Macau

Museum of the Holy House of Mercy by CC user jlascar on Flickr

Introduction

Many centuries ago, when the power and influence of the East was at a low point compared to the present day, the high-flying empires of Western Europe were fanning out across the globe, claiming lands and subjugating nations wherever they went.

Even in that day though, China was a bit too much for these powers to topple on their own, so they settled for setting up trading posts where China could exchange its riches for their resources, all while carving out enclaves within the country for themselves in the process.

For the Portuguese, Macau was that place, earning their territory by clearing the region of pirates that were terrorizing shipping in the area.  Their rule here was the longest lived of all the Western powers in the region, being the first European power to set up shop in China, and the last nation to return their land to China in the present day.  Like its British cousin Hong Kong, located across the Pearl River estuary from this territory, Macau is a special economic zone in the present.

This allows for visitors to fly in without a visa for Mainland China, and enjoy the cities’ monuments, shops, restaurants, and illustrious casinos without having to bother with the bureaucratic headache that comes with a visit to the main part of the country.

Macau's famous egg tarts by CC user shankaronline on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

Being built up over 400 years largely by the Portuguese, Macau possesses a large quantity of buildings that would convince you that you were back in Europe, were it not for the subtropical humid weather and the fact that the vast majority of people here are Chinese in origin.

In order to explore this architectural wealth in detail, walk along the Macau Heritage Walk Circuit.  Along the way, take in sights such as the Sao Paulo Cathedral, the city walls, Mount Fortress, as well as the A-Ma Buddhist Temple, the oldest surviving structure in the city and a break from the predominantly Spanish/Portuguese architectural styles in this section of town.

Conveniently located among the path that the Macau Heritage Walk takes, the Macau Museum contains exhibits that tell the story of this Portuguese outpost in greater detail.  Spread over three floors, the Macau Museum tells the story of the inter-meshing of the civilizations of the East and the West, the commercial activities undertaken in this special region over the centuries, and the religious and artistic life of the city from days gone by, straight through to the present day.

Continue observing and taking in the Southern European flair of this unique Chinese city by heading over the Coloane Village, a lower-profile residential area that also has a large portion of European-inspired buildings.  Walk along the cobblestone lanes here, and wander into the many shops, bakeries and restaurants, where you can sample Macanese food.  Start with trying an egg tart, which Macau is famous for, and also make time to gnaw on a piggy bun, which is a Macanese treat where a pork chop is embedded in a bread roll … mmm mmm, carbs and protein, together forever (in your stomach)!  With such diversity and influences in its cuisine, you may be inspired to go back home and try cooking your own interpretations of Macanese dishes.  For egg tart lovers considering trying the Hong Kong version 🙂

Casino Lisboa by CC user donotlick on Flickr

Other Attractions

Within the past decade or so, Macau has exploded into the consciousness of avid travelers worldwide, and usually, it hasn’t been for the pretty buildings or the cute egg tarts.  Special licenses permitting gambling operations were approved not long after the handover to China, and since then, Macau has effectively become the Las Vegas of Asia in an alarmingly short period of time.

Those wishing to attempt to court Lady Luck’s favour can do so at a variety of casinos, ranging from the Wynn, Grand Lisboa, or the Venetian, among many others.  Apart from games of chance, these palaces built of the back of punters that are bad at math also offer concerts featuring globally famous pop stars and the best nightlife in the city by far.

Photographers looking for a good aerial view of the cities’ skyline without jumping into an expensive helicopter should head up Macau Tower, which sits at 233 metres at observation level.  If you are looking for a shot of adrenaline to go with your trip here, A.J. Hackett has set up his bungee jumping franchise here, making for the highest jump origin point in the world after an operation in Las Vegas.

Finally, those looking for some thrills, but on a lower level should check out Fisherman’s Wharf.  Also known for its shopping opportunities, this attraction offers an F1 simulator among other video game-centric thrills, making it a place not to be missed for any gear heads in your party!

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