Hong Kong means different things to different people. For some it is the view from the Peak by day or Hong Kong Island's skyline by night as the skyscrapers flush their neon rainbows, competing like tetchy cuttlefish to out-display each other. It can be about a lingering morning of tea and bite-sized dim sum, or a multidish Chinese banquet. Others - hikers, birders, climbers - say nothing beats the Hong Kong countryside for its beauty, facilities and accessibility.
It is all these things, of course; a city of teeming streets and empty wilderness, dazzling modernity and traditional observances. Brash, buccaneering and Westernised, yet conservatively minded and Chinese to its core, Hong Kong surprises, delights and confounds with its cheerful contradictions and energetic inconsistency.
Macau is a city with two faces. On the one hand, the fortresses, churches and food of its former colonial master Portugal speak to a uniquely Mediterranean style on the China coast. On the other, Macau is the self-styled Las Vegas of the East.
There is, however, much more to Macau than gambling. The peninsula and the islands of Coloane and Taipa constitute a colourful palette of pastels and ordered greenery. The Portuguese influence is everywhere: cobbled back streets, baroque churches, stone fortresses, Art Deco buildings and restful parks and gardens. It's a unique fusion of East and West that has been recognised by Unesco, which in 2005 named 30 buildings and squares collectively as the Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site. There are also several world-class museums.
Especially if you've been in China
for a while you'll also find there is a distinctly different feel to Macau. While about 95% of residents are Chinese, the remainder is mostly made up of Portuguese and Macanese (people with mixed Portuguese, Chinese and/or African blood). It's this fusion of Mediterranean and Asian peoples, lifestyles, temperaments and food - oh, the food - that makes Macau so much fun.