Macao is truly a dynamic city of culture and entertainment, with abundant, multi-faceted activities and an elevated quality of service and hospitality. Experience one of the prime destinations in the Far East. A world of difference. The difference is Macao.
Located on the western bank of China's Pearl River Delta in the southern Guangdong Province, Macao adjoins the Mainland city of Zhuhai and lies about 35 miles west of Hong Kong.
The Macao Special Administrative Region has an area of 29.7 sq. km, comprised of the Macao Peninsula 9.3 sq. km and connected to Mainland China), the islands of Taipa (6.8 sq. km) and Coloane (7.6 sq. km) and the reclaimed area COTAI (6 sq. km). Three bridges connect Macao to Taipa (one of them is 2.5km long, the other one is 4.5 km long and the third one is 2.2 km long).
Besides the Border Gate (Portas do Cerco) - the visitor can access Mainland China through the COTAI Frontier Post. Immigration and Customs is located in the reclaimed area between the islands of Taipa and Coloane.
Fishermen from Fujian and farmers from Guangdong were the first known settlers in Macao
, when it was known as Ou Mun, or "trading gate", because of its location at the mouth of the Pearl River downstream from Guangzhou (Canton). During ancient times port city was part of the Silk Road with ships loading there with silk for Rome.
Even after China ceased to be a world trade center, Guangzhou prospered from seaborne business with the countries of Southeast Asia, so the local entrepreneurs welcomed the arrival of Portuguese merchant-explorers. They followed in the wake of Jorge Alvares, who landed in southern China in 1513, and set about finding suitable trading posts.
In the early 1550s the Portuguese reached Ou Mun, which the locals also called A Ma Gao, "place of A Ma", in honor of the Goddess of Seafarers, whose temple stood at the entrance to the sheltered Inner Harbor. The Portuguese adopted the name, which gradually changes into the name Macao, and with the permission of Guangdong's mandarins, established a city that within a short time had become a major entrepot for trade between China, Japan, India and Europe.
It also became the perfect crossroad for the meeting of East and West cultures. The Roman Catholic Church sent some of its greatest missionaries to continue the work of St Francis Xavier, (who died nearby after making many converts in Japan). A Christian college was built, beside what is now today's Ruins of St Paul's, where students such as Matteo Ricci prepared for their work as Christian scholars at the Imperial Court in Beijing. Other churches were built, as well as fortresses, which gave the city an historical European appearance that distinguishes it to this day.
Portugal's golden age in Asia faded as rivals like the Dutch and British took over their trade. However the Chinese chose to continue to do business through the Portuguese in Macao, so for over a century the British East India Company and others set up shop there in rented houses like the elegant Casa Garden. As Europe's trade with China grew, the European merchants spent part of the year in Guangzhou, buying tea and Chinese luxuries at the bi-annual fairs, using Macao as a recreational retreat.
Following the Opium War in 1841, Hong Kong was established by Britain and most of the foreign merchants left Macao, which became a quaint, quiet backwater. Nevertheless it has continued to enjoy a leisurely multicultural existence and make daily, practical use of its historical buildings, in the process becoming a favorite stopover for international travellers, writers and artists.
Macao has developed in the past industries such as textiles, electronics and toys, while today has built up world class tourism industry with a wide choice of hotels, resorts, MICE facilities, restaurants and casinos. Macao's economy is closely linked to that of Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, in particular the Pearl River Delta region, which qualifies as one of Asia's 'little tigers'. Macao provides financial and banking services, staff training, transport and communications support.
Today Macao is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, and, like Hong Kong, benefits from the principle of "one country, two systems". The tiny SAR is growing in size - with more buildings on reclaimed land - and in the number and diversity of its attractions. The greatest of these continues to be Macao's unique society, with communities from the East and West complementing each other, and the many people who come to visit.
Only minutes from the bustling city center, there’s another Macao - green, tranquil, and welcoming. In recent years, the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau has developed several new recreational areas on the islands that make the beauty and tranquility of nature more accessible to visitors as well as local residents.
Taipa Island offers a route of quiet, rambling trails climbing up Big Taipa Hill, old and new public parks, and an ecology area near the old Taipa Praia, where many species of wildlife make their habitat, including large wading birds. The Taipa Grande trail, which begins near the Lake Garden on Estrada Coronel Nicolau de Mesquita, leads up to the 158-meter high summit. The "Big Taipa" trail winds around the hills near the meteorological station and leads either down again to the entrance to the huge cemetery or circles back around the face of the hill.
One of the newer additions to the trail is the natural zone overlooking Macao International Airport, where picnic areas with barbecue pits, a children’s playground and Macao’s first and only grass sliding area has recently been inaugurated. Children can ride in baskets down the synthetic grass slide, which is about 20 meters long and supervised by park personnel, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., although the park itself is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Completing the Taipa trail can take several hours, but even in its most thickly forested stretches, easily visible landmarks make it impossible to forget that the city is still close at hand. Not so on Coloane, where a more extensive system of hiking trails and recreational areas stretches across a much wider expanse of green hills and valleys, and where city stresses are easily forgotten. The Coloane Trail leads 172 meters steeply uphill to Alto de Coloane, a good challenge even for the most experienced hill climber, with some of the most rewarding vistas in Macao.
Seac Pai Van Park, with its information center, is not only an excellent place to collect maps and facts about Coloane’s flora and fauna and its natural recreation resources, but an interesting place to visit for its small collection of animals, agricultural museum, picnic areas and children’s playgrounds.
Most of the trails around Coloane’s hills are comfortably wide and easy to climb, with sturdy bridges along the occasional meandering stream, and reinforced steps up steep slopes. One of the best of these routes climbs up to the impressive statue of the goddess A-Ma, and the A-Ma Cultural Village.
At the Hac Sa Water Activities Center just above Hac Sa beach, a suspended bridge crosses Hac Sa Reservoir, where paddle boats are available for rent and visitors can enjoy light refreshments at an outdoor café. The center also has barbecue and picnic areas, basketball and badminton courts, and a children’s playground, Hikers can try 9 exercise stations along the Dam Circuit.