Formerly a colony of Portugal until it was handed back to China in 1999, this city spread against a backdrop of green hills over several islands, with a population of just over 705,000, is a Chinese special administrative on the Pearl River, just 60 kilometres from Hong Kong (making it an easy day trip, by the way). One of world’s more densely populated areas, Macau is best known and is known as Asia´s biggest gambling mecca. Besides the casinos which dominate the skyline (top), it´s is also known for its excellent nightlife and the atmosphere of its Portuguese colonial past, making it a big tourism centre in Asia. And here are seven of its top draws:.
The hub of Macau´s UNESCO World Heritage centre, dating from the colonial period from 1557 to 1999, is ringed by gracious Portuguese-style buildings, with outstanding landmarks including the Baroque Church of St. Dominic (1587); the Leal Senado Building (1784), the headquarters of the colonial administration; and the General Post Office (1929) as well as various shops, restaurants, and cafés.
The Ruins of St. Paul´s Church´
Built in the early 17th century and destroyed by fire in 1835, the remains of the St. Paul´s complex consist of just its façade, which is an icon of Macau. Evocative and photogenic.
Opened in 2001, it´s 338 meters (1,109 feet) tall and is renowned for its observation deck, with panoramic 360-degree views out over Macau as well as thrill attractions such as bungy jumping at Skywalk X, a walking tour around the outer rim. Also up here are a number of restaurants, shops, and theatres.
Guan Yin Statue
Depicting a Buddhist Bodhisatva associated with compassion (though also a figure of Chinese folk religion), this 20-foot tall bronze female figure standing on a lotus bud was designed by Portuguese artist Christina Rocha, features a mix of Asian and Western features, is located on a small manmade island accessible via bridge.
There are some 40 of them, with the most notable including the Grand Lisboa, MGM Cotai, Morpheus, the Venetian (the world´s largest), and the Wynn Palace. The action never stops - not just gaming but fantastic restaurants, shopping, and entertainment.
Kun Iam Temple
Macau´s largest temple and wealthiest Buddhist temple complex was built in its current form in 1627 around three courtyards and shrines, with elaborate terraced gardens behind them. People come here to burn incense and pray to Lord Buddha, and as a point of interest, in the main hall the tituar Kum Iam is flanked by 18 Buddhas, one of whose faces is said to be that of Marco Polo, who studied Buddhism here.
Founded in 1987, it displays not just the maritime and seafaring history and culture of Macanese fishermen and the Portuguese colonial period, but also has a four aquarium galleries devoted to fresh water rivers, harbor fish, the offshore coral reef, and the deep-water marine environment as well as an international seashell collection. There´s also an esplanade and tea café for rest and refreshment.
Macau´s oldest existing temple incorporates elements of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and folk religion. Built in 1488 (and with additions up till 1828) on the sea (now it´s a bit inland) by fishermen who dedicated it to their patron goddess Mazu, and is comprised of six sections with various pavilions and halls, all a delight to visit.