Hong Kong & Macao
By Judith Baker | April 2017 | 6 minute read
Situated less than an hour apart, these two world cities offer both urban thrills and rural charms. While Hong Kong’s latest campaign showcases off-the-beaten-track experiences through the eyes of locals, Macao’s exciting fusion food scene, impressive hotel stock and ever-expanding entertainment options means the city is starting to hit new heights.
“It might be known as ‘Asia’s Vegas’, but Macao’s colonial charm, found in its pretty squares, sleepy outlying islands and great food, is gaining ground”
JUDITH BAKER, TRAVEL WRITER
Twin-centre or stopover
A host of attractions, old and new, are fast-making Macao Asia’s most exciting destination, and its location makes it a great short-stay destination as a twin-centre holiday with Hong Kong or as a two- or three-night addition to a Far East holiday or Australia route stopover. Enter Macao by a 50 minute turbo jet ferry journey from Hong Kong – which has weekly flights from London and Manchester – and combine the two for an Oriental experience with a difference.
Former British colony Hong Kong has the vibe of a modern 21st century hot spot and although it still retains some of its Britishness, it has a cosmopolitan energy found in new bars, art galleries and an exciting calendar of events, with everything from Chinese New Year celebrations to sports tournaments.
Hong Kong is a convenient gateway for South East Asia and is a great add-on to China itineraries for those looking to extend their trip. Both Hong Kong and Macao attract British travellers drawn to their combination of colonial history, luxurious hotels and the adrenalin of 24-hour entertainment.
East Meets West: It’s not everywhere that you see Buddhist temples and Catholic churches side by side, or Chinese and Portuguese architecture on the same streets, but Macao is unique
Bigger is better: See the world’s biggest outdoor sitting Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Sizzling nightlife: Macao’s includes awe-inspiring shows like the House of Dancing Water and recently-opened Parisian Macao’s nightly light show, as well as bars, clubs and casinos
Shop till you drop: Hong Kong is retail paradise. Apple products sell at about 20% less than the UK, while fashion addicts can indulge at designer malls
Junk it: Hong Kong’s iconic skyline and Victoria harbour is best viewed from a traditional junk like the Aqua Luna. The Symphony of Light show happens every evening at 20.00
Celebrate good times: Macanese events range from traditional celebrations to big budget extravaganzas, whether it’s the Feast of the Drunken Dragon or the thrills of the Macao Grand Prix
Take a peak: The Peak is the highest point in Hong Kong Island and offers great views across the skyscrapers to the hills of the New Territories
Rural bliss: Just minutes away from the adrenalin of the Macao peninsula are the sleepy islands of Taipa and Coloane
Themed fun: The young at heart will love the rides at Hong Kong’s Disneyland in Lantau
Twin-centre or stopover
I am at the summit of MacaoTower, one of Asia’s tallest buildings, where someone is being strapped up to perform the world’s highest bungee jump from 338 metres above ground. I have no head for heights and no intention of joining him.
I can get my thrills with my feet firmly on the ground, merely gazing at the breathtaking view stretching across the city below. I can see the top of the Eiffel Tower in Macao’s Parisian hotel and the curve of the world’s largest Skytop wave pool. Even from up here, the buzz of the place is tangible. The ‘kerching’ of the casino’s ‘one-armed bandits’ (the locals call them ‘hungry tigers’) is the sound track to the city for some but from this spot, but I can also see the tips of Chinese temples and the spires of Portuguese churches.
What the experts say
“Last year was another great year for Macao, which welcomed more UK visitors and exciting developments, including an international film festival, new luxury hotels and the birth of baby panda twins!
“Our trade partners remain an important part of our plans for 2017 and we will be operating a whole range of promotions, events and fam trips throughout the year to help support continued positive growth. Agents can sign up for the Macao Specialist programme (macaospecialist.co.uk) to find out more.”
SUE WHITEHEAD, MACAO TOURIST BOARD, UK REPRESENTATIVE
“For 2017, Hong Kong Tourism Board will be highlighting the rich diversity and quality of experience that the city offers to visitors from around the world as part of its global marketing campaign titled ‘Best of All, It’s in Hong Kong.’ As part of the campaign, visitors are encouraged to venture off the beaten path, get under the skin of the city and explore Hong Kong like a local. This includes lesser-known areas of the city itself such as the up-and-coming neighbourhood, Kennedy Town and Old Town Central, a compact area that is a true chronicle of how heritage, art, lifestyle, dining and entertainment evolved in the city. In addition, we are looking to increase awareness for the areas outside of the city hub. Hong Kong is 70% green – a fact that many are unaware of – and also has sandy beaches, mountain trails and over 200 outlying islands for visitors to discover.”
DAWN PAGE, DIRECTOR, UK AND NORTHERN EUROPE, HONG KONG TOURISM BOARD
Flights: Cathay Pacific’s increased flights to Hong Kong from Gatwick, adding to its five-times- daily service from Heathrow and four times a week from Manchester (alongside three daily flights from British and Virgin Atlantic) mean the destinations are easier to reach than ever.
Accommodation: In Macao, MGM Cotai will open in 2017 with around 1,400 rooms and diverse offerings ranging from Asia’s first dynamic theatre, the Spectacle, to innovative culinary, retail, and family-friendly offerings.
Attractions: Recent developments in Hong Kong include an expansion of the city’s thriving arts scene with a wave of new galleries and exhibition space as sites including the old Central Police Station are converted into homes for cultural heritage and art.
Macao has been further confirmed as one of Asia’s most exciting food destinations, with three restaurants receiving Michelin stars for the first time in the 2017 Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau, making a total of 19 Michelin-starred restaurants in Macao.
In Hong Kong, 16 food trucks showcasing Chinese, Western and international cuisine will travel around the city to enhance its reputation as a culinary paradise.
Transport:New world-class transport links are also making it easier for visitors to get around Hong Kong. These include the brand new MTR South Island Line (East) which now connects Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang, Lei Tung and South Horizons to the centre of Hong Kong, thus creating a new tourism district.
Where to book it
Trafalgar’s Hong Kong and Macao Experience is a four-day mini stay, visiting Victoria Peak, Stanley Market, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Hong Kong and the A-Ma Temple, the Ruins of St. Pauls and Grand Emperor Casino in Macao. Prices start from £1,175pp based on twin share, including airport transfers, accommodation, a local specialist and transport.
A two-and-a-half-day Hong Kong & Macao tour from Wendy Wu Tours is from £410pp. Highlights include taking a Hydrofoil across the Zhujiang River to Macao’s Old Town. The price includes four nights’ accommodation, airport transfers, coach tours, a local English-speaking guide, entrance fees and some meals.