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Macau - The Vegas of the East - Chinese Style

Macau was a Portuguese colony and both the first and last European colony in China.

Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 16th century and subsequently administered the region until the hand over to China on 20 December 1999.

The territory's economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism and is often compared to Las Vegas but on a smaller scale.

You can still find some of the original history and culture of old Macau buried in between the new shopping malls, casinos and skyscrapers such as the Guia Fortress,a historical military fort, chapel, and lighthouse complex in the St. Lazarus Parish.

One of the oldest parts of the city can be found at Senado Square, (Senate Square). The main road of Macau's historic centre, Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro passes through the square.

Of course if its gambling you came to Macau for then the Casino Lisboa is one of the most famous hotel casinos in the city, built in the 1960's.

Top 5 things to do in Macau

Macau Tower

On a visit to Auckland, Macau casino billionaire Stanley Ho Hung-Sun was so impressed by the Sky Tower in Auckland that he commissioned a similar one to be built in Macau.

Macau Sky Tower was opened in 2001 and stands 338m tall.

The tower offers visitors restaurants, theatres, shopping malls and has an observation deck at the top giving spectacular panoramic views over all of Macau.

If heights, or rather the fear of hitting the ground far far below, doesn't phase you then the Skywalk X with its thrilling walking tour around the outer rim of the tower could be something you'd be looking to try.

Maybe you're still thinking "Meh..". Well why not try the tethered "Skyjump" and Bungee Jump from the tower's outer rim? It's the world's second highest after the one at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.

Venetian Macau

The Venetian Macao is a hotel and casino resort owned by the Las Vegas Sands corporation.

The main hotel tower and resort was opened in 2007 and boasts 3000 suites, convention space, retail areas and of course a huge casino with 3400 slot machines, 800 gambling tables and a 15,000 seat arena for entertainment/sports events.

If you've been to The Venetian in Las Vegas then you'll know what to expect here. The retail area is themed and decorated to resemble typical Venice complete with canals which extend to the outside, gondola rides and the occasional "Venetian" bursting into impromptu song.

With the huge convention area, the resort is host to many of Macau's top events such as The Miss Macau Beauty Pageant.

Ruin of St Pauls

The 16th century ruin complex is all that is left of what was originally St. Paul's College and the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Today, the ruins are one of Macau's most famous landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Built from 1582 to 1602 by the Jesuits, the cathedral was the largest Catholic church in Asia at the time, and the royalty of Europe vied with each other to bestow upon the cathedral the best gifts.

As Macau was superseded as the main port for the Pearl River Delta by Hong Kong, the importance of Macau declined and so did the cathedral's fortunes.

It was eventually almost entirely destroyed by fire during a typhoon in 1835.

All that remains today are the intricately carved 17th century stone facade and the Jesuit crypts which were uncovered during excavations between 1990 and 1995.

A-ma Temple

A-Ma temple was built in 1488 and is dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen.

It is one of the oldest and most famous Taoist temples in Macau and is located on the southwest tip of the Macau Peninsula.

The name Macau is thought to be derived from the name of the temple.

It is said that when the Portuguese sailors landed at the coast just outside the temple and asked the name of the place. Not knowing exactly what the sailors were asking the natives replied "Ma Ge" referring to the temple and not the area.

The Portuguese translated this into "Macau" and the rest is history as they say.

The temple contains six main parts, all of which make up a series of classical Chinese architectural treasures, and this is all guarded by stone lions.

Fisherman's Wharf Macau

Fisherman's Wharf is the first theme park in Macau and can be found near the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier.

Officially opened in 2006, the complex includes over 150 stores and restaurants in buildings built in the style of different world seaports such as Cape Town, Amsterdam and Venice.

The park also includes six rides, a slots hall, a 72-room hotel, and a casino.

The themes include:

Vulcania - a 40m tall replica volcano which "erupts" every evening and inside you'll find the "River of Fire" white-water and "Dragon Quest" roller coaster rides.

Aladdin's Fort - an attraction in the style of a middle-eastern fort which is home to a variety of children's fun fair rides.

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