10 reasons to visit Macau

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 September, 2004, 12:00am

1 Mesmerising casinos

Macau is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal. Gambling was legalised in Macau in 1847, 84 years before it became legal to gamble in Las Vegas.

The 11 casinos in Macau last year raked in a total of US$3.7 billion, compared with the Las Vegas Strip?s revenue of US$4.8 billion from 44 casinos.

2 Heavenly cuisine

The culinary arts of Portugal and China have been blended for more than four centuries. The result is a food lover?s paradise. Galinha africana (African chicken) is chicken cooked in a coconut, garlic and chilli sauce; pasteis de bacalhau (codfish croquettes) is dried salted cod made into an appetizer; porco balichao is pork cooked with tamarind and shrimp paste. For dessert: serradura is a pudding made with cream and condensed milk, with crushed cookies.

3 Amazing architecture

From neoclassical Portuguese homes to the ultra-modern Macau Cultural Centre, Macau is home to some of Asia?s most impressive architecture, with European styles blended with Chinese elements. Highlights include the futuristic Macau Tower, the Sao Paulo ruins and the Lisboa Hotel, for its gaudy casino charm.

4 Grand Prix

The Macau Grand Prix will be held from November 18 to 21. The Formula 3 street track, comparable to the Monaco Grand Prix, has long straights and sharp turns that thrill race car drivers. Those who have won in the past include Formula One celebrities Ayrton Senna (1983) and Michael Schumacher (1990).

5 Outdoor activities

Beaches, water sports, hiking and biking, Macau has it all. From the top of Mong Ha Hill to the boulders on the southeast tip of Coloane Island, extensive hiking and biking trails are available to the public. And when you?re too exhausted to move, pick a spot on a beach with black or white sand ? the city has both. For the less athletic, pick up a brochure on day or night walking tours at any tourist spot.

6 Religious history

Since the first fishermen built a shrine at Barra Hill to honour A-Ma, the goddess of seafarers, and Francis Xavier became the first Portuguese missionary to visit the region, Macau has been a city known for religious devotion. Public holidays and festivals honour Catholic and Buddhist beliefs. While most residents are Buddhist, temples also mix in Taoism and Confucianism. Meanwhile 15 per cent of the population worship at Catholic churches.

7 The 4th East Asian Games

On a strip of reclaimed land on the road from Taipa to Coloane, the Macau East Asian Game Dome, known as ?The Macau Egg? is taking shape. Estimated to cost $640 million, the stadium is being built for the 4th East Asian Games to be held in Macau in October-November next year. A series of arts and cultural festivals will be held simultaneously to promote the culture of Macau. The 139,960-square-foot dome has two stadiums, capable of holding more than 9,000 people, and a centre for conventions of up to 2,000 delegates. The dome will be used in 2006 for the 1st Lusophone Olympics and in 2007 for the 2nd Asian Indoor Games. Macau, eager to promote itself as a city of determination and sportsmanship, is striving to become a sports capital of Asia.

8 Thriving art scene

Revenue from casino taxes has helped propel spending on the arts, allowing for the development of an impressive art museum and Cultural Centre Complex.

In addition to the annual arts and music festivals, the city offers performing arts at several venues, from magic shows to hip-hop concerts and classical ballet performances. Small galleries are also scattered throughout the city.

9 Fisherman?s Wharf

Macau?s first theme park promises to stun visitors when it opens next year. With an erupting man-made volcano and mini-cart roller-coaster, the amusement park will also feature a replica of the leaning tower of Pisa, a dolphin show, a shopping mall and computer game arcade.

10 The setting for romance and action

Wong Kar-wai?s movie 2046 was partly filmed in Macau. The Chinese restaurant on Leal Senado Square, Long Kee Restaurant, and the quaint streets in the inner harbour were touched up with retro decor for the film. Macau was also used as the location for a number of international blockbusters, including 1984?s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Rua da Felicidade near Leal Senado Square, was used for a car chase.