Macau- Asia’s Las Vegas
When I decided to travel to Macau most of my friends had one reaction: “there is nothing to do there except for gambling!”. As usual I never listen and this time I was happy I didn’t. Macau is divided into the Cotai strip where you have all the casinos and everything looks like Las Vegas and the two islands Taipa and Coloane. Coloane is for me that side of Macau worth spending some time. Totally different from the Cotai strip, this island is a fantastic way to escape from the hectic lifestyle of downtown Macau.
Day One- exploring the casinos in Cotai
The exuberance of this area of Macau especially one week before Christmas has left me with a good memory of “Gambling Macau”, especially if you are a fan of easy come easy go money . Although I am not a gambler, I do enjoy the atmosphere in casinos: the low chattering of people as they try their luck maybe for the millionth time, the background music and the luxurious stores daring you to come and spend your last savings on a piece of jewelry or clothing.
I still recall my first impression regarding China(even if Macau is still slightly different from the rest of the Sino culture) :they copy a lot from the American design, architecture and lifestyle. So the minute you step out of the plane and into the downtown of any major Chinese city you will find similarities between the States and China. And Macau becomes even more interesting from this point of view as it embraces the influence of three different cultures: Portuguese, Chinese and American.
When I say the American culture you are right to think that I am referring to the casinos😁. But there is a sort of fairytale kind of spirit in these casinos during the holidays. Especially around Christmas which is when I went to visit Macau. My first stop after checking into my beautiful hotel was the Cotai strip and the first thing that hit me was the chime of Christmas carols.
The exuberance with which the casinos were decorated gave the impression that their customers mattered a lot. The lights show was simply amazing and I recall taking hundreds of selfies in front of the installation till someone offered to take a picture of me.
I am not a gambler so I had no interest in joining the “players’ rooms”. But instead I wondered the halls of the casinos indulging into the sales of the season. A bit of shopping didn’t hurt anyone.
A bit further down the casinos area there is an animated street where you can taste the delicious egg tarts or simply stock on souvenirs for the whole family. The street was a clear reminder of the lovely architecture in Portugal and at times I even felt the atmosphere was somehow more European rather than Asian: music, joyful people, funny shop assistants.
For the first time during my travels I rushed back to the hotel where I enjoyed a glass of wine on my balcony. As I was telling you, Macau is fantastic because it can offer you both that relaxing and peaceful holiday as well as a chaotic stroll around the crowded streets of the city center.
Day Two – hiking in Coloane
Three minutes away from my hotel a hiking trail was there just waiting for me to discover it. It went round and round the hikl top giving you a full 180 degrees view of Macau.
After breakfast I decided to wonder on my own on a trail called Seac Min Pun Ancient Pathway. Quiet with just a few morning hikers passing by but most of the times I was on my own. On my own exploring what seems a perfect wilderness only half an hour away from that concrete jungle. I was in my element completely. So relaxed that I stopped for some yoga session to fully emerge myself into this paradise.
I spend only two hours in this fairytale land as I was on a schedule and wanted to enjoy the most of Macau. My first stop would be the old city center. Unfortunately that had been a bad decision.
No matter how much time I spend in China I could never get used to the huddled masses that you meet in touristic places. What was even more disappointing was the fact that I couldn’t see the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The area was closed due to an event they were organizing. The ruins were kind of the main attractions of the city center so once I had that canceled from my list I wondered off through the less crowded streets searching for a place to have lunch.
Lunch was rather acceptable as both price and portion and to my surprise right next to the restaurant was a almond cake shop.
Buying boxes of these delicacies was the best souvenir I could ever get my family and friends.
What I found surprisingly funny In Macau was the openness to the flow of currency, more specific the currencies. Basically if you had Rmb, Hong Kong dollars and MOP (which is the Macau official currency) you could have paid with either one or make a sum of the three. Of course they all had the same value the price listed so you had probably lost some money down the road in the exchange flow but who cared when you were trying to get rid of the MoPs as they are only used in Macau, didn’t have enough HK dollars and had no choice but to add in some extra RMb’s to finish the payment😂. What was again quite strange was even if at the customs area they advised you to but HK dollars as they were much more circulated and could be used more, some shops or markets would insist in giving you your change back from HK dollars in MOps.
Macau is known for its casinos but I can tell you from my own experience that you can surely have a weekend getaway in nature as well if you choose to stay in Coloane.
Safe and happy travels!