Perhaps no other place in Asia has transformed as rapidly as Macau, with the transformation of the Cotai Strip into a vacation destination lined with dozens of hotels, casinos, and restaurants. As the first and last European colony in Asia, Macau has a long history as a center of world trade. The influences of the many cultures that mixed here (mainly Portuguese and Chinese, with a smattering of Indian and other Asian cultures) can still be felt today in the markets, cuisine and even the Western-style casinos. Where once traders came to Macau for its duty-free ports, now gamblers and vacationers come to try their luck at the many gaming complexes that have appeared since the city was opened to Western development in 2002. You'll recognize these names as some of the same that give the Las Vegas Strip their flash (Wynn, MGM Grand, Sands), but Macau's casino industry is no little sibling to Sin City; gambling revenues have surpassed those in Las Vegas thanks to the constant influx of gamers from mainland China. The luxury resorts that came along with these casinos are the favorite weekend escapes of well-heeled Hong Kongers, who come to sun at the pools, sample the spas and dine at the many fine dining restaurants located here. So prepare yourself for a place that's instantly familiar, but distinctly different, from any pleasure capital you've ever been to in the past: Macau has a flavor that's entirely its own.