Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pit stop: Macau



Wallowing the pleasure of exploring destinations beyond Philippine sea has been a steadfast fragment of my lucid dreams, so when the unprecedented opportunity of going to Macau crossed my alley, I felt its incontestability and grabbed the chance of a blissful scratch on my travel itch. I think of travelling as a disease as it circles my chest like a wrecking ball. For the number of times I have seen Macau (3 to be exact), my enigmatic perception to it has become nothing more but unorthodox. My theory is that the fusion of Western and Chinese influences has transformed this place into a captivating destination, and a desirable pit stop for every wanderer hungry for more immense adventure.




Snippets of what you should know. . .



Point of compass


Situated at the South East Asia, Macau is around 40 miles Southwest of Hong Kong, bordering People’s Republic of China. It has 3 main islands: Macau Peninsula, Taipa (Cotai) and Coloane.

With less than half a million population, this former Portuguese colony has a rich culture and history as seen in its architectural structures scattered island-wide. For years, Macau is considered the Vegas of Asia for its grand casinos where you can see wealthy gamblers from all over the globe flock almost all year round.



Climate


Spring – March to May

 Summer – June to August 

Autumn – September to November 

Winter – December to February



Local Tongue

Cantonese & Portuguese



Currency


Pataca (MOP)


1 Pataca = approximately $ 0.12 (US) 

1 Pataca = approximately Php 4.99



Getting there


The Macau International Airport is located at the Island of Taipa and has recently became a travel hub for those taking a glimpse of this wonderful land. A ferry terminal, however, is located on the Macau Peninsula and has daily trips going to the nearby island of Hong Kong.
What you need to get in


Only citizens of specific territories are allowed to enter Macau for travel and business purposes. Most of Southeast Asian nations, the United States, Australia and other European countries are exempted from obtaining this permit and could stay for up to 30 days. It is advisable to consult Macau travel websites to avoid immigration squabbles when visiting.


For Visa Requirements in Macau, click this site: http://macau.visahq.com/




Gastronomic Gratification


Macanese cuisine is unique for its blend of Chinese and Portuguese recipes. There are bistros that offer authentic local food that will surely satisfy your smitten taste buds. Make sure to get a bite or two of their famous egg tarts and of course the very addicting grilled sardines (both are personal faves). 

Their seafood is another object of lust for there’s a wide array of them fresh from fishermen’s hook. The flavors incorporated in each dish are so distinctive you would never think twice to tuck them in.








Globetrotter tips


Unless you desire to splash your skin with torrents of scorching heat, I discovered that the best time to take a holiday on Macau is during their Autumn and Winter season. Their weather is a combination of extremes, with searing blast of the sun during summer that could subsequently dehydrate you, and the chilly breeze on winter which is quite a commodity for cold-loving souls like me.


Getting around will never be a problem for there are many hotels bolstering their amenities and casinos that offer free shuttle buses taking you from one point to another. The trick is to plan your day’s itinerary ahead so you could maximize the free rides. This is a small island, it is almost impossible to lose your way, and one great thing about these casinos, most of them hawk about free snacks and drinks you could enjoy.


Most locals don’t speak or understand English, so if you plan to take a cab from the airport to your hotel, make sure to secure a copy of your hotel’s name and address in Chinese characters. That way, you will spare yourself with the frustration of not communicating effectively.






Spots never dare to miss. . .




1. Ruins of St. Paul and other Churches



A UNESCO Heritage Site, this is perhaps the most famous tourist spot in Macau. Built in the late 1500’s, this cathedral dedicated to St. Paul was destroyed by fire in the 19th century, leaving only the stone fa├žade.








Portuguese have left their Catholicism in this peninsula,  so old churches with magnificent designs can be seen almost instantly.












2. Local Entertainment



Pre-book tickets for the various shows available during your trip so you avoid being brokenhearted from missing them. Cirque du Soleil and The House of Dancing Water are spectacular productions that should top your go-see-list. The extravagant stage of these two shows alone will surely beguile you, as well as the impeccable performances of the actors.







The House of Dancing Water is worth USD 250 million in production! Schedule of shows can be checked on-line at City of Dreams webpage.









One of Cirque du Soleil's brilliant & eye-popping performances!














3. Casinos & Hotels



The major reason why Macau sky-rocketed as a a tiger economy in Asia is because of its effort to establish itself as the number one destination for gambling. Business moguls and giants, not only in South East Asia but also the world spend billions of dollars in their casinos. 5-star hotels like the Venetian, Sands Macao, Galaxy, Grand Lisboa, among others were designed not only as places to spend the night in, but as major shopping points where high end brands offer their best to suit your retail therapy needs.









The facade of the Venetian Hotel, located at Taipa Island.









Try the Gondola ride inside Venetian and have that Italian feel even for a while.








Have a great shopping spree at Venetian's Grand Canal. The shopping possibilities are endless in this huge heaven with a wonderful ceiling design you can't possibly ignore!










Wynn Hotel has Fountain show every night with hundreds of dazzling lights that will surely be enjoyed by kids and adults.











4. Senado Square (San Ma Lo)



Located at the heart of Macau is an old side where you get to really feel the apex of Chinese-Portuguese fusion. This is where budget shopping could be done for those wanting to get a taste of local products and goodies. The whole kilometer stretch is lined with shops and stalls that will gloriously entice you as you stroll along.







Globetrotter Rating


In a scale of 1-10, we rate Macau as somewhere around 8. Budget wise, it is nearly perfect for backpackers aiming to hit this place for the affordable and pocket friendly tour packages available,  as well as for those wealthy people looking for spots to toss their gold. A weak point is the fact that communication would be such a pain in the ass. But this is just a small tinge that is not impossible to work out as compared to the exciting things that await you as soon as you disembark your plane.


















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