Casinos, Fortresses and Egg Tarts: 12 Hours in Macau

By Mark Wiens 3 Comments

Whirlwind tours of touristy destinations go against my usual snail like traveling pace, but once in a while it’s a necessary tactic.

To get to Macau from Hong Kong I hopped on the Turbo Jet ferry. It took an hour to reach Macau and the journey will set you back about $300 HKD round-trip, depending on the time you go (check the Turbojet website).  Conveniently, the ferry runs 24 hours a day to accommodate travelers on all schedules.


In my short journey to the word’s Las Vegas, I was determined to be a tourist and see everything I could possibly see within 12 hours.

Guess she had to squat for the best shot!

Hopping off the ferry my friend and I scurried to find a local map displaying most of the touristy destinations and providing the street locations.  Attractions and casino’s are not far from the central ferry station, within easy walking distance.  We briskly walked off through the newly opening Fisherman’s Wharf and on to the ostentatious structures of gambling that Macau is so famous for.  The mega-hotels were neatly designed and unique in their styles and the interiors were even more shiny and charming.






After a few moments of amazement at the Grand Lisboa Casino and the surrounding sights we hurried to reach the famous Portuguese influenced Senado (Senate) Square.  It was a brilliant scene of people pacing in all directions, kids running around with ice cream cones, and others sitting and watching the world go by.  If I would have been blind folded and dropped in this area of Macau, I would have guessed I was somewhere in Europe or South America.


From across the Square I could smell the heavenly aromas coming directly from Ko Kei Bakery.  The smell put me into a trance and I was immediately drawn to their cabinet full of freshly baked Portuguese egg tarts and ordered with little hesitation.   They were flawless; buttery flaking crust on the outside and warm creamy custard on the inside.  These little tarts of glory had me intoxicated with flavor and I couldn’t think about anything else until the next snacks were shoved in my face.


Almond cookies, Macau peanut candy, and eventually a milk pudding were the next calories of intake and I rejoiced while I ate them.


Somewhere in Macau’s mix of cultural confusion, locals became experts at formulating sheets of dried meat.  Walk through the old town and you will be offered a dazzling collection of the tastiest pieces of pig to sample that you can imagine.  The pepper pork and the wild boar were my absolute favorite.


Loaded full of as many samples of dried meat, almond cookies and peanut brittle that I was allotted, we proceeded on through the cobblestone streets of the picturesque Old City of Macau.


Following the easy to read sings, we arrived at the ruins of Sao Paulo (St. Paul).  Though the body of the Jesuit church was destroyed by a fire in 1835, the ancient face of the building stands strong atop a flight of stairs, gleaming in the sunshine.  Aside from massive casinos and flashing lights, the facade of Sao Paulo is Macau’s most important symbol and something not to miss.



A short vertical walk from the ruins of Sao Paulo leads to the Mount Fortress at the top of the hill.  From this ex-military defense garrison, there is a great view of Macau’s diverse skyline.



Down from Mount Fortress we continued our circumference of Macau, heading in the general direction of the Guia Fortress.  From the appearance of the streets, at times I thought we might be in Portugal or Chile, but the red Chinese character graffiti reminded me of our interesting location.



Moments before the guard shut the heavy fortress doors for the evening, we arrived at the Guia Fortress and were able to catch a last minute glance at the chapel and lighthouse.





Though we had seen a significant part of Macau, we couldn’t help wondering how we had missed the giant and famous hotels like the newly constructed Venetian or the City of Dreams.  A little thinking and research and we discovered that we needed to take a bus across the bridge to an adjacent island.  We located 1 of the many free shuttles and were rushed to the gates of the enormous City of Dreams and the enormous Venetian Macau.

Macau, a multifarious city of bewildering cultures combined in history and producing a municipality filled with aged colonial structures and ultra-modern glass caged casinos.  In the middle of confusion, Macau was born, and now attracts a multitude of happy spending consumers hoping to win the jackpot or just content to eat a Portuguese egg tart (like myself)!

– Migration Mark