This article is part of our completely FREE and FANTASTIC All in One Travel Guide to Having Fun in Macau. Why spend days researching when all your holiday information is simply a click away? 🙂
Macau: More than just a Gambling Haven
When Raevian and I decided to visit Macau as part of our Hong Kong trip, I thought that Macau was simply a gambling haven for avid gamblers. However, when I started doing research for the trip, I found that there are also many interesting attractions and good foods on the island. I realized that similar to Hong Kong, Macau has an interesting mix of Western and Chinese influences as well.
A Mix of Portuguese and Chinese Influences
The Portuguese first started settling in Macau during the mid-sixteenth century by paying an annual rent to the Chinese government. After about three hundred years of relative peace, Portugal decided to stop paying China in 1849 due to various economical and political reasons. It then proceeded to declare Macau as an “independent” Portuguese colony after invading the rest of Macau under Chinese control (Taipa island and Coloane island). In 1999, Portugal returned Macau back to Chinese sovereignty where it is now governed as a Special Administrative Region (similar to Hong Kong). Therefore, Macau today is a combination of traditional Chinese culture and Portuguese influences.
There are thirty-three casinos in Macau, of which the biggest is the Venetian Macao. It is also the biggest casino in the world. The casino resorts are a spectacular sight at night. Raevian and I were awed by the towering heights of the casinos and their dazzling blur of flamboyant lighting displays. This is probably the image that most people have in their mind when they think of Macau. As mentioned in my previous article, I found this ostentatious spectacle to be a little too overwhelming for me. For me, these casinos were a glaring reflection of man’s greed and temptations. When Raevian and I took the inter-casino shuttle bus in the early morning, we saw many middle-aged gamblers with dark circles under their eyes staring blankly into space, huddling in their seats and shivering in the cold morning air with a bottle of casino-labeled mineral water in their hands. They had probably spent the entire night gambling and were on their way to try their luck at the next casino. This got me thinking.. Did they have families? If so, would their gambling habit (or addiction) cause misery for their loved ones? What problems and sufferings lay beneath the glitzy exterior of Macau? (To clarify: I have nothing against gambling, or people who gamble. However, gambling becomes a serious problem when it becomes an addiction.)
During our first day in Macau, I asked Raevian, “Why are there so many European buildings here?” Annoyed that I had interrupted her video-filming, she replied tersely, “Because it used to be a Portuguese colony, duh!” Feeling rather sheepish, I looked away and pretended to act busy with my bags of Koi Kei pastries to conceal my embarrassment at asking a silly question.
Macau is probably the only place in the world where you can find so many Portuguese buildings in a Chinese settlement. Most of these pastel-colored buildings have Portuguese titles and many of the street names and signboards are also in Portuguese. You definitely should not miss out on visiting Taipa Village and Senado Square, where you will be able to experience this interesting mix of Chinese and Portuguese influences.
When Raevian suggested that we try the famous “Tai Lei Loi Kei” pork chop bun after we had just finished our lunch at Rua do Cunha, I thought she was joking. I was feeling quite bloated after eating all the good food along Rua do Cunha street and didn’t feel I had space for one more “pork chop bun” (whatever that was). However, I did not want to incur her wrath and we proceeded to buy one pork chop bun to try. After my first bite, I knew that I had to eat more of this delicious sandwich/bun. It was the best pork chop I had ever eaten. Combine this wonderful piece of succulent meat with the bun and you get a little piece of pork chop bun heaven. This simple combination of pork-chop-plus-bun just tastes so good! Afterwards, I came across a clip where Anthony Bourdain said that peeling the paper wrapping off the pork-chop-bun was like “peeling the underwear off a supermodel”. I have to completely agree; that’s how good the pork chop bun is! (I did not mention this vivid analogy to Raevian of course.)
Other than local Chinese food, you will also find Portuguese restaurants and Portuguese egg tarts in Macau. I highly recommend getting Lord Stow’s Bakery egg tarts, which taste delicious with their savoury crust perfectly complimenting the sweet aroma of the egg custard. To find out more, you can read my other article where I write about the 10 places to eat in Macau.
Conclusion: Glitzy Casinos, Exotic Culture, Beautiful Portuguese Architecture, Tasty Macanese Food
Other than the glitzy casinos, Macau should also be appreciated for her exotic fusion of Chinese and Portuguese culture. Two good places to experience this cultural amalgation would be Taipa Village and Senado Square, where you will see lots of Portuguese architecture. As for food, other than delicious Chinese food, you will also find various Portuguese restaurants and Portuguese foods on the island. So next time you visit Macau, remember that it is more than just a gambling haven!
This is part of our completely FREE and FANTASTIC All in One Travel Guide to Having Fun in Macau. Why spend days researching when all your holiday information is simply a click away? 🙂
All in One Travel Guide to Having Fun in Macau!
1. Macau Factsheet: Get to know Macau in 5 Minutes!
2. Culture of Macau
3. 10 Things to Do in Macau
4. 10 Places to Eat in Macau
5. Macau One-Day and Two-Days Itinerary
6. Download this guide for viewing on mobile devices!
7. Travel Video: Experience Hong Kong and Macau in Four Minutes!