The Macau of today bears no resemblance to the lazy town you might have known in the early 1980's. An Asian backwater just 25 years ago, at a time when the most common mode of transport was pedicab along pothole strewn roads. Macau has transformed so rapidly that locals are somewhat correct in complaining that the place ain't what it used to be. Truly, Macau is much more than it used to be as you will see as you approach the city via private jet charter. A massive development project has taken place altering both the skyline and the shoreline. The small compact downtown, laid out in the era of pedicabs with its tight alleys, is ill equipped to deal with Macau's overflowing traffic. Urban planners seem so driven toward expansion that much of Macau's iconic architectural legacy and charm may be lost in the next few decades.
An influx of new capital, companies, jobs has meant a sea-change in the lives of the local Macau people. A shortage of skilled labor has brought in intense competition, with many employees poached from existing Macau businesses or the service industry in Hong Kong, the Philippines, and other Asian countries to work in higher level jobs here. Mom and pop shops, unable to compete with salaries offered by the mega-casinos and skyrocketing real-estate costs, are feeling the pressure and getting squeezed out in many cases. With the influx of workers flooding into Macau, apartment prices have gone through the roof. Sensitive to the swift changes; the Macau government has made funds available to residents in order to share in the wealth the casinos have generated.
Macau's explosion on the scene as a luxury tourist mecca has meant positive changes. A short time ago Macau's downtown was crumbling and there were few attractions to be found beyond the casinos, churches, and a couple of ruined forts. The 1990s is really when the downtown area was given a massive makeover, with the restoration of its main plaza and its Mediterranean-influenced, colonial-era buildings. In 2005, Macau's historic city center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, encompassing 8 squares and 22 temples, churches, mansions, fortresses, and other historic buildings and monuments. The restaurant scene has exploded as well, offering a variety of international cuisines. There are now so many things to see, you would really need an extended stay to feel like you'd seen the whole city.
Must See: When traveling to Macau the place you have to see is the Ruins of St Paul. It is Macau's most visited spectacle. Originally built in 1600's and destroyed by fire in 1835; what remains today is just the facade of the Church & St Paul's college.
Lodging: The Hotel Lisboa boasts nearly 1000 rooms, 18 eateries and Macau's largest casino.
Ground Transportation: When you arrive via private jet Macau is best traversed via private sedan. Be sure to exchange funds upon exiting your jet as to have local currency.
Packing Tips: Bring extra cotton t-shirts, especially in rainy season. The humidity usually reaches 90% so you'll thank yourself later.
Recommended Books: Night of Many Dreams by Gail Tsukiyama (1998) - A couple escapes from Hong Kong to Macau in World War II.
Currency: The Macau Pataca is the local currency and is divided into 100 avos. The symbol for the Pataca can be written with a "P."
Calling Code Macau: 853
Best Travel Dates: It rains quite a bit in Macau; April to October is the rainy season and within that May is the wettest and July to September is the typhoon season when the real fun weather hits. During Autumn and winter, really mid-October to December; the weather is beautiful for travel.