A fascinating place to visit, Macau offers an eclectic mix of Portuguese colonial architecture, Chinese culture, and is by some margin the world’s gambling capital. It is also the most densely populated place in the world, with nearly 700,000 people living an area of less than 13 square miles. It was the first and last European colony in East Asia, under Portuguese control from 1557 to 1999.
I visited it as a day trip from Hong Kong in December 2010, with the journey taking less than an hour by fast ferry. Since 2018 the journey only takes 40 minutes travelling by bus along a 55km long bridge-tunnel road that connects Hong Kong, Zhuhai, and Macau.
Things were off to a suitably surreal start arriving by the huge Fisherman’s Wharf complex, with over 70 buildings including a hotel, convention centre, food and shopping, many of which are in replica styles of buildings from around the world.
The Macau Science Center offered more distinctive architecture, designed by I. M. Pei’s architecture firm.
The attractive Kun Lam Statue is a 20m high statue of Buddhist deity embodying love, mercy and compassion, built on an artificial island. Around a third of Macau’s land is reclamation, which caused some confusion when Google Maps though I was standing the sea as the land had been reclaimed since the last update.
Macau is the gambling capital of the world, with revenues three times that of Las Vegas. The casinos are impressively quirky and eye catching, including the colourful Casino Resort MGM Grand and distinctive Grand Lisboa.
Also eye catching was the historic and also quite colourful St Lawrence Church, dating from 1560.
Even older is the bustling A-Ma Temple, dating from 1488.
The streets of Macau are an attraction in themselves, with densely packed buildings.
I had an odd sense of déjà vu when I saw Macau Tower. It looked like Auckland’s Sky Tower had been relocated there. Which turns out to be close to the mark, as the tower owner was inspired by a visit to Auckland to commission the same architects to build one the same (only 10m higher). It opened only four years after the Sky Tower, and has the same operator (AJ Hackett) running the bungee jump.
Sai Van Lake and Nam Van Lake were pleasant places to walk around, despite an unexpected road running through the middle of the later!
The colourful Palácio do Governo de Macau was built in 1849.
Older is the 17th century Guia Fort (Fortaleza de Guia), which offered great views of the city.
It was also seemingly a good spot for wedding photos…
Close by was the well maintained St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery (Cemiterio Sao Miguel), whose green chapel dates from 1875.
One of Macau’s best known sights are the ruins of St. Paul’s (Sao Paulo Cathedral), primarily the facade from the early 17th century church which was destroyed by fire in 1835.
The ruins are part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Historic Centre of Macua, along with 17th century Monte Fort (Fortaleza de Monte), which offered more good views across the city.
Within the fort complex was the interesting Macau Museum.
To finish with a colourful sky before I caught the ferry back to Hong Kong.