Will Vegas Become the Macau of the West?
Macau, has become known Vegas or Monte Carlo of the East. It has grown so quickly that it has prompted some to consider that in a few years Las Vegas may become known as the "Macau of the west". Macau's first mega hotel and casino the Venetian Macao opened in 2007. Macau very quickly overtook the gaming revenues of the Las Vegas Strip. It was reported that in 2012 Macau's gaming revenues had already climbed to US $38 billion, completely eclipsing Las Vegas' gaming revenues for the same year of approximately $10.8 billion.
The Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Macau originally acquired its name after a Chinese goddess that was named A-Ma or "Ling Ma". Macau was originally inhabited by Portuguese explorers in the 1550s. Macau is situated right at the entrance of the Pearl River Delta, about 75 Kms from Hong Kong.
Separate from all of the wonderful culture of the orient in this area, with its Chinese temples, ancient architecture, churches, gardens, and other attractions, visitors to Macau generally arrive for the gambling in the newly constructed hotels and casino resorts, which is only legal in this area of China.
Macau is one of the most densely crowded cities in the world. Macau, also written Macao, is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China. It comprises a peninsula and two small islands located 60km (37 miles) southwest of Hong Kong and 145km (90 miles) south of Guangzhou. Macau is located between two rivers. The estuary of the Zhujiang River (Pearl River) is located to the east of Macau while the Xijiang (West River) flows in the sea on the west side of Macau.
How Cotai was created in Macau
Macau is tiny. It only measures 12km (7.25 miles) from north to south. The Macau Peninsula is the northernmost part of Macau. In the middle is the island of Taipa and to the south the island of Coloane. The sea between Taipa and Coloane have recently been reclaimed, connecting these two islands as one. The new land is called - for want of a better name - Cotai, a portmanteau of Coloane and Taipa.
Macau Peninsula was originally an island with a sandbar linking it to mainland China. The linkage is broken at high tide. Then, during the 17th century, land reclamation made the link permanent and transformed the island into a boot-shape peninsula. Today the Macau Peninsula forms the main portion of the urban area of Macau. This is where the city is located. Within the city of Macau is a heritage enclave that in 2005 was inscribed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. In actual fact it comprises two areas of Macau. The main heritage area is on the west side of the city. It is an elongated area with Casa Garden to the north and the A-Ma Temple to the south. In between are narrow streets dense with heritage sites. On the eastern side of the city is Guia Hill. The Guia Fortress, chapel and lighthouse, all standing on the hill, form a second and smaller heritage area.
Macau Peninsula is one of the most densely populated places on earth. The area on the northeast part of Macau peninsula is jam-packed with flats, the majority of which are in a rather run-down state. These were constructed in the 50's to 70's to house the influx of refugees streaming into Macau, once in the 1930's following the Japanese invasion of China, and again in 1949 following the fall of the communist takeover of mainland China.
Taipa has seen Recent Rapid Development
Taipa was originally three small islands, but over time silting had merged them into one. The north side of the island facing the Macau peninsula is now crowded with high rise flats, taking some pressure off the density of Macau peninsula. Three undulating bridges link Taipa to Macau peninsula, allowing people who buy homes in Taipa to commute to work on the peninsula. Taipa is also where the Macau International Airport is located, though the runway is not on Taipa itself but on reclaimed land out in the sea.
Coloane has the only Pocket of Rural Macau.
Coloane is where the pace of life slows down considerably. You can walk along the seaside in Coloane, and the feeling is like you're in a small Chinese village, nowhere near to a densely crowded city. There are also much fewer people living here than on the peninsula and Taipa. A causeway linked Coloane to Taipa. However, considering the land between Coloane and Taipa has been filled in, the causeway has now become just a main road.
The Largest Public Building in the World
The reclaimed land between Coloane and Taipa is called Cotai. This is where a lot of exciting development is taking shape. One of these, the Venetian Macao, is a mammoth casino and recreation project. It is housed in the biggest public building in the world (and the second largest building after the Pentagon).
What’s it Like to Be in Macau?
Macau Peninsula is very crowded and in many places where the common people stay, quite run down. The places that have now been inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site is however neat and tidy, and have been much spruced up for the sake of tourism. Earlier guidebooks mentioned that there are no proper road signs in Macau. That is no longer true, especially within the heritage enclave where new direction signs point visitors to all the heritage sites.
The Northwest Population of Macau Peninsula
If you have more time, you should also explore the northwest of Macau peninsula, where the bulk of Macau population live. Be forewarned that some of these places bear only block after block of flats, often nondescript blocks that bear little character. Nonetheless, it will give you a glimpse of how it is like to be in Macau, a local immersion experience that completes your trip to Macau.