Far on the southeast coast of China, Macau has a long-standing reputation of being Vegas of the East. This dream villa that balances both Eastern and Western cultures is a towering paradise of gambling, women and sky-high living. Oodles of grandeur, lip-smacking delights, glitz and glamour, the city offers its visitors an experience that is unmatched.
Lose yourself in Barra Square, where the Portuguese first landed way back in the 16th century. The A-Ma-Gao Temple here is the oldest Taoist temple in Macau. The locals, who built the temple in 1488, named it A-Ma-Gao, after a goddess. But when Portuguese settlers first landed and asked locals about their land, they mistook the name A-Ma-Gao for 'Macau', and thus the city that flourished came to be known as it is today, and the temple, that marked its birth, the centre of present day Macau.
If you want to enjoy a stroll in the morning, head to Largo Senado Square's central stretch or grab some coffee in one of the sophisticated cafés that dot the streets. The Leal Senado (Loyal Senate) sits regally at one end of the square and attracts hordes of tourists all year round. Macau's Outer Harbour area and the outlying islands of Taipa and Coloane are a break from the peninsula. Other fascinating sights like the cream-coloured Santo Domingo Church with its perky green doors and windows, and the Lou Kau Mansion are splendid reminders of how many influences lie layered in Macanese culture and co-exist within the populace.
Try the Bacalhau, tossed in parsley and potatoes or the crumbly Portuguese style Egg Tart; you can never quite have enough! The Monte Fort, the ruins of St Paul's, and Museum of Macau are great sights along the way. Try your luck and experience the grand splendour of The Venetian at night. Every year this is exactly what brings Macau its millions of tourists: the belief that this might be their chance to get lucky. The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel is not just a fantastic casino but has famous gondola rides that let you relive the beauty of yesteryear Venice. The indoor artificial sky above is beautifully speckled with puffy white clouds against a stretch of azure blue and will take your breath away. It is another world, time and place here. To many, being in Macau is like taking refuge from reality. Or as other's simply say, this is where life is one party that never ends.
Places to See in Macau
The A-Ma-Gao Temple, tucked away at the south-western tip of Macau city, overlooking Barra Square and the seashore, is the oldest Taoist temple in Macau and is a great spot to start your visit. Legend has it that Mazu, Taoist Goddess of the Sea, in the guise of a young girl sought refuge in a kind fisherman's boat to cross the South-China Sea. Unfortunately, the boat found itself in the middle of a brewing storm. The girl who was in reality a young goddess immediately stood up and calmed the seas. The locals, who built the temple in 1488, named it A-Ma-Gao, after the goddess. But when Portuguese settlers first landed and asked locals about their land, they mistook the name A-Ma-Gao for 'Macau', and thus the city's name eventually stuck.
Largo Senado Square, which has been the city's urban confluence for centuries with its mosaic of coloured stones, fountain, colonial architecture and splendid cafes, has been a pedestrian paradise for years. Enjoy a stroll in the morning and do some shopping. Head to the Largo Senado Square's central stretch and grab some coffee in one of the many outdoor cafes. But it is the Fisherman's Wharf that you must head to if you are travelling with family. This giant complex is an amusement park that dazzles with themed interiors where you can globetrot in seconds!
Macau's iconic historical gems like the ruins of St Paul's, an ancient church on the mainland, are one of the most fabulous sights in the city. The Monte Fort, to the east of St Paul's is the oldest fort. Today, a World Heritage Site, it once helped protect the properties of the Jesuit people way back in the 16th century. The main Museum of Macau is close as well, and if you want to stroll along in silence, and delve deep into the history of this splendid dream isle, this is the place to be. The Kun Iam Temple and Lin Fung Temple are an impressive sight.
Places to eat in Macau
Try Bacalhau, which is probably Macau's most famous Portuguese delicacy. It comprises of dried codfish slices that are (usually) imported from Portugal because it is an essential part of Portuguese cuisine. Restaurants like O Santos and Camoes are best bets to try Bacalhau. Try Macanese delights like African Crab, Clams with Black Beans, Sardines and Codfish. Restaurants that specialize in good Macanese food can be found lined near the Largo Senado Square. For good Shark Fin soup, reserve a table at the famous Ping's Shark Fin restaurant at Dynasty district. For traditional Cantonese noodles, Wong Chi Kei serves the best selection. Rua do Almirante Sergio, near the A-Ma-Gao temple has numerous Portuguese restaurants.
The Portuguese style Egg Tart is the most famous snack in Macau, and occupies a special place in a Macanese heart. This custard delicacy was brought to Macau by an Englishman called Andrew Stow, who had tasted these tarts in Lisbon and opened shop with his own innovated version of it in Coloane Island. Andrew's Pasteria, Lord Stow's and the Koi Kei Bakery are two splendid choices for tarts if you'd like to pack some and take home with you over the day. Try the pastries and tarts at Margaret's Cafe e Nata; absolutely delicious!
Things to do in Macau
There are plenty of activities in Macau to keep anyone occupied through the day like lounging at the beach or traipsing a trekking trail like the Hac Sa Reservoir Circuit and Altinho de Ka Ho. But nothing is as good as gambling; one of the main activities in Macau. However, when visiting a casino, keep in mind that you are dressed well as most casinos follow a strict dress code. The Venetian is, by and far, a one-of-a-kind experience.
Macau now boasts of the largest casinos in the world and has more casinos than anywhere else. So much so that a few even joke that Vegas should be called 'America's Macau'. It doesn't come as a surprise that while Macau is continually called 'The Las Vegas of the East', Las Vegas might soon be known as the 'Macau of the West'.
The Venetian claims to be the world's biggest casino, and if you want to tour inside, it could take you more than a day. There are shops and brands all along the gilded archways by The Grand Canal Shoppes, and there are a tremendous number of eateries inside. Well known gambling casinos are the Galaxy Rio Casino, Casino Lisboa and the Sands Casino.
There are plenty of other places to live it up at night in the city. Most of the haunts, however, are inside casinos or the Outer Harbour. Pub crawls are famous along Lan Kwai Fong. If you long for a quieter night out, head to Coloane Island. There are several fine dining venues. Largo Senado Square at night is simply mystifying.
Shopping in Macau
Macau is a shopper's paradise. International brands, gadgets and jewellery come cheap and are found in plenty. The Red Market, which is snug between two of Macau's famous streets, Almirante Lacerda and Avenida Horta e Costa, is a popular wet market bustling with vendors selling everything from watches and shoes, to clothing and gadgets. The Three Lamps District (Sam Jan Dang) nearby, is just as interesting with its many jewellery and gadget stores. Indulge in the hawker stalls along the way to rest your feet. Flea markets like the Rua De Tercena and Bombeiros Square Market are generally crowded but worth your while nonetheless.
Duty-free shopping draws many to stores inside popular casinos. The Venetian, the Wynn Macau, and the Landmark have numerous international labels for the style conscious. Fisherman's Wharf has over a hundred stores that you can enjoy along with a day of fun at the amusement park.
The Largo Senado Square is lined with shops for the average local to linger and roam. Get a bottle of Portuguese wine or Chinese handicrafts to take home. Coloane village has excellent antique stores to wander into. If you want to take home souvenirs, porcelain, silk and handicrafts make for exclusive gifts.