What currency to take
The official currency is the Pataca, but the Hong Kong Dollar is generally accepted. When I went, I took US Dollar and Euro, changing the US Dollar was the best option.
how to get around
Macau does not have a subway, the best way to get there is by taxi, but many tours can be done on foot. And to the casinos there is a free bus.
where to stay
Stay in Hong Kong! Knowing that choosing accommodation in Hong Kong is not easy, I made a post with the best places to stay in the city and where to avoid (click here)
Looking for accommodation in Hong Kong?
Check out our list of suggestions on Booking.com. By booking a hotel through Booking, you help the blog and don’t pay anything extra for it. Click here
Read our post with tips for choosing a good place to stay in Hong Kong. Click here.
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