5 Things I Really Kind of Liked About Macau

September 17, 2012

After taking the hour-long ferry from Shenzhen, the first thing that greeted me upon my arrival in Macau was a video in the ferry terminal promoting the city’s ban on smoking in public places.

This was my first hint that I wasn’t in China anymore.

Well, that and the massive fake volcano that towered near the ferry terminal. I don’t really remember many of those in the Mainland.

In the video, a young couple is sitting in a restaurant. The boyfriend, a decidedly surly-looking character, lights up a cigarette much to his girlfriend’s chagrin. The boyfriend is promptly kicked out of the restaurant while his girlfriend flashes him an I-told-you-so look.

Moments later, the same young woman twirls around in an open field underneath a blue sky.

She didn’t look like she was missing the boyfriend much.

I have to say I knew exactly how she felt.

I wasn’t missing my boyfriend much, either.

You know… my boyfriend… China.

(Stop rolling your eyes at me.)

Okay, so I will admit I have used the boyfriend analogy to death in the past year and a half when referring to China. (Like here… and here… and here.)

But this may very well be my last post about China. So can you just give me this? You know, for old time’s sake?

Not that I’m making any promises, you guys. I may start mooning over photos of China should I have a few too many margaritas. And then post them on Facebook at about three o’clock in the morning. Because, you have to admit, we did kind of make for a cute couple.




Where were we, again?

Ah, yes, in Macau. At the ferry terminal.

Where I wasn’t exactly missing China much.

Probably because I’d only just left China an hour ago.

Zaijian, China. It’s been nice knowing you.

I’d enjoyed my time in China, but I was ready to move on.

Even if I wasn’t really moving that far on.

You see, I probably could have swum to Macau from the Mainland. That is if I were any good at swimming. And any good at dodging gun-toting immigration officers.

I could even see China from where I was staying with a friend in Macau. When the sun wasn’t glaring off the massive sparkly casino that was standing directly behind her apartment.

China’s somewhere behind all that sparkle.

Even though Macau is so close to China, I assure you it is no China. (Although it is technically part of China. Or not. I can’t really say as I still have no idea what a Special Administrative Region is.)

I grew to love China. I really did. But it was a tough place to love, you know. Probably because China was always trying to kill me.

Whereas, I was instantly enchanted by Macau.

In fact, I’d say Macau was the perfect rebound.

(Go ahead. Roll your eyes. Things are only going to get worse, you know.)

5 Things I Really Kind of Liked About Macau

1. The Rules
There were plenty of rules in China. Just nobody really seemed all that keen on following them.

At first, I found China’s devil-may-care attitude towards stuff like traffic laws and no smoking signs endearing. After all, I have always had a thing for bad boys.

But, after a while, you start to miss being able to cross the street, you know?

Whereas China was the quintessential bad boy, Macau was the well-behaved good guy you could bring home to the parents.

(See? I told you it was only going to get worse.)

Cars stopped at crosswalks. Instead of speeding up.

Signs all around town reminded everyone of the smoking ban. You know, in case you’d missed the video at the ferry terminal.

And there were a whole bunch of other signs reminding everyone of all the other activities that were off-limits. Like whatever this dude is doing:

There were even signs telling the dogs what they could and couldn’t do. I guess, dogs are not allowed to relieve themselves in public there. Instead, they have to use specially designated doggie toilets.

Oh, sorry, WCs.

Because even the dogs are well-behaved and speak in posh British accents in Macau.

2. All the Portuguese Stuff

While its days as a Portuguese colony are long over, modern-day Macau is packed full of plenty of Old World charm.

Many of the city’s streets are still lined with crumbley buildings the color of after-dinner mints.

Blue and white tiled mosaics adorn back alleys.

Pretty churches overlook quaint town squares that swirl in black and white.

And, of course, there are egg cream tarts.

All of it brought me back to thirteen years ago.

When I was twenty-three years old.

And I took my first solo trip.

And I fell in love.

With Portugal.


Did you think I was going to say I fell in love with an actual human person? It’s like you don’t even read my blog sometimes.

3.    The Casinos
Macau is often referred to as the Vegas of Asia.

Mostly because of its prevalence of casinos. Not because it’s the kind of place where you wake up covered in body glitter and tequila and married to an Elvis impersonator. NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAT.

To be honest, I’m not a big gambler.

I’m bad at math and can never remember the rules for card games.

Plus, if I’m going to throw away my money, I’d rather I get something to show for it. Like, dessert.

Besides, do I look like a girl who’s capable of maintaining a poker face?

Yeah… ummm, no.

I still visited almost every single major casino in the city.

Because, hey, I may not like to gamble.

But I sure do like shiny stuff.

Ooo, shiny.

And swanky bathrooms.

Ooo, swanky.

And huge fire-breathing dragons that come out of the floor of the lobby every hour.

Oooo, fire-breathey.

And fake canals with fake gondolas and fake gondoliers.

Oooo, fakey.

And cupcakes.

Oooo, cupcakey.

I did attempt to play the slots once while I was wandering through one of the casinos staring at shiny stuff. But I couldn’t figure out where to put my money.


I decided it was probably best to stick with something I knew.

Like cupcakes. After all, I always know where to put cupcakes.

4.    Its Size
At only eleven square miles, Macau is itty bitty.

Given its diminutive size, it’s easy to see why Macau remains relatively unknown. Especially in comparison to its glitzy, next-door neighbor, Hong Kong.

In fact, when I first announced to everyone on Facebook and Twitter that I was in Macau, the most common response was, “That’s nice. But where are you?”

After spending a year and a half traveling through massive, sprawling China, which often required hopping on trains that take twenty-four hours to get anywhere, it was nice to go somewhere a bit more manageable.

In the four days that I was in Macau, I got to hang out a lot with my friend and see almost everything there was to see.

Like the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

And the Macau Tower.

And the pleasant Hac Sa (black sand) beach.

And more shiny stuff than I could shake a stick at.

(Not that I’d go around shaking sticks. I have a feeling Macau might have some rule against that kind of thing.)

5. The Diversity
For such a teeny, tiny little place, Macau was surprisingly diverse.

Walking down the street you could hear people speaking everything from Cantonese to Portuguese to French to Tagalog.

Which also meant you could get pretty much any kind of ethnic cuisine you could possibly want.

From Portuguese food.

Grilled sardines.

To African.

African chicken

To British pub grub.

Chicken & mushroom pie with chips

They had it all.

And, trust me, I ate it all.

Because, hey, breaking up is hard to do.

But it’s a lot easier when you’re stuffing your face full of meat pies and cupcakes.

What’s been your favorite rebound location? (Just humor me, okay?)

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On September 17, 2012 at 12:35 am Edna said:

    I loved Macau, far more than I expected to. It was mostly the Portguese influence that did it for me, and then the egg tarts sealed the deal.
    Edna recently posted..The 5 best things I ate in Bali

    • On September 17, 2012 at 10:14 am Sally said:

      I know. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of all the cool old Portuguese-style buildings and street lamps. I loved it! I just wish I had eaten more egg cream tarts…

  2. On September 17, 2012 at 12:56 am MaryAnne said:

    I loved Macau when we went with my parents a few years ago during mid Autumn festival. The egg tarts! The papier mache fruits and veggies strung up across the streets! The shiny things! Yay! Looking forward to going back next month (need a papier mache fruit/veg fix).
    MaryAnne recently posted..A Totally Impractical Guide to an Intellectually Dirty Weekend in Nanjing

  3. On September 17, 2012 at 12:57 am MaryAnne said:

    Oh, and for rebound destinations… Belize! After I broke up with Turkey, we went to Mexico…hmmmm…bad idea, because Mexico is just the Catholic version of Turkey. Seriously. We cut across the border to Belize and had a mad one-week fling. Seriously cathartic.
    MaryAnne recently posted..A Totally Impractical Guide to an Intellectually Dirty Weekend in Nanjing

  4. On September 17, 2012 at 1:30 am James said:

    Hmmmm. After having spent 10 years in Cambodia and working for 3 months in Bangkok, I spent 10 days on Phuket. Best.Breakup.Ever.

    I just met someone from the MGM Grand – they’re getting set to open up a 1,000 room property in Vung Tau, about 2 hrs from Saigon. Despite seeing the presentation, I cannot even begin to fathom what that’s going to look like. Of course, no actual Vietnamese will be allowed to gamble there…
    James recently posted..Geocaching Vietnam

  5. On September 17, 2012 at 2:47 am DebbZie said:

    Ohhhh I love love love egg tarts! And the one in Macau are super delish. I’m craving for egg tarts now….uh oh, not good 🙁
    DebbZie recently posted..Canada: Alcoholess Drunk In Summerhill Pyramid Winery

    • On September 17, 2012 at 10:11 am Sally said:

      Aren’t they so good? We don’t have anything like them in the States (at least not where I live) so looking at all my photos of them made writing this post torture!

  6. On September 17, 2012 at 4:41 am cosmoHallitan said:

    So glad you enjoyed your time in Macau! I wanted to love it sooooo bad. Portugal is my favorite country on the planet and I had high hopes for Macau. Too high, as it turned out. All the Portuguese stuff was cool, and the food was beyond delicious, but the place was so overrun with mainland tourists that we couldn’t enjoy our time there. It’s probably the most crowded place I’ve ever seen and I’ve been in Shanghai’s People’s Square metro station at rush hour. We took the ferry over from Hong Kong and I couldn’t wait to get back there. And Singapore is my rebound. I’m already trying to work out when we can have another fling.
    cosmoHallitan recently posted..Xi’an’s Grand Noble Hotel

    • On September 17, 2012 at 10:10 am Sally said:

      Wow, I guess I was lucky. It didn’t seem that crowded the weekend I went. Plus, it helped that I was staying with a friend outside of the main, downtown area.
      Oh, and I’ve rebounded with Singapore, too. That little floozy! 🙂

  7. On September 17, 2012 at 5:31 am Daniel McBane - Funny Travel Stories said:

    I liked Macau too, but it didn’t like me–both times I was there a typhoon hit. I still checked out the “world’s highest bungee jump” at the Macau tower, but didn’t take the plunge in the end. Not because of the winds, mind you; they seemed perfectly willing to let me jump despite the risk of being blown into the tower (it is still part of China, after all), but because of the price: over $300. US dollars, not Macau dollars.
    Daniel McBane – Funny Travel Stories recently posted..Still in Tha Khaek – At Least the Mekong Was Beautiful

  8. On September 17, 2012 at 8:26 am Ashley said:

    I’ve never been to China or Macau, but in a few of those shots I would have guessed you were in Lisbon! Great post, hilarious as always.
    Ashley recently posted..Cranbrook by Fisheye

  9. On September 17, 2012 at 10:33 am Carmel said:

    You know what’s strange, is that I just noticed my pajama pants were made in Macau recently and I started thinking, where IS that? And then didn’t bother to look it up despite the fact that we have a gigantic world map on our wall. Hmm…
    Carmel recently posted..Mom’s birthday dinner

    • On September 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm Sally said:

      I try not to provide much information in my posts… I would hate to get a reputation for being informative. But I do kind of like the idea of enlightening the masses on the origins of the pajama pants. 🙂

  10. On September 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    My favourite rebound location was in the bed of a hunky Italian math professor with massive….pectorals, and he was named Sergio. Hey, you didn’t say it had to be a city or anything.

    Also, I’m completely enamored with Macau, if only for the final photo of the British pub grub.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Jangtae Mountain

    • On September 17, 2012 at 10:00 pm Sally said:

      Well, WELL. I can’t decide if that comment was TMI or just the right about of I. 🙂
      And, yes, I highly recommend Macau. The pub grub was lovely… as was everything else I shoved into my face!

  11. On September 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm Montecristo Travels said:

    LMAO at the dog bathroom … I must be a serial monogamist … no rebound I can think of .. Oh wait … shoot no!! I lie! I.LIE.

    Switzerland. Total rebound. All sorts of Awesome.

  12. On September 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm ChinaMatt said:

    Macau was my favorite day trip from Shenzhen. Only minor problem I really had there was that I always came across the restaurants and shops staffed by people that didn’t speak Mandarin or English, which just added to the adventure. But I loved the colonial architecture and the amazing food. It was also so much quieter than Shenzhen.
    ChinaMatt recently posted..Hiding Beneath the Clouds

    • On September 17, 2012 at 9:58 pm Sally said:

      Wow, I don’t think I got very adventurous with my food choices as pretty much all the places I went to someone spoke English. Plus, it helped that when I went out with my friend, she could speak some Cantonese.

  13. On September 17, 2012 at 8:50 pm Ailsa Ross said:

    ‘Dear Copenhagen,

    We never split up out of choice, but we both knew it was over when my university exchange ended in June. Believe me when I say it was because I was missing you that I went to Barcelona. It was meant to be a summer fling, but I fell in love with Spain.

    The city made me feel beautiful in a way that you never did. When did I ever hear an appreciative wolf-whistle on your cobbled streets? Never. You are much too understated, altogether too stylish for such showy behaviour. But with a disarming lack of discrimination, the streets in Barcelona whisper ‘guapa, guapa’ at you, and every other female, at every turn. And it can be lovely affirmation that you exist, that you deserve to exist in this beautiful city.’

    Yada yada yada.

    Summer lovin’ happened so fast. I want an egg tart!

    • On September 17, 2012 at 9:57 pm Sally said:

      Thank you. I so appreciate your playing along. 🙂

      • On September 18, 2012 at 7:28 am Ailsa Ross said:

        I felt terrible for leading Copenhagen on, until it all came out in one rambling letter and I finally admitted, ‘There is something I should have told you before. I have had a crush on Barcelona for years.’

        I know. Heartstopping news.

        I want Hugh Grant to play Copenhagen in the movie, because, well, because I can’t think of any Danish actors ok?
        Who will play bad boy China in yours? Can China be greased up at all times in the film? Pretty please?
        Ailsa Ross recently posted..God

  14. On September 18, 2012 at 12:34 am Krisabele Ricamonte said:

    I went to Macau for just over a day, since I was already in Hong Kong to visit Disneyland. But I have to say I loved it more than Hong Kong, the food was great, especially the free ones near St. Paul’s ;-), and the Old World charm due to the city’s architecture. It made me wish I can stay longer, but my flight back to the Philippines was in HK. I am still thinking of what could have been…maybe Macau is “the one that got away” for me.
    Krisabele Ricamonte recently posted..With a better camera, comes better photographing opportunities…

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm Sally said:

      I’m not sure if I liked Macau more than HK — there’s definitely more to do in HK. And I remember the shopping being really great in HK. Hmm, I think I’m going to have to go back & compare the two again. 🙂

  15. On September 18, 2012 at 10:02 pm Maria said:

    As always, I read your posts with tissues close at hand.

    “All the Portuguese Stuff”

    You make me laugh ’till I cry.
    Maria recently posted..Evel Among Us

  16. On September 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm Ava Apollo said:

    How can this place be anything like Vegas if there’s no smoking?! I always leave there reeking and I don’t even smoke! I think I prefer this…MUCH prefer this, considering they both have sparkly blinky things and apparently karaoke.
    Ava Apollo recently posted..Prepping for Long-Term Travel: How to Sell a Household of Furniture on Craig’s List in One Week

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm Sally said:

      Well, the casinos usually did have smoking sections… which were usually right next to the non-smoking sections. But it was nice to sit in a restaurant and not be totally inundated with smoke.

  17. On September 20, 2012 at 7:27 am Simon said:

    Haha, loved to hear about the dude kicked out of the restaurant for smoking! I wish all restaurants would do that. Macau looks amazing!
    Simon recently posted..Total wipeout: learning to surf in Bali

  18. On September 21, 2012 at 9:56 am choi kum fook said:

    Well and truly, Macau is a fascinating place to visit!Because of the limit of time, we just paid a day visit and had a night in The Venetian Hotel. Two places were much impressed me, but not stated in your post.They were the Museum of Macau, nearby The ruins of ST. Paul’s Cathedral,many things were worth to see and had a good bird’s eye view over the town.The other was the restaurant with “fake sky’ above it, in Venetian Hotel.Miss Sally, Have you visited those places? If not, you may rebound to Macau one day. I have been told there were about forty over casinos in Macau.Almost every stared hotel had its own casino in it! I was lucky, I stroke a bit of bonus during staying in Macau. Ha!Ha!

  19. On September 22, 2012 at 11:29 pm Priya said:

    I don’t think I have a rebound location. But if I had to pick, I would say England, because I was convinced during my college days that I belong there. Now, I’m not sure where I belong.
    And I’ve always thought of China to be a girlfriend rather than a boyfriend. You know, like Sex and The City… China style.
    Priya recently posted..The Rejection Therapy Made Me Call A Random Guy. Like, On The Phone.


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