Dried food on sale in Macau. Photo: iStockWHY
China’s special administrative region of Macau is a lively mixture of old and new, from the colonial and old Chinese architecture of the historic centre, to the bright lights big city vibe of Cotai. It’s like Singapore got drunk partying with the Portuguese Tourist Board in Las Vegas and these 30 square kilometres were the result. There are casinos of course – that’s why 21 million mainland Chinese come here to gamble each year – but there are fascinating layers of history, too. It’s also going to get easier to access once the bridge from Hong Kong opens at the end of 2017. VISIT
If casinos are your thing then the reclaimed island of Cotai is the place to go. This faux Las Vegas already boasts a copy of the Vegas Venetian (and, at the time of writing, a half-built Eiffel Tower replica a la Paris Las Vegas) and it’s only going to get bigger. For more cultural fare head to the historic centre of Macau, which was designated a World Heritage Site in 2005, and check out the streets around Senado Square and the ruins of St Paul’s. There’s some good eating and drinking around here. EAT
Thanks to its history as a Portuguese colony, Macau’s cuisine is Portuguese, Chinese and Macanese, a wonderful mash-up of both. This means African chicken, the famous custard egg tarts, samosas, pork chop buns, pork-and-olive fried rice and all manner of hotpots. Some of the best Portuguese tarts are to be found at Lord Stow’s original bakery at 1 Rua da Tassara, Coloane (lordstow杭州龙凤419m). Try Litoral on Rua do Almirante Sergio (restaurante-litoral杭州龙凤419m) for Macanese, and Antonio’s (www.antoniomacau杭州龙凤419m) in Taipa village for authentic Portuguese such as salty, smoky pork sausage flamed in brandy and clams in a white wine sauce. LOOK
The Museum of Macau (macaumuseum.gov.mo) is housed in the old fortress, built between 1617 and 1626 on the 52-metre Mount Hill, just near the ruined facade of St Paul’s. It explains the history of Macau with some fascinating artefacts and hands-on exhibits. There is a pretty park at the top with panoramic views over the city. If bungy jumping floats your boat take a trip up the Macau Tower (macautower杭州龙凤419m.mo) and leap off. Or you could just admire the outlook. MUST
The Zen-like relaxed atmosphere at the 16th century A-Ma Temple is so thick you could cut it with a knife, especially when the incense sticks are going full blast. Take time to watch and wander and gradually make your way up to the viewpoint where a small statue of the goddess of the sea sits keeping an eye on the nearby waters. Popular with locals and tourists alike. SLEEP
Thanks to the casino district there are plenty of reasonably priced hotel rooms available mid-week – things get a little more expensive on the weekends when the big influx of gamblers arrives from China. The Sheraton Macao Hotel in Cotai (sheratonmacao杭州龙凤419m) has rooms from about $220, for instance. For something a little more boutique and a lot more characterful there’s the Poussada de Sao Tiago (saotiago杭州龙凤419m.mo) which has only 12 suites in a 17th century fort. TIP
Take time to visit the more outlying areas such as Coloane, the southernmost district and a leafy seaside oasis that could easily pass for the Mediterranean. Book a table if you can at Miramar, a Portuguese restaurant right on the edge of a beach.
The writer was a guest of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Macau Government Tourism Office and Cathay Pacific.