The Chinese special administrative region of Macau has recently become known as ‘Vegas on steroids’, due to its many, exclusive, high-end casinos. Although the city’s casino scene is the most exciting in the Far East, there is so much more to Macau than this. It’s a city where eastern and western cultures collide – due largely to the peninsula’s heritage as a former Portuguese colony.
The city was once leased to Portuguese sea merchants, who viewed Macau as the ideal base from which to improve trading links with the Silk Road. Today, the city retains a great sense of pride in its Portuguese heritage, visible in its architecture and everyday culture. Even some of the city’s stunning casinos pay homage to its Portuguese past, like the 12-storey Casino Lisboa that looms large on Macau’s landscape, which is somewhat reminiscent of those in Singapore. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese people flock to Casino Lisboa each year to play the most popular table games. The locals are absolutely besotted with baccarat. In fact, it generates 90% of all revenue for the city’s casinos due to its simplistic gameplay. The object is simply to score as close to nine as possible with two cards dealt by the dealer.
But forget about Macau’s casino industry for a moment and let me shine a spotlight on the reasons why Macau is anything but a one-trick pony travel destination:
Venture into the city centre to discover the Portuguese-influenced architecture that dazzles the senses. Senado Square is the heartbeat of Macau, its colourful mosaics and majestic water fountain in the middle of the square create a wonderful backdrop. The city’s 17th century cathedral – the Ruins of St. Paul’s – is arguably the most striking building in the city, overlooking Santo Antonio. Its stone façade features historic carvings from Japanese exiles and Macanese craftsmen. More recently, the Macanese government agreed to turn the ruins into a museum, as a nod to the city’s centuries of history.
UNESCO World Heritage sites
Talking of history, the Historic Centre of Macau is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to its “unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences” from both western and eastern worlds. The authenticity of the old town’s streets is not lost on most visitors to Macau, and it has retained its charm and personality in the face of fast economic growth.
Eclectic dining scene
Fanatical foodies will adore the chance to sit down and sample the delights of Macanese cuisine. Heavily influenced by both Asian and Portuguese flavours, there are a plethora of local specialities available that you’ll almost certainly take to your heart. From the rich, caramelised flavours of the traditional Portuguese Egg Tart and Crispy Pork Chop Buns (ideal for lunchtime snacks on the go) to the king of Macanese cuisine, ground meat Minchi, there’s no chance of running out of things to try!
Plenty of adrenaline-fuelled attractions
Thrill-seekers won’t find it hard to get the adrenaline pumping in Macau, either. The AJ Hackett Macau Tower is home to the world’s highest bungee jump, standing at a height of 233 metres. If you don’t have the inclination to jump but you still have a head for heights, you can always head out along the tower’s Skywalk, which is just 1.8 metres wide and has no handrails.
Put simply, Macau is a special city with a unique history and a very bright future. Its tourism industry continues to flourish, and its casino scene is still the most extravagant on the planet. However, Asia’s Entertainment Capital will delight and charm you even when you walk away from the roulette wheel. For sure is a destination that each year becomes more interesting and spectacular.