A laid back land of striking temples, palm readers and Mediterranean architecture blended with Chinese culture, Macau’s small corner of China has plenty to offer the discerning traveler. Especially, that is, if you’re a gambler: the ‘Vegas of the East’ draws on the entire Chinese market, and throwing chips onto felt is an all but compulsory part of a visit to the land of mega casinos.
Casino Lisboa is the most famous, a crude 60s-style venue with dancing girls and a kitschy old-school interior, where it’s possible to throw down thousands or play with pennies. If you prefer to escape the smoky corners of this crumbling institution, Sands serves up a more Vegas-style experience: hardly classy, but it’s undeniably glowing and swish.
Of course, you probably won’t want to spend your entire trip shuffling chips, and the impressive Macau Museum is the place to start exploring, gaining a thorough overview of the area’s checkered history. Having learnt what to expect, you can head to the top of thoroughly modern Macau Tower, and drift uneasily around the lofty sky bridges, staring down over the entire city. The cultural experience can’t possible exclude food: a unique blend of Chinese and Portuguese incorporating delicate dumplings, pork and clam casserole and even African chicken.
The inner harbor area is a captivating glance at Macau’s split personality, with narrow winding streets mixed with Chinese style market stalls serving kebabs and dim sum, smoky temples bathed in incense and the occasional bout of duty free shopping. In the jumbled A-Ma temple – lit up in glowing red at night – you’ll find offerings to the God of seafarers, a traditional boat perched against a rock, and characteristic Chinese temple architecture. The shrine – landing point of the first Portuguese sailors – is centuries old, and said to be the origin of the name Macau.
Despite all the casino-related hustle, Macau is essentially a very laid back corner of China, and you’ll find following up a walk through the Portuguese heartlands with a rest on the ‘black sand’ of Hac Sa beach, vinho verde (an intriguing and popular green wine) in hand keeps your chilled-out side smiling.