Travel: Macau, A Mix of East and West
Macau is hands down one of the most intriguing places I've ever visited. With a Portuguese history but now earning more money from casino hotels than Vegas (I kid you not) this was a place I knew that I had to visit after Hong Kong.
Like HK, Macau is a 'special administrative region' which means it's not under the same governing rules as China, hence the gambling. I've never been to Vegas but I know people who have, and I was expecting Macau to be similar - lots of drunk people partying, letting off steam and living the hedonist life. It couldn't have been more different. We soon found out that drinking copious amounts of milk tea whilst staying up all night playing slot machines was what most people were here for. Even the opulent shopping malls were pretty empty, even though we were pretty close to Christmas.
We stayed at the glitzy Galaxy Macau, which I chose because my other half loves a water park and this was supposed to be one of the best in the city. For the same price as a Premier Inn on a Saturday night (around £120 a night) we got a luxurious room in a ridiculous gold building filled with casinos, restaurants, shopping malls and multicoloured fountains. To say listening to Christmas music whilst lying in a swimming pool in China drinking tea was surreal is an understatement.
We had a great time visiting some of the other weird and wonderful hotels including The Venetian which came complete with indoor gondola rides and the Wynn where you could take a cable car around the hotel.
When the shopping malls and Christmas jingles got a bit too much we decided to head to the traditional Portuguese parts of the city for some culture. I've been to Portugal a few times so this was a real treat for me - I loved the mix of East meets West. Taipa village was a stone's throw from the Galaxy hotel with some small temples and traditional architecture. Wherever you are in Macau, the huge casino hotels loom on the horizon like giant behemoths.
In 'downtown' Macau, away from the casino hotels you'll find a more traditional side to the city. The Ruins of St. Pauls and St Augustine's Church are the two major tourist pulls but it's fun to explore the back streets and try some of the local food. The Portuguese custard tarts are particularly delicious, and cured meat also seems to be pretty popular.