Macao Travel Recommendations
A piece of Europe in South East Asia, Macao is a small place, yet it is one of the busiest tourism destinations, receiving, according to some data, over 23 million tourists per year. Why? Just read below.
Downtown Macao is a product of cultural exchange between East and West, which has been developing for more than 400 years. The most ancient and complete architectural heritage of Europe that has survived in China until the present day can be found here. In 2005, it was included in UNESCO World Heritage List.
Macao has always been in the shadow of nearby Hong Kong. A lot of people have never heard of this name, and of those who have heard many thought it was just a district of Hong Kong.
And yet Macao is a separate territory, very patriarchal and more European. Macao is raher small in area, and its mainland part can be walked all over in just one day. Narrow cobblestone streets of Macao ascend the slopes of hills and create an atmosphere of a medieval European town. There are a lot of Catholic churches and European cars here. The economy of Macao is based on tourism. Numerous high-class hotels welcome the guests and offer a wide range of facilities, most of which involve the local entertainment industry. Macao is often dubbed Asian Monte Carlo and is known due to its passion for gambling.
The sights of Macao are diverse. A long staircase leading to the wall with empty window openings is the first image of St. Paul’s Cathedral you get when you look at it. This cathedral was built by the Jesuits in 1602 and burned down in the 19th century. Tourists come to gawk at the remains of the facade wall.
Another attraction is the park named in honor of the most famous resident of Macao, Luis de Camoes, Portugal's greatest poet, who worked here as an officer of the colonial administration. In this very park, he often sat in the dense shade of trees, enjoying the coolness of the nearby grotto which was later given his name. The cave is now decorated with the bust of the poet, and a number of his sonnets in the original and in Chinese translation are carved on the walls.
St Paul's Cathedral is neighbored by the fort Fortaleza do Monte. This is a very serious fortification, converted into a museum of Macao. Cast-iron guns menacingly face all directions, controlling not only the land but the harbors Porto Interior and Porto Exterior. The fortress was built in the 17th century and defended the city in military campaigns.
The oldest of the temples in Macao is dedicated to the ancient goddess A-Ma and was built more than 600 years ago during the reign of the Ming Dynasty in honor of the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. The temple is noteworthy due to a rather unusual set of altars and small outbuildings, towering among the rocks. According to a legend, when Portuguese sailors landed on the coast near the temple and asked the name of the place, the local people said 'A-Ma-Gao', that is the Bay of Ama. Thus, the Portuguese named the peninsula Macao. There is also a museum dedicated to the maritime history of Macau from the 2nd century B.C. to the present day. The models of Chinese and Portuguese ships, navigation instruments and fishing gear can be found here. For an additional fee you can even join the tour on a boat running from the walls of the museum to the Inner Harbor.
Tourists often visit the Gardens created in the 19th century by the rich Chinese merchant and executed in the same style as the famous Suzhou gardens. A distinguishing feature of the park is a house in western style. The house is surrounded by the huge pond, overgrown with bamboo and decorated with air-bridges, stone deposits, hedges and pavilions.
For more venturesome people, there are numerous casinos and two special places with gambling opportunities: the so-called kanidrom (hound racing) and the Jockey Club racecourse.
The biggest natural attraction on the peninsula is Colina da Guia mountain. Hiking trails lead to its summit and across the mountain range, to the famous lighthouse.
Traveling Macao can be made much easier and cheaper if you prepare your trip by contacting a Macao tour operator or a travel agent in Macao.