10 things to do in Macau besides gambling

Text and photos by ANNA MAE LAMENTILLO

It was my first time in Macau, and despite its reputation, I never gambled during my stay. The closest thing to the casino scene that I did was to have my picture taken in front of a slot machine.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t have anything against a clean, healthy game of chance. But I thought it would be really nice to explore the place apart from the usual gambling frenzy. After all, I had only about 12 hours to get to know the popular tourist destination.

While I might have missed the world’s largest casino and skipped one of the 3,000 slot machines of Venetian Macau, it was still an adventure not to be missed, an experience beyond the usual glitz and glamour, and an immersion in a culture I have learned to value.

Here’s how to enjoy Macau without playing the blackjack or the roulette.

1. Ride the gondola

The gondola might have originated in Venice, but you don’t have to wait for a trip to Europe to ride the traditional, flat-bottomed row boat. The Venetian Macau offers Italian gondolas with serenading gondoliers gliding through the San Loco, Marco Polo, or Grand Canals.

While the whole thing may seem like a romantic adventure, it can be a fun family activity or a friendly one. Just forget about the smooch under the bridge.

Tickets priced at 108 Macau Pataca (MOP) for adults (≈ 648 PhP) and MOP 80 for kids (≈ 480 PhP) are available at Boutique di Gondola (shop 2301) and Emporio di Gondola (shop 2660).

2. Go hotel hopping

Whether you’re coming from the Macau Ferry Station, the Venetian Hotel, the Galaxy or the MGM Grand, there’s sure to be free shuttles everywhere. While they might boast about their casinos, one thing’s for sure: the hotels’ architecture is a visual delight as well.

3. Eat at Lord Stow’s Bakery

A trip to Macau is not complete without a visit to the original Lord Stow’s Bakery. Whether or not their claim is true about producing the first egg custard in Asia, it’s definitely worth a taste. And then again, you could always grab one at the Mall of Asia.

4. Climb the Macau Tower

If you’re in Macau, don’t miss the chance to see one of the members of the World Federation of Great Towers. Not only does it provide an observation deck, it also offers those shaky knees an opportunity to conquer the fear of heights. I mean, not everyone can look down clear glass floors to enjoy dizzying sights below. For the more adventurous, there are also extreme sports like Bungee Jumping and Sky Walking.

5. Go shopping

What’s a vacation without a souvenir? Whether or not you have a great deal of shopping money, browsing the Grand Canal Shoppes is still worth your time. After all, how many malls offer the finest brands along cobblestone walkways with serenading performers at every turn?

6. Take public transportation

While there’s free shuttle bus from one hotel to the other, no trip is complete without the public transportation. Macau may be the center of grandeur and luxury, but like any city, it carries the usual problem of congested traffic and overcrowded streets. I found it interesting to look at the unique kind of interaction between locals in the efficient bus system. Tourists can also rent “vintage cars” or take a cab to get them to various destinations.

7. Visit the Vquarium

It’s right beside the casino and is supposed to give you endless luck, so the virtual aquarium in the City of Dreams is certainly a must-stop.

If you’re a music lover, you might want to wander around and drop by Hard Rock Hotel. It’s one of those glorious structures under the City of Dreams.

8. Go on a food trip

Dining at the hotels is quite expensive, so it pays to know that there are food courts where you can have more affordable meals. At The Venetian, visitors can choose from a wide range of cuisines, from Chinese to American food. I got my baby back ribs for MOP 35, which isn’t half bad.

9. Walk around

Walking around Macau was definitely not easy during my trip, with a typhoon sending torrents of rain our way. We didn’t have umbrellas, but it was a good thing that 7-eleven was just around the corner.

But was the trip worth it despite the crazy weather? Definitely. If we had stayed inside the hotel, I would have never seen the other side of Macau. It was a definitely a fusion of culture and history, the playful mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture providing a feast for the senses. As I wandered deeper into the heart of Macau, I realized the unique assimilation of Western and Eastern Culture in the city. Learn a lesson and go beyond the bewitching façade of Macau.

10. See the historical sights

I had to look at the historical streets of Macau from inside the bus as Typhoon Chedeng was giving us a really hard time. But even with the limitations posed by the weather, I still managed to observe the unique intermingling of influences from the city’s Portuguese colonial past as interpreted in a Chinese setting.

There’s a lot to see, from the paved Senado Square to the General Post Office & St. Dominic’s Square, and on to the Ruins of St. Paul’s as well as the remnants of the 16th century complex “Mater Dei.” At the end of the tour, I realized that indeed, UNESCO was right in inscribing Macau on the World Heritage List for its cultural uniqueness. – YA, GMA News

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