Macau, also spelt Macao, has had an interesting history of both Portuguese and Chinese sovereignty. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s that a joint declaration was made making it a special administrative region of China until its formal sovereignty was assumed in 1999 under the Chinese government.
Macau shares its borders with the Guangdong Province and with the South China Sea while it is within close proximity to the major metropolis of Hong Kong. If you are uneasy with crowded places, unfortunately Macau is its epitome. With over 18,000 people per square kilometre, Macau takes out the top spot for the world’s most densely populated region. Not only do its residents make for a crowded city, hoards of Chinese from Hong Kong and other regions flock to Macau especially on the weekends to tempt their luck at the casinos. In fact, the economy here depends on these outsiders travelling here to gamble while tourism and some manufacturing also help sustain Macau’s economy.
You can choose to fly straight into Macau International Airport these days without stopping over in Hong Kong or taking the ferry. Many can also gain an easy entry as most Europeans, Americans and Australians do not need visas.
Once you enter Macau you can be fooled into thinking you are in Europe with the highly visible colonial heritage that can be seen throughout its buildings. Among the streets are copious churches, temples, fortresses and other old buildings representative of the hundreds of years of fusion between Chinese and European cultures.
The Macau Tower is a great place to start with its brilliant views over the city. If you are a an adventure seeker, the Tower also has something for you with its very own bungy jump, sky jump and sky walk. Even if heights don’t faze you much, this bungy jump will surely get your heart pumping as it is A J Hackett operated and the world’s highest. If you want something a little bit less daunting, try the sky jump or sky walk which gives you the excitement without the freefall.
After checking out two of Macau’s historic buildings; the St. Paul’s ruins and the Monte Fort, head to the coast. At Fisherman’s wharf you will find plenty of entertainment with its theme park and shopping opportunities while Macau’s two beaches provide a great escape from the city. These beaches, Hac Sa and Cheoc Van, are found on the southern coast of Coloane Island, however if you plan on escaping the crowds, think again, the beaches are a popular weekend activity for both the locals and tourists.
As the sun goes down, head to the casinos, if not to gamble, to watch hundreds of people try their luck at winning big. Buses arrive at the casinos daily from outside Macau to drop off hoards of casino-lovers. There are two main casinos, Casino Lisboa which has been the most famous over the years, and the relatively new Sands Casino which sets to challenge Lisboa for its status. Both these casinos are the big players when it comes to gambling and are both located at the peninsula waterfront.
If casinos aren’t your thing, the cuisine will surely hold its own. With two flavoursome cuisines on the menu, Portuguese and Macanese, your taste-buds will have a field-day. If you are after the highly authentic dishes, you are likely to have to fork out at the high-end restaurants found to the south-west of the peninsula, though other less expensive restaurants generally do a good job. The most popular and famous dishes of Macau include Pato de Cabidela, also known as bloody duck which is a chicken and herb stew on rice, Bacalhau which is salted cod with potatoes and vegetables, and a Macanese favourite, Pork Chop Bun which is much like a hamburger. For something a bit sweeter, try the Pasteis de Nata which is a take on egg tarts which when made properly are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside making for a delicious dessert. Another dessert favourite is almond cookies which are sold almost everywhere.
Once the day is over, heading back to a comfortable hotel is a must. Most of Macau’s hotels are congregated at the peninsular though more and more are popping up at Taipa and the Cotai Strip. If you are seeking some peace and quiet, Coloane offers a quieter haven for rest. Booking your hotel well ahead of time can prove to be a good choice as walk-in rates tend to be on the steep side. Keep in mind also that the city’s peak days are Fridays and Saturdays when outside-of-state crowds come to enjoy a weekend at the casinos so prices are often much higher on these days.
On a lasting note, keep an eye on the climate reports as typhoons can be dangerous, while also keeping an eye out for pickpockets.
All in all Macau is mostly a clean and beautiful city with delicious food and clean air, but you be the judge.