After a quick calculation, I came to the realisation that a day-trip to Macau from Hong Kong would cost me a rough €85 just in transportation costs for two. Woops, this was supposed to be a budget trip! As every so often, I was torn between saving money or discovering a new corner of our planet. During the decision making process -which really only lasted a minute- I found myself wandering: “What’s in Macau anyway? Is it worth blowing my budget over this rarely mentioned destination?”
You tell me…
This is what I found in Macau:
On the way from Macau’s harbour to town, we we’re greeted by futuristic views of the city. My face and hand palms were pressed against the bus window; eyes wide open, lips slightly apart. I could have sworn I had tele-transported to a “city in the clouds” in a distant future. Sure, the smog/mist might have had their effect. Maybe I should lay off the sci-fi films for a while…
Macanese cuisine is a delicate fusion between Chinese, Portuguese and African flavours. Slow cooked food brought to taste with spices like chili, tumeric, cinnamon, coconut milk… Dishes like Galinha à Africana (African spicy chicken), bacalhau, minchi and pasteis de nata are staples that can easily be found all over Macau. Scrumptious comfort food demonstrating a union between distinct corners of the world, now that’s my cup of tea!
Unseen parallels with the old colony, Portugal
Aside from the food, I was stunned by the ubiquitous Portuguese influences. Cute alleys, Portuguese street signs, wide boulevards, fortresses, churches and the familiar European sound of cars driving over cobbled roads… I felt as though I was in Europe; Portugal with a lot of Chinese tourist.
Classic Asian elements
Even though you could really believe you’re in Europe, there are enough elements that remind you that, you are indeed still in Asia. Smells, food, photo crazed tourists, Buddhist temples with burning incense, Chinese signs…
Lots and lots of gambling
Gambling in Macau has been legal for over a century, alluring big spenders and investors hoping to turn a few dimes into a king’s ransom. Being Asia’s gambling mecca, the casinos are majestic and plentiful. As you walk down the streets, you can almost hear money flying out the windows. Even if you’re not into games of chance, you might enjoy walking around and getting a taste of the atmosphere.
A dark sea of tourists
With features like “bling bling” casinos, European flair and delicious food, it’s only natural the city attracts enormous amounts of tourists every day. Most of them come from Mainland China and Hong Kong. On top of that, Macau is the world’s most densely populated place on earth (20 497 people per km²). As you can imagine, it can get quite claustrophobic at times but there is a silver lining: acting shamelessly like a cliché tourist is ok! Take elaborate food pictures, sample local fare for free, strike a ridiculous photo pose wherever, whenever. Nobody cares, everybody’s doing it. Get off the main streets and you’ll find peace and quiet.
Macau is the kind of place you wouldn’t choose as your main travel destination, nonetheless it is certainly worth a visit, regardless of the price tag. Curiosity is what drove me to Macau and I wasn’t disappointed. So should you take a side trip from Hong Kong or Mainland China to visit Macau? For me, that’s a yes. What about you,
Would you blow your budget to check out Macau?