Macau's tale of two cities

THERE are two sides to Macau — and not just because the city evolved from four centuries of Portuguese and Chinese co-existence. When you add the fact that 25 UNESCO World Heritage listed sites share the same peninsula and islands as an increasing number of Vegas-style developments, the distinct comparison between old and new will stun you.

One spot especially illustrates Macau's split personality: Taipa, one of two Macau islands connected through land reclamation and the Cotai Strip. Here, as you take an evening stroll along cobblestone path fronting the restored early 20th century Taipa Houses (now a museum) the neon lights of the giant Venetian, the Galaxy, the City of Dreams and the more recently-opened Cotai Sands flicker brightly in contrast to the more subtle green and white of the historic houses and the yellow of the quaint colonial church shadowing the houses.

Separating these "old and new" elements are the calm waters which once served as Macau's first international airport but today fill a small lake bordered by Banyan trees and topped with lotus, the national emblem.

For a tiny settlement, population 560,000, Macau has a lot to offer.

If it's variety you are after, Macau dishes out plenty, from the style and standard of hotel to the many different shopping, sightseeing and dining options. A three-day stay can be quickly filled with visits to such fascinating places as the Macau Museum, the Science Centre (hands-on and great for families), the Grand Prix and Wine Museums, the Panda Pavilion and A-Ma Temple, the historic gateway to Macau.

Shadowing the Macau Peninsula is Guia Hill and a sprawling reserve dominated by the walls of a 17th century Guia Fortress and accompanying lighthouse, very much a drawcard for sightseers.

So, too, the Mount Fortress and the adjacent ruins of St Paul's, Macau's iconic, and most familiar, landmark along with Senado Square with its cluster of lovingly restored colonial buildings and much photographed wave-patterned mosaic paving.

Two contemporary designs stand out: the Hotel Lisboa, shaped like a giant lotus and home to two 3-star Michelin restaurants, and the 338-metre high Macau Tower, a hot spot for the AJ Hackett bungee jumps and outdoor skywalks around a perimeter 233 metres above ground.

So, whether you are prepared to take the leap or merely take a bite from one of the famous Macanese egg tarts from the Lord Stow Bakery on the island of Coloane, there's much to whet the appetite during a stay in Macau — old or new.

■ Details: Macau Government Tourist Office. Phone 9264 1488.

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