The Chinese city of Macau is fast emerging as one of the must-see destinations in the Far East for tourists venturing from around the world. Macau is a Special Administrative Region located to the west of the Pearl River estuary. It is a unique territory in the People’s Republic and indeed compared with anywhere else in Asia. That is because it is the location where east really did meet west.
For several centuries, Macau was a Portuguese colony. The Portuguese were leased the area by Ming China to provide a strategic base for improving trade links between the Far East and the Mediterranean. Given that the Portuguese set up camp here for more than 400 years, it is unsurprising that Macau’s culture is blurred. In fact, it is the original home of fusion cuisine, bringing together a heady and eclectic mix of eastern and western flavors.
The city was returned to Chinese rule on the eve of the Millennium. Since then, the Chinese government has sought to breathe new life into Macau’s economy and clean up its act. Before its transfer back to China, Macau had a seedy underbelly, with gangs and criminals running the city’s casinos into the ground. The government has worked tirelessly to clean up Macau and provide better regulation and transparency for its casino scene.
Since then, Macau has evolved into arguably the world’s number-one destination for gambling. It has a gaming industry that’s now worth seven times that of Las Vegas, thanks to a flourishing casino scene characterized by the Cotai Strip, much of which was built on reclaimed land. Some of the biggest casino resort names in Las Vegas have opted to set up camp in Macau, too, including the Venetian Macau, which boasts the world’s largest casino floor for gaming space, including slot machines, roulette, blackjack, and poker.
Although poker is becoming a popular card game in the city of Macau, baccarat remains the number-one game of choice by tourists by far. This is because Chinese players are obsessed with the role that luck and fate play in casino games like baccarat. Those keen to have the variety of poker games they are used to outside of Macau, including variants such as Omaha, can still find poker on mobile and desktop devices to play, whether it is in the hotel room, a restaurant, or the airport waiting room.
Aside from the city’s casino scene, Macau has lots more going for it. Its Coloane island offers a polar opposite experience to the Cotai Strip, with a laid-back vibe and tree-lined streets that allow you to kick back and enjoy the island’s unspoiled beaches. Hac Sa Beach also features unique black sand, which is well worth seeing with your own eyes as it compares very favorably with some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches.
Much of Macau’s city center has been given UNESCO World Heritage status, too, with its historic Roman Catholic monuments such as the Ruins of St. Pauls and the picturesque Senado Square telling a dramatic story of life in a region fused by European and Chinese civilizations. Despite being the world’s most densely populated city on Earth, Macau’s people benefit from the fourth-highest life expectancy in the world, despite severe income inequality. With a government and economy that runs separately to mainland China, Macau has freedom and excitement that no other city in China can compete with.