Colonized in the 16th century by the Portuguese, Macau has the distinction of being the first European settlement in East Asia. After four centuries of growth under Portugese rule, much of that time fending off other European aggressors, the two islands and peninsula that make up Macau were turned over to China as a Special Administrative Region, or SAR.
Currently, Macau is known more for its multitude of casinos and capitalist leanings than for its colored history or the policies of its current administrator. Still, history shines through the glitzy surface of Macau: there is a distinct air of colonial Portugal in its cobble-stone streets, open markets, and historic architecture. And as Macau has transformed itself from colonial underdog to wealthy destination, it is now undergoing another transformation, trying to attract a less adult and more family-oriented kind of tourist.
Traveling in Macau
There are regular flights to Macau from major Asian cities, such as Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul, and Manila; however, because there are so few direct flights from Europe and beyond, the brand new, state-of-the-art airport on Taipa Island is very underused. Getting from the plane, through customs, and on your way is a breeze. And if flying is not your prefered method of travel, there are many daily trips over sea from Hong Kong and elsewhere, and road crossings from mainland China.
Once you’ve arrived, the best way to stay mobile is via minibus. Taxis are a pretty good deal too, if you are willing to struggle with a potential language barrier. Unless you’re into the novelty, steer clear of the three-wheeled triciclos: they’re cramped, slow, and restricted to traveling only at the waterfront.
Weather in Macau
Macau is at its most comfortable in the fall (October-December), when the air is clear and dry. March through May is nice as well; but hands down, the worst times to go to Macau are during the chilly winter months or in the hot, humid, and wet summer.
Macau Special Administrative Region Information
Government: Special Administrative Region of China (Province)
Square Miles: 9 sq mi (23.8 sq km)
Languages: Cantonese, Portuguese, English
People: 95% Chinese, less than 2% Portuguese