Sixty kilometres west across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong lies the tiny Portuguese enclave of Macau.
Macau is a special administrative region of China, formerly administered by Portugal, but was transferred back to the sovereignty of China back in 1999.
Macau is made up of a tiny piece of mainland, and a few islands, the total land mass being only about 24 square kilometres.
The most densely populated place in the world, Macau consists of a rocky, hilly peninsula, connected by a sandy isthmus to China. The capital, the city of Macao, contains almost the entire population of the province.
The territory has always had an atmosphere distinct not only from Hong Kong, but from other parts of southern China.
With outdoor cafes, charismatic Portuguese place names, grand baroque churches, narrow cobbled alleys, public squares, the odd palm tree and numerous Portuguese restaurants, there is a definite aroma of southern Europe in the air.
The two islands of Taipa and Coloane, now being linked to the peninsula by bridges and land reclamation, contain pockets of total tranquillity with fine beaches and restaurants.
Today Taipa is best known as the site of the Macau International Airport, the University of Macau,the Jockey Club's Raceway and the Macau Stadium, however it preserves its heritage in Chinese temples, boat-building yards, restored colonial homes and traditional shophouses containing family-style restaurants.
Coloane remains mostly rural although it is now the home for the modern container port.
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