Macau was one of the earliest European colonies in Asia and the last to be relinquished and thus has a more visible colonial history than Hong Kong. Walking through the old city you could convince yourself you were in Europe – if the streets were devoid of people and signs in Chinese, that is. The Portuguese and Macanese populations continue to maintain a presence but, as expected, most of the population is native Chinese.
In the 16th Century, China gave Portugal the right to settle in Macau in exchange for clearing the area of pirates under strict Chinese administration. Macau was the first European settlement in the Far East. It became Portuguese colony effectively after the treaty signed by the Qing and Portuguese Governments in 1887. It was also the last when, pursuant to an agreement signed by China and Portugal in 1987, Macau became the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 20 December 1999, ending over 400 years of Portuguese administration.
China has promised that, under its “one country, two systems” formula – Macau is officially the same country with mainland China, but maintains its own ruling systems. Like its neighbour Hong Kong, Macau still does not have a full democracy and the locals often think that there is too much control or influence from Beijing.
In recent years, Macau’s economy has boomed rapidly due to the opening of the gambling licenses. Thousands of tourists are in Macau each day, mainly from mainland China and neighbouring regions. One of the world’s most densely populated spots, Macau generates more revenue from gambling than anywhere else on the planet, including more than seven times the revenue generated by “The Strip” in Las Vegas.
The standard of living in Macau has as a result grown significantly, and in many cases, on par with some European countries. The tourist industry has also diversified – instead of casinos, Macau is also promoting its historic sites, culture and cuisine.
Check out: wikitravel.org