As Asia’s gambling capital, it would be easy to dismiss Macau as nothing more than Las Vegas of the East, a collection of extravagant but soulless casinos in the former Portuguese colony. The past few decades have seen massive development in the area, the most significant being the land reclamation between Taipa and Coloane islands to expand the Cotai Strip with mega-resorts, casinos, and convention centres. Look a little deeper, though, and you’ll find a place rich in cultural heritage and traditions.
Just a short walk from the glitzy casino towers of Cotai, the old village of Taipa (潭仔) retains its charm and storied past, hidden in narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets. Somehow this village has managed to hold on to its own character in the face of change. With an atmosphere distinctly different from the busier Macau peninsula, Taipa is the place to go to discover the real Macau.
Many of the laneways are pedestrian-only, and are lined with a mix of Portuguese colonial-style architecture and traditional Chinese buildings. Restaurants and cafes are plentiful, as are shops selling traditional Macanese snacks such as almond cookies, pork jerky, and Portuguese egg tarts. The relaxed and easy-going ambiance will transport you back in time – I’d take that over a flashy resort or casino floor any day.