An hour ferry ride outside of Hong Kong shines the casino-dominated, Portuguese colony of Macau…Asia’s Las Vegas. CNN’s international page, CNN GO, says it has been 5 years since the gambling revenue of Macau has surpassed that of Las Vegas, Nevada here in the States and is now the world leader in gambling revenue. Because gambling is illegal in Hong Kong, locals and tourists flock to the island to try out their hands at Blackjack and the slots.
There are multiple ferries leaving various ports in Hong Kong, just be sure to bring your passport as the trip is considered international. (Macau is technically part of China while Hong Kong is not. So you need a passport). My first time on the ferry, I was about 3 days into my malaria pills, prepping for my trip to Thailand. I was very seasick and the hour-long ride felt like a 12-hour ride!
Macau is very unique in that you’ll find street signs in both Cantonese (the main language of Hong Kong) and Portuguese, Chinese food on the streets and European gothic buildings at the city square. Every time I have been to Hong Kong, I book a ferry ticket to Macau and roam around for the day. The last time I was in the casino, I even won 40 yuan (which converted to about $6 USD).
Casino Lisboa is one of the most well-known casinos in Macau. Built in 1970, the inside rooms are strung with diamonds that make it look like something right out of a James Bond film with Sean Connery. (You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside at the gambling tables, so you just have to take my word for it). I visited this casino with a travel buddy and guy we met at our hostel, and when we entered the Blackjack room, we were definitely out of place. Everyone else was in tuxedos and designer dresses (we went into the high stakes room), so you can imagine how surprised everyone was to see a couple of backpackers in capris and sweaty t-shirts.
In Senado Square (the city square in the middle of the town), you’ll find St. Dominic’s Church – an old Catholic church that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As you walk further up the street, you pass tons of food vendors selling meats of all kinds of animals, delicious-smelling cookies, t-shirt shops and store owners selling their colorful kites.
It’s at the top of the hill that you’ll find the historic ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral – one of Macau’s most famous landmarks and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info on St. Paul’s, check out Fun Tourist Attractions!
Next to the Cathedral is Fortaleza do Monte – Mount Fortress, which used to be the fortress of Macau. (Another UNESCO site). If you climb the stairs to the top of the fortress, you can get a great 360-degree view of Macau!
Whether you’re in Macau to gamble, site-see, walk through this historic colony or eat the delicious Portuguese food, it’s definitely worth the ferry ride if you can tear yourself away from Hong Kong. If you’re walking around the city (although, there are taxis and buses), be sure to keep an eye on the weather. During my most recent trip, my friends and I were caught in monsoon-like rains!