It is not hard to find luxury on this tiny peninsula in the South China Sea. Once a sleepy fishing port, Macau has now surpassed Las Vegas in gambling revenue, making it the world leader. Now also the world’s most densely populated place, Macau has drawn thousands of people from mainland China who hope to build careers in the hospitality industries. One in five local residents works in a casino or resort. Luxury hotels, casinos and restaurants abound, making for an exciting and opulent tourist destination.
One of the most attractive features of Macau is its proximity to the autonomous territory of Hong Kong. One of China’s premier tourist destinations, Hong Kong is a short ferry ride away from Macau, making it easy to travel between the two bustling cities. Boats run back and forth between the two metropolitan zones every single hour. Both destinations are known for their rich night life and culture, but only in Macau can you find the delightful extravagance unique to a gambling haven.
The first (and last) European settlement in Asia, Macau still maintains a recognizable connection to its colonial roots. Portuguese influences can be seen everywhere, from the colonial architecture, its fusion cuisine or the layout of the city itself. Portuguese is still the second official language of Macau, with Cantonese being the first. While these European influences remain strong, indigenous religions make up the majority of the spiritual culture, which means Christian and Catholic holidays take a back seat to Taoist, Confucianism and folk celebrations. As with most large cities in Asia, the Lunar New Year is the largest festival, in which most hotels and transportation options are booked several months in advance.
A mix of Eastern and Western cultures ensures that there is almost always something going on in Macau. Though there is never a boring time to visit, festivities hit their peak in certain months. The year’s biggest event is the Macau Grand Prix, in which the city streets are closed to regular vehicular traffic in order to be converted into a racetrack. Formula One, Formula Three and motorcycle races take over the streets in this highly anticipated November event. The A-Ma festival in April and the Feast of the Drunken Dragon in May are other events that bring in revelers from all over, and are excellent opportunities to witness the sights and sounds of traditional Eastern entertainment.
Though you can find a festival or event of some sort every month in Macau, there is never a bad time to plan a trip. The Baccarat tables and the shows never take a day off, and with 33 casinos, you would be hard pressed to find a dull moment. In recent years, Macau has out far outshined Las Vegas as the premier gambling destination, with a gambling revenue 5- to 7-times the amount of that of the Las Vegas strip. There are 6 casino operators in Macau, with MGM China, Sands China and Wynn Macau, owned by Stephen Wynn, being American-operated.
For unparalleled Luxury, Macau offers some of the most unique and unsurpassable hotels in the world. The 600-room Wynn Macau offers full-service hotels and villas with spa packages and Las Vegas style entertainment. Six gourmet restaurants are available within the walls of this extraordinary hospitality experience. MGM Macau and Venetian Macau Resort Hotel also offer superb luxury travel packages with phenomenal gourmet food and drinks on site. A myriad of options now exist to accommodate most travelers’ budgets.
Aside from the ubiquitous Baccarat tables and slots, Macau is full of parks, museums and landmarks to visit off the strip. The Macau Museum teaches travelers all about the history of the peninsula, from prehistoric times up to the present. A handful of smaller, niche museums also exist, such as the Maritime Museum, the Grand Prix Museum, the Michael Jackson Museum and even a wine museum.
If exploring the sites is more your speed, wander through the old city center to take in the colonial architecture, especially the old Portuguese cathedrals and forts. Sprinkled between their Western counterparts, temples to local folk religions dot the historic center as well, and the mixture and meeting of the two vastly different cultures is what makes wandering through Macau a truly wonderful and unique experience.
There is no denying that Macau is a rare gem, the likes of which one cannot find elsewhere in the world. Whether you go to gamble, race cars, participate in a festival or just take in the sites, Macau is an experience you will never forget. Full of luxury and extravagance around every corner and steeped with a richness of history and culture, Macau will continue to beckon visitors for centuries to come.