Macau is marketed as Asia’s little Europe and to be honest, it’s effective. Visitors who haven’t been here can easily imagine themselves walking on cobblestone streets, seeing inspiring old and modern buildings, and taking a great culinary journey.
Well, Macau was a colony of Europe. In fact, it is the last European colony in Asia, so its claim to fame as the little Europe of Asia seems legitimate (at some point). But let’s not dwell on that.
Why? One, I haven’t been to Europe so you can’t trust me to compare it to Macau. My experience of Europe is limited to what Rick Steves’ travel shows and guide books have fed me. Two, a place should be recognized for its own flavors – not because it resembles another place. Three, that’s why I also don’t like telling people Macau is like Vegas. I’ve only seen the place in movies and I hardly go to casinos to be able verify the similarity.
I could go on (bitterly about where I haven’t been and what I haven’t done) but I think you get my drift.
The multilingual airport signs hinted what Macau was like before it got its independence from Portugal in 1999. I easily located the Tourism stand at the small arrival hall and asked the staff for a free map.
I wasn’t planning on getting a Wi-Fi as I had read that Macau is a small, walkable place where most tourist spots can be found in the same area. I also know that you can easily get Wi-Fi in hotels, cafes, and restaurants. I just needed to plan where to go, how long I should linger at each tourist spot, and how to safely get back to my hotel.
The first problem is always this: how do I get to my hotel from the airport? The clerk at the airport’s tourist stand wasn’t helpful. Blogs that say you can take a free shuttle bus to your hotel can be misleading, especially if you’re not staying in a 5-star hotel and it’s your first time in Macau. And lastly, Bus Stop signs at the airport can be confusing. So my easy (albeit expensive) solution? Just take a cab.
After a ride that felt like less than 20 minutes, I arrived at Fu Hua Hotel. The cab driver wearing a fancy hat and a soldier-like uniform asked for 82 Macanese Pataca (the local currency), but he happily took my 100HKD as payment. That’s almost P700, my frugal side whined.
Fu Hua Hotel
There are hostels and cheaper accommodation options near the top tourist spots in Old Macau but I’m old and a lady traveling alone so I like a little convenience and some assurance of safety. Hence, I chose Fu Hua Hotel.
Checking in was a breeze. When I opened the door of my room, it almost hit the bed (but it didn’t). The furnishings looked fancier than I thought. The standard room size is 15 m² but it doesn’t feel so cramped. I was tempted to stay in bed, but I only have less than 24 hours to explore this city.
Geared up with a camera and a paper map, I went outside and searched for the nearest sights.
The Unwritten Side of Macau
Every city has an ugly side. In Dubai, for example, some parts of Satwa and Deira felt like slums. They are not the first places you would take visitors you want to impress.
While I knew about it, I wasn’t prepared to see the ugly side of Macau on the first few hours of my visit. But I learned from experience that you only find the real gems when you are willing to embrace the unsightly. (Take it from someone who used to live near the dump site.)
You only find the real gems when you are willing to embrace the unsightly.
The old apartment buildings looked like relics of a bountiful past. I read that going to the historical parts of Macau would bring delightful sights of the past but I wasn’t prepared to see dilapidated living spaces and structures that looked like they were about to fall apart. After all, Macau is touted as the richest place in the world.
The Historic Centre of Macau
I wasn’t interested in visiting the fancy side of Macau, anyway. I wanted to see a UNESCO World Heritage site where the East meets the West. That’s why I stayed near the historical landmarks.
Here are some places I visited on a short walk around Macau’s Historic Centre:
- Ruins of St. Paul
- St. Dominic’s Church
- Na Tcha Temple and Section of the Old City Walls
- Mount Fortress
- The Old City Walls
- Senado Square
- Macao Museum
I spent about five hours exploring these tourist spots. I’ll write more about them later so stay tuned. 🙂