I embarked on a halal trip to Macau recently and when a few close friends asked if I was mad, I had calmly replied no.
In fact I had thought that the initiative taken by the Malaysian Macau Government Tourist Office to market Macau to Muslims a sound one.
I was curious myself too; what would be a Muslim’s diet like in a city known of sin and swine?
I had to indulge my curiosity and being the adventurous shod that I am, I hopped on the plane to Macau.
After surviving on pork-free sustenance (for main meals, not counting the cheat meals I had in between) for 3 days in Macau, I’m convinced that there are good food to be had as a Muslim while in Macau.
Details of where to go is in this post –> “Kuliner Halal Macau” –> http://www.rebeccasaw.com/macau-a-halalpork-free-diningg-trip-kuliner-halal-di-macau/
However, do note that the places listed are not easy on the pocket.
Ah Macau, it’s good to be back after nearly 15 years. You have changed so much.
It was expensive back then when I was a kid. It is still expensive now.
The country has grown prosperous, but Malaysia’s currency has not kept up.
A good chat with some Malaysian friends revealed much, and while I’m happy to see them settled down well, I’m envious too of their earning power.
But enough of that.
SO IF YOU ARE A MALAYSIAN, HOW DO YOU holiday in Macau without breaking the bank?
Below you will find lists of places to visit without having to spend much money. You would have to send a bit of transportation but if you stick to the buses or use the hotel shuttles whenever you could, you will save a lot.
Most of the hotels provide free shuttle services. Galaxy Hotel (on Taipa Island), in particular, provides shuttles to many places in Macau.
Just be smart about it (especially if you are not a guest of the hotel).
Now for sight-seeing.
There isn’t any reason why it would defer from the usual spots that Macau is famous for.
While casinos are a no-no, fellow Muslims can visit them, but they just don’t gamble.
They can visit churches too, and we know Macau is well known for its historical sites and rich culture.
Everyone has to go to Senado Square and we were no different.
On a weekday afternoon the pretty square was bustling with both locals and tourists.
Due to its Portuguese history, Macau boast of a fusion of Portuguese and Chinese culture.
Its building are mostly of Portuguese architecture and Portuguese titles for its road signs and buildings are a common sight. There are as many churches as there are temples, though the churches are more prominent.
So what does everyone do at Senado Square?
Walk, visit some churches, shop, explore the market (if it’s open) and take photos!
Being the tourist:
The market wasn’t really open yet when we were there.
I was more interested in the wet market but didn’t get a chance to step in.
We did a “Footsteps into the Historic Centre” walking route which covers:
Avenida da Praia Grande → Leal Senado Building → Senado Square → General Post Office Building → St. Dominic’s Church → Sam Kai Vui Kun (Kuan Tai Temple) → Heritage Exhibition of a Traditional Pawnshop Business → Tung Sin Tong Historical Archive Exhibition Hall → Carpentry Guildhall → Rua de Camilo Pessanha → Happiness Street (Rua da Felicidade) → Cheng Peng Theatre → Rua da Caldeira → Inner Harbour → Opium House → Praça de Ponte e Horta.
Some of these are payable (just a few MOP) while some are public places.
They are all within walking distance so take it as a long, leisurely walk. Depending on which months you’re visiting Macau, it can be a hot, sweltering walk or a cooling, relaxing stroll.
I was there few weeks back (so it’s March) and the weather is wonderfully refreshing.
Because the buildings are restorations from its original, retail and businesses are house within its original facade and construction.
Pharmacies, fashion, even Mcdonalds operates within these structures. Their signage are smaller for some but these buildings make the whole shopping experience unique as the shops are not in a boring square commercial building.
Stepping into each outlet imparts a different feel, for not only you will notice the wares, but you will notice its internal structure as well.
Our route also took us to one of the famous places of worship; the Sam Kai Vui Kun (Kuan Tai Temple).
The temple are not much different from ours in Malaysia. In fact after visiting a few, I realized they are almost similar.
The churches however, are definitely bigger and grander.
Most of the streets in Macau are pretty narrow, especially those in the old areas.
But these small streets are nice for a calming stroll. 🙂
Higher traffic roads are slightly wider. I noticed that buses went past pretty frequently.
An ancient pawn house was one of the more interesting spots we visited.
It is no more in business, but served as a museum now instead.
How records of pawned items are kept in the old times; obviously on paper.
Actual pawned items are kept in safes.
An old medicine hall was another spot that we lingered around longer.
The Chinese physician was very chatty and most of us just got hooked to the myriad of dried herbs and medicines he displayed for us to see.
This is supposedly a very famous and popular restaurant in Macau.
Some of the smaller F & B shops are more nostalgic, but since since they speak little English I wasn’t able to find out what exactly were in these claypots.
Frankly after a while we just wondered off exploring what caught our fancy.
But that’s the great part about Senado Square.
Foodies like myself would gravitate towards the pastry shops and stuff ourselves silly with cookie samples while the serious photographers will spends time to frame their perfect shot for Instagram.
The history buffs would listen attentively to our guide as she rattled off facts and tales about each building.
All in all Senado Square is good area to start off your time in Macau for it gives you an overall feel of the new and old of Macau.
Senado Square is in Macau Peninsular and we spent most of our first day here. The next day we headed to Taipa Island.
Here our tour covered the “Bygone Days of Taipa Village” walking route:
I Leng Temple in Taipa → Kun Iam Temple in Taipa → Museum of Taipa and Coloane History → Tin Hau Temple in Taipa → Pak Tai Temple in Taipa → Rua do Cunha → Carmo Hall → Our Lady of Carmo Church → The Taipa Houses-Museum.
What’s inside? Artefacts, costumes, living quarters.
The pretty streets are narrow, and buses ply the route frequently so be careful.
But it is very safe!
By the 2nd day I realized that the city is very clean, and organized. It’s true, as even my Macau friends had said that it has almost no crime rate to speak of.
I was shocked and amused to see aunty gutting her fishes out in the open! And laundry drying outside.
For my next visit I’ll like to try living with a Macau family to experience the real Macau life.
I was told that the rental and property prices are crazy.
These low cost homes cost about RM500, 000 onwards and are old & small (about 800 – 1200 sq feet).
Once we got past the historial buidlings, we (or rather I did ) rejoiced for Taipa has a famous market where both sides of the streets are lined with food and souvenirs shops.
We have “bak kwa” in Malaysia; usually just pork or chicken, and some spicy while the original is most popular.
Here in Macau? Gosh, there are almost 20 types to choose from!
And I got myself a nice pork bun! And an egg tart.
Both are way tastier than our local Tai Lo Kei for sure.
This is the shop:
I wished I had bought the egg white tart too.
But it was said that the original Tai Loi Kei is pretty good, but it was still too early when we were in the area so I didn’t get to grab any pork bun for sampling.
The last part of the walk was the The Taipa Houses-Museum.
The museum complex consists of 5 houses displaying various artefacts and exhibits.
These colonial residences were built back in 1921 and restored to replicate houses of well-off Portuguese families living in Macau during the first half of the 20th century.
The houses used to look out over the sea, but due to land reclamation of the Cotai Strip between Taipa and Coloane, they are now next to a small lake.
The evening also includes a visit to the Macau Grand Prix exhibition (great for motoring enthusiasts) and Wine Museum (there are free samples of wine!).
After all the “just look, no touch” of the automobiles, this stimulation game might be a nice distraction.
Or maybe a better distraction would be the adjacent Portuguese wine museum.
It is informative, for if you are interested to know more about the Portuguese cultivation and harvesting methods of their wines there are walls and walls of illustrations and text unfurling the stories of wine making.
Should you prefer visuals plus sound, the screening corner shows videos of the same.
The best part?
There is a sampling table; with a lady ever generous to pour you some of Portugal’s best vino and ports.
When I was confirmed for Macau my top priority was to do the Bungee Jump from the Macau Tower.
So I was truly in anticipation of hurling myself off a ledge 233m high from ground.
Unfortunately the bungee jump was rather exorbitantly priced, and even as I contemplate paying for it, I wasn’t quite sold on the idea of a “controlled” jump.
It is not free fall as the jump is from a structure (the tower itself), so to avoid having the jumper slamming into the tower itself as they descend, the descend is controlled via a lever.
The Full Package (includes Bungy Jump, Certificate, Membership Card, Exclusive T-shirt + Video + Photo in USB) is $3,788 (RM2,000).
Other options are the Tower Climb, the SkyJump and the Tandem SkyJump.
Even the mild Skywalk which is merely a stroll around the outer perimeter that encircles the tower will set you back by 788 MOP (RM400).
We got the safest option @ Level 58 and walked inside the Observation Lounge.
As you can see, standing at the inside of the tower and trying to take pictures requires a bit of skills as the reflecion can be annoying.
But the views can be beautiful if you managed to circumvent the reflection.
From inside the observation deck; just standing over the glass and looking down might scare yourself silly if you are such a sissified character. 😛
Ok, here’s how the Skywalk is like. It is basically a stroll around the outer perimeter that encircles the tower.
Other than just walking around and taking pictures of yourself and your surroundings, the instructor will show some “tricks” such as leaning yourself over the edge of the ledge.
How far up?
Well, 60+ floors up (233 m) isn’t that scary. Not to me anyways.
If you do the bungy jump, you will be strapped up like this.
This couple paid and the girl went first. The guy was supposed to be next.
And after she jumped, the guy got scared and decided to forfeit his jump!
Yes, bloody ball-less dude!
The Macau Peninsula and the Cotai Strip (a reclaimed piece of land between the islands of Taipa and Coloane) are filled with casinos and luxury hotels.
Yes, other than cafe-hopping or shopping malls hop, try visiting each of the hotels here.
Most are interconnected with casinos and malls.
What to watch out for are the decor, interior walls, their gardens, pools and lobbies. I visited MO, MGM and WYNN and found the interior really opulent; and not to mentioned really great for photography.
For example this is the Installation “Valkyrie Octopus” by Joana Vasconcelos in MGM Macau.
” Acclaimed Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos – the 1st woman & youngest artist ever to exhibit at the Chateau de Versailles in 2012, in what was to become the most visited exhibition in Paris in the last 50 years – presents her installation “Valkyrie Octopus” as part of a visionary art programme reflecting Macau’s integral role in the 500-year history of trade between China & Portugal.
Her first solo exhibition in China, Vasconcelos’s highly unusual works are distinguished by their monumental scale, mixed use of appropriated materials & mastery of organic form.
“Valkyrie Octopus” combines crochet & Nisa embroidery from the Alto Alentejo region of Portugal with thousands of LED lights & boldly colored, patterned materials embellished by various kinds of beads in a patchwork of patterns, shapes & textures. “
The hotel staff won’t stop you from taking a few photos and from walking around certain areas of the hotels (lobby, pool, gardens) and there are beautiful and unique decorative items to photograph with.
See my collage below? There are more of course, but I got tired of posing after a while! 🙂
Have a drink at one of the many chillout bars within the glamourous hotels. My friend recommend Wynn, as well as Mandarin Oriental for its rooftop bar.
Be prepared to pay RM30 – RM50 for a cocktail.
And of course you would have to take a taxi since it is late at night so remember that the taxi charges starts from 17 MOP which is RM9/10 and the fare increases steadily (refer to end of post for the rates).
Bonus: My friend Michael has a bike so I had a fun time riding it in the cold night!
And he shown me some free entertainment in the form of “The Performance Lake” at WYNN Macau.
Each show lasts approximately three minutes and runs alternately at 15 minutes intervals.
The Lake features more than 300 water nozzles and shooters and holds 800,000 gallons of water.
This daily show starts from 11:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
During the show, expect a dazzling display of water, light, color and fire.
Since we are at WYNN, Michael showed me the Tree of Prosperity and the Dragon of Fortune.
I didn’t take any pictures of the Dragon as I took a video. HERE it is, do watch it!
The Tree of Prosperity is a choreographic masterpiece of music, video and light. Rays of light illuminate the tree and change into vibrant colors to represent different seasons of the year.
The sparkling chandlier, composed of 21,000 crystals adds glitter and glamour.
The Dragon of Fortune show starts from 10:00 am to midnight daily and alternates between the Tree of Prosperity and the Dragon of Fortune at 30 minutes intervals.
HIGH END SHOPPING:
Like I said before, the ease of the interconnecting hotels to the malls are a godsend.
Take a stroll through the Shoppes at Cotai Central, the Shoppes at Four Seasons and the Shoppes at Venetian, which can be accessed from Conrad, Four Seasons Macao or The Venetian.
There are hundreds of duty-free shops covering the range of luxurious to mid-range brands. Looking for bargains?
No, I doubt you will get them here.
NOTE: Photography of shops within the malls are not encouraged so I didn’t take much shots, but just imagine Starhill and Pavilion on a scale of 10,000 more.
Within The Venetian, Macao you can take a Gondola Ride in a canal.
It is a 10 minutes through and fro and you will pass the shops as you relax in the swaying motion of the gondola. Your gondola pilot (gondolier) will break into song every now and then, and if you ask, will even regal you with his stories of working for The Venetian.
This is not free, but cost RM60 (118 MOP ) per adult.
Else amuse yourself at the Street of Venice & “fake sky”, also at The Venetian Macao.
Another amusing and photo-worthy experience (and yes, FREE) is the The DreamWorks All Star Parade
This beautifully choreographed daily parade takes place at the Shoppes at Cotai Central retail mall and comprises a cast of up to 32 performers, including 12 characters, dancers, puppets and stilt walkers from the hit films Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.
The parade will wend its way through Level 2 of Shoppes at Cotai Central. The characters and performers will interact with the crowd while dancing, waving and shaking hands along the parade route.
There is a pretty good food court within this mall, and Lord Stow’s egg tarts are available for purchase at this little shop (as well as a stand-alone kiosk a little further away) within The Venetian.
Me – always happy when there is food.
LOW END SHOPPING:
Well, expect a lot of China goods. And pasar-malam -like items.
EXERCISE FOR FREE!
No doubt the hotels here are well equipped for your weight bearing workouts but feeling in need of stretching out your legs?
The entire city is so safe, you will see people jogging along the promenade and the roads at 2am at night!
Another FREE thing to do?
Visit the Goddess of Mercy stature and take pictures of/with it.
Well, there is plenty to see and do in Macau without breaking the bank right? 🙂
I hope you find these tips useful!
I’m personally NOT a budget traveler and if there is another trip to Macau for me, I hope to review one of the luxurious hotels and try my luck at the casinos! 😛
There are plenty of shuttles and public buses and they ply their route pretty frequently and timely so expect a 10 minute wait or less.
Do have loose change ready for the drivers are unable to provide change and there are no bus conductors on board.
Fare starts at 17 MOP which is RM9.
Use HKD or Patacas (Macau currency). Do not go into Macau without HKD or MOP, for I spend half a day trying to get banks and money changers to buy my RM and no outlets/banks wants our RM.
Last but not least, just remember that our ringgit doesn’t go far in Macau.
So budget accordingly so you can enjoy your holiday, for calculating pennies while on holiday probably would take the fun out of the vacation.
Breakfast buffets in the hotels are usually good (depending on which hotel you’re at) so load up. Lunch can be at one of the local shops where noodles and pork buns are popular.
For snacks and tea stock up on the famous egg tarts, BBQ meats and the wonderful crunchy almond cookies. There are numerous flavours and forms of these cookies to choose from.
Splurge on dinner at one of the many restaurant in town, or IF your budget doesn’t allow it, lunch menus at such restaurants can potentially be less costly.
*** This is a media trip with the Macau Government Tourist Office Malaysia and other members of the media from Malaysia.