A former Portuguese colony west of Hong Kong, Macau is a city of contrasts. It has giant casinos juxtaposed with Chinese temples, and its historical old town is a World Heritage site
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You see the sign long before you reach the harbor entrance. It shimmers through the early-morning mist shrouding the city. The word “SANDS” stands out in giant, blood-red neon letters above the Chinese characters for “Golden Sand,”
spelling out for many an enticing promise of gaming and glitter, of triumph and luck at the world’s biggest casino.
But is it real?
The closer the hydrofoil draws, the more certain it seems that the city must be a mirage. A volcano looms in front of the golden casino, and to one side, you glimpse a Tang Dynasty stronghold.
Historic Senate Square & the Cotai Strip gambling hotspot
The Venetian Macau Resort Hotel:
It has 3,000 suites, 350 boutiques, streets that look straight out of Venice, plus 30 bars, cafes and restaurants. A vacation at The Venetian Macau may include some bizarre experiences.
The Venetian Macau Resort Hotel: Cotai Strip, Tel.: +853/28 82 88 88, www.venetianmacau.com
Largo do Senado:
The historical Largo do Senado (Senate Square) is flanked on all sides by magnificent palaces. Unlike the replicated Venetian architecture of the Venetian resort, these buildings really are several hundred years old - and now listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Four Seasons Hotel Macau:
Modeled on the Las Vegas strip, Cotai Strip is being turned into a gigantic amusement district. The Venetian opened here first, followed in 2008 by the luxurious Four Seasons.
Four Seasons Hotel Macau: Cotai Strip, Estrada da Baía de N. Senhora da Esperança, S/N, Tel.: +853/28 81 88 88, www.fourseasons.com/macau
Fun, relaxation and gaming: Macau’s recreational offerings
Mandarin Oriental Grand Lapa Macau:
Beautiful spa, large outdoor pool with a garden, gym. This luxury hotel offers guests all the amenities of a holiday resort on 15 000 square meters.
Mandarin Oriental Grand Lapa Macau: 956-1110 Avenida da Amizade, Tel.: +853/28 56 78 88, www.mandarinoriental.com/
Hotel Casino Lisboa:
Built in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the Lisboa has now acquired a certain patina and is one of the oldest casinos in town. The Grand Lisboa, an opulent extension to the original, opened in 2007.
Hotel Casino Lisboa: 2-4 Avenida de Lisboa, Tel.: +853/28 88 38 88, www.hotellisboa.com
A 338-meter tower on which to climb around and jump from (always secured by a rope). Less adventurous types might opt for a meal at one of the six restaurants in the Macau Tower, where the view is magnificent - and comes without an added adrenaline boost.
Macau Tower: Largo da Torre de Macau, www.macautower.com.mo
Pictures: Corbis (5), Johaentges/look-foto, PR