“Shan gao, Huangdi yuan,” is an ancient Chinese proverb which loosely translates to “the mountains are high and the emperor is far away”. And the former Portuguese enclave of Macau quietly echoes this sentiment. Granted special administrative region status by the People’s Republic of China in 1999, Macau enjoys a high degree of autonomy from mother mainland, drawing in droves of tourists from all around the world every year eager to experience its unique tourism offerings.
Whilst Macau is certainly famous for its mega casinos – it is known as the Las Vegas of the Orient after all – it is the region’s unique blend of history and East-meets-West heritage that keeps people coming back for more.
The Historic Centre of Macao
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Multiculturalism and co-existence between Chinese and Portuguese cultures have been prevalent in Macau for more than 400 years.
As you enter the Historic Centre of Macau, China’s 31st UNESCO world heritage site, expect to see a collection of monuments such as churches and temples, monuments and urban squares that really tell the tale of the region’s unique fusion culture.
Must-see spots include A-Ma temple, a religious site erected in 1488 dedicated to the goddess of seafarers and fishermen; the Ruins of St Paul, a 17th century structure once known as one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia; and Dom Pedro V theatre, one of the first Western-style theatres in East Asia.
The Parisian Macao Hotel
The tell-tale sign that you’ve arrived at the The Parisian Macao Hotel, is the half sized Eiffel Tower replica that greets you at its entrance. The distinctly French theme follows you throughout the mega resort, with the lobby featuring an ornate dome inside the Rotunda and an exact model of Paris’ iconic Fontain de Mers fountain.
Inspired by all things luxurious and French, the region’s newest mega resort has a lot to offer the MICE industry. There’s 5,200 sqm of meeting space; 3,400 sqm of ballroom space; direct access to Cotai Expo at sister property The Venetian; five meeting rooms; two board rooms, plus a dedicated support team to seamlessly executive your event.
The hotel is a destination in itself, with plenty of onsite activities to enjoy. Take in the views within the Eiffel Tower’s observation deck; catch a live show worthy of London’s West-end at the Parisian Theatre; or shop to your heart’s content at one of the property’s 170 stores.
Nostalgia in Coloane
Beyond the mega casinos and bright city lights of the Cotai Strip lies Coloane Village, a sleepy town dotted with narrow lanes, pastel Portugese-style houses and quaint shopfronts reminiscent of another time.
Exploring Coloane Village is a tranquil experience, where you can spend hours wandering through its many hidden laneways, weaving in and out of old temples and other historical sites.
If you don’t have a lot of time in Coloane, The Macao Government Tourism Office has a 30 minute walking tour itinerary that takes you to the village’s top sites.
Attractions to explore include the Ancient Temple of Kun lam, which was built during the reign of Emperor Jiaqing by local sea traders; the Tin Hau temple, the oldest religious site on the island; and the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, a brightly coloured monument dedicated to a Jesuit missionary who lived and died on an island near Macau.
Lord Stows Egg Tarts
There’s one pastry that has become synonymous with Macau’s vibrant food scene: the humble egg tart.
While this iconic treat is often considered a Portugese import, the invention was actually the brainchild of English pastry chef Andrew Stow.
While many were experimenting with egg tarts at the time, most were influenced by the British custard tart and featured short crusts.
However, Andrew created his own recipe, derived from the Portuguese Pasteis de Nata recipe, which features flaky pastry crusts, enticing egg custard centres and a crispy crème brulee top.
The invention was a hit, with Andrew opening the now iconic Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane Village in 1989. Today the bakery has been franchised, serving a whopping 14,000 tarts a day. You can try them for yourself at the original location located at 1 Rua do Tassara or at The Venetian Macao.
A-Ma Cultural Village and Statue
Standing atop Alto de Coloane at a whopping 20 metres high is the world’s largest statue of A-Ma, the goddess of seafarers.
Constructed from white jade in 1999, the monument pays homage to Macau’s rich maritime history, its namesake, and is symbolic of the region’s transfer of sovereignty back to China from Portuguese rule.
Within walking distance of the monument is the A-Ma Cultural Village, a 7,000 sqm complex comprised of a pavilion-style front gate; a carved marble altar; a bell tower; and the intricate Tin Hau Palace.
Unlike Macau’s other temples, the palace is a relatively new complex constructed out of wood and stone and is in fact an imitation of an ancient building.
The Cotai Waterjet
Travel in style between Hong Kong and Macau aboard the Cotai waterjet.
The high-speed service offers around 80 transfers per day between the Hong Kong Macau Ferry terminal, Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal, Hong Kong Airport Skypier, Macau Taipa Temporary Ferry terminal and the Macau Outer Harbour Ferry terminal.
Need to know
Currency: HKD & MOP
Official languages: Cantonese, Portugese
Access: Macau offers VISA free access from over 75 countries including Australia.
Weather: Humid, subtropical
Getting there: There are currently no direct flights from Australia to Macau. It’s recommended that you enter via Hong Kong International airport then board the Cotai waterjet for a quick journey through to Macau.