Macau is a tiny Chinese territory that is about 28 square
kilometers in size. It is composed of a main island, a small
peninsula and an airport island. The small island was once two
small islands named Ilha de Taipa and Ilha de Coloane, but they
were connected by a strip of landfill. The area of landfill is
where the biggest new casinos are being built.
Land is still being added there. The airport was built about 2
kilometers or a mile and a half east of the small island on
landfill. It is basically a straight and narrow artificial island
with an airstrip. Macau has become Asia’s international gambling
city, and it is considered the biggest gambling center in the
world, with gambling revenues bigger than the Las Vegas Strip.
It is one of the top 20 tourist destinations in the world. Several
major Las Vegas casino companies have casinos and hotels here, and
more are being built. So this little territory is the fastest
growing territory in the world, growing faster than any other
country or territory. The GDP grew about 13 percent in 2008.
Along with gambling, the city’s attractions are old buildings, the
Macau Great Prix race, concerts and shows, some museums, and
Macau is a fusion of east and west in lifestyles, architecture and
food. There are both eastern and western religions, and both
western and eastern holidays are observed. The new casinos and
hotels are sophisticated like those in Las Vegas. So in its small
area, you can see both old architecture of Asian and European
origin and sophisticated modern luxury and resort buildings.
You can see the Portuguese influence everywhere, with cobbled small
streets, Portuguese churches and fortresses, gardens, and the
pastel colors used. In 2005, many places were designated as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The largest new casinos cost billions of US dollars to build and
are among the biggest such resort/casinos in the world. For
example, the Venetian Macao cost 2.4 billion USD. It is the largest
single structure hotel building in Asia and the fourth-largest
building in the world measured by floor space. It has more floor
space than any skyscraper in the world. There is a 15,000 seat
arena for sports and entertainment events in it.
The territory has interesting demographics. Macau is the most
densely populated region in the world with about 18,500 people
living in each square kilometer. You would think that this would
make for a poor living environment, but according to some
estimates, the population has an average life expectancy of 84
years. This is first in the world, and they are thought to live
longer than Japan’s population. This means they live longer than
any other people. Maybe if you live there, you’ll live longer.
About 95 percent of the people are of Chinese descent. Some of the
rest are multiracial. About 95 percent of the people speak a
Chinese language as their native language -- mainly Cantonese. Only
about 1.5 percent of the people speak English at home. It is
strange, but in this former colony of Portugal, only a half a
percent of the people speak Portuguese at home. Plenty of people
speak English, especially the staff in the bigger hotels and
tourist spots. However, a large number of the local people do not
For decades, Hong Kong residents have traveled to Macau to gamble
or for entertainment, so this helped the Macau people learn the
language. About 30 percent of Macau’s tourists still come from Hong
Kong. The two territories are close together, only about an hour
away from each other by regular ferry, and since casinos have been
illegal in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong residents went there for
gambling, entertainment and a change of pace. There was no other
place nearby to go to.
Macau is 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Hong Kong. This is
about an hour ride on a regular ferry, and there are also faster
ferries. The Macao Peninsula is between the Pearl River and the
Xijiang River on the southern border of Guangdong Province. It
borders the Special Economic Zone of Zhuhai that is also a tourist
destination. There is a border crossing called Portas do Cerco on
the Macau side and Gongbei Port of Entry on the Zhuhai side.
Three bridges connect the peninsula and the island, and two
especially built roadways connect the airport island and the main
- New and big hotel/casino/resort complexes.
- World class facilities for gambling and Las Vegas casino-style
- Old architecture within walking distance to visit.
- Macau's two beaches named Hac Sa (Black Sand) and Cheoc Van (Bamboo
Bay) are located on the southern side of the main island.
- Some good museums: Museum of Taipa and Coloane History, Macau Marine Museum, Macau Wine Museum, and Macau Great Prix Museum.
- Many good restaurants of many styles of cuisine.
- The Macau International Airport (MFM) that is only about 7 minutes
from the big casino area makes travel to the city easy.
- See the shows and the hotel/casinos.
- Take a vacation for relaxation and tour the little area.
- Visit the historical buildings and museums.
- Go to the beach.
- Go to Zhuhai or Hong Kong to tour and shop.
- Hiking and Bicycling:Taipa Grande and Taipa Pequena in the north
and Alto de Coloane in the south are little hills that have hiking
trails. Alto de Coloane is the highest hill in Macau and is
170 meters (560 ft) tall. You can see good views of the
island and sea, and on the northern hills you can see all of Macau.
Bicycles for touring the island are available at a rental kiosk
near the bus stop adjacent to the Museum of Taipa and Coloane
Coloane in the southern part of the main island has an extensive
network of well-maintained hiking trails. The trails are accessible
from Seac Pai Van Park and from Cheoc Van and Hac Sa beaches. The
main Coloane Trail goes up Alto de Coloane.
- Macau Visa
- Customize a Macau tour
The small region was once a Portuguese colony. In 1152, it became
part of Xiangshan County. In 1557, Portuguese made the first
permanent European settlement in the Far East. In 1557, the area
was ceded to Portugal, but the Qing Empire still claimed the area
as their own, and the Portuguese still paid taxes to China. The
Qing Dynasty continued to collect taxes until 1849 when the
Portuguese claimed independence. Macau became a Special
Administrative Region of China in 1999 two years after Hong Kong
became an SAR.
The economy of the territory is based on tourism and gambling.
Gambling started about the time that the territory first declared
independence. In an attempt to generate revenues for the
government, gambling was legalized in 1847. At first, the gambling
was mainly Chinese-style gambling. Not until the middle of the
twentieth century did Las Vegas-style casinos become popular. Now
the large world-wide mega-corporations are starting to dominate the
During the past decade, casino corporation developers have
implemented plans for the “Cotai Strip” resort area that is in the
area of landfill called Cotai that connects the two islands. On
this square piece of land that is less than 3 kilometers wide (less
than two miles wide) from west to east, the Sands Macao was opened
in 2004, the Venetian Macao called the biggest hotel-casino in the
world was opened in 2007, and the smaller City of Dreams was opened
The developers aim to profit from the huge and rapidly growing
Chinese market for gambling and for travel to places outside the
main part of the country, and they also hope to attract Asians from
other countries. Gambling has always been a popular activity among
Chinese, but gambling is mostly illegal in China, except for
lotteries. They want to continue to interest Hong Kong residents
and attract millions of tourists from the newly developed Asian
countries. However, the recent world financial crisis and
depressionary period stalled some of the ambitious development
proposals and ideas.
The Cotai Strip is well situated for gambling and tourism. It is
only about 8 minutes from the airport and about 7 minutes from
Hengqin Island in China over the Lotus Bridge. It is in the middle
of the region of the world with the fastest growing large
countries, and gambling has long been popular among Chinese and
other Asian people. The Portuguese influence makes the territory
seem both exotic and relaxed.