Macau is a jewel in the crown of Asian getaways. This special administrative region has a reputation of being a mecca of casino gaming and wealth, but the reality is that this city is far more than the “Vegas of the East”.
In Macau, East truly meets West. It was colonised by the Portuguese for 300 years and as you walk the streets you’ll see examples of this in ancient Chinese temples that stand on Portuguese pavements.
Expect to dine on traditional Chinese congee at the start of the day and follow it up with a classic Portuguese lunch. Just a ferry-ride away from Hong Kong, Macau is unlike any other city in the East you’ll visit.
Any article about Macau that doesn’t mention its huge casino industry would just be ignoring the elephant in the room! Throughout the world, we’ve come to associate the city with mysterious and glamorous Asian casinos, helped in part by the way Macau has been portrayed in mainstream movies like “Skyfall”.
It is true that at present it’s the world’s most successful casino gaming market, with huge mega casinos like the City of Dreams that have helped it overtake Vegas in terms of revenue.
This sprawling casino complex draws in thousands of tourists every year who are enthralled by its allure. The City of Dreams also plays host to many important poker and casino events such as the Asia Championships of Poker.
But the casino clientele there defy western preconceptions. Amidst the usual stream of mainland Chinese high rollers, many of the baccarat tables and slot machines are propped up by determined Chinese grandmothers who give life to the phrase “go big or go home!”
The beauty of Macau
It’s when you step away from the bright lights of the casinos that Macau unveils its true beauty. This city has one of the richest cultural heritage, a combination of 400 years of colonisation and diversity.
At the centre of downtown Macau, you’ll find a UNESCO World Heritage site, which invites you to explore history and culture at your leisure. With 25 individual sites of historical buildings, colonial Portuguese architecture, cemeteries and gardens, there’s plenty to discover. This part of the island tells the true story of its culture and the history behind the multi-billion-dollar casino facade.
There really is so much to explore in this part of the island that you should take a couple of days to truly absorb all it has to offer; however, to get a glimpse of the diverse culture on offer here, you can start with visiting:
The Ruins of St Paul’s
This site is always popular with visitors to Macau – and for good reason. The ruins are the remains of a Portuguese cathedral that was destroyed in an 1835 fire and are thus considered an important site. Head up to the inner part of the facade to get a view of the island that you won’t find elsewhere.
In the heart of the old town, this square is a perfect example of Portuguese colonial architecture with its colourful buildings and Mediterranean design.
Na Tcha Temple and A-Ma Temple
The single-chamber Na Tcha Temple, built in 1888, is situated just behind the ruins of St Paul’s so it gives visitors a glimpse into the differences between these two buildings from the same period. The A-Ma Temple is the oldest temple in Macau, built before the Portuguese colonisation over 500 years ago.
There really is so much to see, do and experience in Macau that a visit to the island will keep any explorer or holidaymaker happy. It also has a rich and diverse culinary scene ranging from exquisite fine dining to adventurous street foods. A trip to this island that is so much more than Vegas’ Asian counterpart really won’t disappoint.
Thanks to Mel Wong for the gust post.