Macao, formerly a Portuguese colony, is a special administrative region (SAR) of China. In recent years, Macao has become a resort city, its gaming industry seven times that of Las Vegas. It has a population of 667,400 and an area of 12.7sq mi (or 32.9km^2), making it the most densely populated region in the world. But, this little island has a lot more to offer than high-stakes gambling and luxury shopping (luxury brand shops can be found everywhere on “the strip”).
During my week in Macau, I set off to hit every interesting (my opinion) location or spot Macau has in a single day. From old ruins to views of the entire skyline, Macau has a lot to offer. With everything we’ll be looking at today, there is a lot to take in. Enjoy the pictures as they hopefully capture the beauty of Macao. The first picture is a rundown of our walk.
That is a screenshot of Google Maps. You can see it only takes about two hours to walk through the main portion of Macau. If we had cell service, I’m sure google maps could’ve proven useful. Sadly, all I had was my GPS, guiding our general direction. Although we got lost (a lot), there were a couple more, cool little spots we got to check out.
1. Guia Hill
Our first stop on this expedition is Guia Hill or Guia Fortress. Guia Hill is a military fortress and lighthouse is São Lázaro, Macao. The lighthouse is actually quite far from the shoreline which begs the question; why have a lighthouse that’s no use? Much of Macao’s land (two-thirds, actually) is reclaimed land from the sea. The shoreline, many centuries ago, was much closer to the lighthouse.
Although the lighthouse is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Center of Macau, the view of the fortress and lighthouse has been blocked off by the government since 2010. As such, enjoy some side shots of the lighthouse + some views off the fortress.
2. Monte Forte
The next stop is on the other side of Macao, the Fortaleza do Monte or Monte Forte (full name: Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora do Monte de São Paulo, or in English: Fortress of Our Lady of the Mount of St. Paul). The fort (I know, another one) is located in Santo António. Along with the previous Guia Hill, Monte Forte makes up the historic center of Macau.
The fort was built between 1617 and 1626. It remained a restricted military area until 1965 until it was converted into a weather observatory. The observatory was in operation until 1996 until it was demolished and moved to Taipa. In 1998, the museum of Macao was opened and continues operating to this day.
I think this fort is probably the “least interesting” part of our trip. It offers a view of mainland Macao, yet the view isn’t as nice as on Guia Hill. It has 32 canons along its perimeter so that’s cool. You can also see our next stop on our trip as you descend the fort, St. Paul’s Ruins.
3. Ruins of St. Paul
One of Macau’s best-known attractions, the Ruins of St. Paul’s is up next. The ruins are what remains of a 17th century Catholic Church dedicated to Saint Paul the apostle. It also includes what was originally St. Paul’s College. At the time of its construction in the early 17th century, it was one of the largest Catholic Churches in Asia.
After a fire in 1835 during a typhoon, the only things that remain are the southern stone facade and the crypts of the Jesuits who established the church. The facade is now supported by a steel structure, an effort to conserve the once deteriorated facade. This preserves its integrity, both structural and aesthetic.
The southern facade is really a sight to see. But you know what else you are forced to see? The waves of tourists blocking you from taking your perfect picture! But seriously it’s really a beautiful piece of architecture and definitely worth taking a look. Apparently, you can climb the back of the facade with a steel staircase, something I didn’t know until after we had left.
3.2 Heading to the Square
I’ll take this time to talk about some things that weren’t exactly stops, but are still interesting (at least to me). Behind the Ruins of St. Paul is a large staircase, that leads into a large street filled with people. This street then takes you into a large shopping area. At first, it gave off a kind of Jiufen vibe and then it transformed into Ximending (if you’ve ever been to Taiwan).
We took this chance to scout out a supplement store and score us some protein, something we were seriously lacking for days. On our way out, we passed by an interesting looking square area with a church. You can see the snap of it below.
4. Senado Square
This expedition leads us into Largo do Senado or Senado Square. The square’s architecture is very European, and many of its buildings are protected monuments. In addition to those European-styled buildings are many stores to satisfy your shopping crave. The square is even more captivating at night, but sadly I didn’t take any pictures besides this day. But, the other pictures can speak for themselves.
5. A-Ma Temple
Next, we headed west, hooking all around mainland Macao to get to the A-am temple. On the way, we passed interesting roads and architecture, so you bet I snapped some pics. For example, we passed by the Moorish Barracks on the walk over. However, it’s not usually open to the public so we continued walking. But, let’s talk about what the A-ma temple is.
Thought to be Macao’s namesake, the A-ma temple is dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu. The temple is located in São Lorenço. If you head back to the first picture, you can see it is all the way west on the map. There are six different parts of the temple: Temple consists of six main parts: the Gate Pavilion, the Memorial Arch, the Prayer Hall, the Hall of Benevolence, the Hall of Guanyin, and Zhengjiao Chanlin. Of course, by the time we actually got to the temple, it was getting dark and the temple was closed. Still, I hope you enjoy the one decent picture I was able to take of it.
6. Macau Tower
Finally, we hooked around Macau’s West Point, crossing over a large bridge, to get to Macau Tower. On our walk there, we had a clear view of Macau Tower and of the Macau skyline. But what is the Macau Tower?
Macau Tower or the Macau Tower Convention & Entertainment Center features shopping malls, high-end, classy restaurants, theaters, and an observation deck giving panoramic views of Macau. Also at the observation deck, is the Skywalk, an attraction letting visitors walk around the outside rim of the tower (harnesses of course). Additionally, you have the option of purchasing sky jump tickets, the worlds highest commercial bungee jump. I’m a fan of risk and danger but this time we stuck to the views from within.
6.2 Going Home
Our last stop isn’t really a stop. From Macau Tower, we finally made our way back home to our Airbnb. At the end of a long bridge, a large golden lion greeted us, signaling we had once again re-entered the strip.
Now it’s time for some quick reflections. When I first arrived in Macao, I was bummed out. Our plans to go to Hong Kong were ruined, there was no real food (that wouldn’t empty our bank) near us and we heard Macau had nothing to offer. However, spending 6,7 hours walking around mainland Macau definitely changed my view of it. Now would I visit again? Probably not, at least not if I’m not gambling.
If you’ve looked at a map of Macau, you may have noticed there’s a whole other island to the south of where we just explored. Maybe a better title for this post is mainland Macau in a day (admittedly not as catchy). Therefore, stay tuned for the next part of this Macau series, Taipa in a Day.