15 Things Macau Has Surprised Us With

Unexpected Visa Run To Macau

Chinese do everything at last minute. Therefore, we were not surprised to be told to pack our bags and leave for Macau just a few hours before our bus was leaving. First thought? Yeah, it’s gonna be awesome!  Second thought? We are absolutely unprepared!

A view of Macau Island
First view when we arrived in Macau

 

The reason of our visit in Macau are our Chinese visas. The school promised to convert our tourist visas into working visas so we had to head either to Hong Kong or Macau and the school staff decided it was Macau. Although we had nothing to say, we didn’t mind it at all. Together, with one of the teachers from the kindergarten, we firstly took a bus to Jiangmen (over 3-hour ride) and then we were taken directly to Macau by a private car (1-hour journey). At the end of the afternoon, we jumped on the ferry to get on the other side of the river (cost of the ferry – RMB 25 per person, one way ticket) and we could finally start enjoying Macau!

Two people on the ferry to Macau
Us on the ferry

 

First Glimpse of Macau From the Ferry

We absolutely loved the first view from the ferry. The sky was crystal clear and we could see some buildings and sky scrapers almost floating above the ground.

Macau from the ferry
Macau from the ferry

 

There is nothing better than chilling out on the ferry and admiring the stunning scenery!

Macau from the ferry
Macau from the ferry

More Surprises

It was supposed to be a one or two day adventure in Macau, but we found out at the Chinese Embassy that we need to stay in Macau for 7 days until we receive our visas. That means no school for a week, just travels around Macau and blogging. It sounds like a plan to us, but wait a minute… we don’t have much cash left! This problem has been quickly resolved by our supervisor, who provided us with all we needed and here we are living and travelling in Macau for a week (15.05-22.05)!

3 people are happy that they explore Macau
Me, Cez and Bobo, extremely happy to be exploring the city centre

15 Things Macau Has Surprised Us With on the First Days

Macau is called the “Far East Monte Carlo” and it is widely known for its gambling industry. Although we visited Macau once last year (one day stay when visiting Hong Kong), this time it surprised us with absolutely new things we didn’t experience the first time round.

#1  Enormous Skyscrapers With Fancy Design.

This is incredible how high Macau buildings are and how fancy they look. You have a feeling like they never end and disappear somewhere in the sky. The highest building is called Grand Lisboa, it has 52 floors and it is 261m/ 856 feet high. Almost all skyscrapers look flashy at night and you can admire their modern construction (long lifts sticking outside with some colourful windows). Can you imagine having a dinner on the top? We are actually so tempted to do so… :)

Macau skyscraper
One of Macau skyscrapers

 

#2 Poor Areas Just Opposite the Casinos.

You are surrounded by glamorous casinos and shopping malls everywhere you go, but there are also a lot of poor areas around. We have already seen some dirty and shabby blocks of flats where poorer locals live. It is such a sad view!

Poor area of Macau
Poor area of Macau

 

#3 Motorbikes, Scooters, Bikes And More Motorbikes.

We have noticed that at least 2/3 of locals travel around the city by either a motorbike, shooter or a bike. Although the traffic is crazy and you can easily get hit by any moving vehicle, most of the road users drive carefully and let you cross the street first. Everywhere you go, there are hundreds of motorbikes parked in the corners of the streets making this place so cool.

Motorbikes in Macau
Motorbikes in Macau

 

#4 The Prices Of Accommodation Rise On Fridays, Saturdays And Sometimes on Sundays.

This is something that surprised us the most. We paid MOP500 ($62) for a double room per night (from Wednesday to Friday and from Monday to Tuesday) and we were charged an extra MOP150 ($18) to stay overnight on Friday and an extra MOP250 ($31) for our Saturday and Sunday night. There are more people coming to gamble at the weekends so all accommodation prices go up! This was one of the cheapest hotels around the city centre we could find. Let’s face it – weekend stays in Macau are so expensive!

Fortunately, today we ventured off to a more remote area with much poorer neighbourhood, where we found a cheaper stay, nicer staff and better room quality. Also, the old hotel staff agreed to refund the money for the nights we’re not going to stay there. The new prices are as follows: Sunday-Thursday at MOP380, Friday at MOP430, and Saturday at MOP480.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Note: Macau people are not willing to bargain. We found it so difficult to haggle. In some hotels you can find “No Bargaining” note on the wall right at the reception.[/box]
Our hotel room in Macau
Our hotel room in Macau

 

#5 Healthy Food Is Available Everywhere.

We got used to eating greasy and stodgy food in China on a regular basis. The majority of Chinese meals served in local restaurants are deep fried. Here, in Macau, we see plenty of food stands filled with veggies and seafood which can be either boiled or grilled without adding much salt. This is what I love having for my snacks! I already had some boiled broccoli, lettuce, sea plants and crabs. So yummy and light!

Local stands with veggies and seafood in Macau
Local stands with veggies and seafood in Macau

 

My stomach is so grateful for that. I don’t feel bloated any more and I have definitely more energy. A small bowl of seafood costs only MOP20 ($2.50) and you can get it anywhere. I would recommend to try some veggies if you are a vegetarian. If you find it tasteless, you can have them with some sauces (there is a great variety of them – from garlic, tomato to meat and mushroom sauce).

Picking up some seafood in Macau
Picking up some seafood

 

#6 More Bakeries And Coffee Shops Than Restaurants.

It is much easier to find a bakery stuffed with delicious cakes, donuts and pastries or a local cafe than finding a Portuguese restaurant. Seriously. Macau is full of take away cake shops and Starbucks, but we find it pretty difficult to find a local restaurant serving traditional Portuguese food.

Our favorite bakery called Cafe Free where you can pick up some delicious cakes and have them with a nice cup of coffee or tea
Our favorite bakery called Cafe Free in Macau where you can pick up some delicious cakes and have them with a nice cup of coffee or tea

 

It is actually so hard to resist the temptation when you keep staring at the cake and pastry displays.

One of our favourite pastries - Danish Butter Crisp Bread
One of our favourite pastries – Danish butter crisp bread

 

We have already treated ourselves with some fresh croissants and pastries. There is nothing like this in China so we are catching up on desserts in Macau.

A plate of pastries in Macau
From the left – Denmark Miscya Bread (MOP13), Japanese bread filled with bananas (MOP10) and a cheese bun with garlic and basil (MOP6)

 

#7 Plenty Of Fruit Markets, But None Of Veggie Markets.

Fruits are everywhere. Veggies are nowhere (apart from supermarkets). You can enjoy a box of fresh blueberries, strawberries or grab one banana on the run, but getting a piece of carrot or a few tomatoes is a mission impossible. We luckily found some big supermarkets called Supermercados where we can get some veggies from.

Fruit market bananas in Macau
Fruit market in Macau

 

#8 Demonstrations Taking Place At Senado Square.

On our first day in Macau we witnessed a demonstration held at Senado Square (one of the top tourist attractions) by a group of retired locals. They were shouting and screaming something in Chinese which we didn’t understand a lot. There were some TV stations filming the whole strike and having interviews with the leader.

Demonstration at Senado Square in Macau
Demonstration at Senado Square in Macau

 

The main streets were closed for an hour and the square was surrounded by police officers. We stopped for a while to have a look at what was going on. There were no fights whatsoever and the chaos ended after an hour.

Police officers securing the area in Macau
Police officers securing the area

 

#9 Empty Churches.

Although the churches seem to be one of the most interesting architectural attractions in Macau, we found them empty in the middle of the day. There were few people praying and a handful of tourists taking some photos. We thought we had to queue for hours to get inside, but it was just the opposite.

St. Augustin Church in Macau
St. Augustin Church

 

#10 Smell Of Smoked Fish And Meat.

Walking down the streets of Macau you can smell some smoked fish or meat. The reason being, there are plenty of shops selling them and locals as well as Chinese tourists seem to like it. They queue to get a bag of super expensive fish or a few pieces of pork.

Smoked fish you can get in Macau
Smoked fish you can get everywhere in Macau. It is way too salty for us though.

 

Meat is very pricey for some reason. It is smoked and covered with spicy herbs.

Local meat being sold in shops in Macau
Meat sold in local shops. It is very chewy.

 

#11 Different Socket Plugs.

There are two types of electrical sockets (outlets) used in Macau:

  • The “Type G ” British BS-1363
  • The “Type D” Indian (old British BS-546 5 amp “small”) sockets.

Unfortunately our Chinese plugs didn’t match the shape of these sockets so we had to borrow an adapter in order to plug in.

Our Chinese appliances not matching the shape of Macau sockets
Our Chinese appliances not matching the shape of Macau sockets

 

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]Note: Bring the right adapter with you when coming from China.[/box]

#12 Locals Speak Good English.

Like in Hong Kong, the majority of locals (including small restaurant staff) can speak at least some English. They don’t speak only basic English, but actually can have a proper conversations with us. Our life is much easier here than in China, that’s for sure.

A local woman is serving food in Macau
We were blown away to hear the lady take our order in English with no struggle

 

#13 No VPN Needed.

Best news ever. Unlike China, we can use Facebook, Twitter and Google freely in Macau. That makes our work and blogging a lot easier as you can imagine.

#14 The Whole City Is Dead Till 11 AM.

Most of restaurants, cafes, shopping malls and local shops open at 11 am. We left our hotel at 9.30 and struggled to find an open place where we could eat. The streets of Macau were nearly empty.

All shops and restaurants being closed at 9 am
All shops and restaurants closed at 9 am

 

#15 Narrow Streets.

Numerous narrow streets and alleys are so typical for Portugal and Spain. We sometimes feel like strolling down the streets of Lisboa. It is a great mix of Cantonese and Portuguese cultures, which can be felt in so many ways, sets Macau apart from anywhere else. It is simply a Macanese experience we are so in love with!

Narrow streets of Macau
Narrow streets of Macau

 

Although, there have been many surprises waiting for us in Macau, we could not be happier. Everything is going well and we love it. I wake up every day and enjoy a nice cup of Portuguese coffee, then grab my camera and slowly but surely start exploring every corner of it…

How did / would Macau surprise you?

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54 Comments

  • All these surprises and you didn’t even mention what’s inside the casinos! My biggest surprise when visiting Macau was seeing busload after busload of Chinese tourists arriving at the fancy casinos. They played for hours at the tables, and then piled back on the buses for the journey back to China.

    • Ellis, we have not been inside the casinos yet. It was our second day today and we are planning to do it on Saturday and Sunday. We have also noticed the funny behaviour of Chinese when we visited Macau for the first time last year. This was so incredible how much money there people lost in casinos and then spent on shopping!!

  • Wow, work sending you away for a week off sounds like a great treat :-)

    It looks as though you are making the most of it and I’ve always been curious about Macau.

    You are correct in what you say though, Chinese often do things all last minute and somehow expect you to be ready. Crazy but very common in China.

    • So true. That often irritates us as we never know when our days off work are and when we can travel, but we kinda got used to it. Nothing we can do about it, can’t we? :)

  • There are definitely worse places to be stranded for a week! Too bad I’ll just miss you – I’ll be in Macau the following week. What’s the address for that cafe? Those breads look amazing! Have you had any egg tarts yet?

    • Ouch… that means we are gonna miss you. We’re leaving on Tuesday morning, that’s just too bad. Wish we could stay longer :(. We passed through the Cafe Free when heading to Senado Square, it was just in the corner of the street. I have checked it on the internet and it says the address is 南灣大馬路, but please double check it or ask someone around the square. There are actually plenty of bakeries much cheaper than this one. Avoid Starbucks, it’s just way too expensive! Yes, yes, we already had some egg tarts in Hong Kong and China, but we are going to have traditional Portuguese ones here in Macau tomorrow for our dessert. Can’t wait to try it!

  • I like the portuguese influence on architecture and on Macau culture. Does one can hear still speaking portuguese language in Macau?

    • Hi Sven. Unfortunately not. So far, we have been here for 3 days and we haven’t heard many people speak Portuguese. Just a few Portuguese restaurant owners and Portuguese tourists. We hear a lot of Chinese, Cantonese and English of course, instead. We hope to meet some Portuguese locals so they can teach us some words :).

  • Lucky you. Wish work would send me away for the week with expenses. The nearest I got to was a day trip to Leeds. Anyway enjoy Macau. Looking forward to hearing more stories.

    • I’ve been to Leeds and I guess it’s not far away from where you live, huh? Yes, we’ve been very lucky recently. Thanks Steve. We will keep you posted!

  • That turned out not too bad for a last minute trip! It’s nice that you got a surprise break that you can enjoy. Must be liberating to have access to everything on the internet. Keith and I were in HK two years ago. We were going to Macau on our last day but when we got to the ferry we realized we left our passports at the hotel:( Surprise to learn that they have a lot of healthy food and that Portuguese restaurants are harder to find. I read so much about the proliferation of huge Western brand casinos in Macau. That’s why very wealthy Chinese don’t travel to Las Vegas anymore, they just go to Macau. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Macau, guys!

    • Too bad! That is why we never leave our hotel/hostel/apartment without checking if we got our passports with us. It’s no.1 thing to do! As for the casinos, it’s true. Chinese are very wealthy nowadays and they travel from China to Macau just for the weekend to lose or win a lot of money. They spend hours and hours in casinos. We will enjoy ourselves, thank you! Sending our love. The weather is wonderful so we can enjoy it even more!

    • You should have Becky. There is so much to see and explore. Last time we spent a day here and we thought it was enough. This time, Macau proved us wrong. We still can’t handle it after 4 days!

  • I love your photography skills. I almost felt as though I was standing at the bottom of that skyscraper and looking up. You mention school. Are you teaching in China? love the photo of agness at the end :)

    • Hi Natasha. Thank you for stopping by. We’re so happy you like our photos. We always try our best to capture the moment. Yes, we are both working at the kindergarten in Dongguan, China. We’re teaching English and travelling on our days off. Great experience, would recommend it to you.

    • Thanks Greg. We learn from the best people = you! Congratulations on your new job. Working for National Geographic must be a great feeling. Good luck!

  • Loving that skyscraper! How neat! Hearing that the locals know a little English and that the internet isn’t so restricted are very appealing! I can see a visit to Macau in the future :)

    • Yes, we couldn’t be happier with the free access to the Internet. China resticts everything making our blogging lives much harder and way too complicated…

  • Macau looks like a very interesting city, I love your photos they make me feel like walking around in the town myself. Glad you guys got an extra week holiday out of this.

    • Thank you. Yes, we couldn’t be happier about that. Macau is an extremely interesting place to explore and we can’t get enough of it.

  • Everyone who goes to Macau seems to be surprised by it! I haven’t been, but I’m definitely feeling poor now that I see even the poor people there have air conditioning, while I sweat to death here in Honduras :)

    • There is something about Macau that makes you feel so poor, indeed. Locals we have spoken to keep complaining that life expenses are so high, but they keep dining out in restaurants and doing shopping in fancy shopping malls while visiting casinos on a regular basis :). We guess it’s not that bad. Fortunately, we have air conditioning here :). Enjoy Honduras!!

  • Looks fun! Having your school ‘make’ you take a one week vacation in Macau sounds pretty awesome :-) We’re so excited to go in just a few days. We’ll only be there Sunday-Tuesday, but maybe we can meet for dinner or something! Thanks for the great list!!

    • Of course guys! We’re leaving on Tuesday morning so let us know when you finally get here and we can meet somewhere for a nice Portuguese dinner. We have been to some nice places so we will guide you! :)

  • Like Taipei, scooters EVERYWHERE. I nodded when you talked about vpn. I now live in Shanghai, so yeah. :) What an amazing city. :)

    • Hey! Thanks for stopping by. I have never been to Taipei, but explored Shanghai last year. What an amazing city, so hectic and modern. I still remember how excited I was to be on the top of the Pearl Tower! What do you do there? Living and working or just travelling? I have visited your blog, but couldn’t leave a comment. Missing your friends always sucks.Sending my love !!

      • I miss Taiwan terribly. I am living in Shanghai due to being a trailing spouse. My Taiwanese husband found a job here. I am an artist where I sell my stuff online.

        Thank you for your kind words. It means a lot.

  • I like the buildings, mix of Western and Chinese architecture.
    Chinese urban buildings looks for me very poor.
    My favorite Macau landmark is for sure Grand Lisboa.
    Why city is dead till 11 am? I was expecting, citizens wake up early and go to work.

    • Hey! I guess it’s Portuguese thingy – fiesta time :)! We were actually thinking about it as well. Some bakeries were open at 8 am the other day, but shops and restaurants were still closed. It was weird. Besides, we couldn’t find any food after 10 pm either.

  • Yup, wouldn’t have stayed there overnight. My only regret is not having seen the evenings, which I imagine must be gorgeous, all lit up an neon-y. That jerky meat was so interesting… to watch as people flocked to it.

    • Christine, in fact, Macau is an extremely expensive place to stay here overnight. It’s madness to be honest, but you can still find some “cheap” accommodation or do couchsurfing. We will post a note about it soon. :)

  • How lucky for you guys to be spending an unexpected getaway in Macau. Many pictures I’ve seen have been of the glamorous casinos but have never seen the poorer neighborhoods. This was such an eye-opener and an interesting post. I’ve always wanted to visit Macau as a sidetrip from Hong Kong. Knowing there are more fruits and bakeries make it more appealing now too.

    • Yep, we’re pretty lucky:). You can find plenty of bakeries and fruit markets around. I was eating super healthy in Macau unlike in China and really enjoyed the local veggies and seafood.

  • Amazing and superb trip to Macau. I read the whole post and enjoyed it. You write very well and these things are really surprising and interesting. Room rent is high on weekends, amazing but I have no complaint about this. The point that I liked among all fifteen is about understanding of English among locals. :)

    • Hi Pete. Thanks for your comment. It’s been a great fun and an amazing experience to explore Macau without freaking out about our budget limit. Room rent is the most expensive thing here, but you can find some “cheap” options such as hostels.

    • Yep, that made our life much easier. Yes, that is a very interesting place. You should make it there one day.

  • Wow! Macau is also a place that has never been on my radar (most Asian places besides Japan and Mainland China haven’t been), but I am intrigued by the Portuguese influence! I really enjoyed reading this post! And I loved Lisbon, so I have a feeling it might be a great place to visit in Asia, if I ever go! :)

    • We were blown away by Portuguese architecture. You feel like strolling down the streets of Portugal, not Macau and it’s an amazing experience!

  • Great post. I had absolutely no idea of what Macao was like — it seems pretty interesting. I’ll try and check it out one of these days.

  • Hi! I stumbled upon your blog while doing research for my upcoming trip to Macau! Thanks a lot for sharing! Definitely useful in my planning! I hope I can survive there since most of the people either speaks very little or no English at all. I hope there are pictures that I can point at to order food! LOL!

    • Hi Perrin. I’m glad to hear that! Macau is an amazing travel destination. I hope you’ll have a lot of fun there! Don’t forget to grab some egg tarts <3.

  • wow…love the photo taken in the ferry and so excited for my upcoming trip to Hong Kong and Macau this 1st week of December. You mentioned a lot of things to experience. Hope 4 days will be enough. Thank you for sharing!

  • That’s the poor area of Macau? They have ACs! We’re not poor but we have no AC. You should see the poor areas in the Philippines!

  • It’s true, especially the hotel rates. I could have done Macau on a weekday instead of weekends. Nonetheless, the city was still worth visiting.

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