For such a tiny area, Macau packs a hefty punch. 30 kilometres square, packed with around 660 000 people, standing alone and running its own security, legal, customs, monetary & immigration systems with China maintaining Macaus Foreign Affairs and defence.
Stand on top of the Old Fort at Macau to have a clear view across to the city of Zhuhai, China. This large bridge spans the Pearl River Delta. An hour on the turbo ferry from Hong Kong in the East, access to this intriguing part of the world is relatively easy and certainly fits into a good day trip.
Around ten years ago, Macau rose to the top of the worlds gambling meccas. Continuing to maintain its position at the top, Macau remains heavily reliant on gambling and tourism as their main source of income, making this one of the richest areas in the world. Here you will find the worlds largest casino, Venetian Macao, also the fifth largest building in the world.
Amongst the density & highrises, two buildings dominate the skyline. Firstly the glittering gold Grand Lisboa Casino, secondly the Macau Sky Tower replica of the Auckland Sky Tower.Four huge floors of gambling facilities reside in the glittering dazzle of the Grand Lisboa. Chandeliers are the norm inside the opulent building. No photos allowed in the casino unfortunately and with a minimum bet of Macau $2000 (around $200 Australian), you would need a deep pocket to enjoy a flutter. Macau has its own currency but also accepts Hong Kong dollar, with the two nearly equal in value, around 1.003 at the time of this visit. If you are visiting from Hong Kong, there is no need to change currency, just be sure vendors give you change in Hong Kong currency and not Macau, as you wont be able to use Macau currency anywhere else in the world.
Portuguese influence from the centuries of Portuguese rule, remains prominent throughout Macau. Located under the old fort, this fabulous display of intricate arches, stands proudly. Soaked in history everywhere you go, Macau has to be one of the most interesting places on earth.
Amongst the grand displays of money and opulence, are the crowded housing areas and government apartments for the less fortunate. Residents do not pay any tax, only casinos pay tax on the gambling $$ rolling through their buildings. Each year the government pays every single resident $9000 Macau, around $1800 Australian. No matter how rich or poor, each resident will receive their government payment every year.
The ruins of the old St Paul’s Church are maintained for historic and tourism use. Fabulously entwined with engraved artworks, columns and statues, this imposing piece of history is quite breathtaking. One can only imagine what this church looked like centuries ago when it was complete in the 1600’s until destroyed by fire in the 1800’s. Interestingly, the carvings were by Japanese Christians, adding to the intriguing mix of cultures packed into Macau.
Delightful surprises appear when you least expect them. Pops of colour with potted flowers everywhere.Cobblestone streets, line the city, with traffic negotiating the narrow backstreets, I would like to say with care, however it appeared to be more of a free for all! Tourist buses, juggle amongst the throngs of taxis and the most expensive cars in the world, for their place on the road.
I have been fortunate to visit an intimate area of the world which boasts so many top rung placings, yet I’m left feeling Ive barely scraped the surface on experiencing this historically fascinating area. Many people are unaware of the existence of Macau, however this is one my ‘list to revisit’ places.
The turbo ferry from Hong Kong is an awesome experience. On this wet, windy day, chopping up the waves, there was barely a bump as we sped across the wavetips to Macau and back. Sit back in your large comfortable seat with seatbelt on for the hour duration of the trip. Be sure to take your passport as you head through immigration on your way out of Hong Kong, then on entry into Macau, vice versa on your return. Even grab some duty free on the way if you like.In the words of the famous Arnie, “I’ll be back”, Macau. In the meantime, my mission will be to see if I can find another 30 kilometres square area on this earth which packs an equal or more of punch than you do. Somehow, I feel this may be unobtainable, however I look forward to the interesting adventures which may result. For those of you who are unable to visit this area, I certainly hope this brief narration has given you an insight into another place in the world, one which you may or may not have heard of before. Now I will leave you with a couple more photos taken in this memorable place on earth, and another interesting fact.
Only the Chinese require a visa to visit Macau. Why you ask? A couple of reasons which result from the sheer population of Mainland China. Firstly, numbers are monitored as there are too many Chinese who have immediate access which this tiny area which could not cope, should many decide to visit at the same time. Secondly, the Chinese love to gamble, some using this Mecca for laundering. Lastly, the one I found quite amusing, the Chinese love to shop high end labels. Now they do not trust the labels in their own country, which may be copies, so they come to Macau to shop genuine high end!
Look out for more of my uploads on Hong Kong and the surrounding area.