Macau is a small peninsula region in China, southwest of Hong Kong. There are scheduled boat charters to and from Macau and Hong Kong throughout the day. It is an easy day trip from one place to the other. If you are planning a trip to Hong Kong, you should strongly consider spending a little time in Macau as well.
The total population of Macau is close to half a million people. Most of the residents are of Chinese origin from various Chinese provinces. The remaining population (approximately 5%) are of Portuguese and European ancestry. Macau used to be a colony of Portugal before it was returned to Chinese control in the late 1990’s. In case you were wondering, Macau is sometimes referred to as ‘Macao’, due to the Portuguese history of the area. The official languages are Chinese and Portuguese, with Cantonese being the most widely used. English is mainly used for tourism and business.
The many attractions in Macau make it well worth a visit. Because of the Portuguese establishment, there are old fortresses, churches, temples and gardens to tour. There are over a dozen museums to see, including the Museum of Macau, the Maritime Museum, the Wine Museum, the Grand Prix Museum, and the Handover Gifts Museum. Every year, around November, there are the Macau Grand Prix car and motorcycle races. The Macau Tower, at 338m tall, is definitely worth a visit. Throughout the year there are many other events and festivals that you may be able to take part in. Walking tours and shopping opportunities also abound. Aside from many new casinos being built, you might want to try your luck at some of the older casinos, or even at the horse racing and greyhound racing tracks.
There is much development underway in Macau, and this development will soon bring even more visitors. Many hotels, casinos, resorts and convention centers are currently being built, with the first ones scheduled to open in 2006 and 2007. Some of the development is occurring on the Cotai Strip, which is reclaimed land between two islands of Macau called Coloane and Taipa. The spelling of ‘Cotai’ comes from the names of these two islands. These developments are being planned by combinations of world class hotel chains and major Las Vegas casinos, so they are bound to be impressive. The goal of the developers is to turn Macau into an international destination for resorts and casinos, and you often hear the term ‘Asia’s Las Vegas’. Up to six billion dollars is being spent on these developments, with 10,000 hotel rooms in the initial phase, and expansion to 60,000 rooms in the third phase. Gambling in Macau will be a major attraction in the years to come.
If you spend some time travelling around Macau, you will likely travel across the bridges on the peninsula. The names of two of the bridges are Nobre de Carvalho (the Friendship Bridge) and Sai Van Bridge. The Friendship Bridge is the longest one and goes directly to the Macau International Airport. Yes, you can fly directly into Macau! The airport is situated on the Island of Taipa.
In closing, if you are interested in experiencing a blend of two cultures over a small area, with loads of unique touring opportunities and attractions, then Macau and the Cotai strip should be your next vacation!