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Macau

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© Lonely Planet Publications
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lonelyplanet.com

HISTORY

Macau

„ Visit the outstanding Macau Museum (p572)

at Monte Forte, a fascinating introduction to
the territory
„ Climb the hauntingly beautiful ruins of the

Church of
St Paul
Litoral &
A Lorcha

Inner
Harbour Area
Macau
Museum
Sands

Lisboa (p582) with the Vegas-style cash at
the Sands (p582)
food at Litoral, A Lorcha or Restaurante
Fernando (p579)

„ POPULATION: 482,000

Macau
Interntional
Airport

Taipa
Village
Cotai
Frontier
Lotus Post
Bridge

Coloane Island
Alto de
Coloane
(176m)

Coloane
Village

SOUTH

CHINA SEA

sq km in area. Most of the sights are on the
peninsula jutting down from Zhūhǎi on the
mainland. Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro (San
Ma Lo, or ‘New St’, in Cantonese), running
from Avenida da Praia Grande to the Inner
Harbour, is Macau’s main street. Its extension, Avenida do Infante Dom Henrique, runs
south to the Outer Harbour.
Three bridges lead south to Taipa Island,
which in turn is connected to the much
quieter Coloane Island by the Cotai Strip,

Restaurante
Fernando

„ 

The name ‘Macau’ is derived from the name of the goddess A-Ma, also known as Tin Hau. At
the southwestern tip of Macau Peninsula stands the A-Ma Temple; many people believe that
when the Portuguese first arrived on this spot and asked the name of the place, they were told
‘A-Ma Gau’ (bay of A-Ma).
According to legend, A-Ma, a poor girl looking for passage to Canton (now Guǎngzhōu), was
turned away by wealthy junk owners. Instead, a poor fisherman took her on board; shortly afterwards a storm blew up, wrecking all the junks but leaving the fishing boat unscathed. When
it returned to the Inner Harbour, A-Ma walked to the top of nearby Barra Hill and, in a glowing
aura of light, ascended to heaven. In her honour, the fisherman built a temple on the spot
where they had landed.
In modern Cantonese, ‘Macau’ is Ou Mun, meaning ‘gateway of the bay’.

MACAU

MACAU

„ Tuck into Portuguese and Macanese soul

„ AREA CODE: %853

Taipa Island

CHINA

Kowloon

HONG
KONG

Racetrack

GU‡NGD±NG

Sh‰nzhèn

MACAU

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

„ Compare the old-style kitsch of the Casino

Inner Harbour area (p569) for a peek at
Macau’s unique personality

Lying 65km west of Hong Kong, on the opposite side of the mouth of the Pearl River,
tiny-but-growing Macau measures just 28

Zhàoqìng

Casino Lisboa

Church of St Paul (p572), the very symbol of
Macau

„ Wander the narrow streets and lanes of the

ORIENTATION

Gu†ngz...
MACAU
MACAU
lonelyplanet.com MACAU •• History
Macau is a city with two faces. On the one hand, the fortresses, churches and food of its
former colonial master Portugal speak to a uniquely Mediterranean style on the China coast.
On the other, Macau is the self-styled Las Vegas of the East.
And while that comparison might sound overblown, it’s not. During the past few years
charismatic-but-sleepy little Macau has experienced the sort of boom usually associated with
cities like Shànghǎi. But rather than skyscrapers and office towers, the construction here is
all about Vegas-style mega-casinos and hotels. The reason, of course, is that casinos are legal
in Macau, while in China and nearby Hong Kong they’re not. It’s a big market…
There is, however, much more to Macau than gambling. The peninsula and the islands of
Coloane and Taipa constitute a colourful palette of pastels and ordered greenery. The Portu-
guese influence is everywhere: cobbled back streets, baroque churches, stone fortresses, Art
Deco buildings and restful parks and gardens. It’s a unique fusion of East and West that has
been recognised by Unesco, which in 2005 named 30 buildings and squares collectively as the
Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site. There are also several world-class museums.
Especially if you’ve been in China for a while you’ll also find there is a distinctly different
feel to Macau. While about 95% of residents are Chinese, the remainder is mostly made up
of Portuguese and Macanese (people with mixed Portuguese, Chinese and/or African blood).
It’s this fusion of Mediterranean and Asian peoples, lifestyles, temperaments and food – oh,
the food – that makes Macau so much fun.
Ma c a u
HISTORY
Portuguese galleons first visited Macau to
trade in the early 16th century and in 1557,
as a reward for clearing out pirates endemic
to the area, they were allowed to establish a
tiny enclave here. As trade with China grew
so did Macau, which became the principal
meeting point between China and the West.
However, after the Opium War between the
Chinese and the British and the subsequent
establishment of Hong Kong, Macau went
into a long decline.
China’s Cultural Revolution spilled over
into the territory in 1966–67. The government
reportedly proposed that Portugal should
leave Macau forever but, fearing the loss of
foreign trade, the Chinese refused the offer.
In 1999, under the Sino-Portuguese Pact,
Macau was returned to China and designated
a Special Administrative Region (SAR). Like
Hong Kong, the pact ensures Macau a ‘high
degree of autonomy’ in all matters except
defence and foreign affairs for 50 years.
LANGUAGE
Cantonese and Portuguese are the official
languages of Macau, though very few people
speak Portuguese. English is harder to find
here than in Hong Kong, but in most mid-
range and top-end hotels, casinos, restaurants
and tourist zones you should be able to get
by. Mandarin is reasonably well understood,
though note that most written Chinese is
in traditional characters, not the simplified
forms found in Mainland China.
ORIENTATION
Lying 65km west of Hong Kong, on the op-
posite side of the mouth of the Pearl River,
tiny-but-growing Macau measures just 28
sq km in area. Most of the sights are on the
peninsula jutting down from Zhūhǎi on the
mainland. Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro (San
Ma Lo, or ‘New St’, in Cantonese), running
from Avenida da Praia Grande to the Inner
Harbour, is Macau’s main street. Its exten-
sion, Avenida do Infante Dom Henrique, runs
south to the Outer Harbour.
Three bridges lead south to Taipa Island,
which in turn is connected to the much
quieter Coloane Island by the Cotai Strip,
© Lonely Planet Publications
AREA CODE: %853 POPULATION: 482,000 www.macautourism.gov.mo
HIGHLIGHTS
Visit the outstanding Macau Museum ( p572 )
at Monte Forte, a fascinating introduction to
the territory
Climb the hauntingly beautiful ruins of the
Church of St Paul ( p572 ), the very symbol of
Macau
Compare the old-style kitsch of the Casino
Lisboa ( p582 ) with the Vegas-style cash at
the Sands ( p582 )
Tuck into Portuguese and Macanese soul
food at Litoral, A Lorcha or Restaurante
Fernando ( p579 )
Wander the narrow streets and lanes of the
Inner Harbour area ( p569 ) for a peek at
Macau’s unique personality
Fernando
Harbour Area
Inner
Restaurante
Sands
Casino Lisboa
A Lorcha
Litoral &
Museum
Macau
St Paul
Church of
C H I N A S E A
S O U T H
GU‡NGD±NG
GU‡NGD±NG
Village
Coloane
Village
Taipa
Racetrack
Coloane Island
Taipa Island
Peninsula
Macau
C H I N A
C H I N A
Gate
Border
Post
Frontier
Cotai
Airport
Interntional
Macau
(176m)
Coloane
Alto de
Bridge
Lotus
Friendship Bridge
Macau–Taipa Bridge
Sai Van Bridge
GU‡NGD±NG
HONG
KONG
MACAU
Gu†ngzhŸu
Sh‰nzhèn
Kowloon
Sháoguƒn
Fóshƒn
Zhàoqìng
MACAU
2 miles0
4 km0
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The name ‘Macau’ is derived from the name of the goddess A-Ma, also known as Tin Hau. At
the southwestern tip of Macau Peninsula stands the A-Ma Temple; many people believe that
when the Portuguese first arrived on this spot and asked the name of the place, they were told
‘A-Ma Gau’ (bay of A-Ma).
According to legend, A-Ma, a poor girl looking for passage to Canton (now Guǎngzhōu), was
turned away by wealthy junk owners. Instead, a poor fisherman took her on board; shortly af-
terwards a storm blew up, wrecking all the junks but leaving the fishing boat unscathed. When
it returned to the Inner Harbour, A-Ma walked to the top of nearby Barra Hill and, in a glowing
aura of light, ascended to heaven. In her honour, the fisherman built a temple on the spot
where they had landed.
In modern Cantonese, ‘Macau’ is Ou Mun, meaning ‘gateway of the bay’.
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