Macau, the sparkling jewel of Chinese capitalism, is best known as the Monte Carlo of the Orient. And just this week CNN Money reports that this little island has generated a whopping $45 billion in gambling revenue for 2013. To put that in perspective, Las Vegas scraped by with an underwhelming profit of $6.5 billion in the same time period. Forbes magazine has hailed Macau "Las Vegas on Steroids." But beyond the craziness of the casinos, hidden behind the tiled allies of the Old City is a Macau of deep culture, amazing food, and incredible sights. Portuguese traders first settled Macau in the 1550s and it was governed by Portugal from the mid-16th century until 1999. Macau was the last European colony in Asia. Because of the juxtaposition of colliding cultures and its closeness to Hong Kong, Macau is worth a visit.
The historic fortress of Macau is brimming with incredible wonders around every corner. Children are loved and celebrated here. Grandparents and kids run around the many parks, playing exercising, and giggling. It is truly heartwarming to see such love.
St. Lazarus Quarter is a tiny enclave that is reminiscent of a Portuguese village set back in the 16th century. The area is lined with cobblestone roads and brightly painted European edifies. There, you'll find Albergue 1601 tucked away behind a canary-colored wall. Albergue 1601 is a quaint restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese cuisine in an old nuns' compound. Their specialties include Salted Codfish Cakes, Jumbo Scallop with Garlic & Portuguese sausage, Bacalhau a Braz, Roasted Suckling Pig, and African Chicken.
Macau is incredibly family-friendly. Kids are not allowed in the gambling sections, but you will find them running around the hotels, malls, swimming pools, and parks. The hotel that takes the lead on family-centric stays is the Sheraton. Partnered with Dreamworks, they have a dozen themed rooms with Shrek, Panda, etc. Shrekfast is a breakfast show with the Dreamworks characters that happens every day. It is a delightful contrast of serious gambling and light-hearted morning musicals under the same roof.
The small city is home of one of the most incredible shows on the planet. The House of Dancing Water is a quarter-billion-dollar production created and directed by the famed Mr. Franco Dragone, of Cirque du Soleil. The show is an epic masterpiece blending the best entertainment elements from both East and West. The show is a never-been-seen-before production that combines theater, dance, gymnastic artistry, water, fire, smoke, and high-performance diving. This show will leave you in awe of what humans are capable of doing.
The Macau Grand Prix, in its 61st year. The route is a treacherous four-mile course that winds through the streets of Macau and brings thousands of Grand Prix enthusiasts from around the globe to Macau. If you can't make it for the 61st Grand Prix in November 2014, you can visit the museum. It's an impressive display that showcases many of the cars that raced in the past 60 years. Next door to the museum is a charming wine museum that ends with a tasting of Portuguese Vinho Verde wines and Iberian wines.
Described as "The best fireworks show on the planet," Macau's International Fireworks Display is sure to blow your socks off. Ten world-class competing teams take part in the firework contest. This year's list of ten participating countries included: Australia, Canada, China, France, Italy, Korea, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland. The event takes place every September from the Macau Tower.
Photo credit: Sergio Ortiz