But there’s a lot more to this tiny, special administrative region than meets the eye. The city’s historic role as a trading post where East meets West has created a colourful and harmonious blend of Chinese and European culture that can be seen in its UNESCO-listed architectural jewels, its unique fusion cuisine, and even in its friendly, multi-heritage and multilingual local population.
The gaming revolution brought not only pleasure palaces for punters, but also a new retail renaissance. At One Central Macau (www.onecentral.com.mo), an elegant shopping mall connected to Mandarin Oriental, Macau in the commercial district, luxury goods vie for attention and there are sweeping views of the Outer Harbour and the Nam Van Lake. The Louis Vuitton Maison presents clothing and accessories on three floors, alongside art installations and video. Labels such as Gucci, Fendi and Hermès are also here, as are Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and Emporio Armani. The spotlight is on high-end phones at Vertu and dazzling jewels at Cartier and Bulgari. Outside, along the plaza, don’t miss Macau’s One Impression by the artist Qi Xinghua, which, at around 120 metres, is the world’s longest anamorphic artwork.
Housed in the Tourism Activities Centre on Rua Luis Gonzaga Gomes, near the golden lotus sculpture, two Macau museums stand out for their hands-on exhibitions. Visitors to the Wine Museum don’t just learn about Portuguese wine production, they can sample vintages on site. And at the Grand Prix Museum, they can drive a racing-car simulator that recreates the behind-the-wheel thrills and spills of races as the drivers experience them.
For excitement of a modern-day kind, the Macau Tower lines up hair-raising experiences at high altitudes. Serious thrill seekers can skywalk around the 338-metre tower, or climb even higher up the mast, or try bungee jumping at 233 metres – a stunt listed in the Guinness World Records as the ‘highest commercial decelerator descent’. On the observation lounge, glass floor sections create a dizzying sensation of walking on air high above the Pearl River Delta. Life moves at a slower pace in Coloane, in the past a sleepy fishing village. It has ancient houses and temples, a historic square, and is the home of Macau’s famous egg tarts. The birthday of the god Tam Kung, who controls the weather, brings Chinese opera, lively lion dances and fireworks to Tam Kung Temple during the month of May. All year long, Macau’s giant pandas laze in luxury at their very own pavilion in Seac Pai Wan Park, just outside the village.