Macau, China

I took a tour to Macau as I am getting a bit tired of organizing these trips myself.  The tour took the fast ferry both ways.  Last week a 55 kilometre bridge opened connecting Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.  Some people who booked at the last minute were able to take the bus in one direction on the new bridge. I think the ferry is faster but the bridge would be interesting.  Macau has been inhabited for some six thousand years.   The Portuguese arrived in 1513 and in 1557 Macau was leased to Portugal as a trading post.  Macau was returned to full Chinese sovereignty as a Special Administrative Region  in 1999.  The PRC has promised that, under its “one country, two systems” formula, China’s socialist economic system will not be practised in Macau and that Macau will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defence affairs until at least 2049.

The first known settlers were people who fled from the Mongols in 1277. During the Ming Dynasty fishermen came and settled, and in 1488 built the A-Ma Temple which is the oldest Taoist temple in Macau. It is dedicated to Ma-tsu, the goddess of sailors and fishermen.

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Said to be the iconic landmark in Macau, the Ruins of St. Paul’s are all that remains of a 16th century complex which included the Church of St Paul (Mater Dei) and St Paul’s College. The college was one of the largest in Asia when it was first built, at a time when Macau was the main port in the Pearl River Delta.  The historical centre of Macau has remained intact and was designated a UNESCO Heritage site in 2005. Most buildings have commercial uses now.  It would be useful to have  two days here to explore the historical areas in a bit more depth.

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We also had an opportunity to visit the Macau Tower which measures 338 metres (1,109 feet) in height from ground level to the highest point.  The views were spectacular of Macau, the Pearl River Delta and China.

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The principal industry in Macau is gambling and no tour would be complete without visiting at least one casino. We visited The Venetian which others told me is like the one in Las Vegas.  I was particularly impressed with the ceiling in St. Marks Square and the canals complete with gondolas.  It is an amazing piece of theatre. Gambling here is not for the faint of heart. The minimum bid on the slot machines is HK500 or about US$75. The main clientele are from China where gambling is not permitted.

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