Hong Kong is a striking contrast to its neighbour, Macau; even the pace of life runs much faster here. Although you may not notice that until you’re back, and suddenly, you’re a rock in the stream of people around you. Everyone is moving too fast, rushing to get to the their destination instead of enjoying the journey. That’s the danger of falling into a routine. With that in mind, it’s important to take a short respite from away from your busy life — and what better place to go than Asia’s Las Vegas? Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to cash out for your trip; here are five locations to visit when you’re on a budget. Note: All directions given are from the Macau Peninsula Ferry Terminal.
1. Guia Hill Park — The largest hill park on the Macau Peninsula
After an arduous trek uphill, you arrive at the Guia Hill Park, which is a popular location for people looking to workout and relax. It is also known as Pine Hill because of the abundance of pine trees, and is the largest hill park on the Macau Peninsula. The Guia Fortress was built in the 17th century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort was originally built to defend against a colonisation attempt by the Netherlands, and later used as a defence post. You can also visit the military tunnels, built below the lighthouse. There are three of them in total, and the one that you can visit stretches for 52 metres. Inside of the tunnel, there is a showcase of old photographs and military apparel that was used in the last century. If you progress upwards to the lighthouse, you will be greeted with a stunning 365-degree view of the Macau Peninsula — a great location for taking photos! The Guia Chapel, located next to the lighthouse, has frescoes which represent both Western and Chinese themes that date back to 1622. It will be of interest to anyone who has an affinity for art, history, or just wants to learn more about Macau. Directions: Board bus 1A at the Ferry Terminal stop. Alight at the Tourism Activities Centre stop. Board bus 28C at the same stop and alight at the Calcada Vitoria stop. Walk back along Calcada Vitoria to the intersection with Estrada do Eng. Trigo. Then proceed uphill along the Estrada until you reach the park.
2. Mandarin’s House – The family home of a late Qing theoretician
It was first built in 1869 in a Cantonese style with some integration of Western elements. You can spend up to an hour wandering through the many halls of the house, studying the exhibits, and exploring the courtyards and gardens. You can also book a guided tour on weekends through this website. I made the mistake of waking up early, despite being on holiday, to have enough time to visit the historic sites that interested me. Unfortunately, Mandarin House — the first on my list — opened at 10AM. So don’t make the same mistake, and keep in mind that most locations will open around this time. Also, it’s very hard to find a non-local café open in the early hours too. Directions: Board bus 28B at the Ferry Terminal stop. Alight at Lilau Square. Follow the signage to the Mandarin’s House.
3. Dom Pedro V Theatre – One of the first Western-style theatres in East Asia
Another one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, the Dom Pedro V Theatre is much more than the name suggests. Built in 1860, in honour of King Peter V of Portugal, it was the first theatre in East Asia with distinct Western architectural elements. Once you enter, you can look into the main hall of the theatre, with seating capacity for 300 people, which has scarcely changed since its inception. If you walk to your right and up a creaky-history-laden staircase, a balcony lounge will open up in front of you. Typically the balcony was reserved for higher status and wealthier theatregoers, but you can experience being one as you look upon the stage below you. The theatre is shredded in layers of history, having served its traditional use, being used for official events, and even being a refugee shelter during the Second World War. Although you won’t be allowed to view them, the complex also boasts a ballroom, study room and billiard room. Directions: Board bus 32 at the Ferry Terminal stop. Alight at the Praca Jorge Alvares stop. Cross onto Avenida da Praia Grande. Turn onto Calcada de Santo Agostinho. Cross the road at the intersection with Rua Central. Walk along Calcada do Teatro.
4. Taipa Village – Explore the Portuguese and Chinese roots of Macau
If you’ve decided to stop at one of the many hotels in the Cotai area, don’t fret — there is affordable fun to be had there too. The Taipa Village is your destination of choice if you’re interested in Macau’s Portuguese and Chinese roots. The village used to be home to fishermen, firecracker factory workers, and craftsmen. You can wander through the streets and simply take in the beautiful scenery: cobbled paths, old buildings and authentic local stores; or you can go on one of the prescribed trails. There are three trails, the cultural heritage (5km), the leisure (3km), and the local delights (3km) for the foodies out there. You will come across important historical monuments, such as the Taipa Houses Museum and the Pak Tai Temple, explore Cunha Street, and visit the Flea Market (on weekends). All in all, Taipa Village is the place to go to take a trip back in time and get away from the crowds of tourists on the Macau Peninsula. Directions: Mount The Venetian Macau shuttle bus. Alight at the final stop. Then walk towards Galaxy Macau through the West Lobby of The Venetian. You will see an escalator leading up to a pedestrian walkway. Walk along the walkway.
5. Hac Sa Beach – A long stretch of beach away from the crowds
If you’re not interested in history or culture, this next one is for you. Macau is home to a long stretch of black sand (in the past, now white sand has been mixed in because of erosion), perfect for taking romantic seaside walks, having a picnic, or going for a swim. The beauty of Hac Sa Beach is that most visitors never bother to go the distance, and prefer to stay in the densely-packed city. And yet, one must simply hop on a free shuttle bus or taxi going to Coloane. The Hac Sa Sports and Recreation Park, in the near vicinity of the beach, is home to a pool, a tennis court, and a golf course. If that’s still not enough fun for your day out, the Hac Sa Reservoir Country Park has pedal boats for hire! While you’re out there, you may as well try some of the best Portuguese cuisine in Macau at the Miramar, next to the Grand Coloane Resort. Directions: Mount The Grand Coloane Resort shuttle bus. Alight at the final stop. Retrace your steps to the top of the drive-in, and you will see a road leading to the left, towards a restaurant and the beach. Now you’re ready for a relaxing holiday that won’t break the bank! Of course, Macau is notorious for its casinos — so if you want to make your bets, you can kick back and play after a day of exploring the city.