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This post was edited by Cicci at 2012-1-11 11:17|
Macau (also spelled Macao, 澳門, Ou3 Mun4 in Cantonese, Àomén in Mandarin) is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. Located across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong, until 1999 Macau was an overseas territory of Portugal. The world's most densely populated country, Macau is best known as Asia's largest destination for gambling taking in even more revenue than Las Vegas.
In the 16th Century, China gave Portugal the right to settle in Macau in exchange for clearing the area of pirates under strict Chinese administration. Macau was the first European settlement in the Far East. It became Portuguese colony effectively after the treaty signed by Qing and Portuguese Government in 1887. It was also the last, when pursuant to an agreement signed by China and Portugal in 1987, Macau became the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 20 December 1999, ending over 400 years of Portuguese administration.
China has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be practiced in Macau for at least fifty years after the transfer of sovereignty and that Macau will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs.
As an SAR, Macau has its own government and police force, passports, visas, postal system and currency.
Although best known for gambling, Macau is extremely rich in attractions and oozing with atmosphere, thanks to hundreds of years of fusion between European and Chinese cultures.
Macau is a fascinating place to just walk around as the place is packed with churches, temples, fortresses and other old buildings bearing an interesting mix of Portuguese and Chinese characteristics. Besides buildings, there are also hundreds of narrow alleyways forming a maze in the old part of Macau where the people of Macau carry out businesses and work. If the sheer density of humans get to you, take a break and enjoy several pretty gardens or head to the island.
One of the interesting things to see in Macau is a statue of the Bodhisatta Avalokitesvara (known as 觀音 kwoon yam in Cantonese) located next to the sea near the Sands Casino and MGM Grand. Despite being a Chinese deity, the statue is distinctly European in design and resembles the statues of the Virgin Mary you can find in Europe.
And if history is not your thing, there is the Macau Tower of awesome views and adventure sports, or Fisherman's Wharf to enjoy some theme-park activities and shopping.
You'll find most of the attractions in Macau Peninsula, but Taipa and Coloane, each with a pretty village, also draw hordes of visitors. Visit the Cotai reclaimed land area to see its transformation into the "Las Vegas Strip of the East". The Venetian is the most famous with its Venice-styled shopping mall with rivers running through, and is also currently the largest casino in the world.
The City of Dreams is a giant casino with high end fashion shops, a free video 'bubble' show, three hotels and the world's most expensive theatre show. The 'House of Dancing Water' cost US$250 million and the stage holds five olympic swimming pools worth of water. Ushers give the front few rows of the audience towels. Free shuttles from the main ferry terminal leave constantly.
A large section of Macau Peninsula has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site and 25 buildings and sites within the area have been deemed to have cultural and historic significance. One of the best ways to cover the sights is to do the Macau Heritage Walk circuit. The heritage Buildings, the Sao Paulo Cathedral, the Fort and the Macau Museum are all adjacent to each other and can be conveniently seen individually even if one cannot catch the Heritage walk timing.
Taipa Village and Coloane Village, previously inhabited by fishermen, are also interesting with their colonial-era shops and houses along narrow lanes.
Macau has several museums. The "Macau Museum Pass", which gives discounted entry to most of these, is currently off the market. The main museums, such as the Macau Museum, are in Macau Peninsula although there are two museums on Taipa - the Museum of Taipa and Coloane History and Taipa Houses Museum.