If you are a keen traveler throughout Asia, Macau should be a must-see destination on your hit list. This autonomous region on the south coast of mainland China was formerly a Portuguese colony, and it wasn’t until the dawn of the new millennium that it returned to the control of the People’s Republic of China.
Given its western heritage, Macau is a fascinating city where east meets west. It’s also one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, with 650,900 people living within an area of only 11.8 square miles, making it a feast for the senses. If you are keen on planning a trip to the historical peninsula of Macau, read on to find out more about this enchanting region.
The History of Macau
For around three centuries, Macau was known as Portuguese territory. The Portuguese sea merchants and missionaries claimed it back in the 16 th century, with Macau deemed an ideal location for Portugal to expand its trading links throughout Asia. It became the first western colony in East Asia. Macau’s port thrived, acting as the influential trading point for goods between Asia and the Mediterranean.
Unfortunately for Macau, the expansion of the British Empire saw it wrestle control of many of the leading trading routes between the west and East Asia. Furthermore, the rapid development of the nearby deepwater port of Hong Kong meant that much of the trade flow from East Asia to the west soon started to go via Hong Kong. In many ways, Macau subsequently relegated to the trading history books.
Nevertheless, the return of Macau to Chinese control in 1999 was hugely symbolic. It was a chance for the city to reinvent its image. New-look Macau opted to clean up its act and challenge the likes of Las Vegas and Monte Carlo as the world’s premier gambling destination, which we’ll discuss more later.
Regarding its sights and sounds, the Historic Centre of Macau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Ruins of St. Paul’s arguably the city’s most famous landmark. It symbolizes the city’s Roman Catholic roots dating back to the 17 th century. In total, there are 22 sites recognized as having cultural and historical significance in Macau by UNESCO.
Food and Drinks in Macau
Given the blend of Portuguese and southern Chinese influences, it’s little surprise that Macanese cuisine is one of the most fascinating to sample. The eclectic nature of Macanese food means that it is widely regarded as fusion cuisine. If you are visiting Macau for only a few days, you will struggle to sample all the Macanese delights on offer. However, we’ve been kind and narrowed down the list of food and drinks to sample to help you get a flavor of Macanese cuisine.
- Portuguese egg tarts If you don’t eat anything else during your time in Macau, make sure it is a Portuguese egg tart. These baked delights differ to Chinese egg tarts as the latter uses caramelized sugar. Some bakeries in the city now use fresh cream in their tarts rather than the traditional Portuguese flour and water version.
- Pork chop bun The perfect snack to eat on the go while exploring, Macau’s pork chop buns packs with a tender pork chop that melts in the mouth inside the soft bun.
- Almond cookies The city’s signature almond cookies are another favorite street food snack. You can find them on almost every city center street. Be sure to try them fresh off the pan for the best tasting samples.
- Steamed milk pudding This comforting dessert is a typical Chinese classic. The closest thing we can liken it to is panna cotta or douhua. It only requires egg white, sugar and milk, resulting in a smooth, creamy texture that’s equally delicious hot or cold.
- African chicken The perfect example of Macau’s fusion cuisine, the ever-popular African chicken is a dish blending Cantonese and Portuguese flavors. This vibrant chicken is coated in a tangy peanut, tomato and chili sauce and goes well with Portuguese fried rice.
What Goes On In Macau?
As we mentioned earlier, in 2019, Macau’s entertainment industry centers mostly around its casino scene. There are more than 30 casino resorts in the city today, and it is now officially the world’s land-based gambling capital, with revenues of $37.6 billion in 2018. That was a 14 percent year-on-year increase since 2017. These figures put Las Vegas’ gambling revenues firmly in the shade, with Sin City recording earnings of only $6.6 billion from the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip.
Although Macau’s land-based casino industry is a world leader in revenue, no regulations have been defined by the Macanese Government regarding iGaming. It is, therefore, implied that operating an online casino in Macau is illegal. That is somewhat surprising given that even countries with somewhat gray areas regarding iGaming regulation such as Canada can operate a casino online.
Away from the casinos and the resorts’ Michelin-starred restaurant options, Macau also hascsome fantastic places for families to explore and enjoy together. Hac Sa Beach is the city’s largest natural beach and is famed for its black sand.
How To Get Around In Macau
If you are still looking to visit Macau’s fascinating peninsula, we’ve put together some critical travel tips that will make your stay an easier one.
- It is possible to fly into Hong Kong and drive (yes, drive) from one island to the other, making it the ideal thing to do on a layover. That’s because the new Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macau Bridge opened in October 2018. Shuttle buses also run between the ports of Hong Kong and Macau.
- Most of Macau’s hotels will offer free shuttle services throughout the city, so there is no need to book taxis to visit the top tourist spots.
- Some of Asia’s lesser-known airlines operate flights in and out of Macau International Airport, namely Tigerair, Cebu Pacific, EVA Air and Air China.
- If you plan to fly home from Hong Kong after visiting Macau, you can take the ferry from Macau right to Hong Kong International Airport’s SkyPier ferry terminal.
If you are wondering what time of the year would be best to visit Macau, there is no specific low season to speak. However, the Golden Week in October and the Lunar New Year between January and February are both popular. In November, sports fans will also be out in full force to watch the Macau Grand Prix, which is one of the most challenging street circuits on the planet.
Temperatures during the summer months are hot and humid, averaging over 30℃ while typhoons are a regular occurrence during this season, too. Better still, the autumn is one of the most pleasant times of the year when the days are warm, and the nights are cooler.
Overall, Macau is an enchanting city to put on your bucket list, and it is no longer the “sleepy enclave” it once was.