12 photos from 2005. Click on any of the small images to enlarge.
Macau (Macao) is a collection of three islands (the main one is called Macau) that were held by Portugal until being turned over to China in 1999. Aside from the use of the Portuguese language alongside Chinese on official signs and documents, and a small historical district with a number of colonial-style buildings - mostly beautifully preserved - Macau's very recent past as a Portuguese colony is barely in evidence. Few speak the language (far more speak English) and almost no private-sector signs that look to postdate the handover bear anything but Chinese characters.
Recently Macau has been touted in the press as the Far East's answer to Las Vegas, the new capital of high-roller tourism, and so on. I must say I found that to be a pretty hefty exaggeration. Not being a connoisseur of casinos, my judgment on the matter is no doubt imperfect, but in terms of flash, glitz, and glamour, it's nowhere near the same league as either the everyman's gambling paradise of Las Vegas, or the upper-crust finery of Monte Carlo. Most of the casinos looked downright skanky, and the one that appeared to be the largest and fanciest - the Sands - was on par with a mid-range property in Atlantic City. Driving the point home was the Sands' live entertainment: a single stage being stomped around on by a musical act that would have earned last place at a junior-high talent show.
Nevertheless, it's a nice place for a day's visit from Hong Kong. The people are friendly, the food is good, and the historical district is very attractive. If you enjoy gambling, and the horse races in Hong Kong don't do it for you, then you may find yourself drawn to stay a little longer.