Looking for a unique holiday destination in Asia? Discover the two faces of Macau - from the Las Vegas style casinos and glitzy shopping malls to its historic Portugese roots.
Talk about split personalities. On one side is the heritage, fascinating historic roots which date back around 500 years. On the other are the contemporary features, the Vegas-like characteristics which have risen from land reclamation.
Somehow, both gel well in Macau, and it's for this split personality that more than 100,000 Australians visit the Asian centre each year.“ As many a visitor will vouch, Macau is unique to Asia,” said Helen Wong, from the Macau Government Tourist Office.
And as more hotels and attractions are built, Macau is continuing to evolve - including developments . she said referring to the ongoing developments on the Cotai Strip, which links the Macau islands of Taipa and Coloane, and the opening up of some of the less trodden historic neighbourhoods on the Macau peninsula.
The Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridgebridge is also set to open in 2016 and will stretch almost 30kms over the Pearl River.
While the former Portuguese centre evolves into a global centre, there are at least five good reasons to visit.
1. Discover the History
With so much Portuguese history at your feet, Macau is very different from neighbouring Hong Kong with its English colonial background. Hot spots to visit include the iconic Ruins of St Paul's for its famous surviving façade, Senado Square for its heritage listed colourfully painted buildings, elegant fountain and waved mosaic pavement, and Mount Fortress, home to the Museum of Macau, almost mandatory to visit as its showcases 500 years of history.
2. Explore on Foot
The Macau Government Tourist Office has created a series of self-guided walks which cover not only the major historic sites but narrow lanes which lead to a few eye-catching surprises. These routes direct guests to fascinating churches, parks, fortresses, museums and galleries as well as to the many eateries. There's also an app which can be downloaded to your phone and offer invaluable assistance during the stay.
3. Dining Experience
A major reason for visiting Macau is to sample the food, from the tiny eateries specialising in Chinese and Portuguese cuisine to those noted for dishing out Macanese food, the world's oldest form of fusion food – a tantalising mix of Portuguese, African, Indian, Malay and Chinese. Among the popular Macanese and Portuguese restaurants are Litoral, Oporto and A Lorcha. With the rise of new Macau, both on the peninsula and along the neon-lit Vegas-style Cotai Strip there are a number of quality fine dining restaurants within the giant precincts and casino complexes, among them the three Michelin-starred Robuchon au Dome (French style) and the two Michelin-starred The Eight (Chinese style), both within the Grand Lisboa. Across at Cotai are such fashionable restaurants as Messa9 and Beijing Kitchen, to name just two.
4. Try Out the Attractions and Activities
If you are daring enough, AJ Hackett has the world's highest bungee jump from 338-metre Macau Tower. But if you wish to try something not so thrill-seeking, there's Skywalk around the rim of the tower 233 metres above sea level. For families, there are the hands-on features inside the Science Centre and a couple of cute giant pandas at the Panda Pavilion on Coloane. A major drawcard is the Vegas-style thrill-a-minute House of the Dancing Water performance inside the City of Dreams. Among the popular museums are those devoted to the history of Portuguese wine and the Macau Grand Prix, held each year in November.
5. Go Shopping
There are shops that specialise in jewellery, clothing, souvenirs, even antiques as is the case on Coloane. Just remember to bring the credit card. And you can use either Hong Kong dollars or the local MOP when buying as the ATMs in Macau offer both options.
For more info, check out www.macautourism.gov.mo