Macau also spelled Macao, is, along with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China. It lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering Guangdong province to the north and facing the South China Sea to the east and south.
The territory's economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism but also includes manufacturing.
Macau was a Portuguese colony and both the first and last European colony in China. Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 16th century and subsequently administered the region until the handover on 20 December 1999. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Macau stipulate that Macau operates with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2049, fifty years after the transfer.
Under the policy of "one country, two systems", the PRC's Central People's Government is responsible for the territory's defense and foreign affairs, while Macau maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, and immigration policy. Macau participates in many international organizations and events that do not require members to possess national sovereignty. According to The World Factbook, Macau has the second highest life expectancy in the world.
Although best known for gambling, Macau is extremely rich in attractions and oozing with atmosphere, thanks to hundreds of years of fusion between European and Chinese cultures.
Macau is a fascinating place to just walk around as the place is packed with churches, temples, fortresses and other old buildings bearing an interesting mix of Portuguese and Chinese characteristics. Besides buildings, there are also hundreds of narrow alleyways forming a maze in the old part of Macau where the people of Macau carry out businesses and work. If the sheer density of humans get to you, take a break and enjoy several pretty gardens or head to the island.
One of the interesting things to see in Macau is a statue of the Bodhisatta Avalokitesvara located next to the sea near the Sands Casino and MGM Grand. Despite being a Chinese deity, the statue is distinctly European in design and resembles the statues of the Virgin Mary you can find in Europe.
And if history is not your thing, there is the Macau Tower of awesome views and adventure sports, or Fisherman's Wharf to enjoy some theme-park activities and shopping.
You'll find most of the attractions in Macau Peninsula, but Taipa and Coloane, each with a pretty village, also draw hordes of visitors. Visit the Cotai reclaimed land area to see its transformation into the "Las Vegas Strip of the East". The Venetian is the most famous with its Venice-styled shopping mall with rivers running through, and is also currently the largest casino in the world.
The City of Dreams is a giant casino with high end fashion shops, a free video 'bubble' show, three hotels and the world's most expensive theatre show. The 'House of Dancing Water' cost US$250 million and the stage holds five olympic swimming pools worth of water. Ushers give the front few rows of the audience towels. Free shuttles from the main ferry terminal leave constantly.
Macau has several museums
The "Macau Museum Pass", which gives discounted entry to most of these, is currently off the market. The main museums, such as the Macau Museum, are in Macau Peninsula although there are two museums on Taipa - the Museum of Taipa and Coloane History and Taipa Houses Museum.
A large section of Macau Peninsula has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site and 25 buildings and sites within the area have been deemed to have cultural and historic significance. One of the best ways to cover the sights is to do the Macau Heritage Walk circuit. The heritage Buildings, the Sao Paulo Cathedral, the Fort and the Macau Museum are all adjacent to each other and can be conveniently seen individually even if one cannot catch the Heritage walk timing.
Taipa Village and Coloane Village, previously inhabited by fishermen, are also interesting with their colonial-era shops and houses along narrow lanes.