Macau is located on the south-eastern coast of China, at latitude 22º 14' North and longitude 113º 35' East. The territory comprises a peninsula and two islands in the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong Province. Some 60 kms to the east-northeast, across the mouth of the river, is Hong Kong, an important financial and trading centre.
The city of Macau is built on the peninsula; two bridges of 2.5kms and 4.5kms respectively link it to its nearest island of Taipa, which in turn is joined to Coloane by a 2.2 km-long causeway. At the extreme northern end of the peninsula, on a narrow isthmus, is the imposing gateway (Portas. do Cerco, or Border Gate), which leads to the Zhuhai and Zhongshan areas of China. Coloane is also connected fo Zhuhai City by the newly opened Lotus Bridge.
The temitory has a total area of 23.8 sq.km. The peninsula is 7.8 sq.km. including the Praia Grande reclamation project. Taipa island, is 6.2 sq.km. and Coloane 7.6 sq.km. and the reclaimed land between Taipa and Coloane has 2.2 sq.km.
The climate is moderate to hot, with an average annual temperature of just over 20º C (68º F) and a yearly mean variation between 16º C (50º F) and 25º C (77º F). The humidity is high with an average range between 75% and 90%. Rainfall is also high with the yearly total between 40 and 80ins. The best season is autumn (October-December) when days are sunny and warm and the humidity low. Winter (January-March) is cold but sunny. In April, the humidity starts to build up and from May to September the climate is hot and humid with rain and occasional tropical storms (typhoons).
Since December 20, 1999, Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China. In accordance with the principle of "one country, two systems". The SAR, subordinate to the Chinese Central Government, will be highly autonomous with executive, legislative and independent judicial powers. The present social and economic systems as well as the respective way of life will remain unchanged for 50 years.
The total population as on December 99, is estimated at 438,100 with about 95% of the population Chinese and 5% Portuguese, Europeans and from other regions.
Portuguese and Chinese are the two official languages, with Cantonese the most widely spoken. English is Macau's third language and is generally used in trade, tourism and commerce.
The pataca (often writtern as MOP) composed of 100 avos is the official unit of currency in Macau. It is available in coins and banknotes in denominations of:
Coins: 10, 20, 50 avos; l & 5 patacas.
Banknotes: 20, 50, 100, 500 & 1,000 patacas.
The Macau pataca can be freely converted into Portuguese escudos or Chinese yuan. It is pegged to the Hong Kong dollar - which is circulated freely in Macau - at the rate of 103.20 patacas = HK$ 100.00, with a permissible variation of up to 10%. US$1 buys 8 patacas.
There is complete freedom of worship in Macau. The main religions are Buddhism, Catholicism and Protestantism. The majority are Buddhists, while 7% are Catholics.
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