Macau: Tale of two… three… four cities

Mike Yardley | 17th May 2011

Gorgeous Senado Square is bordered by pastel-hued buildings that give it an elegant Mediterranean air

If you’re heading to Hong Kong, make a date with the neighbouring melting pot of Macau – one of the world’s great side-trips. Handily located less than an hour away by ferry, marvellous Macau provides a staggering contrast to the throb of Hong Kong.

The port city’s rich heritage as a trading post is arguably more engaging than its bigger brother’s. Macau, situated on the mouth of the Pearl River, was initially part of the ancient Silk Road, with ships loading there with silk bound for Rome. In 1513, Portuguese merchant-explorers set in motion an indelible legacy, settling on Macau as their great trading nexus.

Nowadays, multicultural Macau, which, like Hong Kong, is one of China’s Special Administrative Regions, enthrals visitors with a unique East-meets-West mix of influences, chiefly moulded by its distinctive Portuguese stripes.

The local cuisine is particularly striking. When the Portuguese first arrived in Asia, they brought foodstuffs and cooking techniques that they had garnered from all over the world. Over the centuries, they have been adapted by the local Chinese to create a truly international cuisine, called Macanese.

I particularly love Macau’s preservation and celebration of diverse architecture.

The “Historic Centre of Macau” has been recognised as a World Heritage site, and showcases the wealth of architectural styles that have been threaded into Macau’s urban fabric over the past 500 years.

Over 20 significant monuments and buildings are highly recommended sightseeing stops. A must-see is the A-Ma Temple, which pre-dates the arrival of the Portuguese and is a fascinating insight into Buddhist and Confucian belief, culture and architecture.

Gorgeous Senado Square, at the heart of Macau and home to major public events, is bordered by pastel-coloured neo-classical buildings that imbue it with an elegant Mediterranean atmosphere.

The enduring symbol of Macau is the Ruins of St Paul’s. Now regarded as the altar to the city, the church facade is all that remains of the original Catholic church built in 1602 and later destroyed by fire. Also razed was neighbouring St Paul’s College, which was the first Western-style university in the Far East.

For a taste of the new Macau, you can’t go past the Macau Tower, which is the 10th-highest observation tower in the world and delivers mouth-watering views. Designed by the same team behind Auckland’s Sky Tower, Macau Tower is incorporated into the city’s swanky entertainment centre, which hosts a roll-call of top shows and concerts.


Fly in style to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific and experience its award-winning inflight service, entertainment and comfort as its new business-class cabin design is being rolled out. Cathay flies daily from Auckland to Hong Kong and beyond. Check out its current specials at

Turbo Jet operates an unrivalled fast ferry service to and from Hong Kong and Macau. In fact, you can check in your baggage with Turbo Jet to interconnect with arriving or departing flights at Hong Kong Airport, avoiding the hassle of baggage-handling.

You can book online with Turbo Jet at

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