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Madison, WI, USA
Last updated 10/2/2012
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Special Administration Region Recap: Macau

Macau is a very unique place. It’s just a tiny peninsula and one island, so we were able to circumnavigate the whole thing in one day. The Portuguese settled there in the 1500′s, although it didn’t officially become a Portuguese territory until after the Opium War in the 1840′s. Macau was transferred back to China in 1999 and, like Hong Kong, is currently a “Special Administration Region.” China now controls its defense and foreign affairs, but it has its own government, currency, immigration, customs control, and police force.

442 years of Portuguese influence definitely left their mark on Macau. The remaining colonial buildings (which are now World Heritage Sites) look just like the historical areas in Lisbon. Signs and announcements are in both Chinese and Portuguese, even though less than 1% of the population speaks Portuguese today. (And Portuguese is no longer taught in the schools.) The food, though, is really interesting and delicious. It’s a mix of Chinese and Portuguese, but also uses spices from all over the world. We went to Fernando’s, one of the most well-known Portuguese restaurants in Macau, and had a great lunch of roast suckling pig and Portuguese chorizo. We also made a special trip to Lord Stow’s Bakery, famous for its egg tarts.

Of course, today Macau is known as “the Vegas of the East.” Its gambling revenue in 2011 was $33.5 billion, over five times that of Vegas. Five of the ten largest casinos in the world are in Macau. The biggest, the Venetian Macau, is an incredible 546,000 square feet. (The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is 170,000 square feet.) Baccarat is by far the most popular game in Macau. It seems like most of the floor space is devoted to baccarat tables with minimum bets of about $25. (The $25 minimum bet tables are rare, actually. The majority have a minimum of about $65.) We spent most of our time just looking around in the casinos. In typical Asian style, many of them are incredibly cheesy and covered in flashing LED lights. The Wynn in Macau has a fountain show similar to the Bellagio’s in Vegas, but this one includes colored lights and fire.

We only spent one night there and it was raining, but I think we still got to see a fair amount. Here’s what we thought about our time there.

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