The cost of living in other major cities may be much lower, but Macau is definitely one of the most budget-friendly urban destinations in this part of Asia. While accommodations here are more on the steep side of the spectrum, transportation isn’t a problem at all; thanks to the many free shuttle/bus services that major hotels and casinos provide. This resort city is also very walkable. Plenty of helpful multi-lingual signs make getting around a walk in the park.
She wrapped her arms around him as he rested his head comfortably on her shoulder. The two lovers, exhausted after a day of sightseeing, matched the soft silhouette of mountains behind them with an even sweeter kiss. The sun was just about to dive in another heavenly display.
Relaxing isn’t really the first word that comes to mind when you look at the usual pictures of Macau. At night, the lights and colors of its busy casinos and hotels form a kaleidoscopic, almost psychedelic cityscape that induces an unexpected adrenaline rush. Even its historical core — Senado Square and the Ruins of St. Paul — can be quite wearing as droves of tourists scramble around its blocks. If the doctor orders immediate detoxifying, Macau probably won’t be in his prescription.
When the Portuguese landed on the shore near A-ma Temple over 400 years ago, they asked the locals what the name of the land was. The locals misunderstood and thought that they were asking about the name of the bay. “A-ma-gao,” they said. It means Bay of A-ma, named after the goddess revered at the nearby temple. The Portuguese translated it to “Macau.”
It was supposed to be a short walk. But it was impossible to not take the time.
My senses were overloaded upon crossing Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro. Distinct and impressive facades delighted my eyes. The clanking of the shoes on the mosaic ground was music to my ears. And the scent of pork chop buns that some tourists held while wandering around gave me more motivation to explore the area.
Under the sun, Macau bares its soul in its mosaic-art cobblestone streets flanked with historical Portuguese colonial buildings, calming parks, and long-standing temples. But as soon as the sun starts hiding under the horizon, Macau transforms into a totally different creature — more alive and definitely kicking! At nightfall, the city is ruled by neon lights that hypnotize and draw the crowd towards the vibrant and energetic resort hotels.
Hong Kong and Macau are great places to have a first out-of-the-country trip. This realization dawned on me as soon as I started touring these “modern and futuristic” cites. The culture is not too different to alienate Pinoy first-time tourists and not too similar to bore them. The region is also connected by an impressively expansive systems of transportation — from its world-class airport terminals to its vast train network (Hong Kong) to its reliable bus system. They have all their major tourist attractions easily accessible. They also make the cities very friendly to kids and elderly, an important criterion for ideal family vacations.
Everything comes in threes.
Miss the third strike, and you’re out. If the Ruins of St. Paul’s were a baseball player, that’s exactly what would have happened. Except, even when it has been out of the game, the Ruins of St. Paul still managed to emerge as a major superstar.
Déjà vu. It was my first time in Macau, but the site was fostering an atmosphere that was familiar. As I moved farther from the structure to squeeze everything in my viewfinder, it dawned on me what it reminded me of — St. Paul’s Church of Malacca, Malaysia. Both stand on top of a hill, adjacent to a fortress. Both were named after St. Paul. Both used to harbor a church and a college. Both complexes were built under the Portuguese in the 16th century. Both are now down to ruins. Both structures have become iconic landmarks of the cities that cradle them. And both left me breathless. But despite the many similarities, the Ruins of St. Paul’s possesses a charm of its own.