It is a name we have all heard, a name that conjures up images of a city of the orient, a crossroads where Portugese and Chinese cultures collide but how many of us have been there? A recently took a trip to investigate and found myself enjoying a stimulating and rewarding experience in a city that offers its own distinct atmosphere.
The name Macau is known by many as the Las Vegas of the far east, a Mecca for gamblers across South east Asia. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a gambler but somehow the bright lights, larger than life interiors and cacophony of sounds from a thousand slot machines are strangely attractive. Once I stepped foot in Macau, I found myself energised and eager to seek out the attractions this city has to offer.
The journey started with an Air Asia flight from Bali to Kuala Lumpur before directly to Macau landing about 3 hours later at Macau International Airport. Macau is a very compact place so getting around is easy and most attractions can be reached on foot although shuttle buses and taxis are readily available. A long and fascinating history makes Macau an interesting place and well worth a visit. It is a place filled with churches, temples, fortresses and other old buildings each with its own story to tell and bearing witness to the trials and tribulations of East meeting West and the sometimes difficult relationship between its Portugese and Chinese residents.
Macau lies on the Pearl River Delta to the west of Hong Kong, bordered by Guangdong province to the north and facing the South China Sea to the east and south. It is one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China, the other of course being Hong Kong.
The Chinese love to gamble and Macau is known as Asia’s gambling capital thus bringing considerable revenue to the city.
Macau is also known for its distinctive architecture and the streets are lined with buildings painted in pastel shades of green, pink and cream that evoke the Mediterranean. These old European neo-classical structures sit alongside Asian influences. Not surprisingly the Historic Centre of Macau was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2005 with its center recognised as having over twenty locations that witness the extraordinary integration and co-existence of Chinese and Portuguese cultures in this former Portuguese colony.
One notable building that is popular among visitors is the ruined St Paul’s Cathedral, which was originally built by the Portuguese in 1602, sadly only the façade remains today the result of a fire many years ago. The Senado Square or Senate Square in the centre of Macau is an open area paved with traditional Portuguese paving and enclosed by the buildings of the Leal Senado, the General Post Office and St. Dominic’s Church.
Contrasting with the historical architecture are numerous casino hotels, larger than life establishments that boast lavish gambling facilities and massive entertainment programs.
My personal preference is The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel which offers luxurious accommodation and facilities that would blow anyone’s mind.
The Venetian Macao is the largest integrated resort of its kind in Asia and is well known for featuring a stunning replica of the famous canals and architectural style of Venice. It was built as a re-creation of the famous Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas but is twice the size of its sister property. Besides gambling of course the Venetian Macao has many other facilities worth a visit including the Shoppes Grand Canal, 30 world-renowned restaurants, the luxury Venetian Theatre and more.
Gondolas wend their way along the waterways of the Shoppes Grand Canal and a gondola ride is great fun for all the family.
Best of all are the spacious and opulent suites each one boasting at least 750 square feet (70 square meters) of floor area and featuring a sunken living room, private bedroom and a plush bathroom. This really is a world class resort.
No holiday is complete without checking the fine dining scene and one of the best is Robuchon au Dome, formerly Robuchon a Galera, a Three-Michelin-Starred restaurant that serves magnificent dishes combined with impeccable service, the finest of wines and a decor to match the magnificence of Macau.
Macau is a fascinating place to visit and suits a range of tastes and interests. It is also an easy place to get to with convenient connecting flights from Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia currently flies daily direct to Macau.