Macau is a county of two cultures. Colonized by Portugal in the 16th century, it was the first European settlement in the Far East. In December of 1999, due to a long-standing agreement, it was returned to China's control. In exchange, China agreed that Macau will continue to maintain a high degree of autonomy in all things, except, of course, defense and foreign policy. The country of Macau is just west of Hong Kong and includes the smaller islands of Taipa and Coloane, all connected by bridges. Macau has become a vacation destination, not only for westerners, but for a large part of the Asian population. Gambling is legal in Macau, so this alluring, peaceful little country has experienced a huge boom, similar to what Las Vegas did 'in the day'. While gambling is a big draw, you may find much more in Macau than slot machines and the roulette wheel. Visit the Macau Museum at Monte Forte. Here you will gain an introduction to the region. The Portuguese influence is prevalent; cobbled streets, baroque architecture, stone fortresses and peaceful gardens and parks are everywhere. The ruins of the Church of St. Paul are compellingly picturesque; a must-see Macau landmark. Sample the Portuguese and Macanese fare at Litoral, A Lorcha or Restaurante Fernando in Macau City. For you gamblers...you have to compare the old-style brashness of Casino Lisboa with the Vegas-y ambiance at the Sands.
Air China and Thai Airways both fly to Macau, but you might want to consider vehicle transport across the bridges between China and Macau. Macau has only one airport. Macau International is located on Taipa Island, on the coast of the South China Sea.
The Macau International Airport is the only airport in Macau. It's centrally located on the middle island of Taipa. From here you can travel by vehicle or ferry to each island, as you choose. Bridges span the ocean between the three islands and also give access to the China Mainland. You can also fly by helicopter if you prefer.
Four airlines operate out of surrounding countries to provide service to Macau. Air Macau is the oldest, followed by Jet Asia and East Asia Airlines, formerly Heli Express. Viva Macau is the newest addition. Competition is not brisk, but you may occasionally find a cheaper fare by searching all four carriers, as well as Air China and Thai Airways. Fares are always changing and as new partnerships between airlines develop, the customer tends to reap the benefits.
Climate may play a part in fare reductions when visiting Macau. The spring and summer, May through September, are hot and humid with a little rain. Winters are milder, but drizzly days are common, while the conditions in the fall are usually mildly warm and sunny. November and December are the months for big celebrations and special events, so avoid traveling then in order to get cheaper fares. The Macau Grand Prix is celebrating over 50 years and is a huge November attraction, while Christmas in Macau offers a wide variety of both celebratory and religious events.
Macau offers up two distinct worlds and diverse cultural differences. Visit to see the traditional sites and ramble on cobble-stone streets or come to experience the lights and sounds of Vegas-style casinos. 95% of its residents are Chinese, but the remainder is made up of Portuguese and Macanese, a people mixed with Portuguese and Chinese or is of African descent. This clash of Mediterranean and Asian spirit, ways of life and incredible food make Macau an extraordinary place to visit.
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