Macao is, from the perspective of these two Europeans, in the back of beyond!
Located at more than 14-hour flight from Europe, meaning more than 13.500km/8400miles away and coming here by any other means than by airplane…just too crazy!
It is country…forgive me, it´s a Special Administrative Region! To be exact: Macao SAR – Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. It was a Portuguese colony until 1999, time when we handover it to China and since then Macao has been growing in the Gaming and Hospitality industries, with already more than 33 casinos and about 29.725 hotel rooms, all this in an area of only 31.3km2!
Macao is a place of contrasts.
Streets smell passes quickly from sauteed vegetables in soy sauce to the traditional Portuguese dishes. In the morning the sun is shining up to high temperatures and in the afternoon we are devastated by a typhoon. In the market we hear Cantonese, Mandarin in the supermarket and, somewhere in a street corner, we can still hear Portuguese. The Casinos and hotels’ magnificence contrasts with the “Matchboxes” called home and the important businessmen in their suits and powerful cars diverges with street vendors and rickshaw drivers.
Macao is a cultural place.
They have their own dialect, the Macao Patois (Doci Papiaçam di Macau) based on Portuguese and (of course) mostly mixed with the Chinese. There is even an annual stage play in this dialect, but unfortunately only a handful of people understand it. The Macao Historic Center, consisting in several buildings, which the well-known St. Paul’s Ruins and Leal Senado makes part, tends to show the mixture between European and Chinese architectural styles and it was, in 2005, considered UNESCO World Heritage.
Macao is a religious place.
Based throughout its history, Macao could not fail to be a meeting point of different religious beliefs and can be sighted from the modest Catholic churches of colonial architecture to the typical Buddhist temples with their moon gates, through smaller temples associated to Taoism, Confucianism, among others.
But above all, Macao is an entertainment place.
Starting in casinos and…ending right there. With over 70% of tourists (per year) coming from Mainland China, where gambling is prohibited, Macao becomes The Place for this kind of amusement. The offer is wide and varied, from many types of machines and games to the private rooms that certainly cover all types of gamblers and their wallets. It is wrong to say that Macao is the Las Vegas of Asia. It is more than that in terms of money and profit, but much less in terms of entertainment not related to game as performances, exhibitions, etc. It has a good range of bars, some of them with good quality, a couple of nightclubs worth to be mentioned and saunas (with and without plus – someone told me, of course).
Overall, excluding gambling tourism, Macao visitors are normally in transit to other Asian destinations, spending an average of three to four days, either because it is a city that can become expensive, either for its small area.
Still worth a visit. The odd to walk in a street of this after-all-Chinese-region and find street names or advertising still written in Portuguese, the fusion between Chinese and Western cuisine and the 30 UNESCO complexes that makes part of The Macao Historic Center, is certainly reason more than enough to pass by and say us hello.