Introducing Throwback Thursday — Macau

A few weeks ago, I finally cracked and signed up for an Instagram account, despite swearing for months that I’d never succumb to that trend. I blame my new iPhone, with its lightning-fast processor and crystal-clear pictures, two qualities my old Android was sorely lacking. Anyway, I Instagram pics like a pro now, and I’m especially taken with the “Throwback Thursday” trend. I figured that TBT would work pretty well for my blog. One of the things I regret most is that I only started blogging fourteen months or so ago, because I didn’t have a chance to write about any of my past travels. Now, though, that’s going to change.


My time in Macau was incredibly brief, as I tacked it on as a day trip while I was in Hong Kong in April of 2012. The friend whom I was visiting in Hong Kong had told me that the European influence in Macau – once a Portuguese colony – was easily observed, and she wasn’t wrong. The cobblestone streets of Macau look like they could come straight out of Paris or Italy, and the overall atmosphere of the city (at least in parts) is distinctly European.

Overlooking part of Macau. Climbing this hill in the April humidity was not my idea of a fun time.
Overlooking part of Macau. Climbing this hill in the April humidity was not my idea of a fun time.

If you’re a gambler, you’ll view Macau as heaven. Its casinos are opulently decadent, both inside and out. “Restraint” is not exactly a concept that runs rampant there. For example, the ferry I took to Macau from Hong Kong included a shuttle to the Venetian, a forty-story, 2.4 billion dollar hotel. From the outside, it’s a sight to behold, but indoors, it’s even more gaudily impressive. The massive shopping arcade of the Venetian, as you’d expect, is a recreation of the canals of its namesake Italian city, complete with a glittering starry “sky” overhead. It’s not fooling anybody, but it’s certainly impressive. (And also confusing…took me ten minutes to find my way out of the damn thing.)

Inside the Venetian. The architects didn't exactly have a small budget.
Inside the Venetian. The architects didn’t exactly have a small budget.

Macau was one of the first places in mainland SE Asia that I’d been, and if I’m honest, it’s not one of my favorite travel spots. It was disconcerting for me to see the many high-rise apartment buildings that, despite looking decrepit and dilapidated, were utterly crammed full of families. Obviously, I’m aware that this is not at all an uncommon thing for Southeast Asia, and yes, this comes off as a “First World Problem,” but it was still a bit shocking for me.

From this...
From this…
...to this. The extremes of Macau.
…to this. The extremes of Macau.

The disparity between the grandeur of Macau’s casinos and the depths of its impoverished lower classes was never clear for me than from the view from the Fortaleza do Monte, an old hilltop fortress (complete with cannons).

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At the top near the central garden.
See? Really was a fortress back in the day.
See? Really was a fortress back in the day.
Climbing the stairs of the Fortaleza do Monte.
Climbing the stairs of the Fortaleza do Monte.

However, Macau still had its bright spots, to be sure. One of them was its pork buns. Oh, those pork buns…heaven wrapped in fried dough. I’d read about the street food snack beforehand, but I wasn’t full prepared for the way the crispy outer dough gave way to sharp onions and tender slabs of pork within. It was a little greasy, sure, but that only added to the deliciousness. In comparison, I wasn’t such a fan of the famed custard tarts. They’re considered one of Macau’s most famous culinary delights, but their eggy taste was more than I’d expected.

Mmmm, lunch. Cheap and delicious, my favorite kind.
Mmmm, lunch. Cheap and delicious, my favorite kind.
Dried meat was also a pretty popular fare.
Dried meat was also a pretty popular fare…
...as were dozens and dozens of varieties of almond cookies.
…as were dozens and dozens of varieties of almond cookies.

Because of its rich history, Macau has no shortage of notable landmarks. One of the most famous and recognizable is the façade of St. Paul’s Church. Jesuit missionaries built St. Paul’s in the early 1600s, and it was Europe’s first outpost in the Far East, making it quite the draw for tourists. Its stairs are always full of tourists posing for pictures with the ruins in the backgrounds, and there’s good reason for that. It’s one of the most iconic sights in Macau.

The steps leading up to St. Paul's.
The steps leading up to St. Paul’s.
Naturally, I joined in with all of the other tourists to grab a picture.
Naturally, I joined in with all of the other tourists to grab a picture.

A stone’s throw away from St. Paul’s is the famous Senado (Senator’s) Square. It was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2005, and its pale ocher, aquamarine, and pearly tiles deserve the honor. It truly feels like you could be standing in Lisbon, rather than in mainland Asia. Like any square in Europe, it’s home to its fair share of street entertainers and tourists lounging near the fountains.

Senado Square
Senado Square

As impressive as that all was, it didn’t compare to Macau’s top draw for me: the highest bungee jump in the world. That, though, deserves its own post on the next Throwback Thursday.

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