The former Portuguese colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1999 and similarly to Hong Kong enjoys high autonomy in it’s own affairs. It has it’s own administrative government and police force, and it’s own currency (Macau Pacata). Macau also has the reputation for being the Las Vegas of the east, and you will find many casinos here. Because of this, tourism and entertainment are the main sources of income for Macau. This is a nice place for a short visit and you can easily get here from Hong Kong, taking the many ferry services.

Alternately, you can drive in by road from China or fly in by air. As Macau is a SAR (Special Administrative Zone), you may need a separate visa to enter, even though you already have a entry visa for China. My last visit to Macau was in 2011, and I did managed to see a bit more of this small but unique place, compared to my earlier visit.

The ruins of St. Paul's is synonymous with Macau. This façade of St. Paul's church is the only thing that remains of it.
The ruins of St. Paul’s is synonymous with Macau. This façade of St. Paul’s church is the only thing that remains of it. Every brochure featuring Macau will show this serene and grand looking structure.
However, they won't show you the crazy crowds that go there to visit. I was there before the Christmas period and the crowds were incredible.
However, they won’t show you the crazy crowds that go there to visit. I was there before the Christmas period and the crowds were incredible.
The view of Macau's skyline when you are at the top of the stairs.
The view of Macau’s skyline when you are at the top of the stairs.
Looking through one of the arched windows of St. Paul's.
Looking through one of the arched windows of St. Paul’s, you can see the narrow streets of the town and the city skyline.
Behind the façade you will see that the rest of the church is gone except for a protective cover over the foundations.
Behind the façade you will see that the rest of the church building is gone except for a protective cover over the foundations.

The streets and alleyways beside St’ Paul’s ruins are a treasure trove of small shops and restaurants. They are a good place to sample Macau’s street food, especially their famous Portuguese egg tarts.

The warren of alleyways nearby St. Paul's church is an interesting mix of small eateries, antique shops jostling with modern brand name stores.
The warren of alleyways nearby St. Paul’s ruins is an interesting mix of small eateries, antique shops jostling with modern brand name stores.
We passed by a small church after our visit to St. Paul's ruins.
We passed by a small church after our visit to St. Paul’s ruins.
Time for a quiet respite from the maddening crowds.
Time for a quiet respite from the maddening crowds.

Macau’s streets are an exotic mix of Chinese and Spanish names, and it can be difficult to find your way around if you are not familiar with the street names.

One of the town squares all done up for Christmas.
One of the town squares all done up for Christmas.
A really nice and quiet street with a colourful mix of shop houses. Restaurants and food shops abound here.
A really nice and quiet street with a colourful mix of shop houses. Restaurants and food shops abound here.
We passed by this old couple selling peanut candy. The woman on the left is a reporter from Taiwan trying to interview them for a travel magazine. We acted as interpreter, since the old couple only spoke Cantonese and the reporter spoke Chinese.
We passed by this old couple selling peanut candy. The woman on the left is a reporter from Taiwan trying to interview them for a travel magazine. We acted as interpreter, since the old couple only spoke Cantonese and the reporter only spoke Chinese. We bought some peanut candy from the couple since they were apparently famous enough to be on the reporter’s list of  ‘to find and verify’ for a story.

As the gambling capital of Asia, Macau has more casinos and luxury hotels than you can spend you money at. So to attract crowds, many of these casinos have in house theatres featuring world class shows. One of these is the House of Dancing Water showing at the City of Dreams.

The stage for House of Dancing Water. The stage can convert from solid ground to a water pool in seconds, and performers can be dancing and then swimming the next instant.
The stage for House of Dancing Water. The special stage can convert from solid ground to a water pool in seconds, and performers can be dancing and then swimming the next instant.
Part of the performance in House of Dancing Water.
Part of the performance in House of Dancing Water.
Another multimedia show featuring lasers, lights and animation.
Another multimedia show featuring lasers, lights and animation.

Besides the grand shows, the shopping malls and casinos are also an attraction onto themselves with over the top architecture and themes.

The Venetian hotel and casino.
The Venetian hotel and casino, a replica of Venice.
One of the hallways inside the Venetian.
One of the lobbies inside the Venetian.
The Grand Lisboa casino and hotel. This is the jewel of Asia's casino tycoon, Stanley Ho.
The Grand Lisboa casino and hotel. This is the jewel of Asia’s casino tycoon, Stanley Ho.
Inside you will find Stanly Ho's art collection. Animal conservationists will cringe at the amount of ivory here.
Inside you will find Stanley Ho’s art collection. Animal conservationists will cringe at the amount of ivory here.

You can easily spend 2-3 days in Macau for a leisurely visit and cover as much of the sights as possible. Usually, people include Macau as part of their itinerary to Hong Kong. It’s a really small place covering just 31.3 sq km and a population of just more than 600,000. In between, you might get lucky at the gambling tables and recover the money you spent on the trip.

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