1. Macau: play, eat, have fun
The Macau (or Macau) peninsula in southern China is a good starting point for a trip through the megacities on China’s coast. The former Portuguese trading colony has been a Chinese special administrative area again since 1999 and has since developed into one of the largest boomtowns. The reason? Gambling is only allowed here; it is illegal in the rest of China. But since the Chinese also like to take risks, the small island in the Pearl River Delta has meanwhile established itself as one of the top international addresses for traveling lucky hunters and has long overtaken the “veteran” Las Vegas: in 2013, more than 28 million visitors generated over 30 billion euros in income the casinos, including the largest in the world, the “Venetian Macao”.
A detour to Macau’s diverse gastronomy helps to counteract dwindling forces caused by excessive gambling. Due to its history as a trading metropolis of the Portuguese and its extensive trade routes, it offers an international mix of food cultures: traditional Chinese cooking is combined with South American, African and other Asian styles, and Macau’s culinary art has even made it onto the UNESCO list of intangible world cultural heritage. The annual Food Festival in November offers a comprehensive overview.
After the exertion of playing and eating, the literally excellent Macau wellness offer awaits. For example, the “Six Senses Spa” in the MGM Grand Hotel was named “Best Luxury Hotel Spa” in 2014, “The Spa” in the Hotel Wynn and the wellness area in the Hotel Altira occupy top positions in the “Forbes Travelers Guide”. And that only names three of the numerous addresses where total relaxation beckons.
2. Hong Kong: metropolis in the country
In almost the immediate vicinity of Macau – the cities are less than 70 kilometers apart – Hong Kong is not just a stopover for those who want to fly even further. The “Fragrant Harbor”, formerly a British Crown Colony, is an urban jungle, but not only in a figurative sense.
Indeed, Hong Kong’s urban areas – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories – are 70 percent green, of which 20 percent are subtropical forest. As a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the big city, there is an abundance of hiking trails in the immediate vicinity of the metropolis, for example through the “Hong Kong National Geopark”, and even bicycle trips through the green hilly landscape are possible.
It goes without saying that things are much livelier in the city itself, which is particularly inviting for shopping – because that is an integral part of Hong Kong’s culture. Aside from the large shopping centers, visitors can indulge their shopping cravings in the markets: the street markets in the Central district offer a wealth of food, and those looking for a souvenir for those who stayed at home are sure to find something at the night market on Temple Street – a certain one Willingness to act and tolerance with regard to the originality of the goods offered. Alternatively, the one-kilometer-long Ladies Market in Kowloon awaits the ladies, whose range of goods is subject to the same rules as the night market.
The 552 meter high Victoria Peak, Hong Kong’s local mountain, offers the best overview of all of this. The climb alone is worth it, because it can be mastered with the steepest cable car in the world, the Peak Tram. In addition, the view over the entire city is especially attractive.
3. Shanghai: the city on the sea
Just under 1,200 kilometers – as the crow flies – separate Hong Kong and the next mega-city: Shanghai. The steadily growing financial metropolis with a population of 25 million is located in eastern China directly in the mouth of the Yangtze River. Even if Shanghai is now mainly the prime example of the booming Chinese economy, the city has also retained its much more traditional face. In addition to the steep skyscrapers of the Pudong financial district, there are still numerous historical sights to discover.
One of these historical sights is the famous “The Bund” promenade along the Huangpu River, which in a sense separates the old from the new Shanghai. Directly opposite the modern Pudong district, the architectural remnants of the concession districts of the British, French, Dutch and Americans lie like memories of the past colonial era. They had settled there in the course of the 19th century, when the importance of Shanghai’s port became more apparent not only for the Asian but also for the international market. The Peace Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria or the Custom House, like the streets of the French concession district, give an impression of Shanghai’s past.
The Yu Garden, which was laid out in the 16th century, is much older than the colonial buildings. This is also located in the old town area of Shanghai and is not just a classic tourist attraction, but an equally classic piece of Chinese horticulture, including the Huxing-Ting tea house, the oldest tea house in the city.
On the other side of the Huangpu, the modern trains of Shanghai, the art galleries, the shopping malls, the restaurants, the great number of which are owed to the Chinese people’s love of food as a leisure activity, are waiting. And of course the high-altitude hotel bars from which the entire city can be seen – at least on a clear day, when Shanghai doesn’t disappear under a veil of smog.