Ask people what springs to mind when they think of tourist attractions in Macau and it’s likely you’ll hear one word spring up time and again – casinos!
The Chinese special administrative region is one of the world’s gambling meccas. In recent years, big names such as Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and MGM Mirage have opened gaming halls in Macau, leading many people to dub it the Las Vegas of Asia.
Plenty of holidaymakers love the prospect of racking up hours on end flicking coins into slot machines, but for some of us the thought of spending a holiday in a dark, air-conditioned room full of people desperately chasing their losses is the very definition of hell.
Fortunately, if the idea of making idle small talk with a croupier who pretends to like you while attempting to take all your money brings you out in a cold sweat, you’ll be relieved to learn that the glitz, glamour and bright lights of the Cotai Strip’s many casinos are just one side of the Macau tourist experience. Take a trip to the outlying islands and you’ll get to explore a whole different world.
The smaller of two islands in the Macau region, Taipa sprang up in the 18th and 19th centuries as an important harbour, providing an anchorage for traders on their way to and from the Chinese mainland.
It won’t take you long to notice the influence of China and its ever-increasing quest for economic growth, as the duck ponds and boat yards that once made up the island have largely been replaced by hotels, a university, a huge stadium and the new international airport.
Thankfully, the whole of Taipa isn’t just another identikit metropolitan area and it won’t take much effort for you to savour the island’s authentic Macanese charm.
The real Taipa
- Pou Tai Un
Situated close to the bridge between Macau and Taipa, Pou Tai Un is the largest temple on the islands – and is still growing to this day.
Visitors to the temple will see new buildings featuring yellow-tiled roofs, vividly painted eaves and ornately decorated balconies overlooking the older prayer halls. The flashing lights of one-armed bandits and the clatter of the roulette table will seem a million miles away as you lose yourself between the statue-filled gardens and carp ponds.
- Taipa Village and Rua da Cunha
Once you’ve worked up an appetite exploring the temple, hot-foot it to Taipa Village, a must-visit for avid foodies. Dubbed ‘Food Street’, the Rua da Cunha really lives up to its name, with its numerous restaurants offering everything from traditional Macanese and Portuguese dishes to contemporary Chinese fare.
To walk off all that delicious food, take a stroll through the rest of the picturesque village, which is brimming with Chinese shop-houses, small temples and even a former firecracker factory. The hanging baskets and old-fashioned street lamps only add to the appeal.
Rugged cliffs, deserted coves, forested hills and large sea caves – the very things that make Coloane such an attractive destination for tourists today made it a dangerous place a hundred years or so ago, when the island was used as a base by pirates looking to prey on traders travelling between China and the West.
Hike along the island’s many trails and visit its numerous beaches nowadays and you can rest assured you’ll be in for a relaxing, pleasurable experience, completely free of grog-swigging, hook-handed, peg-legged swashbucklers.
Where to visit on Coloane
- Alto de Coloane Park
Take the time to trek up Coloane Peak and you’ll be able to explore Coloane Park and see the statue of the Goddess A-Ma. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to spectacular views over Hac Sa Beach.
Standing at 19.99 m tall – to commemorate the year that Macau once again became part of China – the statue is visible from miles around. Surrounding it is the A-Ma Cultural Village, which is a religious complex that features its own museum and even a vegetarian restaurant.
- Hac Sa and Cheoc Van beaches
No trip to a tropical paradise like Macau would be complete without soaking up some rays on an idyllic beach, and on Coloane there are two perfect choices – Hac Sa and Cheoc Van.
Both are popular with swimmers and sunbathers, and even if you’re not one for splashing around in the sea, a trip to these beaches has to be more relaxing and pleasurable than cashing in all your hard-earned money for casino chips and hitting the poker table.
About the Author:
Ryan is the resident blogger at Asiarooms.com. When Ryan is not working he spends his time travelling the globe, drawing on his travel experience and passion for travel to spread the good word. Ryan is also a social monkey and can be found lounging around on Twitter & Google+ and loves to interact with other travel bloggers.