Macau, in colonial times, was ruled by Portugal. Set on the coast of China, this sleepy city has a history that speaks volumes. One of only two special administrative regions in China, Macau has its own government, currency, and industry.
Known as the last European colony to exist in China, Macau wasn’t turned over to the Chinese government until late 1999. Both the Basic Law of Macau and the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration agree that Macau may operate autonomously for at least 50 years.
Once known for being a small, sleepy town, Macau has experienced a boom in tourism and construction. Instead of being overpopulated with skyscrapers and men in business suits, however, Macau is now home to a myriad of Las Vegas style gaming casinos and resort hotels.
Why? Even those living in China like gambling but casinos are not legal in nearby Hong Kong or the rest of China. Its autonomous government gives Macau the freedom to do things other parts of the People’s Republic might not dare. So what will you do when you arrive?
Macau’s Historic Sites
The first thing you’ll want to do upon arrival in Macau is bone up on the past by taking a tour of some of the most notable historic sites in the area. Start with a trip to the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. One of the most popular landmarks in Macau, the cathedral houses a number of detailed carvings painstakingly created by Japanese monks dating back as far as the 16th century.
Another spectacular historic site in Macau is Monte Forte, otherwise known as Fortaleza do Monte. Also built in the 16th century, the fort was created by the Jesuits for use as a military base. Today the fort houses a beautiful public park, an astounding observatory, and is the grounds on which the Macau Museum sits.
The Museum of Macau is, of course, one of the best places to visit if you’d like to learn about the real history behind the development of Macau, from its days of Portuguese rule to its current status as an autonomous member of the People’s Republic of China. You’ll learn about the huge waves of immigrants flocking to Macau from the rest of China as well as the development of the area’s industry and culture.
Macau is, of course, well known for its gambling casinos. While casinos are, as mentioned before, illegal throughout China, Macau’s status as an autonomous region gives it the ability to operate under its own law. As such Macau is now home to 25 different casinos. Known to some as the “Monte Carlo of the Orient,” gambling has slowly turned itself into a very important part of Macau’s economy.
Before the 20th century, only Chinese games like Fan-Tan were played in casinos. After the turn of the century, western games were introduced and became incredibly popular. You can now find casino games of all varieties, greyhound racing, horse racing, sports betting, and a wide selection of lotteries. The only type of gaming not legal in Macau is online gaming.
Each of the casinos in Macau is operated as part of a franchise run by the government and they all operate with the same rules and procedures. Traditional table games such as baccarat, boule, keno, and blackjack are all played. The most popular game, baccarat, was responsible for generating more than 70% of gambling revenue in one year alone. Poker wasn’t introduced to Macau casinos until 1997.
Of the 25 casinos in Macau, 16 are open 24 hours a day. Two have extended hours, opening at 12 noon and not closing until 4am. The rest operate under hours closer to a standard business day, closing earlier in the evening. Most of the larger Macau hotels, many of which are large resorts, feature high rise overnight accommodations, restaurants, VIP rooms, and convention spaces in addition to their popular casino halls.
You’re bound to have a wonderful time in Macau, no matter where you end up. There are dozens of cultural, historic, and entertaining activities and sites to keep you busy. Make sure you add a trip to Macau to your itinerary the next time you head towards China. Keep your wallet in your pocket and you’re guaranteed the trip of a lifetime!