(...) After seeing the city proper, a visitor with extra time may wish to visit Macao's two islands: Taipa, known as the fireworks island, and Coloane, known as the pirates' island. On the islands are pastelcolored Portuguese buildings and bright Chinese villages along with places to sit and watch junks sail by. The islands are easily reached by car or bus, and on a cool day it is possible to walk to Taipa across the bridge that connects it to the mainland. The fireworks produced there are used for Chinese celebrations, England's Guy Fawkes' night and the Fourth of July in the United States. If they ask permission, visitors may look around the Him Son or the Kuong Un factories.
Taipa also has a united Chinese cemetery where Buddhists, Taoists and Confucians are buried. Some of the graves have been cut into the cliff facing the sea, which is considered the best burial site by the Chinese. West of the village of Taipa is the Macao Raceway on 50 acres of reclaimed land. There are stables for 480 horses and a grandstand for 15,000 spectators. Races are held on weekends; admission is about 50 cents.
Coloane, where the Portuguese defeated some pirates in 1910, is supposed to have the nicest beaches, but I found them muddy. Hac Sa is a black sand beach. Ka Ho is a white sand beach. Cheoc Van is best for swimming.
With Hong Kong so near, Macao's restaurants may seem limited. In addition, nearly all of the Chinese food is Cantonese. So, when in Macao, it is best to try the Portuguese/ Macanese food, which incorporates touches from the countries conquered by Portugal in its days of glory. A popular dish is African chicken, which when cooked by Chinese often has too little garlic or pepper in the runny red sauce. Another specialty is Brazilian feijoadas, a stew of kidney beans, port, potatoes, cabbage and spicy sausage. The sausage comes from Portugal. The missing ingredient is olive oil or olives. There is unfortunately too much substitution of other oils for olive oil in most dishes. The wine list is usually entirely Portuguese. Mateus, Cavaleiros and casalinho are available in most restaurants at $6 a bottle or $3 a half bottle.
Solmar on Praia Grande near the Lisboa Hotel is a popular restaurant. It serves respectable African chicken at $10 and good seafood for about $8. The best roast pigeon, another Macanese specialty, is found at Fat Sui Law, Macao's oldest restaurant, for $10. For ambiance, the Fortaleza Grill in the New Pousade de Sao Tiago in the Barra Fort is lovely. It offers a view of the harbor, and guests enter through a 300-year-old tunnel facing the sea. The food, however, is just adequate. Avoid the avocado-scallion soup. The African chicken, however, is spicy as it should be and costs about $12. The onion rye bread and cod are outstanding. Expect to spend $50 a couple.
Some of the best food is found on Taipa and Coloane, where the dishes remain truer to the original intent. Pinocchio's on Taipa has good roast quail for about $15 and spicy chili crab for $10. Suckling pig also runs about $10. On Coloane, the Pousada de Coloane, which unlike most restaurants closes at 10 P.M., has a huge Sunday brunch - stews and six kinds of fish and different breads, all for $9. Most restaurants are open until 1 A.M.
Most of Macao's visitors are Chinese from Hong Kong, who come to gamble at the city's four casinos. Dress, incidentally, is casual. There is also greyhound racing, trotting and jai alai. A good place to start a gambling stint is at the Lisboa Hotel.
The casinos offer chemin de fer or baccarat, blackjack, roulette, numbers and Chinese games, fan tan and dai-sui. Those who don't know the rules may find helpful information in a guide available at most hotels.
Visitors who like to join in a celebration will find plenty of them in Macao, a result of more than 400 years of history. In addition to Chinese holidays, there is the A-ma Festival in April to thank the heavenly namesake. There are Portuguese holidays like the April 25 celebration of the 1974 Portuguese revolution and the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13. In June there is the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, the Feast of Kuan Tai and the Feast of St. Anthony of Lisbon.
In July there are three feasts, including the Feast for Lovers and the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, a Chinese holiday on which the ghosts of ancestors, hungry after a year of sleep, are offered food that is later eaten by the mortals.
Information for visitors
Since there is no airport, the best way to arrive is by jetfoil or hydrofoil from Hong Kong. The jetfoil takes less than an hour, is air-conditioned and costs about $10 one way - higher at night and on weekends. The hydrofoil costs $7 each way and is slower, but you can walk around and go out on deck. The ferry can be fun, but it takes three hours. A regular seat costs $4, a cabin for two, $18. Currency and Documents The currency is the pataca - worthless outside Macao. It is advisable to spend Hong Kong dollars. Passports and visas are necessary. A visa may be obtained on arrival for $5. The Weather Macao is not tropical. From December through March it is wise to bring a jacket. The weather begins to warm up in April and is often rainy in the spring, but it seldom rains all day. Summer is sticky, but there is usually some breeze. Fall, when Macao begins to cool off, is particularly pleasant. Tours There are about 20 tour agencies in the city, offering a standard tour of about four hours with lunch for about $12. Take a minibus; the narrow streets and steep grades make large bus tours painfully slow. Private cars cost about $20 for a two-hour tour. Taxis are often just as good and are cheap, but make sure your driver speaks some English.
The Tourist Commission provides drivers with maps in four languages, but some drivers can't read. Note that Sun Yat-sen's mansion is open from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. and from 3 to 5 P.M. Admission free. Tours of China are available from Macao but are better arranged in Hong Kong. There is a Macao Tourist Information Bureau in Star House on Salisbury Road in Hong Kong. Where to stay Macao is small enough to be seen in a day, unless you want to see the islands, in which case a three-day stay is more than sufficient. The best hotel is probably the centrally located, 600-room Lisboa, an architectural oddity painted copper-yellow with white trim. Double rooms start at $60. More charming and usually well booked is the Pousada de Sao Tiago, a 23-room inn recently opened in the 300-yearold Barra Fort. Double rooms start at $90. The Bela Vista, a colonial mansion painted green and situated on a hill, is another possibility. The hotel's 26 rooms are large but poorly lit and not airconditioned, and the beds sag. Doubles start at $16. Shopping Macao is a duty-free port, but it is a place that is more for browsing than for buying. Gold items and jewelry are available, but there is nothing that cannot be obtained in Hong Kong. The fun is in looking for antiques and wandering through the tiny Chinese shops. There is a flea market near the ruins of St. Paul's and dozens of antique stores and pawn shops. Bargaining is expected. The smart shopper will carry a pencil and notepad to help in the bargaining.Pamela G. Hollie, New Yor Times, 24.10.1982