For such a compact Asian centre Macau, population 560,000, has much more to dish out for holidaying guests than at first meets the eye.

For such a compact Asian centre Macau, population 560,000, has much more to dish out for holidaying guests than at first meets the eye.

As an entree, there’s the historic hub on the peninsula, where spruced up Portuguese colonial architecture share the same narrow streets and squares as centuries-old Chinese temples and gardens, all rightfully protected by UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Then there’s the main course, the new Macau . . . of contemporary high rise hotels with their international shopping centres, ritzy restaurants and bars for all budgets and giant entertainment venues which host such spectaculars as The House of the Dancing Water.

These latest developments not only span the peninsula’s waterfront. Cross one of three serpent-like bridges to the island of Taipa, and it’s the Las Vegas-like Cotai Strip which has become a magnet.

The Ruins of St Paul’s, once the largest Catholic Church in Asia, is decorated with intricate figures which tell the story of early European settlement.

From the bygone days when Portuguese traders established Macau as a gateway to the Orient, this historic centre has charmed the world with its east-meets-west characteristics and cultural values.

Splendid colonial architectural designs such as Barra Square, Lilau Square, St Augustine’s Square, Senado Square, Cathedral Square and the Ruins of St Paul’s continue to arouse interest from sightseers. So too the Chinese treasures such as the A-Ma Temple.

Dwarfing many of the historic sites are the shapes and figures of a new Macau with its soaring 338-metre Macau Tower and a growing number of sophisticated shopping centres, international hotels and restaurants.

One of the joys of visiting is to explore and sample Macau’s cuisine, a tantalising mix of European and Asian delicacies, traditional or contemporary, including the famous egg tarts as dessert.