Go and visit Macau.
That was our lasting impression of the former Portuguese colony, now one of the two Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China. (The other being Hong Kong).
A brief ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, Macau is a whole different world. The majority of people still speak Cantonese, but their Portuguese heritage is never far below the surface. Streets and roads bear Portuguese names, menus contain Portuguese flavours and the architecture is a unique blend of west and east history.
But before exploring Macau’s fascinating history, we would arrive on the doorstep of one of the most famous casinos in the world; The Venetian.
Andrew may have explored the original Venetian in Las Vegas during his (infamous) Bucks Trip in 2013, but the grandeur of this incarnation has not been lost over its twin. Macau is most definitely a direct copy of the one in Vegas, albeit with shops, restaurants and gambling venues to suit asian clientele.
The casino district of Macau is south of the old town, where land is continually being reclaimed and turned into the “Las Vegas of the East”. Casinos everywhere. A Disneyland for the adult.
Arguably the best show in Macau is the world renowned “House of Dancing Water”, an acrobatic, visually awe-inspiring story of lovers, pirates, dancing, and diving into an awesome water tank with rising platforms. Unbelievable!
Leaving the bright lights of the casinos behind, we strolled through the old town of Macau. And boy, were we in for a fascinating day that we never expected. Perhaps the world just doesn’t know very much about little ol’ Macau. You don’t have to look far to realise this place is one of the most unique places in the world.
A Chinese Portugal or a Portuguese China?
Every corner reveals something that the mind says can’t be right, yet it just is.
European churches, cobblestone streets, white and pastel colours across classical facades.
The Portuguese arrived in Macau in the 16th century and turned it into a major settlement, anchoring ships in its harbours to trade with mainland China. As Macau prospered as a port, there were repeated failed attempts by the Dutch to conquer it in the 17th century. It was only until 1999 that China finally assumed formal sovereignty over Macau. But its Portuguese legacy would never be left in the past. Macau is proud of it.
One of the main landmarks is the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a 17th century Portuguese cathedral and college built by the Jesuits. It was destroyed by fire during a typhoon in 1835. Only the southern stone facade remains, still bearing the intricate carvings of interesting Jesuit images with Oriental themes intact.
Dominating the skyline, however, is the 338m Macau Tower (home of the highest bungee jump in the world). The views from the sky deck were amazing. (Probably better on a clear day, but oh well).
Two days to explore the old town just isn’t enough. But I suppose that leaves us something else to discover about Macau for next time.
Visited 13th to 17th January, 2014.