Macau Travel Guide

Balaji Dutt

Macau is the "Vegas of the East." It's also the "Monte Carlo of the Orient." Take your pick. Either way, it's a place where fortune easily won is just as easily lost in the glittering and fashionable casinos. Where trendy boutiques sell designer wares and accessories for eye-popping prices and legions of worn gamblers arrive early at the tables and soldier grimly toward fortune or failure. But that's not the whole story of this special administrative region of China, just across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong. Old Macau is a charming city, its winding, hilly streets full of historic churches, World Heritage Sites and museums that will remind you that this was once a Portuguese colony. You'll see many signs in Portuguese around town, although you won't find many people who speak the language. They're too busy rushing toward the future.

 

Sights

Even if you're not a gambler, the ostentatious casinos and their various non-gaming entertainments are well worth a look. The Casino Lisboa is one of the oldest, an oddity of architecture that's shaped like a flower (kind of). Newer establishments like the Sands, the Wynn and the MGM all show their signature touches. The Venetian, on fast-developing Cotai Island, is a modern wonder, the largest casino in the world and the fourth-largest building. After the casinos, be sure to check out Macau's attractions by day. See the Ruins of St. Paul's and the Guia Fort with its Chapel of our Lady of Guia and the Guia Lighthouse. One of the most popular things to do among visitors is Macau Tower and its observation deck, which gives you great views of the whole island. Other sites worth visiting around Macau include Macau Museum, the A-Ma Statue on Alto de Coloane and the Leal Senado Building, erected in 1784. On the island of Taipa, check out the Taipa Houses Museum. If your feet get tired from all the sightseeing, park yourself for a while in the breathtaking Lou Lim Loc Garden, a true urban oasis.

 

Dining

While most restaurants here are not open as late as in Hong Kong, the fare is delicious -- some say the best in China. Portuguese dishes like bloody duck, salted cod and egg tarts are still served side by side with Macanese fare like African chicken, almond cookies and pork chop buns. The biggest concentration of restaurants is on the Peninsula, where they dot the whole district. There are great food choices in Taipa as well. And, of course, all the casinos have a variety of restaurants, from quick and relatively inexpensive to lavish and high end.

 

Shopping

For souvenirs, head to Rua da Felicidade (Street of Happiness), where shops like Koi Kei and Choi Heong Yuen offer a variety of distinctive Macau merchandise to take home. The New Yaohan is a large department store located behind the Grand Emperor Hotel and Fisherman's Wharf also has a variety of shops and stores. Antique shops, galleries and more line the streets between Largo do Senado and the Ruins of St. Paul's.

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