As promised to my friends, I would try and chronicle my travels. So, for 2010, I decided to go abroad and fly back to Hong Kong and make a side trip to Macau as well.
Macau has three islands Macau Island, Taipa, and Coloane. However, recent developments in Macau meant that the Cotai strip - a manmade reclamation area that houses some of the biggest casinos in the area, joined the Taipa and Coloane islands. Why is this Special Administrative Area of China so unique and popular to tourists? Well, first off, its got a ton of casinos -- something that Hong Kong and even the mainland lack. Some locals go to Macau for the weekend so expect hotel rates to rise! Some parts of Macau are also World Heritage sites - well, I think that's enough for me to go, right? History, history, history! Its got old churches, and other places worth mentioning.
Planning Your Trip and Tips
When I booked my tickets, I just had some dates in mind. I decided to book immediately because a local airline [Cebu Pacific] was holding dirt cheap airfares! Anyway, I went there around July -- which is a boiling hot time to go, so not very ideal if you hate the hot weather! Try going there in the colder months, October-March!
How many days is ideal to stay in Macau? It totally depends on you! If you want to just check out the historic center, then a day is enough, but if you want to check out some of the casinos out there, then two days would be more than enough. In my case, I went to the historic areas in the morning, whilst going to the casinos at night. If you also want to check out the other islands, Coloane and Taipa, then three days at the most. I wouldn't recommend staying in Macau for more than three days because I got bored. If I were you, I'd want to plan a trip to Zhuhai [if you have a mainland China visa], or to Hong Kong too. Most visitors tend to go to Hong Kong as there are far more activities and tourist areas to go to!
There's three ways to go to Macau: you could go by land, air, or sea. Macau is easily accessible from Hong Kong, and you have the option to enter through Hong Kong and take a ferry to Macau [which lasts only for an hour and the option that most people do], or to ride a helicopter from HKIA to Macau's airport or the heliport near the ferry terminal. Macau is also accessible from Mainland China - via Zhuhai. Just taking the bus from Guangzhou [Zhuhai] into Macau is a breeze. And the last option: by air. There are several airlines flying to Macau. I come from Manila so Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines land there. The airport is in Taipa, which is around 30 minutes to an hour away from the Macau Peninsula.
The airport - do note that the airport is very, very small! Once the plane lands, it taxis for around 10 minutes before it reaches the airport terminal. Once you alight from the plane, it's a short walk and there's customs! Normally there's loads of people around, which could take you around 30 minutes or more to clear. After customs, you can claim your baggage, and you're finally off!
Unlikes the other tourist destinations, Macau has no MTR! To get around the city, you have to walk, take the bus, or hire a taxi. Or there's the open secret of using the free shuttle buses offered by the casinos and walking to the nearest sight! teehee. Thing is, you've got to plan your itinerary and where you're going very, very carefully to make the most out of your time and money! =)
Getting Around, Research, and Resources
When I arrived in Macau, there are no maps in the airport. So, how would you get to your hotels? There are three options: 1. Hotel pickup. I'm not sure if all hotels do this, but this is not the option we took as our hotel has no option for this. 2. Taxi - too bloody expensive for me but it is the most convenient and 3. Take the AP1 bus somewhere and transfer to another bus or just walk to your hotel. The latter is the one I chose, as its very, very cheap - 4.20 MOP from Taipa/airport to the Ferry Terminal in Macau Peninsula!
Anyway, I also survived by downloading and printing a map of Macau from the Macau Tourist Office.
Both the Macau and Taipa/Coloane maps are made of four pages each, and you have to assemble each of them like a jigsaw puzzle. You just need a bit of patience, a table, and some sticky tape and you're on your way! This way you could get a birds eye view of Macau and plan your trip accordingly.
On another blog, I'll try and group together all the activities you could do so you won't have a hard time to do so =)
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