It was obviously Chinese, as it is a Special Administrative Region of China, the population is 86% Cantonese, and there are dim sum restaurants on every other street corner.
Chinese New Year decorations downtown
Something about Macau also felt like Latin America. The electrical poles were weighed down with mountains of wires that had to be hazardous, and there were seedy back streets and dilapidated apartment buildings. I felt quite anxious on one particular taxi ride that took us through a residential area near the colonial district, because it reminded me so much of Quito.
Residential area in Macau- not all parts looked this sketchy though!
Macau used to be a Portuguese colony, so the cuisine and architecture in certain areas felt very European. Only .6% of the population is Portuguese, and about 7% speak Macau Portuguese, a dialect unique to the region.
Portuguese colonial district of Macau
Eating oxtail and African chicken at a Portuguese restaurant,
Cafe Litoral: We've got the meat sleeps.
Macau is also the gambling capital of the world, contrary to public opinion that Las Vegas dominates that industry (Vegas makes about 15% what Macau does each year in gambling revenue). The Hard Rock Cafe, Venetian Hotel, and other casinos really felt like I was back in Vegas. We had trouble finding a decent bar though, which shows you the difference between Vegas and Macau. Gambling in Macau was borderline boring. We walked through a couple casinos and it just wasn't very exciting, no drunk assholes or shotgun weddings or celebrity sightings.
In front of the Venetian casino- Just like Las Vegas!
Macau Casinos at night
My favorite part of the day was getting to see House of Dancing Water, an acrobatic Cirque du Soleil style production set over water. What an incredible show. The theater was intimate and the stunts performed perfectly. My only issue was that they didn't enforce a 'no cell phone usage' rule, which almost ruined it for me, because the audience was a sea of phone screens and the girl next to me sat on facebook with her phone's brightness turned all the way up for almost the entire performance. Do something about that, people!
You can take a ferry boat from the Sheung Wan pier straight to Macau, but get there early because you do have to go through customs before boarding. The boat is an hour long with pretty views of the Chinese coast. Macau makes a great option for a day trip from Hong Kong, or an overnighter at one of the massive casinos if you are into that. I'm glad I saw it, but I don't think I will go back until I get a little more comfortable with chaos.
So what is it? European? Asian? Meh, who knows, who cares. It's fabulously unique.