With nearly 30 million visitors a year and a unique Portuguese-Chinese heritage, Macau is firmly on the map as one of the most exciting destinations in the Far East
It might be small but Macau packs a lot into its 11 square miles with an abundance of historical buildings, world-famous food, beaches, shopping malls, dazzling shows, and activities ranging from hiking to the world’s highest bungy jump.
Just 40 miles from Hong Kong, Macau is far smaller and less populated than its neighbour, with a different history and heritage from any other country. The arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century created a rich and fascinating cultural tapestry, and the European influences remain from the architecture to the food – making it a true one-of-a-kind Far East destination.
The distinct 450-year-old blend of cultures is reflected in the Historic Centre of Macau. Here, visitors will find Taoist Temples from the Ming dynasty, ancient fortresses, Baroque churches, traditional Chinese homes and colonial palaces. More than 20 buildings help paint an evocative picture of the region’s Sino-Portuguese heritage and they’re linked by a maze of streets, alleys and picturesque piazzas.
Listed alongside the likes of the Great Wall of China, Stonehenge and Ayer’s Rock as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, such esteemed company is a reflection of Macau’s historical significance.
The 338m high Macau Tower offers panoramic views across the Pearl River Delta and a 360-degree revolving restaurant. For a more dramatic way to enjoy the views, adrenaline-seekers can partner with AJ Hackett on a variety of seriously heart-thumping activities.
Take a walk on the wild side with the SkyWalk X experience on the 1.8 metre-wide outer perimeter that encircles the tower, 233 metres above the ground with no handrail to cling onto. Or sign up for a SkyJump and drop from the tower’s outer rim to the ground level in a 20-second tethered ‘flight’, reaching speeds of nearly 70km per hour. Taking things one step further is the world’s highest commercial bungy jump where jumpers reach speeds of up to 200kmh during a five-second freefall. Finally, the Mast Climb enables visitors to stand atop the building after climbing 100 metres up the mast’s vertical ladders to reach the summit.
The Macau Tower is the only building of its kind in the world to offer such an experience.
Macau offers a one-of-a-kind experience – especially for foodies. The Portuguese arrived in Macau in the 16th century and it still blends the best cuisines from both worlds for a real East-meets-West flavour. As well as Portuguese staples such as sardines and chourico, and Chinese traditions like dim sum, Macanese cooking also incorporates influences from places the Portuguese explorers visited en route to Macau, including South America, Africa, India and Malaysia. Highlights include African chicken, made with coconut and spices.
Complementing its unique fusion food, Macau boasts everything from street-corner cafes to Michelin-starred restaurants, and you can’t visit this food haven without sampling one (or two) of its celebrated sweet egg custard tarts. Based on the Portuguese pasteis de nata, 3,000 of them are sold every day at Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane.
Macau might be best known for its lively entertainment scene, but the islands of Taipa and Coloane offer a wonderfully serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. With beaches, sleepy villages and hiking trails, visitors to the islands can relax and unwind or enjoy the leisurely pursuits of golf, swimming, horse riding and fishing.
On the picturesque island of Coloane, visitors will find scenic hills, natural valleys and an extensive network of well-maintained trails with maps readily available at the trailheads.
And no trip to China would be complete without the sighting of a panda or two so be sure to check out the park’s Giant Panda Pavilion, home to playful Kai Kai and Xin Xin.
Traditional customs are an important part of life in Macau. Chinese New Year is widely celebrated with street parties and exciting parades filled with dragons and drummers; while the Macau International Dragon Boat Festival combines a traditional celebration with the exciting pace of a sporting event. Alongside the traditional festivals are more contemporary events, some of which are celebrating significant anniversaries in 2013.
September marks the 25th anniversary of the Macau International Fireworks Display contest when teams from across the globe produce dramatic shows that light up the night sky of Macau in a myriad of colours.