Macau is a bit like Hong Kong's little brother - smaller, less developed but far more
boisterous. It is however much older, having been founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and
was handed back to China in 1999, two years after Hong Kong. It is run as a special administrative
region of the People's Republic, allowing it to operate as a capitalist economy, which is certainly
good news as the region brings in more gambling revenue than Las Vegas.
I took a trip to Macau on my grand Chinese New Year tour of early 2009, arriving by fast boat
from Hong Kong. As it was the new year, Macau was absolutely rammed and even the cheapest hotel
in town was a rip-off. I only stayed one night before walking over the border back into China
proper, and heading up to Guangzhou.
The Hotel Lisboa is the classic casino of Macau, dating back to the 1960s, when Macau became
the Monte Carlo of the east.
In recent years there has been rapid development; the completely over-the-top Grand Lisboa
casino went up in 2007. Wandering around seeing places like this made me feel like I'd arrived
in the bad Hill Valley, 1985...
The Star World casino is another example of the modern excesses of Macau.
Not satisfied with their strongholds in Las Vegas, the big players are setting up shop in
Macau now too. Here is the completed Wynn casino, and in the background the extended sections of
the MGM Grand are going up. Over in the Cotai Strip, the world's largest casino opened in 2008
in the form of The Venetian.
Largo Senado or Senado Square is the centrepiece of old Macau. The lights were up for
Chinese new year.
Shopping in Macau, note the patterns on the pavement which are just like the ones of
Copacabana beach in
I stayed in the East Asia Hotel, which was the cheapest place I could find, for around
$70 US. There are no hostels - if you can't afford to stay in a hotel in Macau, they're not
interested in you. This place was as good as it looks - like being in a timewarp - and my
room didn't even have a window.
One of the many quaint colonial churches in Macau, just off Senado Square.
Due to Chinese new year, the place was utterly rammed, in contrast to Hong Kong which was
dead. I think the lure of the gaming machines may have something to do with it, attracting the
gambling-starved Chinese from the mainland.
The facade of the ruined Sao Paulo cathedral in Macau, symbol of the region. It burned down
in 1835 and only the facade has stood since then.
Looking from the facade of Sao Paulo back towards the urban density of Macau. It has the
highest number of people per square mile of any country or dependency.
The view of Sao Paulo through the vines of the fort belies the business of the place.
Parts of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were apparently filmed here on the Rua de
Felicidade. It used to be the local red-light district (until the PRC came into play) - no wonder
they were all so happy.
Another quaint Macanese church in colonial Portuguese style.
Macau Tower sits on the south end of the Macau peninsula, and stands over 1000 feet tall.
There was someone bungee jumping off the top as I watched.
The southern islands of Macau are now artificially connected by the land reclamation of
the Cotai Strip, and to get there you have a choice of three parallel bridges. This one is the
Ponte Sai Van, which is far longer than the shortest route to the mainland, but as that's China,
politics dictated that this bridge should come into being.
Penha Church at the south end of the Macau peninsula, and the frankly ridiculous Grand Lisboa
tower in the background.
Back in old Macau, and battling through the crowds on Avenida Almeida Ribeiro.
I bought a bus ticket to Guangzhou, but still had to get out at the border and walk into
mainland China, through the Portas do Cerco.
Over in Zhuhai, China, it was apparent just how close Macau is to the mainland. But it was
nice to be back where there was a bit more space again!