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General Information

Macau

The Macau Special Administrative Region, commonly known as Macau or Macao, was established on December 20, 1999, as one of the two special administrative regions (SARs) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the other being Hong Kong. For 442 years it was ruled by Portugal, making it the oldest European colony in the history of East Asia. Fishermen from Fujian and farmers from Guangdong were the first known settlers in Macau, 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 here with silk for Rome. Even after China ceased to be a world trade centre, 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.

Points of interest

  • Macau is famous for excellent restaurants - Unique cuisine and mellow bars. It is a premier dining and drinking destination in Asia. The Portuguese brought not only European cuisine, but also influences from their other colonies (Brazil, Goa and Angola) to Macau. As a result the city now offers one of the world's most intriguing gastronomic adventures. Look for local specialties such as bacalhau (salted cod) and African chicken.
  • Macau's special style, various types of drinks - Macau residents enjoy having beer as entertainment after work. Therefore, clubs and bars are open more frequently. To best fit the Macau-savvy image, coffee should be the first drink to mention since Macau has a strong multicultural sense. Drinks to be enjoyed include vinho verde, a Portuguese white wine that complements salty Macanese food, and caipirinha, a delicious Brazilian cocktail.
  • The Largo do Senado (Senate Square) - Which provides the city's focal point and is the start of most people's exploration of Macau. From the central fountain every glance falls upon stunning colonial architecture: the imposing Leal Senado, the Santa Casa da Misericordia, and finally Sao Domingos Church. A shady area, full of chatting old Macanese, also offers a tiny cafe for tourists to people-watch after their visit to the tourist information opposite. Lanes leading away from the square unveil markets, grungy streets and rows of dusty mopeds.
  • Rua de Sao Paulo Macau (Saint Paul Ruins) - Wide stone steps sweep you up to the façade of this 17th century Christian cathedral, which is all that remains ever since a disastrous fire in 1835. Funnily enough, this has only enhanced the cathedral's allure so that it is now the focus of sightseeing in Macau. Climb up to the first tier's arched windows for a panoramic view of the city, a close-up glimpse of the carvings detailing the story of Christianity, and a bird's eye view of the tourists below wrestling with pigeons, cameras and hawkers.
  • Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro Macau - Opposite the Largo do Senado is the magnificent Leal Senado (Loyal Senate) building, housing the municipal government offices. Inside, cool stonewalls, covered with tiny glimpses of history in the shape of plaques and tiles, lead you up the steps to a small but charming walled garden. Another floor up is the musty wooden-panelled library full of leather bound treasures, and the grand hall, bedecked with coats of arms, where Chinese VIPs discuss Macanese affairs. The huge windows here have the best view of the Largo do Senado so do not forget your camera. Art Fistival- The Dramatic Arts are the main course in this edition of the Macau Arts Festival (MAF), which comes of age to the sound of applause for the 100th anniversary of modern Chinese Theatre. With more than 45 performances by artists from Germany, Spain, Canada, Austria, Indonesia, Mexico and France/Hungary, the Festival season would not be complete without the ever-present spirit of the Portuguese, as well.

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