Magnificent Macau: Where Portugal Meets China

After the hustle, bustle and huge skyscrapers of Hong Kong, Macau was a breath of fresh air. In fact it was almost like a little European vacation within Asia.

Along with Hong Kong, Macau is one of the two Special Administrative Regions of China, meaning it maintains a good deal of its own political and economic autonomy. Macau was colonized by Portugal in the 1550s, and only recently regained control from Portugal in 1999. Though I didn’t hear any Portuguese on the island, the Iberian influence was everywhere from the pastel-colored buildings to the Portuguese-language street signs.

Victoria and I took an hour-long ferry ride to this little island, and we soon discovered that this Lisbon with lanterns is so much more than the gambling it’s well-known for.

One thing I noticed right away was that everyone was walking around with umbrellas on a sunny day. And when we went on a wild goose chase for non-whitening BB Cream later, we realized why- everyone in China wants to be pale! 

Hong KongMacau8Hong KongMacau5                                The walls were painted the same pastel colors I remember from Lisbon but were better-kept. IMG_8138

Wanting to escape the tourist prices of the touristy Largo de Senado, the island’s historical center, we wove our way to the debatably sketchy back-allies.Hong KongMacau2

As soon as we found an authentic-looking eatery with passable hygiene standards, the feasting began. As we had no idea how to order, we pointed at a picture of a dish that somewhat resembled chicken and hoped for the best.

And what do you know- it was delicious. I feel like it might’ve been half duck, half goose, with a side of rice and some AMAZING greens. Why does China seem to make the best collard greens-esque side dishes? Love.

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While the meal we had for lunch was all Chinese, as we walked around I had fun trying to spot out the Iberian influences. Doesn’t the hanging ham legs below look just like jamón ibérico? (Portuguese: presunto ibérico)

Hong KongMacau3                                            Presunto ibérico, (I think), and Chinese sausage that curiously looks just like chorizo… Hong KongMacau6                                             We saw tons of gold jewelry shops as well!IMG_8152

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Then we got our first glimpse of the ruins of St. Paul’s cathedral which was honestly one of the most interesting pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela but you could see right through it.

It was also here, on the steps in front of the cathedral, that a young Chinese girl asked me for a photo- which was needless to say a very funny but awkward moment.

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Next we headed uphill to the Portuguese-built Guia Fortress which dates back to the 1600s.

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And because I’m a crappy tourist we soon rested our tired feet over jasmine tea and iced tea. I love traveling with an English person because I’m receiving such a tea education- jasmine is an herbal tea so you shouldn’t put milk in it!

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Macau Architecture

Though I love the 50mm lens I shoot with and the crispness it offers, I struggle when presented with a beautiful landscape- it’s just not wide-angle enough to take it all in. Ugh. But the views from Guia fortress stretched from mountain to city to sea, and were well-worth the climb.Macau Architecture

Macau Architecture

Macau Architecture

Macau Architecture

Macau Architecture

As night drew in, we made our way back to the town center to meet the lovely Audrey of That Backpacker for dinner. For dinner I had clams in a basil and pepper sauce, which seemed vaguely like a Portuguese-Chinese fusion dish. Maybe?
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Regardless about the clams, Macau itself was certainly a fascinating example of Portuguese-Chinese fusion that I was so lucky to see.

Have you ever been to Macau? Did it intrigue you as much as it intrigued me?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

24 thoughts on “Magnificent Macau: Where Portugal Meets China”

  1. I’m heading to Hong Kong next April so I might have to stop off here too. I actually heard that Macau’s casinos have more money going through them than casinos in Las Vegas which I couldn’t believe. Learn something new every day!

  2. Of all the places in Asia, I think Macau is the one that intrigues me the most! I can’t wait to visit — if only to eat pastel de nata on the other side of the world! :)
    I love the photo with the red lanterns!

  3. This post brings back so many great memories I had in Macau. Been there twice. I had some egg tarts, but didn’t try the meat as I don’t usually consume it. I also loved the architecture and jewellery displays there.

  4. Whether you are always pleased with your lense or not…I love your photos. :)

    I mostly know of Macau as a gambling place, but besides that, I really didn´t know much! The Portuguese influences make it much more interesting!

  5. I am immensely fascinated by all things “colonial” and love visiting former colonies and seeing how the culture of the former colony has melded with the culture of the colonizer. I also visited Portugal last year, a country which I loved and would think it amazing to see Portuguese influences smack dab in Northeast Asia!~

  6. I’m so bummed that Tony & I didn’t get to visit Macau during our time in Hong Kong. We had every intention to do so, but then we both got really sick (with the ‘flu) and wound up wasting several days to that in bed instead. Macau looks wonderful and so different from HK, despite being so close by. Next time, no excuses, I’m definitely making the trip!

    But are you telling me you didn’t have one of the famous egg tarts while you were there? Scandalous!

  7. You’re so lucky you guys got to meet up. What chance.
    Back alleys are the best, and I discovered that lemon iced tea stuff they have in Hong Kong while I was there and I had some every day! OMG.

  8. What a surprisingly beautiful spot, paste unexpected…
    and lovely looking faces. Your photos were outstanding!!
    What an unusual experience.

    Love,

    Gamma

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