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Macau China: Tourist Information and Travel Guide
Why do Chinese people go to Macau? That’s easy - to gamble! It is the only city in China where gambling is legal. Americans and Europeans go to Macau to experience the crazy combination of East and West.
Traveling from Hong Kong to Macau by ferry takes only one hour, but it feels like travelling by plane. With its busy assembly of gates, customs and passport control, the sea port resembles a metropolitan airport. Conveniently, visas can be easily obtained, but it is important to carry at least 700 Hong Kong dollars – in cash – which is the minimum requirement.
By Chinese standards, Macau is a little town of only half a million people, yet it attracts more than 35 million tourists each year. Most are Chinese coming from the mainland to gamble. In fact, Macau has the most casinos of any Asian city, with gambling profits that exceed Las Vegas. However, Macau offers more than just gambling.
After 400 years of colonial European rule, Macau was given to China by Portugal in 1999. Because of its Portuguese influence it looks like a Mediterranean town (though a bit worn out) with ancient houses, wooden shutters and European architecture.
Interestingly, the names of the streets in Macau are written in three languages: Portuguese, Chinese and English. While official paperwork in Macau is still written in Portuguese and court hearings are also conducted in that language, less than one percent of the population is Portuguese and the language among the people is almost dead.
There are many Catholics and Protestants in Macau and the city has been dubbed the “Vatican of the East.” St. Dominic’s church which is a replica of a European cathedral is a mere few blocks from an ancient temple built for the Goddess A-Ma, the patron saint of sailors and fishermen. In fact, the city was named for A-Ma.
Christmas is celebrated in Macau with the decoration of trees, but it is more of a social holiday than a religious one. Therefore, due to many money-saving sales, Christmas is the ideal time to shop in Macau.
Casinos and other luxurious tourist areas contrast with extreme poverty in certain neighborhoods of Macau. One of the most popular attractions for tourists is the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was the largest Christian temple in Asia. It was built by Japanese Christians and was ravaged by fire in the 19th century. Not far from the temple are slums that consist of old Chinese houses with no running water or sewage.
Whether gambling or just seeing the sites, Macau is worth a visit. With its unusual combination of Portuguese influence, enthusiastic Chinese gamblers and tourists from all over the world, the best motto for Macau is “East Meets West.”