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Largo do Senado at night

Macau may be firmly back in China's orbit, but the Portuguese patina on this Sino-Lusitanian Las Vegas makes it a most unusual Asian destination. It has always been overshadowed by its glitzy near-neighbour Hong Kong - which is precisely why it's so attractive.

Macau's pleasures are relaxed and laidback, architectural and atmospheric: narrow cobbled alleys, grand baroque churches, balconied colonial mansions, open plazas and Mediterranean-style cafes filled with palm-readers, caged birds and pipe-smokers.

These days Macau is wooing commerce and tourism like never before, and plans are afoot for all kinds of family-oriented shopping malls, theme parks, towers and bridges, building on the enclave's attraction as a gambling haven. So get yourself to Macau before its unique Latin-Sino flavour is diluted by a heavy dose of development and the Guangdong throngs.

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