Introduction to Macau
Way back when Macau was an essential port city along the Silk Road, ships loaded up with silk here before taking off for continental cities like Rome. Today, Macau is still a major intermediate port for trade between China, Japan, India and Europe. Macau’s charm lies in its contrast between the traditional and modern and the antique and contemporary.
Macau is steeped in Portuguese culture – the Portuguese arrived in Macau in the 16th century and the region was only recently handed back to China in 1999. It was the first and last European colony in China. Portuguese is still an official language in Macau and the colonial influence can be seen everywhere from cobalt-tiled street signs to decorative tiled floors and picturesque gardens.
A little place with a lot of gusto, Macau has the world's highest population density with over 20,000 people per square kilometre – plus it welcomes over 30 million visitors each year too. How do they fit everyone in? Bingo! They joined the two islands of the south (Coloane and Taipa) giving Macau city an extra 5 square kilometres, which is now known as the Cotai Strip. You’ll recognise it by the glitz and glamour that resides there in the form of towering, world-class casinos. You really can’t miss it. The Venetian Macao, City of Dreams, Sands Cotai and Galaxy Macau Resort are all located here. If you’re seeking serenity from the sound of pokies, the most southern island, Coloane, remains wonderfully untouched by the casino clamour. Traditional, low-set houses and quiet shady streets give Coloane its nostalgic vibe.
Back on the strip however, bling is king – expect to see the Macanese highrollers drive around in Bentleys. While Macau holds Scrooge McDuck-sized vaults of money you can imagine yourself diving into if you win big, there’s plenty to experience in Macau’s history and culture if the chips are down or gambling isn’t your thing.