Macau has trumped Las Vegas as the biggest gambling city in the world. The Cotai Strip, on the narrow isthmus between the Macau islands of Taipa and Coloane, is being developed into the Las Vegas Strip of the East. Visitors will find familiar fun for the whole family at the Sands Cotai Resort. The Galaxy Macau with its signature artificial beach and wave pool, City of Dreams and its House of Dancing Water, and many others serve up style, opulence, gambling, and good times. The Venetian Macau, the largest casino in the world, anchors one end of the strip. Like its Las Vegas sister, it transports guests to old Italy complete with gondolas that move about the indoor canals. Don’t leave the Venetian without trying the egg tarts from Lord Stow’s Bakery; you won’t be disappointed.
The Historic Center of Macau demonstrates the fusion of Portuguese and Chinese cultures. The Portuguese earned settlement rights from China in the 16th century in exchange for ridding the area of pirates. Macau remained a Portuguese colony for four hundred years until it came back under Chinese rule as an autonomous Special Administrative Region of China in 1999. The best way to explore the district, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, is by taking the Macau Heritage Walk.
Particular points of historical interest are Guia Fortress and lighthouse, Mount Fortress where visitors can pass by ancient cannons that line the fortress walls, and the nearby Ruins of St. Paul, the façade of a 16th century cathedral that was destroyed by fire.
In Senado Square tourists will find St. Dominic’s Church, Holy House of Mercy, and Leal Senado. Other must-see places on the peninsula include Lilau Square, one of the original Portuguese neighborhoods, and Barra Square with A-Ma Temple, one of the oldest Taoist temples in Macau.
Adventure seekers will want to make their ways to Macau Tower where they can experience the world’s highest bungee jump. The slightly less daring can still take a thrill-walk around the outside rim with Skywalk X. Those not into adrenaline rushes can take advantage of the 360-degree views from the observation deck. Next, check out Fisherman’s Wharf, the peninsula’s theme park complete with an ‘erupting’ volcano, children’s rides, a Roman amphitheater, and a casino. If you can get a reservation, don’t leave the peninsula without eating at A Lorcha, a popular Portuguese restaurant serving traditional Pastels de Bacalhau. Try the African chicken and Chau Chau, a Portuguese fried rice.
Taipa is home to the Macau International Airport and the residential area of Taipa Village. The island is quieter than Macau Peninsula and the Cotai Strip, but is developing rapidly. One of the special things about the island is Taipa Houses Museum. Tourists take a fascinating tour of Portuguese colonial houses that have been restored to their original conditions giving a glimpse of the lifestyle on the island in the early 20th century. Horse racing enthusiasts will want to check out the Macau Jockey Club’s thoroughbred racing course. The island also boasts a number of four and five star hotels.
Coloane, connected to Taipa by the Cotai strip, is the southernmost island and also the most laid back. Get away from the crowds and fast pace of the Cotai Strip and experience the traditional Portuguese Coloane Village with its narrow winding streets and pastel houses. Spend a leisurely day hiking, golfing, or simply lounging on one of Macau’s two best beaches, Cheoc Van Beach and Hac Sa Beach. For a fun place to eat, try Fernando’s Restaurant on Hac Sa Beach. It offers superb Portuguese food in a casual atmosphere. Try Fernando’s popular Portuguese chorizo. Meals are served with freshly baked bread from their on-site bakery. Vegans will be happy to know Fernando’s grows the restaurant’s organic vegetables and salad greens from their own garden.