Macau is a city with two faces. On the one hand, the fortresses, churches and food of its former colonial master Portugal speak to a uniquely Mediterranean style on the China coast. On the other, Macau is the self-styled Las Vegas of the East.
And while that comparison might sound overblown, it’s not. During the past few years charismatic-but-sleepy little Macau has experienced the sort of boom usually associated with cities like Shànghǎi. But rather than skyscrapers and office towers, the construction here is all about Vegas-style mega-casinos and hotels. The reason, of course, is that casinos are legal in Macau, while in China and nearby Hong Kong they’re not. It’s a big market…
There is, however, much more to Macau than gambling. The peninsula and the islands of Coloane and Taipa constitute a colourful palette of pastels and ordered greenery. The Portuguese influence is everywhere: cobbled back streets, baroque churches, stone fortresses, Art Deco buildings and restful parks and gardens. It’s a unique fusion of East and West that has been recognised by Unesco, which in 2005 named 30 buildings and squares collectively as the Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site. There are also several world-class museums.
Especially if you’ve been in China for a while you’ll also find there is a distinctly different feel to Macau. While about 95% of residents are Chinese, the remainder is mostly made up of Portuguese and Macanese (people with mixed Portuguese, Chinese and/or African blood). It’s this fusion of Mediterranean and Asian peoples, lifestyles, temperaments and food – oh, the food – that makes Macau so much fun.
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