So many places to see, so little time. Vacation choices can be tough, especially when you’re planning a once in a lifetime trip to faraway destinations like Asia or Europe. But there is a way to have some of both in one trip. Just head to Macao.
Like Hong Kong – which is just 37 miles away – Macau, is a special administrative region of China. It essentially governs itself, but is still a part of China.
But thanks to a long history as a Portuguese settlement, and important trade port, surprises are everywhere. (Portuguese arrived and settled in Macao in the mid-16th Century.) Senado Square is paved with Portuguese cobblestones and surrounded by pastel neoclassical buildings. A short walk away there’s the Ruins of St Paul’s in Macao’s Historic Center. St. Paul’s was established in the late 1500s. The ruins you see today are all that’s left after a fire in 1835.
You can have many moments where you’re asking yourself, “where am I?”. Just keep moving and views change in an instant. Na Tcha Temple is steps from St Paul’s. It was built in 1888 and renovated in 1901.
A-Ma Temple dates back to the late 1400s and is the oldest temple in Macao. Take a walk through Red Market, one of the busiest markets in Macao, it’s easy to forget about the city’s Portuguese qualities.
Macau is the only place in the world with a mix of Chinese and Portuguese culture. It’s only 12 square miles, so not a whole lot bigger than San Francisco.
Macau is the only place in China where casinos are legal, and business is good. But there’s more to it than gambling. Macao has more five-star properties than any other destination in the world. The glitz and glamour factor is huge here.
This is what’s waiting steps off the lobby at the MGM Macao. Those massive flowers are swinging seats. The aquarium is more than 25 feet tall and once a day divers put on an underwater show as well. You might feel a bit of that Portuguese charm here as well. This space is inspired by Lisbon’s Central Train Station.
The flower power continues at Wynn Palace with sculptures made entirely out of blooms. Designs rotate throughout the year, but each is just as impressive as the next. The carousel contains more than 83,000 flowers, including roses, peonies, hydrangeas and delphiniums. There’s also more than 4,000 individual parts and pieces not including flowers.
The Fabergé Egg contains more than 60,000 flowers, including roses, azaleas, spray roses and hydrangeas. But then there’s that rising Phoenix that can catch you by surprise. The Fabergé Egg has more than 2,000 individual parts and pieces not including flowers.
Just a five-minute drive from the casino-lined Cotai Strip, the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion is a must visit. It’s in a setting very much like what we would consider a zoo, but the four Pandas, a mother, father and twin boys, that will be two years old next summer, are the star residents. Your ticket in is going to cost about $1.25. (The cab ride there and back from the Cotai Strip cost me less than $10.) It’s hard to go wrong with a quick visit here. Admission into the indoor panda area is done in ticketed intervals. (Visitors watch the giant pandas through glass.) The morning I was there, maybe there were a dozen other folks in the area with me.
Fun fact: About 99% of giant panda’s food is bamboo. Bamboo doesn’t have much nutritional value so it takes giant pandas 10 to 12 hours each day eating to take in enough calories to get them through a typical day. According to the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion their bamboo intake is equivalent to the weight of about 115 apples.
Chinese and Portuguese are the official languages of Macao with Cantonese widely spoken. That said, English is everywhere, and generally used is tourism and commerce instances.
Dana’s trip to Macao was hosted by Macao Tourism, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.